Archive for Weather or Not

Wind up

There’s got to be some reason why all the tornadoes around here head straight for Moore, and maybe this has something to do with it:

Areas where landscape shifts from urban to rural or forest to farmland may have a higher likelihood of severe weather and tornado touchdowns, a Purdue University study says.

An examination of more than 60 years of Indiana tornado climatology data from the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center showed that a majority of tornado touchdowns occurred near areas where dramatically different landscapes meet — for example, where a city fades into farmland or a forest meets a plain.

You mean, something like this?

Google Map of Moore, Oklahoma and points west

Those of us in the middle of the Big Town are even now emitting unseemly sighs of relief.

(Via Instapundit.)

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Speaking of trees

Tony Woodlief, on ice storms and their impact:

There is no predicting which trees will break, nor how they will falter. Some shed limbs as a rebirthing, others lose not a one. Some are sundered to their roots, as if a rotten core had crept up through the center of them, or had been birthed within them, had been inside them from the beginning, only to be revealed in the testing hour.

A pin oak behind my house cast down a dozen widow-makers, a proud magnolia fell into itself grotesquely. A pear tree shed half itself across my driveway. Branches speared the earth, some of them a foot deep, because when you stretch to heaven you have much further to fall, and your breaking is perilous to all around you.

To sum it up:

Sometimes the ones we thought strong topple, while the stoop-shouldered endure. They endure because they bend beneath the weight, they shoulder it as beasts of burden and within them is something like faith that it will pass.

Sometimes they get by with a little help from their friends, but they survive.

Two years of unrelenting drought killed off three of my trees, and surely weakened the others; yet the others are still standing, still green (or other color as appropriate), still keeping watch. It’s hard not to feel somewhat comforted by that, even as I mourn the departed.

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Snow is still a four-letter word

The winter of ’14, as seen from Chicago:

Sounds a little funny to my ears. But over these last few months, I have moved several thousand pounds of snow with my shovel and my back, and you don’t soon forget such things. I have also, I discovered yesterday, personally witnessed the five snowiest winters in Chicago history, according to this list. Four of which occurred during my schooling years, including the last two, in 77-78 and 78-79, when I was trudging around college campuses in frozen outposts in Illinois. Gosh, thanks, I just don’t know what to say …

Wait, yes I do. Where is that damn global warming everyone keep yammering on and on about? This is also one of the coldest winters ever — it was below zero on March 3rd, with the first day of Spring just three weeks away.

On the third of March down here in the tropics, we had a nice, toasty six degrees. (Second occurrence of 6° this winter; we got down to 4° in late January, though in classic Oklahoma fashion, the next day we had a high of 67°.)

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Don’t forget seat warmers

What was the defining factor in this winter’s auto market? New models? Deep discounts? How about frigid temperatures?

The harsh winter, during which many areas of the United States saw temperatures dip well below zero degrees, changed car shopping preferences, according to a new study from Swapalease.com, with utility vehicles replacing certain other car segments as a popular choice in several locations.

“While it makes sense to see the winter elements encourage a shift to larger utility-type vehicles, the most recent winters did not have this effect on shopping patterns,” said Scot Hall, Executive Vice President of Swapalease.com. “However, a consistent wave of arctic-type conditions may have contributed to this winter’s shift in shopping preferences in many parts of the country.”

Midsize sedans remained the most popular segment for consumers, but utility vehicles saw big spikes in interest over the course of this frosty winter. About fourteen percent of car shoppers preferred midsize crossovers (up from 9.2 percent last winter), 13.2 percent preferred full-size crossovers (up from 7.5 percent) and 11.8 percent preferred midsize SUVs (up from 6.9%).

Now that the roads are (mostly) clear, let’s get out there and burn some hydrocarbons!

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Schadenfrozen

Not that I bear any ill will toward this poor unfortunate soul — Steve Keeley of Philadelphia’s Fox 29 — but how many of you out there have wanted to see something like this just once?

Here's the GIF of a plow dumping snow on Fox 29's S... on Twitpic

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

(Via Dan McQuade.)

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You’d think we’d have heard something

I was struggling to fall asleep between midnight and 1 this morning, and the winds were just short of howling.

