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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Winter Weather Preparedness

This week has been designated as Winter Weather Awareness Week in New York, and several other states across the country. Some states, such as Colorado, have already had their campaign for winter weather, while other states – such as Alabama, have a few weeks to go before their campaign kicks off. However, this is a great refresher for anyone to prepare for the upcoming season!

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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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Hurricane Dorian: A study in hurricane impacts

At the time of this writing on Tuesday, September 2, Hurricane Dorian is currently bringing heavy rain, winds and storm surge to the Bahamas as it makes its slow trek towards the eastern U.S. coastline. This storm has proven to be very difficult to forecast, in part because of its rapid intensification and slow speed. Let’s look back and see how this dangerous situation evolved and where the forecast impacts are expected in the next 3-5 days.

Satellite imagery of Hurricane Dorian over the Bahamas, September 1, 2019.
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National Parks and Severe Weather

At this point in midsummer, it is hard NOT to have the outdoor bug, and many of us in the U.S. will head to our National Parks to enjoy the outdoors in a variety of ways. Did you know that Yellowstone was the first National Park, established in 1872? President Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909) is possibly the most well-known supporter of the development of the National Park System; during his terms in office, the number of National Parks doubled. The legislation known as the Antiquities Act, which he signed into law, gave him and future presidents the ability to declare historic landmarks and national monuments, many of which are part of the National Park System today. At our wide array of National Parks, Seashores, Reserves, Battlefields, Monuments, and Historic Sites, visitors can learn about the history and culture of our country, as well as enjoy and appreciate the huge variety of climates and beautiful scenery that exist in the United States.

Canyonlands National Park. Credit: NPS/Neal Herbert.
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Gulf of Mexico Tropical Disturbance/DC Floods/Flood Safety

You may have heard on the news this week that there is a potential tropical system which is forecast to form in the Gulf of Mexico over the next day or two. Satellite imagery shows a broad area of convection over the Florida panhandle and southern Alabama. This convection will be drifting slowly westward over the northern Gulf of Mexico.

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This Week’s Roundup of Interesting Weather Stories

A massive plume of dust from the Sahara Desert has made its way all the way across the Atlantic Ocean into the Caribbean and the southeast United States! Known as the Saharan Air Layer (SAL), this very dry mass of dusty air normally forms over the Sahara Desert between late spring through early fall and moves out over the North Atlantic Ocean every 3-5 days. The SAL can cover an area as large as the size of the continental United States (!), and extends between ~5,000-20,000 feet in the atmosphere.

This geocolor enhanced imagery was created by NOAA’s partners at the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere.  Its multi-band imaging capabilities provide high-resolution visible and infrared imaging of atmospheric aerosols, such as dust and sand. Photo courtesy NOAA Environmental Visualization Laboratory.
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NOAA: Building A Better Future

Did you know that The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) does more than forecast the weather? NOAA is a scientific agency that observes and predicts conditions in our ocean and atmosphere. From daily weather forecasts to long-term climate monitoring and from fisheries management to marine commerce, NOAA provides communities, decision-makers, and people across the country with the information they need when they need it. NOAA also understands that the agency must do more than study the ocean and atmosphere; they need to take what they learn and educate individuals, so that citizens are empowered to support their own economies by building resilient communities and healthy ecosystems. An informed society has access to, interest in, and understanding of NOAA-related sciences and their implications for current and future events.

NOAA Marine Debris Program Outreach and Communications Specialist, Asma Mahdi, shows curious zoo-visitor microplastics and explains how animals can easily mistake it for food at the Smithsonian National Zoo’s World Ocean Day event. (NOAA)
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Lightning Science and Safety

Did you know that Benjamin Franklin conducted his famous experiment in which he flew a kite during a thunderstorm during this week in 1752? Benjamin Franklin was looking to demonstrate the connection between lightning and electricity. In fact, we know today that lightning is a discharge of static electricity from the atmosphere. Lightning can strike from cloud-to-cloud, cloud-to-ground, and even intra-cloud (inside one cloud) discharges can occur. Let’s look back into history to see how this experiment worked…

Courtesy: Franklin Institute.
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