Aug 102010
 

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

 

Jesse Duncan, shirt model. Was my awesome and fearless chase driver May 10.

Jesse Duncan, shirt model. Was my awesome and fearless chase driver May 10.

Jesse Duncan models back of shirt.

Jesse Duncan models back of shirt.

2003 Tornado Highligh DVD

2003 Tornado Highligh DVD

 

T-shirt and DVD Giveaway!
 
With only one limited edition Stormgasm.com t-shirt remaining, I thought it would be nice to give it away to a lucky commenter here on Stormtalk. All you have to do is leave a comment in this thread, responding to the question below. Then, on September 10, I will announce the winner, who will be selected using a random number generator.

To make things more interesting, the winner will also receive a 2003 Tornado Highlights DVD from Stormgasm.com. All the winner has to do is email me their name and address, and I’ll have the t-shirt and dvd shipped to them. Just make sure you leave a comment in this thread responding to the question below to be entered in this contest.

Good luck!

 
The question: Among all the videos of tornadoes available on youtube, on storm chaser websites, and on DVDs and video tapes, which tornado is your favorite, and why?

(Feel free to elaborate, especially if it’s video of a tornado you saw personally, or were affected by in some way. Also, you can list more than one video if you have more than one favorite. But, let’s try to keep this to a maximum of five.)

 
 

- Jim

Aug 092010
 

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

EF4 tornado confirmed in Minnesota

 
It is now confirmed by the NWS damage team that the tornado that occurred Saturday, August 7 in Wilkin County, MN was a low end EF4 tornado. More information here.

I also wanted to share this tornado footage someone posted on YouTube of the Wilkin county tornado, likely shot after it caused the EF4 damage in Minnesota. This video is amazing. It reminds me a lot of my Manchester, SD tornado footage from June 24, 2003 after the tornado move north of town and into open farm fields.

 

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Monday, 9 August 2010

On Saturday, August 7, a supercell tracked from southeastern North Dakota to west central Minnesota, producing at least two tornadoes and causing significant damage. Thankfully, there were no major injuries or fatalities.

The most significant damage occurred in southeastern North Dakota where a pickup truck was thrown a half mile into a field, with the engine block thrown nearly two thirds of a mile (damage pics here). The tornado was nearly a half mile wide at that time. According to the NWS office in Grand Forks, North Dakota, this tornado was at least an EF3. But, it could have an even higher rating on the Enhanced Eujita scale, once the final damage survey is complete.

This is all very impressive. I was out of town when the tornadoes occurred, and didn’t have a chance to look at the setup. I did glance at the SPC Outlook at some point on Saturday, and they only had a 5% risk for tornadoes. They may have upgraded at some point, but I don’t know. The point is this event didn’t look like one likely to produce violent, photogenic tornadoes. Yet, it produced at least two tornadoes, one with at least an EF3 rating. That’s impressive.

This tornado event is a great example of a day that ends up producing good tornadoes, even though the setup didn’t look that great. These kinds of events happen more often than you might expect. For example, I chased several tornadoes on May 12, 2004 in southern Kansas. That day the SPC had a 5% risk for tornadoes. But, one supercell ended up producing several tornadoes, one which destroyed a house in Harper County, KS. Another was a large wedge tornado, rated F4.

It’s a very good thing these tornadoes moved through rural areas. Had they struck in a more populated region, significant injuries and possibly fatalities may have occurred.

Oh, and this is another day to add to the list of significant August tornadoes. This year has simply been amazing. I mean, seriously, just when I think the season may be winding down, there’s another violent tornado to talk about. It makes me wonder how many more violent tornado days we’ll have over the next few months. We are, after all, getting closer to the fall ‘tornado season’. There are usually a couple good tornado setups in the mid September to mid October window. We’ll see…

- Jim

Aug 062010
 

Friday, 6 August 2010

 

Nine weeks into a hurricane season that is expected to be very active has so far been on par with a normal season. But, it is still relatively early in the season, with plenty of time for the tables to turn.

Over the past several weeks, Atlantic water temperatures have been at some of the highest levels since 1950, which provides significant fuel for tropical storms and hurricanes. But as of late, wind shear, dry air and an abundance of African dust have all hindered tropical storm and hurricane development. These factors, in spite of the warm water temperatures, are why we have only seen one hurricane (which was weak) and two tropical storms so far this season.