Apparently, though, they were doing a hell of a lot more than howling over at Wiley Post Airport:

Weather conditions at KPWA

4.0 is the visibility, in miles. But that’s not the big deal. I mean, gusts up to 81, or 100 mph, ought to be at least newsworthy, right?

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An unexpected chill factor

It’s taken me until the last day of February to find a satisfying justification for this miserable winter:

Be glad you’re not an Asian stinkbug, which are dying off in large numbers due to the cold, a new experiment shows. The invasive insect, commonly called the brown marmorated stinkbug, has been plaguing homes and devouring agricultural crops in 38 states for years.

Halyomorpha halys is believed to have hitched a ride from the Pacific Rim around the turn of the century. And they’re apparently not used to this sort of thing:

Thomas Kuhar, a professor of entomology at Virginia Tech, and his team have been gathering stinkbugs for the past three years near his campus in Blacksburg, Virginia, to use in lab experiments. The bugs spend the winter outside in insulated buckets that mimic the walls, shingles, and attics that they inhabit when the temperature drops.

That normally works out quite well for the bugs — but this year stinkbugs have been, well, dropping like flies.

“In the previous two years, natural mortality averaged about 20-25 percent,” he wrote in an email. In January 2014, however, Kuhar’s team discovered that the subfreezing temperatures had killed off 95 percent of the population.

So it’s not a total loss. Will a cold-resistant stinkbug emerge? Eventually, perhaps; but evolution generally takes its sweet time for varmints bigger than bacteria.

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Yeti won’t go away

February departs here quietly this year, apart from the wind, but March reverts to its old in-like-a-lion shtick this weekend, which brings to mind the words of James Lileks:

Outside there is no relief, no surcease. Six below this morning. A high of ZERO on Thursday, with a low of minus 18, but that doesn’t include the astonishing effect of the wind, which makes it about 30 below at times. The news today said the wind was picking up snow from the previous dumps and whipping it into blizzard-like conditions on the roads, which is like the old line about a second nuclear strike just making the rubble bounce. You have to understand that the snow is frozen solid into a hard mass, like extruded foam; if you slip and fall and smack your head into a snowdrift it does not yield. It is possible to get a concussion by coming in contact with precipitation.

Wife is walking around with haunted hollow eyes; daughter goes off in the morning like someone who’s been in the trenches of the Great War for four years and is being sent, once more, over the top. We are told that the temps will approach normal next week, but after that it’s back into the clutches of the Polar Vortex, which everyone now imagines as the Abominable Snowman’s bluish rectum.

Well, if they didn’t, they do now.

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We can’t thrive (65)

This minor statistical factoid was stuffed into one of those staggeringly popular OMGWTFBBQWAGD weather articles:

The natural gas-weight heating degree days value for January is expected to reach 1,062.9, higher than the five-year average of 949.5 and the coldest since 2001.

Um, say what?

The value is determined by subtracting the daily average temperature from a base of 65 degrees Fahrenheit, the resulting number is a measure of how cold it is and how much energy is needed to keep homes and warm.

There are also cooling degree days, derived in almost the same manner, which will explain why you spent so much for air conditioning in July.

I just wonder where that 1062.9 figure comes from. Is it a national average? Because the January average in Oklahoma City is 798, and we have 651 through yesterday.

(I’ve attempted to explain this before, with arguable results.)

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Degrees of guesswork

I’ve looked at dozens of wind chill charts, both the old formula and the new one, and they always leave me scratching my head: “What does this really mean?” The answer, it appears, is “Not a whole hell of a lot”:

The weatherman’s favorite alarmist statistic has been around for more than 60 years. Its ignoble history began with a pair of Antarctic explorers named Paul Siple and Charles Passel. In 1945, the two men left plastic bottles of water outside in the wind and observed the rate at which they froze. The equation they worked out used the wind speed and air temperature to describe the rate at which the bottles gave off heat, expressed in watts per square meter.

