For those of us who live in upstate New York, it may seem like the weather has been exceptionally active during the last two weeks. You are not imagining things; August 2019 has brought numerous rounds of severe weather and damaging winds to the region. Let’s look look back at the last two or three weeks to see what happened:
August 6-8, 2019
An upper level disturbance, along with increasing humidity and moisture levels in the atmosphere, helped generate thunderstorms during the early afternoon hours on August 6. Although the threat for widespread severe weather was low, National Weather Service forecasters did highlight the threat for wind damage in some storms in their morning forecast discussion. Thunderstorms did result in locally damaging winds and a few reports of trees and power lines down across upstate New York.
On August 7, the threat for severe weather across New York State increased as an upper-level trough and surface cold front approached the region. As atmospheric instability increased during the day, widespread thunderstorms developed and damaging winds resulted in more widespread damage during the afternoon and evening hours.
August 8, 2019 brought yet another round of damaging winds, heavy rain and flooding to upstate New York. Another upper level disturbance and surface cold front, along with surface dew points in the 60s generated enough instability to support an impressive squall line which moved from west to east across New York State. Widespread wind damage across the state was the result, with numerous large trees and power lines downed.
August 15-18, 2019
Just one week later, another active period of weather began as upper-level disturbances repeatedly triggered severe weather over a four-day period beginning on August 15.
Although the severe weather threat on August 15 was mostly confined to western and central New York, isolated thunderstorms with heavy rainfall and some wind did make their way into eastern New York State. On August 16, two microbursts were confirmed by the National Weather Service in Albany, New York after a damage survey was conducted by forecasters. A microburst is an area of high winds generated by a thunderstorm downdraft which is less than 2.5 miles wide. In this case, wind speeds were estimated to be up to 80 mph based upon the intense tree damage which was observed.
Widespread wind damage occurred yet again on August 17 as a squall line developed and moved east across New York State. Again, widespread reports of heavy rain, trees and power lines down occurred. This footage from a webcam at the University at Albany shows a time-lapse of the development of a supercell, or rotating, thunderstorm which developed west of Albany in perfect view of the camera. No tornadoes resulted from this storm.
Most recently, on Sunday, August 18, 2019 a line of severe weather marched across the region. A downburst was confirmed in Malta, New York (north of Albany). Again, due to the widespread presence of large trees snapped and uprooted, the National Weather Service estimated wind speeds in the damage swath to have been as much as 90 mph. The storm which produced the microburst was visually impressive, with a large shelf cloud and frequent lightning.
While it isn’t unusual to have severe weather in August in upstate New York, it had been a relatively slow summer compared to normal this year in terms of severe weather until the beginning of August. Thus, the seemingly sudden increase in severe weather reports have many in the area wondering what is going on. In fact, while the last 2 to 3 weeks have been quite active, thunderstorm activity does tend to peak during the summer months in upstate New York.
This post went to press early on Thursday morning, 8/22/2019. This update is to note that there was more severe weather, in the form of flash flooding, damaging winds, and a tornado in upstate New York during the late afternoon and early evening hours of 8/21/2019. Flash flood damage occurred in downtown Troy, New York, where sidewalks and roads were undermined and large pieces of debris were left on the streets. The National Weather Service has conducted a damage survey in Fulton County, New York and confirmed that an EF1 tornado touched down in briefly and left a damage swath approximately 0.5 mile long.
Be sure to stay alert to weather conditions by checking your National Weather Service forecast, especially if you have outdoor plans. Review safety procedures and have a plan should severe weather strike at your location.