Tag Archives: storms

Hurricane Hilary

Hurricane Hilary : Natural Hazards.

Hurricane Hilary

acquired September 24, 2011 download large image (5 MB, JPEG)
acquired September 24, 2011 download Google Earth file (KMZ)

Hilary was a Category 4 hurricane on September 24, 2011, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC). At 8:00 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time (PDT) on that date, the NHC reported that the storm had maximum sustained winds of 140 miles (220 kilometers) per hour, and was located roughly 210 miles (335 kilometers) southwest of Manzanillo, Mexico.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this natural-color image at 10:40 a.m. PDT on September 24. Although relatively compact, the storm has the distinct eye and spiral shape characteristic of strong storms. The storm lies west of Mexico and is headed farther out to sea.

At 8:00 a.m. PDT on September 25, the NHC reported that Hilary was now a Category 3 hurricane, but remained a dangerous storm, with maximum sustained winds of 125 miles (205 kilometers) per hour. Located about 395 miles (640 kilometers) south of the southern tip of Baja California, Hilary had the potential to create life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.

  1. References

  2. National Hurricane Center. (2011, September 25). Hurricane Hilary Advisory Archive. Accessed September 25, 2011.

NASA image courtesy MODIS Rapid Response Team, Goddard Space Flight Center. Caption by Michon Scott.

Instrument: 
Terra – MODIS

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Mid-Latitude Cyclone over the United States

Mid-Latitude Cyclone over the United States : Natural Hazards.

Mid-Latitude Cyclone over the United States

acquired September 26, 2011 download large image (17 MB, JPEG)
acquired September 25 – 27, 2011 download web resolution GOES animation (7 MB, QuickTime)
acquired September 25 – 27, 2011 download high definition GOES animation (74 MB, QuickTime)

At 3:05 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on September 26, 2011, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite observed a mid-latitude cyclone over the midwestern United States. The center of the storm appeared immediately west of Lake Michigan.

The Capital Weather Gang at The Washington Post reported that the storm was at its most mature stage on September 26. Sporting a comma shape spanning hundreds of kilometers, the storm was comprised of a combination of warm, moist air (clouds) and cold, dry air (cloud-free areas).

Mid-latitude cyclones drive most of the stormy weather in the continental United States. Development of these cyclones often involves a warm front from the south meeting a cold front from the north. In the Northern Hemisphere, cyclones move in a counterclockwise direction. (In the Southern Hemisphere, cyclones are clockwise.) The bands of cold and warm air wrap around a center of low pressure, and air rising near the center spurs the development clouds and precipitation.

Justin Berk, a meteorologist based in Baltimore, explains that in this region, “cold air eventually wins out and wraps completely around a storm. This is called a ‘cold core’ storm and has cut itself off from the main flow of the jet stream.” This, says Berk, is why the September 26 storm appears stalled near Chicago.

An animation of the storm from the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES) shows the storm’s progress from September 25 to September 27.

  1. References

  2. Samenow, J. (2011, September 27). An immaculate mid-latitude cyclone and its decay. Capital Weather Gang. The Washington Post. Accessed September 27, 2011.
  3. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Midlatitude Cyclones. Accessed September 27, 2011.

NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, the MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC. Animation from the NASA/NOAA GOES Project Science Team. Caption by Michon Scott.

Instrument: 
Aqua – MODIS

Storms bring deadly weather

Storms bring deadly weather, more due over weekend | Reuters.

Severe storms hit the Midwest on Saturday and are expected later in the Northeast, where flash flooding killed at least four people in Pittsburgh on Friday.

Heavy rains submerged cars in flood water that was nine feet deep in places in Pittsburgh, authorities said.

A mother and her two daughters died when water engulfed their vehicle in a low-lying section of the city’s Washington Boulevard near the Allegheny River.

Kimberly Griffith, 45, and her daughters Brenna, 12, and Mikaela, 8, were pronounced dead at the scene, a spokeswoman for the Allegheny County medical examiner’s office said.

The water pinned their vehicle to a tree and they were unable to escape, authorities said.

Also recovered after the flood was the body of Mary Saflin, 72, who had been reported missing earlier, according to the Allegheny County medical examiner’s office.

The Philadelphia area was also soaked by heavy thunder showers Friday, bringing a record rainfall of 12.95 inches for August, close to the record for any month, according to NWS meteorologist Lee Robertson.

The previous record is from September 1999, set when a hurricane pushed rainfall to 13.07 inches.

As more storms were forecast for the region Sunday, the NWS warned in a flood advisory that nearly half of all flood fatalities are vehicle-related.

