06.23.11

Full Circle…The Lost Photo Of My First Tornado

Posted in Weather History at 5:11 pm by Rebekah

I’ve sadly been negligent in keeping up with my blog writing for the past couple of weeks, as I’ve been visiting and traveling up in Washington State. My adventures have dug up one particularly exciting treasure with regard to this blog, though.

Last year I wrote a blog post about my first tornado, which I saw way back on July 3, 1998 (see Post 100: 12 Years Ago Today…). While I was scared stiff of this weak, short-lived tornado, my fear and fascination encouraged me to begin studying severe weather.  I cultivated this interest and ultimately this led me to apply to the School of Meteorology at the University of Oklahoma.

As I stand between two chapters in my life, reflecting on the past several years at Oklahoma and looking forward to new adventures on Kwajalein, my two oldest friends just gave me the best gift I never knew existed.

This, ladies and gentlemen (drum roll, please), is a scanned version of a photo taken by John Ebenal, on July 3, 1998, on the south side of Ellensburg, Washington, looking east-southeast towards my FIRST tornado.

My twin friends Laurel and Mary lived a mile down the road from us in Ellensburg, and their family saw this tornado just before we did. I was under the impression none of the photos John took turned out, but Laurel and Mary found this one I think as they were moving to Sequim (I visited them there this past weekend).

After 13 years, I couldn’t be happier to have been given a photo of my first tornado, a tornado that made such a deep impression on my life.

Note this tornado really is quite skinny and weak; you can’t see just where it connects to the cloud base, but there was indeed a funnel extending down from the cloud. This tornado looks like a landspout, which, simply put, is a non-supercell tornado (i.e., a tornado that comes from a storm that’s not rotating).

So there you go! I can’t think of a better send-off to my current storm chasing career than a photo of what started it all! :)

Thanks to John, Sherrie, Laurel, and Mary!

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02.11.11

Valentine’s Day Storm of 2007

Posted in Weather History, Winter Weather at 8:00 am by Rebekah

Four years ago, a massive winter storm struck the midwestern and northeastern U.S. and southeastern Canada, peaking in intensity on Valentine’s Day.

NASA image of snow cover over the Midwest

On February 10th, a low pressure system developed on the east side of the Rockies and began to move across the Great Plains. The low strengthened as it moved eastward, and reached the mid-Atlantic coast by the 14th, at which point it moved northward up the coast.

Cold, arctic air plunged southward in the wake of the low, as a high pressure system moved from Canada into the Northern Plains.

NWS surface weather map

Throughout the storm’s life, over 6 inches of snow fell in a swath from the Midwest to the Northeast and up into southeastern Canada. The Northeast also experienced blizzard conditions after the low passed and up to 2 feet of snow in places. Areas east of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie received some record amounts of lake-effect snow. Heavy sleet and freezing rain also fell from the lower Ohio Valley to the mid-Atlantic and New England. In the Southeast, severe thunderstorms and tornadoes were reported.

The National Weather Service claimed this winter storm was one of the three largest snow storms to affect the Northeast since 1940.

For more on the Valentine’s Day Storm, see Wikipedia, NWS State College, NWS Burlington, and NOAA News.

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02.06.11

Super Bowl Prediction & NFL “Bad Weather” Games

Posted in Sports, Weather History at 8:00 am by Rebekah

My prediction for the Super Bowl today: Packers 24, Steelers 20. Go Pack Go. :)

With all the snow, ice, and cold weather affecting travelers going to the Super Bowl, I thought I’d see what I could find on NFL games (not just Super Bowls) that were played in extreme weather conditions.

First, a few stats about the Super Bowl (not including today), based on meteorologist Brian Neudorff’s weather blog:

  • 17 of 44 bowls played indoors
  • 16 of 44 bowls had a trace or more of rain nearby
  • 2 bowls had snow on game day (1982, 2006)
  • 1 bowl played during an ice storm (2000)
  • Warmest high temperature: 82 °F (1973, 2003)
  • Coldest high temperature for dome game: 16 °F (1982)
  • Coldest high temperature for non-dome game: 49 °F (1985)
  • Wettest Super Bowl: 0.92 inches (2007)
  • Outside games with high wind gusts (1980, 1984, 1989, 2007)

And here is the NFL’s list of the “Top 10 weather games in NFL history” (the page has videos clips as well):

