They keep on ratcheting up the potential damage from the impending (Thursday night through Saturday afternoon) ice storm. The higher it gets, the greater my fright level. Last Big Ice Storm, I had to be rescued from a dark house, trapped behind stacks of broken tree branches. And I was in fairly good condition back then. Today, not so much. I am seriously worried about survival here.
Archive for Weather or Not
“The most perverse weather this side of Baffin Bay,” I said about two decades ago.
An example from earlier today:
— Oklahoma Mesonet (@okmesonet) December 17, 2016
Where I live, specifically: 6.
As good an explanation of why these things fizzle out — or worse, don’t fizzle out — as I’ve yet seen:
The next time you hear about a big winter storm over a week away, just think of everyone's favorite game on The Price Is Right. pic.twitter.com/bjhUG9vav3
— NWS Kansas City (@NWSKansasCity) December 2, 2016
Arctic air is due in a few days. Just my luck.
While Matthew bedevils the south Atlantic Coast, I am minded of my reaction to the F6-if-we-had-F6’s tornado outbreak in May 1999:
[T]he worst managed to stay to my south and west, though not very far. At its peak, the funnel was nearly a mile wide, and its easternmost flank ventured to within half a mile of this desk. At least, that’s what they said in the newspapers; what I saw looked more like a matte painting from a science-fiction film, and an ill-lit one at that. The electrical power went dead here almost immediately, and was not restored until the next day. The only actual damage to my premises, though, was some ostensible surface excitement added to the top of my car, courtesy of a barrage of high-speed ice balls. Given the sheer strength of this storm — bigger vehicles than this were picked up and dropped across the street or in front of houses or even into houses — I’m not inclined to complain a great deal about a handful of dimples.
The phrase that pays is “what I saw”; I reasoned that if this damn thing is going to kill me, I’m not going to huddle in the corner and simply wait for it. Which doesn’t necessarily tell you how I might behave with a hurricane breathing down my neck.
Oklahoma summers are hot and sticky and everything about them is the absolute worst. I didn’t always hate them. I used to actually love the heat, and spent about 10 years of my life playing competitive fast pitch softball in the summer heat. Hell, I remember playing in tournaments that were canceled because other girls literally died of heat stroke while standing in the outfield, and I wasn’t particularly phased by the heat at the time.
But that was when I could wear my sleeveless jersey and shorts all day. Now, I may not be outside all day, but I have to wear some business casual garb, and I would like to know what asshole decided that all business casual clothing should be made of the most unbreathable fabrics, because that person should be swaddled in a pair of modern-fit trousers and left out in the sun to slowly desiccate into the raisin they deserve to be.
Also at the link: deodorant tips.
And boy, do we need it now:
Turning to widely scattered light in the morning, as Al Sleet, your hippy-dippy weatherman, might say.
(From Bad Newspaper via Miss Cellania.)
At the National Tornado Summit here in the Big Breezy, the Standard Female Weather Person Dress was very much in evidence:
— Carrie Burkhart (@Carrie_Burkhart) March 1, 2016
Of course, it is never, ever green, for obvious reasons.
It’s weirdly warm in the Los Angeles area these days, prompting this outburst from an 18-year resident:
Is this a JOKE pic.twitter.com/uaL0LDPsXZ
— Rebecca Black (@MsRebeccaBlack) February 9, 2016
Members of the fan base in colder areas — this is freaking February, after all — sent their own, much chillier, screenshots in response.
Addendum: The coldest day ever recorded in this town was the 12th of February — in 1899, when the mercury hid in the bulb of the thermometer, unable to face 17 degrees below zero (-27°C).
Everyone in this part of the world eventually learns the subgenre of “fire weather,” a phenomenon that comes with dry air and high winds. Even the slightest spark, from whatever source, suddenly turns into a Major Blaze, and if the conditions are going to persist for a while, you’re likely to see a burn ban.
I was never quite sure how they actually quantified it, but this NWS graphic reveals the scale:
— NWS Norman (@NWSNorman) January 30, 2016
I’ve been here about forty years, and I don’t remember “historic” being used in this context. Which is probably a good thing.
The standard NWS term for those Texas counties is “Western North Texas,” the sort of description you’d need in a place the size of Texas; if you say “northwest Texas,” I start thinking the Panhandle and Amarillo.
The line between “mostly cloudy” and “partly sunny” is apparently even finer than I thought it was. From the National Weather Service’s local forecast today:
Can you tell them apart? I certainly can’t.
“The most perverse weather this side of Baffin Bay,” I once said, and the year just completed gave me no reason to change my mind:
— Oklahoma Mesonet (@okmesonet) December 31, 2015
I don’t actually think in millibars, so I did the conversion to mercury: 31.05 inches. Now that’s some serious pressure.