“As little as six inches of water will cause you to lose control of your vehicle,” the NWS stated.

MORE STORMS

The Weather Channel forecast more storms from the Great Lakes to the Central Plains into Saturday night.

One man died as storms and a tornado roared across northern Wisconsin Friday night, cutting an 8-mile-wide swath 65 miles north of Green Bay and taking out power to around 2,000 homes, officials said.

Douglas Brem, 43, was staying in a rented trailer at a recycling center in the path of the storm, which caused extensive damage to homes, Marinette County Coroner George Smith said.

A fierce thunderstorm in the Chicago area Saturday suspended the Chicago Air & Water Show until about 2 p.m., leaving time for a condensed show. The two-day free annual event was expected to attract around 2 million spectators.

Saturday’s thunderstorm threat will shift to the Northeast Sunday.

The Southeastern Virginia Hampton Roads region was spared from severe storm activity, but smoke from a 6,000-acre fire in the Great Dismal Swamp continues to plague the region down into North Carolina.

Virginia’s Environmental Quality Department downgraded Friday’s air quality red alert in some areas to orange, advising of possible health problems for sensitive individuals.

(Additional reporting by John Rondy in Milwaukee, Cynthia Johnston in Las Vegas, Matthew A. Ward in Chesapeake, Va., David Warner in Philadelphia; Writing by Molly O’Toole and Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Jerry Norton)

Emily spins across eastern Caribbean with heavy rain

Emily spins across eastern Caribbean with heavy rain – CNN.

The government of the Bahamas issued a tropical storm watch Tuesday in preparation for Emily, the storm that continues to churn towards the northeastern Caribbean, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Tropical Storm Emily is expected to strengthen slightly before moving over the Dominican Republic and Haiti by late Wednesday.

The storm was 165 miles south of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Tuesday and is expected to pass near the Dominican Republic and Haiti Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.

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It was continuing to move west at 14 mph (22 kilometers per hour), but the Weather Service said it expects the storm to turn to the northwest and gain speed.

The storm’s maximum sustained winds remained at 50 mph (85 kph) and extended north and east of the storms center up to 105 miles (165 kilometers) by 8 p.m. Tuesday, forecasters said. The system should make its way into the southeastern Bahamas on Thursday.

A tropical storm watch for Haiti was upgraded to a storm warning Tuesday morning. Warnings were also in effect for Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. The warning means tropical storm conditions are expected within the next 36 hours.

A tropical storm watch was in effect for the U.S. Virgin Islands, the southeast Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands. The forecast also suggests Emily could skirt the east coast of Florida by early Saturday, but no watches or warnings were up for the U.S. mainland as of Tuesday night.

In Haiti, the government issued an alert advising residents that the storm’s heavy rains could produce dangerous flooding and mudslides.

Emily is expected to dump up to 10 inches of rain in parts of Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Proved: Extreme Weather Is a Product of Climate Change!

Storm Warnings: Extreme Weather Is a Product of Climate Change: Scientific American.

More violent and frequent storms, once merely a prediction of climate models, are now a matter of observation. Part one of a three-part series

souris-river-flood-minot-north-dakota DROWNING: The Souris River overflowed levees in Minot, N.D., as seen here on June 23. Image: Patrick Moes/U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

In North Dakota the waters kept rising. Swollen by more than a month of record rains in Saskatchewan, the Souris River topped its all time record high, set back in 1881. The floodwaters poured into Minot, North Dakota’s fourth-largest city, and spread across thousands of acres of farms and forests. More than 12,000 people were forced to evacuate. Many lost their homes to the floodwaters.

Yet the disaster unfolding in North Dakota might be bringing even bigger headlines if such extreme events hadn’t suddenly seemed more common. In this year alone massive blizzards have struck the U.S. Northeast, tornadoes have ripped through the nation, mighty rivers like the Mississippi and Missouri have flowed over their banks, and floodwaters have covered huge swaths of Australia as well as displaced more than five million people in China and devastated Colombia. And this year’s natural disasters follow on the heels of a staggering litany of extreme weather in 2010, from record floods in Nashville, Tenn., and Pakistan, to Russia’s crippling heat wave.

These patterns have caught the attention of scientists at the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). They’ve been following the recent deluges’ stunning radar pictures and growing rainfall totals with concern and intense interest. Normally, floods of the magnitude now being seen in North Dakota and elsewhere around the world are expected to happen only once in 100 years. But one of the predictions of climate change models is that extreme weather—floods, heat waves, droughts, even blizzards—will become far more common. “Big rain events and higher overnight lows are two things we would expect with [a] warming world,” says Deke Arndt, chief of the center’s Climate Monitoring Branch. Arndt’s group had already documented a stunning rise in overnight low temperatures across the U.S. So are the floods and spate of other recent extreme events also examples of predictions turned into cold, hard reality?