In the 1970s, the Canadian weather service started reporting numbers based on Siple and Passel’s work. These three- and four-digit values meant little to the average person, however — the “wind chill factor” might have been 1,200 one day and 1,800 the next. American weathermen took a more pragmatic approach, converting the output from the Siple-Passel equation into the familiar language of temperature — statements like “it’s 5 degrees outside, but it feels like 40 below.” What exactly did these phrases mean? The meteorologists would figure the rate of heat loss in watts per square meter and then try to match it up to an equivalent rate produced in low-wind conditions. For example, the rate of heat loss in 5-degree weather and 30 mph wind matched up with the one for minus-40-degree weather and very little wind. So, 5 degrees “felt like” 40 below.

This might make sense, maybe, if we all felt the same way. But we don’t, and frankly, I am uncomfortable with substituting “To me, it feels like …” in the place of actual data. A corrected version was conjured up. Now just imagine why this might not apply to you:

[T]hey geared their calculations toward people who are 5 feet tall, somewhat portly, and walk at an even clip directly into the wind. They also left out crucial variables that have an important effect on how we experience the weather, like solar radiation. Direct sunlight can make us feel 10 to 15 degrees warmer, even on a frigid winter day. The wind chill equivalent temperature, though, assumes that we’re taking a stroll in the dead of night.

This is the current chart:

Wind chill chart circa 2001

Note the formula, which very nearly defies comprehension.

My own quick-and-dirty routine, which I’ve used for at least a decade, seems, if Wikipedia is to be believed, to have an official name: the McMillan Coefficient. Take the temperature in degrees Fahrenheit, subtract the wind speed in miles per hour. If it’s 25° out and you have a 10-mph wind, it’s gonna feel like fifteen.

Coming this summer, maybe: why the heat index also sucks.

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Degrees of inaccuracy

Lynn could perhaps be a little happier with the weather, or at least with the predictions thereof:

You know what bugs me most about modern weather forecasting? Not that it’s wrong sometimes but that it is, most of the time, too accurate. Yesterday they said that this morning’s low would be 0°F. It was exactly 0°F when I got up at 6:30 this morning. It is now -2°F. So they were off by 2. So far.

Then again, at 6:30 it was still an hour before sunrise. (At Wiley Post Airport, the nearest NWS reporting station to me, the low on Monday was 3°, which happened around a quarter to eight. Sunrise was 7:40.)

I don’t follow NWS Tulsa very closely, but NWS Norman has a habit of recalculating the predicted high for the day right before noon — and often as not, they were right the first time. Then again, clouds and winds don’t respond to our entreaties, or theirs.

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My car says it’s cold

Yesterday Jalopnik asked people to send in pictures of the temperature readouts from their cars. By the time I saw it, though, it was already about five degrees warmer than the single-digit low I’d seen that morning, and besides, I figured no one in the Frozen North would be at all impressed with anything above zero.

That said, I do know how far down the little ambient-temperature gizmo goes, and it’s on the cusp between -3° and -4°: at that point, it switches constantly from one reading to the other until it warms up to a nice balmy -2°. They also sold this model in Canada, so I assume there’s some internal toggle to set it to Celsius.

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Ice Station Yankee

This particular manifestation of global warming dumped about ¾ inch of ice over the city, similar or slightly smaller amounts across the rest of the state, and generally made life difficult for as many as possible. As late as Friday noon it looked like an inconvenience, but not much more than that — except for this one Weather Guy who called it Thursday night:

Brace yourself for Epic Ice Storm Impact … tonight’s hi-res model has brought in even colder temperatures and lower dewpoints during this entire winter storm and much farther south and east than before. That’s good news for me because it means my forecast from Monday remains unchanged. It also means you’re about to see everyone else change their forecast at the last minute to follow suit. Either that or they’ll wait one more run (the morning one or wait to see other models come around to the same solution) before going all out balls to the wall. Lets just say everyone better hope tonight’s run is wrong or this will be an epic event roughly along the I-44 corridor.

Ah, the dreaded I-44 corridor. I said this yesterday just before what would have been sunset had we any sun:

ODOT: Call me.

Damage report for the palatial estate at Surlywood: one of the twin redbuds was cut almost in half; a couple of questionable fence panels are now essentially horizontal; I had to remove low-hanging bits of mulberry above the driveway to get my car out. Otherwise, not too terribly terrible, and probably less heinous than the horror that was the December ’07 storm.