And about that dew point in Webbers Falls:
Those accustomed to continental climates often begin to feel uncomfortable when the dew point reaches between 15 and 20 °C (59 and 68 °F). Most inhabitants of these areas will consider dew points above 21 °C (70 °F) oppressive.
So I imagine 83 °F was probably excruciating. (I can’t remember personally experiencing anything much over 79.)
If there’s any comfort to be found on this map, it’s that none of those extremes came within fifty miles of me. Then again, through Christmas Day, we were on pace in Oklahoma City for the second-warmest December on record, behind only the fluky 48.7 degrees of 1965. (For warmenists: nine of the top ten are before 1965.) Then the snow and the rain and several days of cloud cover, and the best we could do was a tie for fifth at 45.3. I did manage to be present for three of the coldest Decembers, including the heinous 1983, a feeble 25.3 degrees for the month. (The coldest days around here, statistically, are in early January, at an average of 38.7 or thereabouts, though the coldest day EVAH was 12 February 1899, at a Dakota-esque 17 below.)
First, we must say this:
Throughout much of 2015, tornado activity has been near record low mostly due to a continuous pattern of a trough in the east, which has brought colder than average temperatures there, and a ridge in the west, which has brought warmer than average temperatures in the west. The pattern changed, slightly, in late March and early April to allow for some severe weather.
And then reversed itself late in the year, with unpleasant results. Then again, I’m sitting here in the middle of the damnable stuff, so nothing here surprises me:
— Mark Tarello (@mark_tarello) December 31, 2015
Okay, but one thing surprises me. What the hell happened in Nevada, that they should get a tornado warning? Well, duh:
A Nevada Tornado 2015 Warning tonight is striking Lander. The National Weather Service in Elko has issued a Nevada Tornado 2015 Warning moments ago.
NWS tell news that tonight May 7, 2015 a Nevada Tornado 2015 Warning is in place for southwestern Eureka County in north central Nevada, and east central Lander County in north central Nevada.
Lander, since the 1920s, has had a fairly steady population of zero. And this particular news site seems to deal in word salad with ranch dressing ‚ though NWS talks like that sometimes, as fans of their VHF radio service know.
The Illinois River — no, not the one that flows through Illinois — looked something like this yesterday:
— Troy Littledeer (@troylittledeer) December 28, 2015
At the time, the river was up over 30 feet, a place it’s never before been in recorded history (which is probably 125 years or so).
— OK NatureConservancy (@Nature_OK) December 28, 2015
Flood stage at this station is a mere eleven feet. The river might recede to that point before this weekend, if there isn’t any more rain; last I looked, it was down to about 21 feet.
I grumble rather a lot about winter weather in this town. (Then again, I also grumble rather a lot about the weather in spring, summer and fall. This is, I think, the case for everyone who doesn’t actually live in San Diego, and for some who do.) Then again, no matter how bad I have it, it’s usually possible to find some place that has it worse.
Welcome to Elba, Alabama, population 3900 or so:
(Photo by Melissa Hudson, via WTVY, Dothan, Alabama.)
The Lincoln flood of 1865, named for the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in the same year, was the first to destroy the town. Another devastating flood occurred in 1929 when the river crested at a depth of 43.5 feet (13.3 m) early on March 15. Airplanes were used to drop supplies to the completely inundated town. There was only one death from the flood, an African-American man named “Phoe” Larkins. A child born at the Elba Hotel during this flood was named “Noah Tucker” after the biblical character Noah. Vivian Harper received the Theodore N. Vail Silver Medal for her heroic actions during the flood.
A levee was built around the town in 1930. Flood gates were erected and drainage systems improved. Floods continued, however, with especially severe inundations in 1938, 1959 and 1975. The worst flood ever recorded in Elba occurred in 1990, with a river crest of 48 feet (15 m). The levee broke and Whitewater Creek overflowed into the town. Elba was completely flooded for four days, and the town was nearly destroyed. More floods struck Elba in 1994 and 1998.
The Pea is up around 41 feet right now. Flood stage is 30 feet. Hell of a Christmas present, if you ask me.
Used to be, you’d hear the local sirens going off, and you’d wonder, just for a moment, how far away the threat might be: Oklahoma City spills into three counties — well, four, if you count that tiny sliver of Pottawatomie County — and if there’s an actual warning anywhere in your county, you’d get the Big Blaster. No more:
The important new policy change, adopted Tuesday by the City Council, divides OKC into zones. When the National Weather Service (NWS) issues a tornado warning, only the sirens in zones covered by the warning will sound.
Residents and visitors don’t need to know what zone they’re in, only to immediately take shelter and get more information if they hear a siren.
There are nine zones in the new scheme. It has to be a really farging big storm to hit more than four or five of them.