Increasingly, the answer is yes. Scientists used to say, cautiously, that extreme weather events were “consistent” with the predictions of climate change. No more. “Now we can make the statement that particular events would not have happened the same way without global warming,” says Kevin Trenberth, head of climate analysis at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colo.

That’s a profound change—the difference between predicting something and actually seeing it happen. The reason is simple: The signal of climate change is emerging from the “noise”—the huge amount of natural variability in weather.

Extreme signals

There are two key lines of evidence. First, it’s not just that we’ve become more aware of disasters like North Dakota or last year’s Nashville flood, which caused $13 billion in damage, or the massive 2010 summer monsoon in Pakistan that killed 1,500 people and left 20 million more homeless. The data show that the number of such events is rising. Munich Re, one of the world’s largest reinsurance companies, has compiled the world’s most comprehensive database of natural disasters, reaching all the way back to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79. Researchers at the company, which obviously has a keen financial interest in trends that increase insurance risks, add 700 to 1,000 natural catastrophes to the database each year, explains Mark Bove, senior research meteorologist in Munich Re’s catastrophe risk management office in Princeton, N.J. The data indicate a small increase in geologic events like earthquakes since 1980 because of better reporting. But the increase in the number of climate disasters is far larger. “Our figures indicate a trend towards an increase in extreme weather events that can only be fully explained by climate change,” says Peter Höppe, head of Munich Re’s Geo Risks Research/Corporate Climate Center: “It’s as if the weather machine had changed up a gear.”

The second line of evidence comes from a nascent branch of science called climate attribution. The idea is to examine individual events like a detective investigating a crime, searching for telltale fingerprints of climate change. Those fingerprints are showing up—in the autumn floods of 2000 in England and Wales that were the worst on record, in the 2003 European heat wave that caused 14,000 deaths in France, in Hurricane Katrina—and, yes, probably even in Nashville. This doesn’t mean that the storms or hot spells wouldn’t have happened at all without climate change, but as scientists like Trenberth say, they wouldn’t have been as severe if humankind hadn’t already altered the planet’s climate.This new science is still controversial. There’s an active debate among researchers about whether the Russian heat wave bears the characteristic signature of climate change or whether it was just natural variability, for instance. Some scientists worry that trying to attribute individual events to climate change is counterproductive in the larger political debate, because it’s so easy to dismiss the claim by saying that the planet has always experienced extreme weather. And some researchers who privately are convinced of the link are reluctant to say so publicly, because global warming has become such a target of many in Congress.

But the evidence is growing for a link between the emissions of modern civilization and extreme weather events. And that has the potential to profoundly alter the perception of the threats posed by climate change. No longer is global warming an abstract concept, affecting faraway species, distant lands or generations far in the future. Instead, climate change becomes personal. Its hand can be seen in the corn crop of a Maryland farmer ruined when soaring temperatures shut down pollination or the $13 billion in damage in Nashville, with the Grand Ole Opry flooded and sodden homes reeking of rot. “All of a sudden we’re not talking about polar bears or the Maldives any more,” says Nashville-based author and environmental journalist Amanda  Little. “Climate change translates into mold on my baby’s crib. We’re talking about homes and schools and churches and all the places that got hit.”

Drenched in Nashville
Indeed, the record floods in Nashville in May 2010 shows how quickly extreme weather can turn ordinary life into a nightmare. The weekend began innocuously. The forecast was a 50 percent chance of rain. Musician Eric Normand and his wife Kelly were grateful that the weather event they feared, a tornado, wasn’t anticipated. Eric’s Saturday concert in a town south of Nashville should go off without a hitch, he figured.

He was wrong. On Saturday, it rained—and rained. “It was a different kind of rain than any I had experienced in my whole life,” says Nashville resident Rich Hays. Imagine the torrent from an intense summer thunderstorm, the sort of deluge that prompts you to duck under an underpass for a few minutes until the rain stops and it’s safe to go on, Little says. It was like that, she recalls—except that on this weekend in May 2010 it didn’t stop. Riding in the bus with his fellow musicians, Normand “looked through a window at a rain-soaked canopy of green and gray,” he wrote later. Scores of cars were underwater on the roads they had just traveled. A short 14-hour bus gig turned out to be “one of the most stressful and terrifying we had ever experienced,” Normand says.

