Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Tornadoes AND snow - Storm Team 12 Severe Weather Week continues

Bennington, KS tornado - May 28th, 2013
I'm always amazed at how many native Kansans have never seen a tornado in real life. They are quite common around here, but the last two years would suggest otherwise. Kansas ended up with 40 tornadoes in all of 2014, which was a record low number for the state. We didn't have any during the month of July, And there were parts of Kansas that escaped tornado watches altogether in 2014 (see the map below for a summary of all tornado watches issued by the Storm Prediction Center last year)
Summary of all tornado watches issued by SPC out of Norman, OK
One of the questions we often get asked is why are we so prone to tornadoes around here and why so many in spring? The biggest culprit is the Gulf of Mexico. When we have strong south winds, rich moisture from the Gulf comes right up into the central US. The Rockies to our west helps to funnel the higher humidity into the area. When the dry, desert air from the Southwest collides with the humid air, thunderstorms develop.

We are more vulnerable to tornadoes in spring because the winds higher up in the atmosphere are quite strong. It's those strong winds that often lead to rotating storms. Most of the strong tornadoes that in Kansas happen in the months of March, April, May, and early June. In the summertime, the winds aloft begin to weaken, reducing the overall tornado threat.

Other tornado facts and tips...
1. Any tornado with winds over 200 mph would be classified as EF5
2. Tornadoes tend to form on the back part of the storm, usually behind the heavy rain and hail
3. Violent, wedge shaped tornadoes make up less than 2% of all tornadoes we see in Kansas
4. The most common time for a tornado to develop is between the hours of 3 p.m. and 10 p.m.
5. Avoid opening windows before a tornado, as this will only allow more debris into your home
6. 99% of all tornadoes rotate counterclockwise

Of course, the safest place to be during a tornado is below ground. The winds always increase the higher up you go in a tornado. If you don't have a basement, it's a good idea to find shelter in a closet or bathroom away from windows.

Some snow is headed for Kansas Tuesday night into Wednesday. Accumulations will be very light. I don't think there will be any shoveling with this event. And a nice warm up is coming for the end of the week. We are so close to spring now.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Severe Weather Awareness Week - Preparing

Good Monday morning! This is Severe Weather Awareness Week, a time set aside for us to discuss severe weather topics, and an opportunity for you to review safety procedures with your family.

One of the keys to staying safe is to be prepared and understand the basics of thunderstorms.
Did you know:
1. Severe storms are those that produce 1" hail or larger, 58 mph winds or stronger, or tornadoes
2. Every thunderstorm produces lightning
3. Lightning victims carry no electrical charge after they have been hit
4. There are 3 stages to a thunderstorm; developing, mature, and dissipating
5. There are 3 necessary ingredients for a thunderstorm; moisture, warm air that can rise, and lift (could be a front, low pressure, or just the sun's heat)
6. Approximately 1600 thunderstorms are occurring at any given time around the world.

Tuesday is scheduled to be the statewide tornado drill at 1:30, but due to the clouds and potential showers, it could be postponed. 

Tomorrow, we will look at some stats for tornadoes.

Model forecast for cold temps into Wednesday afternoon
Get ready for another change in Kansas weather for Tuesday. A cold front will be pushing through our area and that means, more cold air is coming. However, it will be brief. The coldest day (highs in the 20s and 30s) will be Wednesday. Thursday will be the start of a warm up that will take us into the weekend. Less than 20 days until spring.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Snow and cold this weekend - active next week too

Happy Friday everyone! All week we've been talking about messy weather for the weekend and it's still on track to be here Saturday for most of the state. We've already had some light snow in western Kansas today, but the main round of moisture will come from the southwest after midnight into early Saturday.

This is not going to be a major snow maker around Kansas. The heaviest amounts in the state will likely fall around Topeka, Lawrence, and KC with some 6 inch amounts possible by Saturday night. Much of central and southern Kansas will get 2-4 inches of accumulation. 

We still have a few questions on precipitation type for Sunday as the atmosphere warms up a little. A wintry mix should develop on Sunday, but it's very unlikely there will be ice accumulation. Right now, it looks like areas south of a line from Hutchinson to Emporia will have a chance to see a snow/sleet mix early, and then it could just be some flurries or drizzle in the afternoon.

Another system from the Southwest will kick out by Tuesday - more active weather
More active weather is expected next week. Monday is looking to be dry for most of the state now. But a much stronger system is expected into Tuesday. Highs will climb into the 50s with a chance for rain, but then Tuesday night into Wednesday, here comes the next batch of cold air. Rain will change to snow for a few hours going into Wednesday. We will concentrate on that after we get passed our weekend storm. Be safe if you are headed out on the roads!

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