One of my wackier appliances is a weather gizmo that records the indoor temperature and humidity, and stores (at least until the batteries fail) the highest and lowest numbers received. During the end-of-November ice storm, in which the house had no power for 36 hours, the temperature at the device’s location — just inside the door to my bedroom — dropped to an indicated 52.6°F, about 20 degrees warmer than outside.
Residents of properties operated by the New York City Housing Authority are entitled to snicker at that:
NYCHA officials admit that for years, they wouldn’t turn on the heat in public housing until the temperature hit bone-chilling levels.
Only it wasn’t as bad as the 20-degree cutoff touted by one of their own… It was actually 25 degrees.
NYCHA is now, they say, on a 40-degree threshold, which still sounds cold to me. Then again, the furnace is following the instructions given by the thermostat, it’s 71.3° at the usual location, and I just paid the gas bill, which was less than $60.
Just to the west, in the town of Mustang:
— bbatter (@barbiereif) November 29, 2015
After a sizzling 42°F yesterday, there’s no ice left; most of what remains turns out to be the remains of destroyed Bradford pear (Pyrus calleryana) trees.
Matt Gasnier is attempting a cross-country drive, and unlike most of us in the States who’ve envisioned this notion, he’s going north to south. He started, in fact, at Barrow, Alaska, way up on the Arctic Ocean. Several days and a few ferryboats later, he’s in Ketchikan, about which he says:
Looking up the Ketchikan section on the Alaska Lonely Planet reads: “If you stay in Ketchikan longer than an hour, chances are good that it will rain at least once if not several times.”
This seemed wild enough to consult Wikipedia, which is good on weather (if not necessarily climate) coverage. This picture was waiting:
(Photo ©2002 Robert A. Estremo. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike License v. 2.0.)
There’s a reason it’s that tall. The yearly rainfall average is a mind-boggling 153 inches, which includes a mere 37 inches of snow; 229 days a year see at least 0.01 inch of rain. This is, I note for record, nearly twice as much rain as falls on Dhaka, Bangladesh. And speaking of record, in 1949 the gauge actually overflowed, having failed to collect all of 202.55 inches of what is decidedly world-class wetness.
An unusually warm October will be followed, I expect, by several months for which “unusually warm” will be a pleasant memory at best. I don’t like it, but I’ll live through it — I think. It’s not as easy as it used to be.
The US Geological Survey takes some questions about the “1000-year” flood in South Carolina — well, technically, no, it wasn’t any such thing — and even deals with the one most beloved by illiterate news media:
Is this flood due to climate change?
USGS research has shown no linkage between flooding (either increases or decreases) and the increase in greenhouse gases. Essentially, from USGS long-term streamgage data for sites across the country with no regulation or other changes to the watershed that could influence the streamflow, the data shows no systematic increases in flooding through time.
A much bigger impact on flooding, though, is land use change. Without proper mitigation, urbanization of watersheds increases flooding. Moreover, encroachment into the floodplain by homes and businesses leads to greater economic losses and potential loss of life, with more encroachment leading to greater losses.
And as a species, we’re not exactly well known for proper mitigation.
Here in Tokyo, where it is obscenely, body-wiltingly hot for three or four months a year (and where, in the past ten years, government anti-carbon mandates have made 28°C the minimum indoors in the summer), through-window air conditioners are the only thing you ever see. Being born in NYC, I have only heard the term “central air” and have never seen it. I would have to Google to see what such a setup would look like.
Jeebus. Eighty-three inside? I wouldn’t wish that on a communist from Berzerkley, let alone a Japanese salaryman.
I have often said, only partly in jest, that we have a true nine-season climate. Not everyone accepts this premise at face value:
If we do, about seven of them are too hot in some shape or form. (To me, it feels more like we have four, but two of them — the two best ones, spring and fall — are very short: about 8 months of “way too hot,” a month of “nice” where it is cool and rains a little and if we’re lucky we see the leaves change, two months of freezing rain, and then another month of “nice” and flowers before it gets too darn hot again.)
Here in the Big Town, anyway, there are extended periods of “What, this again?” OKC thirty-year averages bottom out at 39 degrees or less for three weeks (26 December through 15 January), and there’s a whole month of 83-plus (12 July through 13 August). Keep in mind the typical 20-degree spread between high and low on any given day, and feel free to shudder.
— Dale Arnold (@DaleEArnold) August 28, 2015
By comparison, Hurricane Ike was almost gentle.
Then again, it takes something this forceful to get someone’s attention. You probably know this old joke:
A farmer is in Iowa during a flood. The river is overflowing. Water is surrounding the farmer’s home up to his front porch. As he is standing there, a boat comes up. The man in the boat says, “Jump in, and I’ll take you to safety.”
The farmer crosses his arms and says stubbornly, “Oh no thanks, I put my trust in God.” The boat goes away. The water rises to the second story. Another boat comes up. The man says to the farmer, who is now at the second floor window, “Hurry, jump in. I’ll save you.”