And still it rained—more than 13 inches (33 centimeters) that weekend. The water rose in Little’s basement—one foot, two feet, three feet (one meter) deep. “You get this panicky feeling that things are out of control,” she says. Over at Hays’s home, fissures appeared in the basement floor, and streams of water turned into a “full-on river,” Hays recalls. Then in the middle of night, “I heard this massive crack, almost like an explosion,” he says. The force of the water had fractured the house’s concrete foundation. He and his wife spent the rest of the night in fear that the house might collapse.

Sunday morning, Normand went out in the deluge to ask his neighbor if he knew when the power might go back on—it was then he realized that his normal world had vanished. A small creek at the bottom of the hill was now a lake one-half mile (0.8 kilometer) wide, submerging homes almost up to their second stories. “My first reaction was disbelief,” Normand says. He and his family were trapped, without power and surrounded by flooded roads. “We were just freaked out,” he recalls.

And all across the flooded city the scenes were surreal, almost hallucinatory, Little says. “There were absurdities heaped upon absurdities. Churches lifted off foundations and floating down streets. Cars floating in a herd down highways.” In her own basement her family’s belongings bobbed like debris in a pond.

By time the deluge ended, more than 13 inches (33 centimeters) of rain had fallen, as recorded at Nashville’s airport. The toll: 31 people dead, more than $3 billion in damage—and an end to the cherished perception that Nashville was safe from major weather disasters. “A community that had never been vulnerable to this incredible force of nature was literally taken by storm,” Little says.

But can the Nashville deluge, the North Dakota floods and the many other extreme weather events around the world be connected with the greenhouse gases that humans have spewed into the atmosphere? Increasingly the answer seems to be yes. Whereas it will never be possible to say that any particular event was caused by climate change, new science is teasing out both the contributions that it makes to individual events—and the increase in the odds of extreme weather occurring as a result of climate change.

Tomorrow: Part 2, “The Science of Extreme Weather

Reporting for this story was funded by Pew Center on Global Climate Change.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)

John Carey is a freelance science writer and editor. For two decades prior to 2010 he was a senior correspondent for Business Week magazine, covering a range of topics including energy and global warming and cholesterol-lowering drugs and the human genome. Previously, he was an editor at The Scientist and a reporter at Newsweek. His stories have won awards from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Wistar Institute and a number of other organizations. He was also a National Magazine Award finalist.

Tornado Storm leaves thousands without power, damages racetrack in Kentucky

Storm leaves thousands without power, damages racetrack in Kentucky – CNN.com.

(CNN) — A powerful storm system that ripped through the Louisville, Kentucky, area left thousands of people without power and forced the closing of the internationally famous Churchill Downs racetrack on Thursday.

The National Weather Service said damage from the Wednesday night system, which also struck the University of Louisville campus, likely resulted from tornadoes. However, Weather Service meteorologist Ryan Sharp said that cannot be confirmed until a storm survey is completed later Thursday.

A storm survey confirmed that an F-1 tornado touched down in Jeffersontown, Kentucky, east of Louisville, according to the National Weather Service. The tornado uprooted trees and blew debris across short distances, but no injuries or fatalities occurred, according to the survey.

A separate survey was still on-going in the Churchill Downs area, said the Weather Service.

Possible tornado hits Kentucky
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The storms also spawned flash floods that left two motorists stranded in their cars amid the rising waters, according to CNN-affiliate WAVE. They were rescued by firefighters, the Louisville television station reported.

About 8,500 customers lost electricity, according to Louisville-Jefferson County emergency officials.

In a statement early Thursday, Churchill Downs announced that the horse track would be closed all day for racing and training because of damage left behind by the storm. However, the track’s training facility, Trackside Louisville, was not damaged and will remain open, the statement read.

Churchill Downs also said it had contacted the Red Cross about finding temporary shelter for 100 stable-area workers whose living quarters “were damaged or compromised by the strong winds.”

Churchill Downs is home to the Kentucky Derby.

“Nine barns suffered significant damage as a result of the storm, which reportedly produced tornadoes in the metro Louisville area,” the statement read.

Churchill Downs spokesman Darren Rogers said no one was injured, including any of the 1,400 horses stabled at the facility.

However, track officials early Thursday were preparing to relocate as many as 150 horses. Rogers said the horses may need to be moved because of the possibility that the storm had left nails on the ground, which could injure the animals.

Buddy Rogers, a spokesman for the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management said his agency had not received reports of injuries at the racetrack or elsewhere.

