Classic Midwest Tornado Outbreak Now Underway

As forecast by the Storm Prediction Center yesterday, a significant, classic April tornado outbreak is underway across Kansas, Oklahoma and Nebraska.

Low-level winds are streaming in moisture from the Gulf of Mexico at tropical storm force in front of a deepening upper impulse coming out of the Rocky Mountains.  Very cold air aloft and strong relative wind shear is creating an environment conducive for extremely strong, long-lived and violent tornadoes.

Significant severe weather is already ongoing in western Kansas, with a high-precipitation complex of storms entering central Nebraska.

As we progress into the evening, conditions will become even more supportive of strong/violent storms, especially into south/central Kansas and northern Oklahoma.  The dryline will continue to move eastward…where the atmosphere is heating up and becoming more and more unstable.  Baseball sized hail has already been reported with some of these storms…and the upper winds are expected to strengthen over the high-risk area during the next several hours.

NWS Wichita reports four storms are already occurring in western Kansas, all producing long track, violent tornadoes as of 4:10 PM Central time.

Residents in these areas, especially in central Kansas and northern Oklahoma should be prepared to move underground, if necessary, at any time this evening.  Interior structures should be a shelter of last resort.  Please get below ground in a basement or shelter if a tornado threatens your area tonight, and monitor local news and your NOAA weather radio for the latest information.  Many of these storms will be strongest as nighttime approaches, so please monitor conditions very carefully tonight and stay close to shelter.

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High Risk of Severe Weather in Central US Saturday

According to the latest information from the Storm Prediction Center, there is a high risk of severe weather tomorrow afternoon across much of the Great Plains, with a threat of significant tornadoes across parts of Kansas, Iowa, Oklahoma and Nebraska.  Conditions are very favorable for tornadic supercells and as a result, I believe this is only the second time the SPC has ever issued a high risk forecast the day before it was expected.

I chose to make my first update to the new about tornadoes because I believe it’s important for residents in the risk area to prepare to get underground if their local area is threatened.

Typically, it’s a relatively safe practice to go to an interior room or hallway, but this rule is not always true, especially in strong/violent tornadoes.  Significant tornadoes in Jarrell, TX (1997), Moore OK (1999) and too many to mention in 2011 swept homes completely off of their foundations.  Many residents died or were seriously injured seeking shelter in bathrooms and hallways because the tornadoes were so strong.

If there are any people reading this from the at risk areas, please consider giving yourself enough time to get into a basement or a below-ground storm shelter if you receive a tornado warning on Saturday.  If you don’t have a basement, call a friend that does…and make plans now.  A normal above-ground shelter in an interior room is not good enough in situations like this, and should only be a last resort if there is no time to get underground.

This could evolve into an especially dangerous weather situation.  I know most readers of this site take the weather seriously, and will be observing this event closely.  There is no reason to panic, but if you have friends or family in the mid-west, please contact them now and remind them: underground is the safest place to be if a violent tornado is approaching.

For the latest information from the Storm Prediction Center, visit:



Understand the seasonal forecast not for what it says, but for what it does not say

Tomorrow, Dr. Phil Klotzbach and the team from Colorado State University will issue their first quantitative forecast for the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season. As many who are tuned in to this info already know, the CSU team is likely going to forecast a season with less overall activity than we’ve seen in recent years.

I have already seen a few news reports that trickled out during the National Hurricane Conference last week that had headlines mentioning a “quiet” season ahead. I think that the video below sums up the reality of the seasonal hurricane forecast pretty well. Check it out and when the forecast comes out tomorrow and subsequent updates and additional forecasts are made throughout the rest of the season, keep the advice you hear in the video in mind.


Some thoughts from the National Hurricane Conference

The 2012 National Hurricane Conference is in the bag. While I do not know how many people attended, I am sure it was far lower a number than I have seen in years past. The stalled economy, budget cuts and $4.00/gallon gas no doubt have had an impact on this important national forum.

None the less, I was in attendance for two of the four days and learned a lot. I will share much more about that in the weeks to come but for now, a couple of quick thoughts.

One of the most interesting subjects was that of storm surge and how to educate the public about what to really expect. As someone who has seen, recorded and studied numerous storm surge events dating back to the late 1990s, I perhaps took for granted that when people hear of a potential 10 to 15 foot storm surge that they would automatically, without question, take the necessary action to save lives and mitigate property damage. Remember that storm surge has the greatest potential for loss of life, above all of the other tropical cyclone hazards. Yet, apparently  a lot of people do not understand their vulnerability to surge much less what a surge forecast actually means.

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Is there an El Nino in the cards for 2012? Perhaps, but not looking as likely.

The mark of a busy hurricane season usually has one element missing from it: El Nino. That is to say, El Nino conditions in the Tropical Pacific tend to suppress Atlantic hurricane activity. This is due mainly to strong upper level winds that cut across the breeding grounds for hurricanes, thus limiting their numbers and intensities. However, one must remember infamous exceptions to this rule such as Andrew in 1992, an El Nino year. There are others as well which remind us of the adage “it only takes one”.

What about neutral years? What defines a neutral year anyway? Basically, when we see the sea surface temperature (SST) anomaly in the Tropical Pacific between .50 Celsius above or below normal, it is a neutral year (ENSO neutral). The scale is not tipped in one direction or another. Easy enough, right?

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