Friday, April 29, 2011

One of the Deadliest Tornado Outbreaks Ever

The death toll from this past Wednesday's tornado outbreak has now reached 318, as of this blog entry. That makes this week's tornado outbreak the deadliest on record in the past 50 years, surpassing the 307 deaths that occured with the Super Outbreak of April 3, 1974.

The image to your left shows the storm reports from Wednesday morning through Thursday morning.

Every red triangle on the map represents a tornado report. What's unclear is how many seperate tornadoes there were. Often times, there are duplicate reports as the same tornado could have caused damage in different towns and in different states.

The April 27-28, 2011, tornado outbreak is the deadliest since the outbreak of March 21, 1932, when 332 people lost their lives.

It should be noted that the deadliest outbreak off all time in recorded history was back on March 18, 1925, with 747 fatalities that spanned 7 states.

According to NOAA, the National Weather Service (NWS) issued severe weather outlooks five days in advance of the severe weather outbreak. They also issued tornado watches hours in advance, and tornado warnings with an average lead time of 24 minutes.

When I look back on the events that took place this week, it is mind-numbing and jaw dropping to say the least. You would never think that in a day where we have great weather technology, advanced warning systems, and strict building codes, we would see so much death and destruction.

The one big thing that stood out to me is that these long tracked, long-lived tornadoes moved through highly populated cities, such as Tuscaloosa and Birmingham, Alabama. If you put an EF4 or EF5 tornado through a city with a population of at least a quarter of a million people, there will be a huge amount of casualties, regardless of lead warning time.

Most of the deaths were from residents who lived in mobile homes and shelters that were not strong enough to withstand the brute force of winds over 200 mph. This is why we tell you to abandon mobile homes immediately.

One question that will get asked in the future is "What can we do better to save lives?" Many meteorologists in my profession will want to focus in on research as to why tornadoes form and how can we increase warning time?

The fact that there was plenty of lead time for this outbreak means that it is almost a mute point to want to question that mindset. I personally feel we have to look at the social impacts as to how we can construct homes and storm shelters to assure the safety of everyone. My advice to people living in mobile homes or weak structures would be this: have a storm shelter built. Yes, you may lose your home in a future storms, but you could save your life.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Long Tracked Supercell Thunderstorms

The two day severe weather outbreak was largely contributed by two upper air disturbances that tracked through the Southern Plain states.

The reason why we saw severe weather with this spring storm was two fold. One was the fact we are later in the spring season. The fact we are late in April means that the days are longer and the sun angle is higher. That, in turn, leads to warmer temperatures and higher instability when these systems move in.

The other reason why we had two nights in a row of active weather had to do with storms firing along the dryline in North Central Texas. As you have heard by now, the dryline is a surface feature that separates the warm, humid air, from the warm and dry air. Often times, we get storms that fire up along dryline, and it is these storms, which traveled over 200 miles and made their way into East Texas.

Here is a timeline and a look at how the storms evolved on Monday afternoon and Monday evening.

Time 1: Supercells developed just east of Waco along the dryline and began their eastward trek.

Time 2: By 8pm, the two supercells, which have already produced a couple of tornadoes, now enter Houston county, affecting areas from Grapeland to Crockett. While no tornado was produced, strong winds and large hail caused damage near Crockett.

Time 3: At 9:40pm, the two supercells come together and merge over Houston, Trinity, Cherokee, and western Angelina counties. It is at this time when a brief tornado touched down just south of Wells, just north of Highway 103 and Highway 7.

Time 4: At 10:50pm, the supercells move into Angelina county, which prompts several tornado warnings. While no tornado was reported, strong winds did cause minor damage. The cell near Huntington moved over Zavalla, producing golf ball size hail shortly after this image.

Time 5: During the overnight hours, the two isolated supercells evolve into a cluster of thunderstorms that produced damaging winds and another isolated tornado near Onalaska and Lake Livingston.

This sequence is what occured on Monday night. Tuesday night was very similar as storms moved in from the west along the dryline. Thankfully, though, no tornadoes were reported with last night's storms.

Remember that you can always give us your severe weather reports by sending an email to

You can also upload your storm photos to

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The "Cap" Finally Broke and the End Result...

The proverbial cap finally weakened and gave way to a significant severe weather outbreak for East Texas on Monday night.

As a result, we had nearly 100 reports of severe eather across North Central, Northeast, and Deep East Texas.

We had everything from large hail to damaging winds, and even isolated tornadoes.

As of this posting, we have had two tornadoes confirmed in and near Wells around 9:45pm Monday evening. At this point, no significant injuries have been reported.

In addition to those two tornado reports, we also had reports of golf ball size hail in Zavalla, and damaging winds in Brookeland.