And

Tornado touches down at Churchill Downs, Ky.

A horse is walked out of barn 40 which was damaged at Churchill Downs after storms passed through the area in Louisville, Ky., Wednesday, June 22, 2011. (AP Photo)

(CBS/AP)LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The famed Churchill Downs horse race track, longtime home to the Kentucky Derby, was hit by a possible tornado Wednesday, knocking down parts of barns and chasing out horses that ran loose before being corralled, officials said.

Louisville, Ky., police told CBS News earlier that a tornado appeared to have touched down briefly in the infield of their racetrack.

Hours after the storm hit, officials had no reports of injuries to humans or horses at the track on the southwestern side of Louisville. Elsewhere in the city, high water from torrential rains trapped a couple of people in their cars, a mayor’s spokesman said, and a hospital reported that it treated two patients hit by falling trees.

The National Weather Service said radar was tracking a confirmed tornado near the track and the University of Louisville campus about 8:10 p.m. Though no races are run on Wednesdays, a simulcast of races elsewhere was being shown in the theater, and a Texas Hold ’em poker tournament was being held, officials said.

Photos: The 2011 Kentucky Derby
Photos: Kentucky Derby hats
Photos: Stars at the Kentucky DerbyThe National Weather Service confirmed reports of a tornado in the area, which also struck the University of Louisville campus.

At least nine barns were damaged, as was the chapel. The barn damage was on the backside of the track where workers live in the dorms, said track President Kevin Flanery.

“It’s a hell of a mess back here,” track spokesman John Asher said of the barn area where the damage was concentrated.

The iconic twin spires above the clubhouse overlooking the finish line were not apparently damaged, Flanery said.

“Clearly we’ve got several barns with significant damage and we’re just trying to make sure people and the animals are safe first,” Flanery said.

Some horses had gotten loose for a time, but were later caught, Asher said. At least 1,300 horses were stabled at Churchill, said vice president of racing Donnie Richardson.

Vans were being brought in to move horses out of downpours that fell into the night and from the barns, Asher said. At least one barn was flooded by a water main break and horses were being moved to a safe area. The nearby state fairgrounds and Keeneland Racetrack in Lexington offered stall space if it was needed, he said.

The Kentucky Derby, the first leg of horseracing’s Triple Crown, has been run for 136 years at the track. It has a capacity to handle a crowd of some 160,000-plus for the annual spring tradition known as much for its mint juleps and fancy hats as the racing.

The track, owned by Churchill Downs Inc., underwent extensive renovations in 2002 and 2003 totaling more than $200 million. Thursday’s racing card was cancelled because of the damage.

In August 2009, a flash flood heavily damaged the Kentucky Derby Museum, situated just off Gate 1 at Churchill Downs. The museum was closed for nine months while it underwent a $5.5 million renovation.

No damage has been reported at the university, which is sparsely populated at this time of year, but power was out around campus, said John Drees, a university spokesman. Widespread reports of damage to buildings all over the Louisville metro area was reported from the storms that continued to move through into the night. The worst appeared to be at Churchill Downs, though, said Chris Poynter, a spokesman for Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer.

Eyewitnesses said they saw about a dozen power poles downed near the track and university. A weather service team will determine whether a tornado or straight line winds did the damage. Some 5,000 customers were without power around the Louisville area.

Storm sirens wailed in Kentucky’s largest city as multiple tornado warnings were issued as the storm went through.

“It looks like we dodged what could have been a really bad … evening,” Poynter said.

Read more: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/06/22/national/main20073539.shtml#ixzz1Q8m0W43l

 

2011: The Year of the Urban Tornado, Meteorologist Says

2011: The Year of the Urban Tornado, Meteorologist Says – FoxNews.com.

 

An astonishing number of tornadoes have ripped through highly populated towns and cities all over the country this year — and more might be on the way, one meteorologist says.

The average number of tornadoes over a 3-year span in the US is 1,376. So far this year there have 1,425 reports of tornadoes, with an unusually high number striking towns and major cities so far this year — and the year is far from over.

“Perhaps many towns and cities have simply been a little lucky up until this year,” Alex Sosnowski, senior meteorologist for Accuweather.com, told FoxNews.com. “This is a sign of what we may see on a more frequent, periodic basis as the weather pattern cycles through, as it has over years.”

Some of the towns and cities that have been hit this year include Philadelphia; Minneapolis; Dallas; Oklahoma City, Okl.; Little Rock, Ark.; Tuscaloosa, Ala.; Raleigh/Sanford, N.C.; St. Louis, Mo.; Bristol, Va.; and Reading, Kan..