But, I think the tides will be turning over the next several days to two weeks, with more sustained tropical storms and even hurricanes across the Atlantic. The first reason is because climatology (image below) tells us that tropical storm and hurricane activity dramatically increases as we head into mid August. But the more significant reason is due to the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) moving back into a phase which favors the development of tropical storms and hurricanes across the Atlantic Ocean.

Hurricane and Tropical Storm Climatology from NOAA

Hurricane and Tropical Storm Climatology from NOAA

 

Atlantic Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies

Atlantic Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies

 

For about the past week or so, the Atlantic Ocean has actually been under a phase of the MJO which causes large scale sinking motion, making any tropical disturbance fight an uphill battle to develop into a tropical storm, let alone a hurricane. Then, factor in the wind shear and dry air issues, and no disturbances really stood a chance of becoming anything significant.

But now, the rising motion associated with the MJO has moved into the eastern Atlantic, and this should continue to spread westward into the Caribbean over the next week or two. This should really give the hurricane season a huge boost, especially compared to the way it’s been lately. If I’m right about this, then by this time next week we’ll be talking about a tropical storm or even a hurricane somewhere in the Atlantic basin that stands a shot of becoming something significant. At the very least, we’ll be talking about something developing that stands a decent shot of becoming significant. The only concerns would be how much wind shear persists, and how much African dust continues to drift into the Atlantic.

So, we’ll see what really happens over the next week. Either way, the season should pick up soon.

 

- Jim

Aug 052010
 

Thursday, 5 August 2010

4 people died in Ohio Wednesday from a strong line of storms producing high winds…..
 

SPC storm reports for Wednesday, August 4, 2010

SPC storm reports for Wednesday, August 4, 2010

 

According to the AP, high winds associated with a line of severe thunderstorms knocked over barns being renovated Wednesday at Ohio’s largest egg farm near Hartford, killing two workers. Based on the SPC storm reports page, this occurred around 1 p.m.

A couple hours earlier (according to foxtoledo.com), the same line of storms caused a cinder block wall to blow over near Edgerton, Ohio, falling onto and killing an eighteen year old male construction worker. According to the coroner, the death was caused by injuries from blunt-force trauma. Hours later in Cumberland, Ohio, high winds from thunderstorms caused a tree to fall onto a woman, killing her.

More information about the Edgerton, Ohio collapsed high school wall.

When I think about severe weather related deaths, I usually think about tornadoes, flooding, even oppressive heat. But, fatalities from strong straight line winds are usually not on the list. Yesterday, a line a severe storms producing damaging straight line winds moving through Indiana and Ohio is responsible for all of this. The storms moved quickly east and evolved into a long-lived, damaging squall line known as a derecho. This derecho moved all the way to Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia, causing over 200 damaging winds reports.

Well, at least this high wind event in of itself isn’t surprising. During the summer months, the Midwest is notorious for having damaging wind events which sometimes extend into parts of the Mid Atlantic. It’s the combination of quality low level moisture, hot temperatures and upper level disturbances moving over the top of an intense heat ridge that triggers these events.

 

- Jim

Aug 032010
 

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

 
Storm chasing tours and their benefit to aspiring new chasers…

 

Today I saw an interview with a reputable storm chasing tour owner. The question came up about who would pay two to over three thousand dollars for a week to ten days of storm chasing. This reminded me of an important option aspiring new chasers have that shouldn’t be overlooked. I’m talking about signing up for a chasing tour as an alternative to storm chasing for the first time with little knowledge of storm chasing, let alone meteorology.

It makes sense when you consider all the costs associated with storm chasing. First and foremost, you have to set aside a large chuck of money for gas alone. Then, you have to eat and pay for hotel rooms daily. You also have to worry about wear and tear on your vehicle, or rental car fees. Finally, you have to put forth an enormous amount of time and energy to make your own forecasts and go through the stress of chasing. That’s an involved list if you really think about it!

So, if you have never been storm chasing before, and you are not comfortable forecasting tornadoes on your own, paying a couple grand or more for a chasing tour can be highly beneficial. Most of these tour groups pay for you hotel room. They give you a comfortable seat in their van and do their personal best to find you a tornado. On top of that, most of these groups teach you what they know along the way. So, as long as the tour guide is experienced with a good track record, you really have nothing to lose.