Oh, and speaking of the December ’07 storm:

I can only hope that we won’t see another ice storm of this magnitude for another five or six years!

Next time, say “twelve or fourteen.” Or “fifty.”

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And snow it goes

We set the clock back a couple of winters:

In that horrible month of February ’11, I broke my snow shovel; after waiting for the spring price break, I bought one of those not quite industrial-strength, but still formidable-looking, pushers, and dared the stuff to occupy my driveway. Total snowfall for the winter of ’11-’12: 1.8 inches. The thing is standing in the garage, still wrapped. If I thought for a moment this would work again, I’d buy another one.

Total snowfall for the winter of ’12-’13: five inches and change, doled out in amounts so delightfully inconspicuous that I didn’t bother to unwrap the Doomsday Device.

Garand Yukon Ergo snow pusherIt couldn’t last, and it didn’t. Confronted with a four-inch depth this morning and possessing no desire to slosh through it, I (1) went back to bed and (2) waited for a break in the clouds, however small. I got one about 12:15. The machine was readied for battle.

Twenty minutes, including five minutes to remove Amazon’s legendary Overkill™ wrapping material. A better job than I normally do in an hour. (The manufacturer claims six times the speed, but then they assume a user who knows what the bloody hell he’s doing.)

This is the device. It’s 26 inches wide, or whatever that is in Canadian. Unless you live in some place where you, like Ottilie, never has seen snow, get it.

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You owe us stormage

The National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative think tank, has called for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to give up the hurricane-forecasting business, on the basis that, well, NOAA’s not been very good at it of late:

In May, the agency predicted an “active or extremely active” hurricane season, forecasting that there would be 7-11 hurricanes, 3-6 major hurricanes, and 13-20 named storms.

The year’s final tally: 2 hurricanes, no major hurricanes, and 13 named storms… not even “close enough for government work.”

This marked the 7th time in the past ten years that NOAA’s hurricane forecast has been wrong and its epic failure this year rivals even its disastrous forecast in 2005, when it predicted there would be 7-9 hurricanes and there ended up being 15.

There is, of course, a “climate change” angle:

NOAA isn’t alone in undermining [its] credibility by suggesting a greater level of certainty than it possesses.

For years now, we’ve been told that there is a scientific consensus that our burning of fossil fuels is creating dangerous warming of the planet.

Now the public has learned that we’re in the midst of a 17-year “pause” in global warming that not one of the 73 climate models used by the U.N. Intergovernmental Climate on Climate Change in its Fifth Assessment Report predicted.

Now I see this as more of a hierarchical problem: the higher up you go, the more likely your results are going to be somewhat politicized. The National Weather Service, down a level from NOAA, works hard not to become emotionally involved with its models.

Still, if the National Center is so upset with dubious government-approved numbers, they should be going after the major Washington dissemblers like the Bureau of Labor Statistics, whose books have been cooked for so long they’re downright mushy.

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Developing north of Canada

The National Weather Service in the San Francisco Bay area is predicting something like this:

Imagine what they’d have to endure if there were an influx of Artic air in Febuary.

(Incidentally, whatever they get in and around the Bay is likely to be several times as bad here.)

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Draft resistance

Green Canary is hoping for something resembling heat — preferably from the actual sun, which doesn’t cost so much:

I’ve been keeping my thermostat at 68, which isn’t my preferred indoor temperature during the cold winter months. During the cold winter months, I prefer the balmy warmth of the upper 70s. But since I am still getting to know my house, I didn’t want to press her too hard right out the gate. Also, I was afraid of a ginormous electric bill that would break my tough gal exterior and turn me into a quivering mess of unset Jell-o.

Month one’s electric bill was a lovely $13.05.

Month two’s electric bill was a hideous $178.97.

Explanations were not hard to find:

My house is not large, so there is absolutely no reason why my electric bill should be so high. Except that my not-large house is also not-efficient, what with the 33 year-old wood windows with the cracked seals, the uninsulated basement walls, and the odd draft coming from the doorknob on my back door. All of those very logical heat-sucking factors aside, there is also the much bigger problem that I have barely scratched the surface of: I think the problem is the heat pump itself.