Most recently, an exceptionally unusual tornado struck Springfield, Mass., killing at least three people.

The increase in deadly tornadoes is due to a number of factors.

First of all, as the population grows and expands into more rural and suburban area, tornadoes cause more destruction in areas that once would have seen far less damage.

The La Nina weather phenomenon has also been said to contribute to the recent rise in tornadoes in the U.S. La Nina, an ocean-atmospheric event that can cause anomalies in weather patterns, can contribute to stronger jet streams over Northern America.

The strength of the jet stream is a key factor in severe thunderstorms and tornado formation.

“The stronger the jet stream, the more air is pulled up from the surface,” Accuweather.com severe weather expert Henry Margusity said. “The jet stream acts as a vacuum cleaner by pulling air up from the surface.”

Another factor is the movement of these jet streams. This year, jet streams have moved farther east than where they are typically located. This causes severe thunderstorms and tornadoes in these densely populated areas.

There seems to be little people can do to stop these deadly tornadoes, Sosnowki said.

We’re all “at the mercy of the weather,” he noted.

Powerful storms pound several central US states

Powerful storms pound several central US states – Yahoo! News.

People make their way through the wreckage of a home damaged by a tornado in Sedalia, Mo., on Wednesday, May 25, 2011. (AP Photo/Dan Gill) AP – People make their way through the wreckage of a home damaged by a tornado in Sedalia, Mo., on Wednesday, …

PIEDMONT, Okla. – In storm-weary middle America, many people counted themselves lucky Thursday after powerful storms swept through the region for the third time in four days but apparently claimed no lives.

Dozens of people were injured, mobile homes were flipped and roofs were torn off houses when tornadoes and thunderstorms hit Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and other states Wednesday evening.

Early Thursday, forecasters withdrew a slew of tornado watches in the South and said the heavy weather that pounded the Midwest in recent days had finally receded. Nevertheless, violent storms could not be ruled out elsewhere.

In southern Indiana, residents used flashlights to check on their homes, barns and neighbors near Bloomington after powerful winds overturned two mobile homes. Crews worked overnight to clear uprooted trees and downed power lines after a tornado touched down in a mostly rural area about 25 miles south, near Bedford.

Authorities began assessing the storm damage after daybreak, tallying up the number of homes damaged and destroyed. More than a dozen people were injured, including several children, but those living in the most affected areas said they were relieved no one was killed.

Brad Taylor, who lives in a mobile home park near Bloomington where one trailer was toppled and another was destroyed, said he, his wife and their two children rode out the storm by hiding in a closet. The trailer lost some siding and a window was blown out, but it was still standing.

“I’m just thankful everybody’s alive,” Taylor said.

A neighbor, 19-year-old Brandon Arthur, said he has never been so scared.

“All I know is the power went out, the trailer started shaking and I looked out the window and there was green lightning,” said Arthur, whose trailer survived except for its wooden deck.

Marie Mason, who owns the trailer park with her ex-husband, Sam Mason, looked bewildered as she sifted through the debris of his trailer for a cell phone. She wanted to call him in the Philippines to tell him what happened. Moments later, neighbors found his dog dead in a nearby field, and she knelt over the animal and cried.

Her son was bruised and bloodied by the storm, but was treated at a hospital and would be all right, she said.

“The good thing is everybody’s here to talk about it,” Marie Mason said. “I’ve got a lot to be grateful for. Things can be replaced. People can’t.”

Wednesday’s storms followed a deadly outbreak of violent weather a day earlier in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas that killed at least 16 people, including a 3-year-old Oklahoma boy whose body was found along a lakeshore near his home Thursday. On Sunday, the nation’s deadliest single tornado since the National Weather Service started keeping records in 1950 killed 125 in the southwest Missouri city of Joplin.

The weather service canceled tornado watches and warnings for most of Mississippi, northwestern Alabama and central Kentucky on Thursday. Jared Guyer, a forecaster at the NOAA National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center, in Norman, Okla., said the situation had calmed to a “relative lull.”

“We don’t have any existing watches,” Guyer said Thursday. “There is a severe threat, but not on the magnitude of the last few days.”

He said the Appalachians, parts of the Southeastern U.S., and the upper Ohio Valley into the northeastern U.S. remained at “severe risk.”

A tornado damaged several homes and businesses Wednesday afternoon in the central Missouri city of Sedalia, causing minor injuries to as many as 25 people. Officials said most of the injured were able to get themselves to the hospital for treatment.