The National Weather Service will more than likely be surveying storm damage in the days ahead. As they do so, we may get more reports of tornadoes than what we have confirmed at this point.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Mini-April Heat Wave

If it seems this past week has not just been abnormally warm, but downright hot and uncomfortable, you would be correct.

After looking back at some of the climate data from the month of April so far, it is mind boggling to see how hot we have already been. Remember, summer is still two months away, and our average high for this time of year is around 79°.

As you can see from the graphic above, we have already hit the 90° mark six times at the Angelina County Airport. We have also dealt with three record high temperatures in as many days. One of those record highs tied a previous mark, while the last two record highs have broken the previous highs on those particular days.

The sad news is that the record high temperatures for Friday and the upcoming Easter weekend will all be in jeopardy as more 90° temperatures are in the forecast.

If we don't get any rain anytime soon, the month of April will go down as one of the driest and warmest Aprils on record.

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Tornado Outbreak in Dixie Alley

It has been a dangerous and even deadly day for residents living in Dixie Alley, which includes the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

In addition to large hail and damaging winds, numerous tornadoes were reported today, making it one of the most active days (tornado wise) we have seen so far this spring.

One string of tornadoes occured in Jackson, Mississippi earlier today. These two photographs are courtesy of our sister station, WLBT, in Jackson, Mississippi. This wedge tornado started in Clifton, a western suburb of Jackson, and then plotted along eastward, affecting the northern half of Jackson around the midday hours. The pictures tell the story of how volatile this tornado was. So far, there have been several injuries reported and widespread damage in the greater Jackson area.

And while this particular tornado was strong, it was not the only significant tornado we saw today.

Take a look at the map above. All those cutouts represent severe weather reports from around the country in just the past 24 hours. The one thing that stands out is not just the total number of reports, 341, but rather, the number of twisters we saw today. As of this blog entry, there have been 55 tornadoes across the country, most of which occured in the Southeastern United States, also known as Dixie Alley.

Usually when we get severe weather outbreaks across the country, we see lots of wind and hail reports, with just a few tornadoes. Today, however, was far different. The reason why there were so many tornadoes today was due to the wind shear (changing of the wind direction and speed with height) that was present. The rotating winds resulted from the jetstream being situtated right ont top of the Deep South, allowing for any updrafts to rotate and produce tornadoes.

And while we only got limited rainfall last night, in hindsight, it might have been a good thing. After all, would we have been better off dealing with just another day of no rain, or would you rather have received a little rain and lots of hail, high winds, and tornadoes?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Comparing Lake Levels From This Time Last Year

The drought has taken its toll on crops, water usage, and so much more in the past few months. It has also forced the county judges to impose burn bans for ten East Texas counties as of today. The other thing our exceptional drought has done is caused our lake levels to really dry up. Each Wednesday, we show you the current lake level and its departure from its normal level. Instead of just giving you the current level, I decided to go back and do some research. I wanted to compare the lake level departures we are experiencing now from what they were a year ago at this same time.

As you can see, there is a big discrepancy from what the levels were in 2010 versus where we are today. The only lake that has not changed much is Lake Livingston. The other three major lakes (Toledo Bend, Sam Rayburn, and Nacogdoches) have changed significantly and for the worst.

Due to the low levels, please use caution if you plan on taking any small craft or boats out on any area lakes over the next couple of months. You will probably see more stumps and vegetation more so now than ever before.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Drought Goes From Bad to Worse

The drought conditions have gotten worse for us in East Texas, as some areas have been upgraded to a stage 4 "exceptional" drought. If you recall, the past few weeks, most of East Texas was in a severe to extreme drought. That has now changed to a situation in which the northern portions of East Texas are in an extreme drought, and areas from Trinity to Corrigan to Zavalla to Toledo Bend are now in an exceptional drought.

The shading of maroon represents that "exceptional" drought and does include southern portions of Angelina county.

This is the worst possible drought category you can fall into, as there is no other category below this one.

The persistent warm and dry weather has resulted from a La Nina weather pattern, which has held true to form since it took shape last summer.

Unfortunately, there are no real signs of a weather pattern shift that would lead to significantly better rain chances.

While many counties are not under burn bans at the present time, it would not be wise to do any outdoor burning as the parched soils and gusty winds will create a high fire danger for the next several weeks.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Cashing in on Some Rain

A line of showers and storms rumbled through East Texas earlier today, providing East Texans with some brief, but heavy downpours.

A cap or "lid" in the atmosphere kept the storms from being severe when they rolled into East Texas. So instead of seeing large hail and damaging winds, we ended up with some heavy rain, which was certainly welcomed on all acounts.

Here are the rainfall totals as called in by our weather watchers. On average, many areas saw anywhere from a quarter to a third of an inch, with some lucky viewers getting over a half inch of rain.