  1. Ice Bowl: Vince Lombardi’s Packers over Tom Landry’s Cowboys at Green Bay, in the 1967 NFL Championship Game (preceding Super Bowl II)…the temperature got to -15 °F and the wind chill to -48 °F (-36 °F under the 2001 scale), in the coldest NFL game (though not in terms of wind chill…see the Freezer Bowl)
  2. Tuck Rule Game: (Sometimes known as the “Snow Bowl” by Patriots’ fans) Patriots over the Raiders in the 2001 AFC Divisional Playoff Game…a controversial call came near the end of a game played during a heavy snow storm in Foxborough
  3. Fog Bowl: Bears over the Eagles during a surreal, heavy fog in Chicago, in the 1988 NFC Divisional Playoff Game
  4. Freezer Bowl: Bengals over the Chargers in Cincinnati, in the 1981 AFC Championship Game…the wind chill was -59 °F (- 37 °F under the 2001 scale) and the temperature was -9 °F…this was the first time the Bengals got to go to the Super Bowl
  5. 1975 AFC Championship Game: Steelers over the Raiders in Pittsburgh, with 20 mph winds, snow flurries, and a temperature of 16 °F
  6. 1948 NFL Championship Game: Eagles over the Chicago Cardinals in Philadelphia, with near blizzard conditions…the game’s only points came from Steve Van Buren’s touchdown in the 4th quarter, to give the Eagles their first title
  7. Snow Plow Game: Patriots over the Dolphins in a 1982 AFC East game in Foxborough…during a heavy snow storm, late in the 4th quarter, a small snow plow was used to clear a line from which a 33-yard field goal would be kicked…the snow plow unexpectedly veered left, clearing a good spot for the John Smith’s kick, which provided the only score in the game
  8. Sneakers Game: Giants over the Bears in New York, in the 1934 NFL Championship Game…freezing rain the night before made it difficult for players to run around on the field; one of the Giants’ players suggested changing to sneakers…in the 3rd quarter, with the Bears leading, the Giants switched their cleats for sneakers, and then went on to win the game
  9. 1979 Buccaneers vs. Chiefs Monsoon: Buccaneers over the Chiefs, 3-0, in Tampa Bay’s final home game of the 1979 season (and their first winning season)…torrential rain waterlogged the field, in one of the wettest NFL games
  10. Red Right 88: Raiders over the Browns in the 1980 AFC Divisional Playoff Game in Cleveland…the temperature was 4 °F, the wind chill was -36 °F, and the field was muddy…the game’s finish left a painful, if not memorable impression on Browns’ fans

Happy Super Bowl Sunday!

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02.04.11

The Groundhog Day Tropical Storm of 1952

Posted in Tropical Weather, Weather History at 8:00 am by Rebekah

Groundhog Day, 1952: a rare tropical storm formed in the western Caribbean. The tropical cyclone quickly moved north-northwestward, and passed by Cancún before turning northeastward and tracking across the northwest coast of Cuba.

Early the next day, on February 3rd, the tropical storm struck Key West and then made landfall again near Cape Sable, in southern Florida. The Miami National Weather Service office reported a wind gust of 68 mph (110 kph) and a minimum pressure of 1004 mb. There was no serious damage or injuries, though some crops and power lines in southern Florida sustained some damage and 2 to 4 inches of rain fell along the storm’s path.

This tropical storm remains the only tropical cyclone to exist in the Atlantic in February in recorded history.

U.S. Weather Bureau (NWS predecessor) surface map on February 2, 1952

After the tropical storm went back to sea, it transitioned into an extratropical cyclone with maximum winds of 85 mph (140 kph) and waves up to 35 feet off the North Carolina coast on the 4th. The cyclone later moved past Cape Cod before coming ashore in Maine on the 5th. Damage included a freighter off the Outer Banks that washed ashore when water entered the fuel line and damaged the engine (the crew was all rescued by the Coast Guard), some downed power poles and tree limbs in the Northeast, and minor power outages.

U.S. Weather Bureau surface map on February 4, 1952

The tropical storm was very unusual, and it was initially left out of the official tropical cyclone database. Had it been included right away, the storm’s name would have been Tropical Storm Abel.

Source for much of the information and figures: Wikipedia

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01.28.11

The Knickerbocker Storm of 1922

Posted in Weather History, Winter Weather at 8:00 am by Rebekah

The Knickerbocker Storm was a blizzard that took place along the mid-Atlantic U.S. coast on January 27 – 28, 1922.

The blizzard was known for the collapse of the Knickerbocker Theatre in Washington, D.C., under the weight of heavy snow. Tragically, 98 people were killed and 133 injured when the cinema’s roof caved in.

The Knickerbocker Theater, following its collapse. Source: NOAA

Meteorological Synopsis

Nearly a week prior to the event, a sub-freezing airmass set in across the Northeast and mid-Atlantic.

A low formed off the coast of Georgia, and rapidly deepened as it began to move up the coast. A strong high pressure system in southeastern Canada prevented the low from moving northward very fast, so it took three days for it to travel up the East Coast, prolonging the event.

On the 27th, heavy snow started to fall from the Carolinas to Pennsylvania with the low off the North Carolina coast. The hardest-hit areas were from Washington, D.C. to Philadelphia. Snow fell in Washington from about noon on the 28th until the morning of the 29th. Snow totals in the city ranged from 28 to 33 inches. This went down as the biggest snowstorm in Washington since official records began in 1885.

Weather Bureau map from the morning of January 28, 1922. Source: NOAA

Impacts

Parts of the Northeast received 20 or more inches of snow, while much of the rest of the Eastern Seaboard received at least 4 inches. Some snow drifts on railroad lines between Philadelphia and Washington were as high as 16 feet.

The Knickerbocker Theatre in Washington, D.C. was just 5 years old and was the biggest cinema in town. The roof was flat, allowing the wet, heavy snow to accumulate and eventually force the roof to collapse. The balcony section came down as well, and dozens of people were buried. Hundreds of rescue workers came to help, some of them comparing the scene to one from World War I. This disaster ranks as one of the worst in Washington’s history.

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