Tornado Preparedness? In December? Yep!

Hi friends. For those who might not be aware, the STM team is actually now based in two different areas – the Northeast, where we were founded, and the Southeast, where one of our team members now lives! Unsurprisingly, we now deal with very different weather-related issues. For example, at the time of this writing, I know that those of you living in New York are dealing with a winter storm all day today (December 17). On the other hand, yesterday I was able to go for a run in a tank top because the high temperature in my town was 75 degrees! Unfortunately, no location is perfect, and the southeast is known for it’s secondary severe weather season beginning in the late fall, sometimes lasting through early winter. In fact, on December 16, 2000, a powerful EF-4 tornado tore through Tuscaloosa County, killing 11 and injuring over 100. The tornado was on the ground for 18 miles, all within Tuscaloosa County. The tornado path was estimated to be 750 yards wide at its maximum intensity. Although the warnings were excellent for this tornado, the public perception still wasn’t where it should be.

Damage to houses from the December 16, 2000 tornado.
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NOAA Climate Analyses and Statistics

Did you know that NOAA regularly publishes articles that summarize recent weather events and the state of the climate ( https://www.noaa.gov/topic-tags/climate-analyses-and-statistics )? Generally, articles are released about twice or three times a month, and contain information about significant weather events, climate statistics for the United States for the previous month, and notes about significant studies or papers which have been published about the state of the climate. See below for details about some recent articles!

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Ready or Not, Winter is Here!

December 1 is the official start of meteorological winter, although most tend to use the astronomical calendar as the official start of seasons. Check out our blog from last year for a more detailed explanation on astronomical versus meteorological winters. Regardless of the official start date of winter, it’s clear that Jack Frost has made his arrival in several parts of the country already! In fact, before anyone had even sat down to enjoy their Thanksgiving meals with their families, winter weather was creating headaches for travelers along the west coast.

Caltrans and California Highway Patrol crews work to clear stranded vehicles from a stretch of northbound Interstate 5 in Northern California Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019.
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Dallas Fort Worth October 2019 Tornado

While spring and summer are undoubtedly the most active times for severe thunderstorms across the United States, autumn also brings an increased risk of severe weather outbreaks. Dr. Gregory Forbes, a recognized severe weather expert, identified the second half of October and “especially November” as a notable time period for strong storm systems to develop. “In many ways, this is the counterpart to spring, when strong fronts and upper-air systems march across the United States. When enough warm, moist air accompanies these weather systems, the unstable conditions yield severe thunderstorms and sometimes tornadoes,” Forbes said. His statement came after he examined storm statistics and found six of the largest 55 known tornado outbreaks on record had occurred in the fall. Over 1,000 tornadoes impact the United States each year, and more occur in Texas than any other state.

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A Look Back at Hurricane Michael

Three hundred and sixty-five days have passed since Hurricane Michael crashed into the Florida Panhandle, causing utter devastation. Michael made history as the first Category 5 hurricane (the highest category of the Saffir-Simpson scale with winds over 157 miles per hour) to make landfall in the Unites States since Andrew in 1992. It was also the first Category 5 hurricane on record to impact the Florida Panhandle.

Hurricane Michael beginning to make landall on October 10, 2018. Courtesy NASA
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Wild Early Fall Weather

The autumnal equinox was just over a week ago, and already it seems as though winter is knocking at the door in some parts of the country. Meanwhile, other parts of the United States are enduring record-breaking heat. Let’s take a look at some of the recent headline-making weather events around the nation.

Glacier National Park after an early season snowstorm, September 2019. Courtesy NPS.
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Turn Around, Don’t Drown

This is it. We are in the peak of hurricane season. So far, we have had 12 named storms. We all know to prepare for and be wary of strong hurricanes, but even “weak” tropical systems can wreak just as much havoc. It’s important to remember that a tropical system’s strength is categorized solely by wind speed, but that flooding associated with a system (regardless of winds) can cause catastrophic impacts as well.

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Fall Weather Safety

At the time of this writing, I am enjoying a beautiful train ride along the Hudson River between New York City and Albany. Although the sun is shining and temperatures are in the 70s, some early hints of fall color are showing up on the Catskills to the west. Fall typically is not a time when most of us have ‘hazardous weather’ on our minds, especially here in the northeast U.S. where fall can be one of the most idyllic times of year. However, weather hazards can present themselves in any season, and fall is no exception.

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