The farmer again says, “Oh no thanks, I put my trust in God.”
The boat goes away. Now the water is inching over the roof. As the farmer stands on the roof, a helicopter comes over, and drops a ladder. The pilot yells down to the farmer, “I’ll save you. Climb the ladder.”
The farmer yells back, “Oh no thanks, I put my trust in God.”
The helicopter goes away. The water continues to rise and sweeps the farmer off the roof into the swiftly moving water. Unfortunately, he drowns.
The farmer goes to heaven. God sees him and says, “What are you doing here?”
The farmer says, “I put my trust in you, and you let me down.”
God says, “What do you mean, let you down? I sent you two boats and a helicopter!”
You might take this as an example of By-God Iowa Stubborn; or you might consider that in nearly every natural disaster, there’s someone who won’t budge from the scene. Scaring the heck out of them with a weather forecast seems like a kindness.
The wind is up, but otherwise it’s an absolutely gorgeous day, the sort that the gods throw in once in a while to obscure the fact that it’s the middle of winter and we should be freezing our keisters off. It never occurs to them to toss a mid-January day into the sweatbox of late August, but you know how gods are.
Low temperature yesterday in Oklahoma City: 50° F. The coolest it’s ever been in August, if “ever” = “since 1891”: 49° F.
I’ll take that with a smile.
This apparently was the display for the Sunday-evening forecast. Hindsight being closer to 20/20, I think we can safely say that at least one of those numbers was way the hell off:
(Snagged from Facebook, of course.)
The old newsroom saying: “If it bleeds, it leads.” Apparently this also works in weather:
Many local broadcast meteorologists say that the national reporting on severe weather is out of control, with sloppy reporting and almost incessant hyping of events. What this is doing, they add, is spreading misinformation that may be desensitizing viewers to actual weather risk.
In terms of my own hometown, I am at the point now where if there are any warnings beyond the most routine, I have to say something on Facebook just to reassure everyone that I am not in fact dead.
One critic, from Birmingham, Alabama:
[James] Spann, for instance, says national TV got the Houston floods story last May wrong by suggesting they were extraordinary, when, in fact, the city has a long history of such flooding.
“The networks just decided that this never happened before. That’s just idiotic,” he says, adding that the destructive flooding was a big enough story that it didn’t need hype.
Another, from a network O&O in Boston:
While indisputably powerful, the devastation caused by Sandy resulted from the storm hitting a heavily populated area rather than its sheer force. That fact was missed in many of the stories, he says.
“It was not a freak of nature,” [Eric] Fisher says. “Not everything has to be the worst, or the biggest or unprecedented.”
I blame global cooling/warming/stasis: it’s necessary to appear to have extreme events to prop up the narrative.
In the city of Bandar Mahshahr (population of about 110,000 as of 2010), the air felt like a searing 165 degrees (74 Celsius) [Thursday] factoring in the humidity.
Although there are no official records of heat indices, this is second highest level we have ever seen reported.
Just as well. We agonize enough over the heat index without having to deal with actual records.
To achieve [this] astronomical heat index level of 165, Bandar Mahshahr’s actual air temperature registered 115 degrees (46 Celsius) with an astonishing dew point temperature of 90 (32 Celsius).
Yee-owch! Where is this place?
Bandar Mahshahr sits adjacent to the Persian Gulf in southwest Iran where water temperatures are in the 90s. Such high temperatures lead to some of the most oppressive humidity levels in the world when winds blow off the sweltry water.
Only once has a higher heat index been reported, and it’s not so far away:
Although there are no official records, 178 degrees (81 Celsius) is the highest known heat index ever attained. It was observed in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia on July 8, 2003.
All I ask is two minutes of that no more in mid-January, right over my driveway.
Remember last winter in Buffalo? Traces of it remain even now:
It may be almost August, but dirt-covered snow still hasn’t completely melted since being dumped at a defunct Buffalo railroad station after November’s record-breaking storm.
WGRZ-TV reports that two snow piles nearly 10 feet high in some spots are still melting in vacant lots at the Central Terminal on the city’s east side.
City crews dumped snow in the lots after a lake-effect storm dumped more than 7 feet on parts of Buffalo and the surrounding area the week before Thanksgiving. Eight months later, some of it is still there.
It’s been there so long that grass is growing on it.
Meanwhile, somehow today in the Big Breezy we don’t have a Heat Advisory.
One of the inevitable effects of nine months’ worth of rain in a couple of weeks:
Says the Corps:
This is a normal occurrence when flood waters are released from the reservoir via flood control gates.
But they also say this:
The vortex is approximately 8 feet in diameter and capable of sucking in a full-sized boat, so please heed all safety buoys and caution signs.
The Black Hole of Texoma!