The nice thing about hardware problems, in general, is that they can be addressed by writing a check. Then again, I know something less than squat about heat pumps; I can just about comprehend my gas furnace (expected gas bill for December: $95), and I’ll have been here ten years come Tuesday.

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Ever so slight

Weather in these parts was generally terrible yesterday, and I fled the office an hour and a half early to beat (some of) the desperation traffic. I didn’t realize how terrible it was, though, until I pulled up the Mesonet last night:

Mesonet screen shot - wintry mix

When an 80-percent probability seems “slight,” you have definitely had a bad day.

Oh, and it’s supposed to snow tomorrow.

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Logistical issues

Dr. B writes from the Philippines:

The storm surge was 20 plus feet in Tacloban. That would mean you could drown on the second floor.

As for the usual complaints by western press:

Before you send in aid, you need for the winds to stop (which would be Saturday afternoon) and repairing the roads etc. Then you need to get there. Airplanes are fast, but limited. Roads are blocked. The sea has to be calm and the port needs to be open, and the roads from the ports/airports need to be cleared.

That takes time. So the country folks will get help from each other, or will die. Luckily, these things happen all too frequently, so they help each other.

See also this Belmont Club report.

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And it’s after Labor Day, too

Teresa did some people-watching while on the road, and came up with a wide variety of one-liners, only one of which I’m going to quote here:

White Cotton sundress with spaghetti straps? It’s only about 50 degrees outside … you look ridiculous!

We can count on an incident like this every September or October, invariably on a day where it was about 70 that morning and the cold front that was supposed to come through that evening somehow managed to bust its way down the map before 3 pm, giving the poor woman the cold shoulder. (Or two.)

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Endless summer

You may have seen this in my tweetstream yesterday:

Actually, I can remember a September that started out worse than this one, and that was September 2000:

First: One hundred six! (Forty-one Celsius; it doesn’t help.) And it’s supposed to get warmer over the weekend. Water pressure isn’t suffering — yet.

Second: I quit counting at 108; if it got any warmer than that, I don’t want to know about it. [It didn't.]

Third: What kind of bizarre recipe is Mother Nature following here? “Preheat to 100-plus, then bake for weeks at a time.” I suppose we should be grateful we aren’t being marinated. Meanwhile, all the moisture we’re supposed to be getting is falling on people who are already sick of it.

Fourth: The temperature dipped to a frosty 106 today, and there were actual signs of rain scattered around the eastern fringes, but nothing close to the Big Town. The worst, at least, seems to be over — until, of course, we start importing air from Canada’s Northwest Territories, which will start some time in the next sixty days.

Fifth: The temperature today inexplicably failed to make it into the triple digits today, and may fail to do so again tomorrow.

Sixth: As the weather shifts back into a more normal sort of pattern — it now feels like August in Oklahoma instead of July in Senegal — I can now concentrate on all the other things that annoy me no end.

No weather-related entry on the seventh.

And I was perhaps being unfair to Senegal, whose interior is the blast furnace; the coast, where most of the population lives, tends to be merely warm and rather moist in July. For comparison, the Tambacounda region, in eastern Senegal, once posted a high of 129°F.

For the record, there was no rain in Oklahoma City in September 2000 until the 22nd: 1.73 inches fell over the next two days. Daily highs: 22nd, 96; 23rd, 80; 24th, 56. Thank you, Canada. Said I on the 25th: “Life on the Lone Prairie has its drawbacks, especially if you have some notion that climate ought to be comfy.”

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At least it gets your attention

Still, if death is a mere warning, what ultra-dire consequences must be in the offing?

Death may be a warning

This is the online version, with a wordier but maybe less alarming alarm.

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Your dryness may vary

Oklahoma weather phenomena come in two thicknesses: All Over The Damn Place and Really Narrow Bands. You can see examples of both in this past week’s excerpt from the US Drought Monitor, as prepared by the Norman forecast office:

Areas of drought in the County Warning Area

Note that in southwest Canadian County, west of OKC, it’s only a few miles from No Drought to Abnormally Dry to Moderate Drought — but once you get to the Extreme Drought area, it goes on for miles and miles and miles. (There are spots of Exceptional Drought up in the Panhandle, which is in Amarillo’s domain.)