As someone taking your very first storm chasing trip, going storm chasing can be very frustrating. Not only do you have to pay for everything, but you have a lot of stress just trying to forecast tornadoes. I mean, even I get frustrated, and I’ve been storm chasing for over ten years! On top of that, you have to find your own hotel every night. When you get tired from all the driving and stress, you still have to stay on top of the latest changes in the weather forecasts to give you the highest chances for seeing a tornado. I mean, you need to know if a drive from Oklahoma to South Dakota overnight is necessary to witness that one, awesome tornado. Sometimes, it really does come down to last minute decisions.

Most of all, it’s dangerous for first time chasers to go storm chasing without prior knowledge of supercells, tornadoes, and meteorology in general. Storm chasing is simply a dangerous hobby unless you have the knowledge and experience to practice it in a safe manner. In fact, I know some professional meteorologists who don’t know the first thing about storm chasing. That’s because storm chasing requires a combination of meteorology skills and experience. And without real experience out in the field chasing storms, there’s really no way to learn this hobby. That’s what makes taking a chasing tour as your first chasing trip so valuable. Doing that, you learn how to chase storms without putting yourself in a dangerous situation. Plus, your odds of actually seeing a tornado and having a great storm chasing experience increase significantly.

So, if you are an aspiring storm chaser, you might consider giving a chasing tour a try to get your feet wet. That’s my opinion anyways.

 

- Jim

Aug 022010
 

Monday, 2 August 2010
 

A tornado hit Penola, Australia Saturday evening…

Map of Australia. The "A" indicates the location of the tornado on July 31

Map of Australia. The "A" indicates the location of the tornado on July 31

 

According to ABC South East SA, a tornado hit Penola, Australia Saturday evening (July 31) at 6 p.m. ACST. There was so much damage the South Australian Government is providing $250,000 in aid to help the clean-up effort.

This tornado is somewhat unusual, as it occurred during Australia’s meteorological winter. But it’s not the first time Australia has seen a damaging August tornado. Back on August 25, 1999, a tornado went through Perth in Western Australia. That tornado left a 100 meter wide damage path and trapped several people in an apartment complex.

Australia averages about 20 tornadoes per year, most of which occur in New South Wales. From 1795 to June 2003, New South Wales reported 364 tornadoes. Compare this to the United States, which averages over 1,000 tornadoes per year.

- Jim

Aug 012010
 

Sunday, 1 August 2010

 
8 inches in diameter is the new size record for U.S. hail…

Photo courtesy of the NWS office in Aberdeen, SD

Photo courtesy of the NWS office in Aberdeen, SD

 

I know this isn’t exactly news anymore, but I thought it would be fun to talk about. As most of you are aware by now, or maybe you’re not, there was a new record set for the largest hailstone in the U.S. on July 23 in Vivian, South Dakota. The hailstone measures 8 inches in diameter, and weighs almost 2 pounds! This breaks the previous hail record set back in June of 2003 in Aurora, NE with a diameter of 7 inches. Either way you slice it, that’s really big hail.

I can’t imagine what would happen if that hail hit you on the top of your head! But get this, the guy who found the hail said it was even bigger when he first found it. However, it melted a bit in his freezer due to his area losing power for about an hour. So, we don’t actually know how big the stone was before the official NWS measurement took place.

Personally, I would love to see hail that large, as long as I’m in a car or inside a building. The biggest hail I’ve seen on a chase has to be the softball sized hail on May 29, 2004 in Oklahoma. Unfortunately, we don’t have pictures of the hail, just pictures of the incredible supercell and small tornado we saw. We were more focused on getting the tornado than documenting the hail that day.

But the biggest hail I have pictures of would have to be from April 17 of 2002 when we found near baseball sized stones on the side of the road. The other would be May 27, 2002 in Crossbyton, TX when we saw a bunch more golfball to baseball sized hail. In fact that day most chasers lost their windshields due to the hail, or they at least suffered significant cracks. But for some reason we (Stormgasm chasers) lucked out and all the big stones missed our windshield. It’s funny though, when you chase as often as we do, your luck eventually runs out. Over the years we’ve busted more windshields from big hail than I’d like to share. But boy, hail can be sure be fun to experience first hand.

- Jim

Hail from April 17, 2002 in northwestern Oklahoma caught by Stormgasm

Hail from April 17, 2002 in northwestern Oklahoma caught by Stormgasm

 

Hail from May 27, 2002 in the Texas Panhandle by Stormgasm chasers

Hail from May 27, 2002 in the Texas Panhandle by Stormgasm chasers