“Considering the destruction that occurred in Joplin — being that we’re in tornado alley and Sedalia has historically been hit by tornadoes in the past — I think people heeded that warning,” Pettis County Sheriff Kevin Bond said. “And so, I think that helped tremendously.”

Sedalia ended its school year several days early because the school buses were damaged.

Sean McCabe was rushing to the basement of his mother’s home in Sedalia when the tornado struck and shoved him down the final flight of steps. The 30-year-old suffered scrapes and cuts on his hands, wrists, back and feet. He said neighbors and firefighters helped him get out.

Most of the roof was ripped off the house, which was among the more heavily damaged homes in the area. McCabe, who has a service dog for epilepsy, said both his family’s dogs survived, including one found muddy and wet about a block away.

Elsewhere in the hard-hit neighborhood, law officers stood on corners and electrical crews worked on power lines. Numerous trees were down, and tarps were covering some houses while others were missing chunks of their roofs. People were cleaning debris and sifting through belongings.

Heavy rain, hail and lightning pounded Memphis on Wednesday night as a tornado warning sounded. There were no confirmed reports of tornadoes touching down.

Elsewhere in Tennessee, strong winds from thunderstorms damage homes and wrecked a convenience store in Smithville, about 55 miles east of Nashville. The Rutherford County emergency management director reported a possible tornado southeast of Murfreesboro just before midnight.

In Illinois, strong winds, rain and at least four possible tornadoes knocked down power lines and damaged at least one home and a number of farm buildings across the central and eastern parts of the state.

“Mostly it was shingles off roofs and garages,” said Illinois Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Patti Thompson.

‘Major Tornado Outbreak’ Seen for Midwest

‘Major Tornado Outbreak’ Seen for Midwest – Bloomberg.

A “major tornado outbreak” brewing across nine states in the central U.S. is adding to insured losses that may already have reached $6.5 billion this season, according to an industry group.

Tornadoes and thunderstorms have caused at least $3 billion in insured losses and perhaps more than double that, said Robert Hartwig, president and economist at the Insurance Information Institute in New York.

“It is going to be an earnings event to insurers,” Hartwig said by telephone from Iowa. “These are outsized losses.”

A tornado watch, meaning the deadly storms may develop, was posted today from Mississippi to Ohio, including the cities of Indianapolis, St. Louis, and Memphis, according to the National Weather Service.

“The potential is increasing for a major tornado outbreak,” the U.S. Storm Prediction Center said. “Widespread wind damage and large hail are also a prominent concern through the evening hours.”

Storm damage from flipped trucks, downed power lines and damaged homes has been reported in Illinois, Indiana, Kansas and Missouri, according to the storm center in Norman, Oklahoma. As of about 4 p.m. New York time, 20 tornadoes were spotted across the Midwest and “significant damage” was reported in the town of Sedalia, Missouri, the agency said.

Tornado warnings, meaning radar detected signs of a twister, were posted for a time on three sides of St. Louis.

Deadly Year

So far in 2011, tornadoes have killed 504 people, according to the center, which is investigating a total of 1,228 twister reports. Major outbreaks have damaged the St. Louis airport, flattened Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and destroyed a large part of Joplin, Missouri. In the three years prior to this year, 192 people were killed.

Hartwig said losses from thunderstorms and tornadoes have been rising since 2008. From 1990 to 2009, tornadoes caused $97.8 billion in insured U.S. losses, second only to hurricanes, responsible for losses of $152.4 billion.

“This is the fourth consecutive year thunderstorm and tornado losses are reaching record levels,” Hartwig said. He said the industry is positioned to pay the losses.

Tornadoes swept across Texas, Arkansas, Kansas and Oklahoma yesterday, killing 14 people, according to the Associated Press. Earlier this week, at least 123 people were killed by a tornado in Joplin, Missouri, the single deadliest U.S. twister on records going back to 1950.

American Airlines and its American Eagle regional carrier canceled 594 flights because of yesterday’s storms and pulled 89 planes from service for possible hail damage.

Southwest Airlines Co. (LUV), based at Love Field in Dallas, said it expected to cancel or delay an undetermined number of flights as it checks eight aircraft for damage.

Winds of almost 70 miles (113 kilometers) per hour and hail as large as 4.25 inches (11 centimeters) in diameter were reported as storms moved through the Dallas area late yesterday, the National Weather Service said. About 10,000 people were stranded overnight at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, said David Magana, an airport spokesman.

To contact the reporters on this story: Brian K. Sullivan in Boston at bsullivan10@bloomberg.ne.