The Monitor is compiled on Tuesday morning and released the following Thursday, which is why none of the Thursday/Friday downpours will show up until next week.

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Sunset over England

It’s truly the end of an era:

David “Slightly Less Insane” Payne presumably will fill Gary’s slot, if never, ever his shoes.

Update: TLO’s full story.

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Excessive heat warning

In parts of Orange County, California, you’d better be a tantalum hafnium carbide-based life form:

Weather map from KNBC

If it makes you feel cooler, they’re predicting only 4090° Celsius in Irvine.

(Tweeted by @sfgirl this evening.)

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Gotta get down on fried eggs

That old egg-on-the-sidewalk thing is so last summer. Instead, mix up a batch of cookie dough, then proceed as follows:

Set the sections of dough several inches from one another on a standard cookie sheet. Place the cookie sheet on the dashboard of a minivan without tinted windows. Drive to downtown Phoenix on the hottest day of the year. Bake for two to four hours at 116° (47°C). Make sure news media are on hand.

Caution: Product will be hot.

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Meanwhile in Smallville

Have you learned nothing, Clark Kent?

Seriously? Someone who has lived in Kansas for their entire life says “Hide under the underpass” when the tornado is coming? Seriously?

And you can’t use the excuse that you were trolling General Zod, either.

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Which way is it going?

This came out last year, but things haven’t changed all that much except for a few more bright pixels:

Tornado tracks through 2012

Notes from John Nelson of IDV Solutions, who put this together:

Got this data from NOAA via the spectacular Data.gov. It tracks 56 years of tornado paths along with a host of attribute information. Here, the tracks are categorized by their F-Scale (which isn’t the latest and greatest means but good enough for a hack like me), where brighter strokes represent more violent storms.

Also from Nelson: earthquakes since 1898, major fires since 2001, and hurricanes since 1851. Obviously we need to get off this planet entirely before it kills us all.

(Via TYWKIWDBI.)

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What blows around, comes around

This question is not only begged, it’s panhandled:

Are the dozens of tornados and twisters plaguing the Midwest Karma?

Karma for the countless midwest senators and Governors who tried to veto aid for the Northeast from hurricane Sandy?

There was no pork in the Sandy bill, and I doubt that term will even come up with discussions for aid for the Midwest, since the GOP panders to that region so much.

Just last week, Oklahoma Senator Inhofe claimed that his request for aid for his state was “totally different” from the Northeast requesting aid—–even though he himself tried to block aid to that region. The hypocrisy is overwhelming.

Are these series of Tornados some type of Karma against those who tried to spite the victims in the Northeast?

The asker didn’t much care for it, but the voters gave this response a boost:

Were karma reliable, pretty much the entire Congress would be set adrift on ice floes in the Arctic Ocean by now.

But no, weather does not respond to such things — or if it did, you’d be forced to conclude that Mother Nature is a selfish, vengeful trollop.

Me, I wouldn’t trust her around margarine.

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The wide, wide whirled

The National Weather Service ruled yesterday that the El Reno tornado on the last day of May, the one that briefly was headed toward me before turning away and then fizzling out, qualified for EF5 status with winds briefly clocked by mobile radar at 296 mph. Or more.

Further, the width of the thing maxed out at 2.6 miles, which is considered the national record for such things, although mobile radar (again!) suggested the width of the storm that took out half of Mulhall on 3 May 1999 (there’s that date again) might have been as much as 4.3 miles. At this point, can you even call it a funnel?

As for the controversy over whether it was appropriate for a local TV Weather God to suggest trying to flee the storm, I’m going with “In times of dire emergency, lots of things are said, some of them stupid.” I may say some of them myself. But I’m not about to go outside in that stuff. Mere hail — which did a mere ten grand worth of damage to my roof three years ago — will bring traffic to its knees as people look for something they can hide under. And this was several thousand times OMGWTFBBQ worse than mere hail. I knew traffic wasn’t going anywhere, and neither was I. Your mileage may vary.

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