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Dan Stets at dstets@bloomberg.net

Deadly weather in US could become the norm

Deadly weather in US could become the norm – environment – 03 May 2011 – New Scientist.

Read more: See an interactive graphic of tornado devastation

It’s been a severe start to the spring season in the United States. Tornadoes have ravaged the southeastern US, flooding threatens much of the Midwest, and wildfires are scorching Texas. But according to researchers, a confluence of seasonal oscillations in weather patterns, rather than climate change, is to blame. And growing populations mean that grim casualty figures from such events may become the norm.

“I don’t think there’s any way of proving climate change is responsible for the weather patterns this week and week before,” says meteorologist Howard Bluestein, of the University of Oklahoma in Norman.

Part of the cycle

Tornadoes, floods and fires occur every year in America, and the outbreak of each this year is readily explained by short-term factors.

Texas has suffered drought since late 2010, producing the driest March on record. Ground temperatures in March and April were higher than usual, shrivelling the already rain-starved vegetation. The low humidity, heat, and high winds built a perfect tinder box for wildfires, which have so far burned more than 1.4 million acres in around 800 separate blazes across Texas .

Floods are largely explained by a combination of heavy rains and melting snow. Coupled with recent severe rainstorms, the snowmelt from a very white winter of 2010-2011 has pushed waters at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to record levels, threatening communities in Missouri and Illinois. Elsewhere, the waters have already overrun their levees and inundated nearby towns.

The conditions that create tornadoes are more complex and less well understood. They need the hot, humid air that fuels a thunderstorm and a strong jet stream, although scientists are not sure why this combination only sometimes produces twisters.

Around two weeks ago, a huge mass of humid air blew up from the Gulf of Mexico and draped itself upon the Southeastern United States. When the colder jet stream – narrow, swift moving and cold – began to churn the sultry air, a huge system of thunderstorms arose, along with hundreds of twisters. Between between April 14 and 16, 155 confirmed tornadoes struck, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates another 362 twisters touched down between April 25 and 28, leaving a swath of destruction across the southern US. In all, more than 377 people have died and some are still missing.

Warming a factor?

Climate change cannot be directly blamed for such outbreaks. And even as scientists’ climate models have improved, the question of whether increasing global temperatures will change the frequency and severity of dangerous weather in the future remains open.

Rising temperatures mean more of the warm soupy air from which thunderstorms are formed. At the same time, however, global warming could weaken the temperature difference between the equator and the poles, a gradient that generates the jet stream in the first place.

One possible outcome of these opposing forces is that a warmer world will produce more run of the mill thunderstorms, but fewer tornadoes. In a 2007 study, however, NASA climate scientist Anthony Del Genio NASA modeled a hypothetical future climate with twice the then-current carbon dioxide levels and surface temperatures 5 degrees Fahrenheit (2.8 degrees Celsius) warmer than typical. He concluded that despite a weakened jet stream, violent twister-generating thunderstorms will actually occur more frequently in a warmer world because of collisions between strong updrafts and speedy horizontal winds.

For now, there simply isn’t enough data to say whether climate change makes severe thunderstorms and tornadoes more or less likely. But 2011 could prove to be the beginning of a trend.

“We can’t say much about one particular outbreak, but if this if this is still happening ten years in a row, we will definitely be wondering what is going on,” says Joshua Wurman, president of the Center for Severe Weather Research in Boulder, Colorado.

Either way, the breathtaking loss of life witnessed in the last month may become harder and harder to avoid. The April 2011 tornado outbreaks have killed far more people than anything in the past few decades, despite the fact that warning systems are better than ever.

One explanation is population density: “There are simply more people in harm’s way than there used to be,” says Bluestein. “Inevitably some people just aren’t going to get out of the way. It’s a sad horrible thing that over 300 people lost their lives in the last outbreak, but if we didn’t have the kind of warning systems we have now, thousands of people would have been killed.”

Numbers game

NOAA currently estimates over 600 tornadoes touched down in the US in April. If the number stands, it would be a record for a month that is usually quieter than May, the most active month of the year for twisters. But comparing today’s statistics to the historical record can be tricky – the number of people reporting tornadoes has increased dramatically over time, so older records may have missed many twisters.

“Today people report even the smallest tornadoes,” says Bluestein. “With our cell phones and wireless internet it’s as if no tree falling in the forest gets left unseen.”

“2011 is certainly getting off to a roaring start for severe weather,” says Del Genio. It’s very interesting that we have had huge outbreak of tornadoes this April, but remember that the rest of year could turn out to be very calm – we just don’t know yet.”