Moore Tornado an EF-5; $2 Billion Damage Estimate: 3rd Costliest Tornado in History

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:22 PM GMT on May 22, 2013

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The Moore, Oklahoma tornado of May 20, 2013 is now ranked an EF-5, making it one of only 59 U.S. tornadoes to achieve that distinction since record keeping began in 1950. The National Weather Service in Norman, Oklahoma announced Tuesday that their damage survey teams found an area of EF-5 damage near Briarwood Elementary School, with winds of 200 - 210 mph indicated. There were no EF-5 tornadoes observed in 2012, and the last time the U.S. had an EF-5 was on May 24, 2011, when the Oklahoma towns of Calumet, El Reno, Piedmont, and Guthrie were hit by an EF-5 with 210+ mph winds that killed nine people. The maximum width of the 2013 Moore tornado's damage swath was a huge 1.3 miles. Detailed damage survey information in Google Earth Format provided by the Norman, OK NWS office shows that the typical width of the EF-0 and greater damage swath was about 0.6 miles, and the EF-4 damage area was about 0.1 miles across at its widest. EF-4 damage occurred along approximately 4 miles of the tornado's 17-mile long path. The damage swath from the May 20, 2013 tornado as it cut through the most densely built up portions of Moore was roughly 1.5 times as wide as the one from the May 3, 1999 EF-5 tornado. That tornado was the 4th costliest in history ($1.4 billion 2011 dollars), so it is a good bet that the 2013 Moore tornado will end up being even more expensive. This morning, the Oklahoma Insurance Department said the preliminary tornado damage estimate could top $2 billion. This would make the 2013 Moore tornado the 2nd most expensive tornado in history (as ranked by NOAA/SPC) or 3rd most expensive (as ranked by insurance broker Aon Benfield.) The nine billion-dollar tornadoes (2013 dollars) are:

1) Joplin, Missouri, May 22, 2011, $2.9 billion
2) Tuscaloosa, Alabama, April 27, 2011, $2.3 billion (not in SPC's list)
3) Moore, Oklahoma, May 20, 2013, $2 billion
4) Topeka, Kansas, June 8, 1966, $1.8 billion
5) Lubbock, Texas, May 11, 1970, $1.5 billion
6) Bridge Creek-Moore, Oklahoma, May 3, 1999, $1.4 billion
7) Hackleburg, Alabama, April 27, 2011, $1.3 billion (not in SPC's list)
8) Xenia, Ohio, April 3, 1974, $1.1 billion
9) Omaha, Nebraska, May 6, 1975, $1 billion


Figure 1. The Moore, Oklahoma tornado of May 20, 2013 (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)


Figure 2. The damage swath of the Moore, Oklahoma tornado of May 20, 2013. EF-4 damage (red colors) occurred along roughly 4 miles of the 17-mile path, and the EF-4 damage swath was up to 0.1 miles wide. The tornado's maximum width of 1.3 miles (EF-0 and greater damage) occurred over a relatively small portion of the path, before the storm reached Moore. Image credit: NWS Norman.


Figure 3. On May 20, 2013, a supercell thunderstorm in central Oklahoma spawned a destructive tornado that passed just south of Oklahoma City. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite acquired this natural-color image of the storm system at 2:40 p.m. Central Daylight Time (19:40 Universal Time), just minutes before the devastating twister began. The red line on the image depicts the tornado’s track. Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory.

There have been bigger tornadoes
The 1.3 mile maximum width of the 2013 Moore tornado's damage swath was not a record. Wikipedia documents that the EF-3 Edmonson, Texas tornado of May 31, 1968 had a damage path width between 2 and 3 miles (3.2 and 4.8 km) wide. The EF-4 Wilber - Hallam, Nebraska tornado on May 22, 2004 was of similar size, with a damage path up to 2.5 miles wide. Doppler radar measurements indicate that the May 4, 1999 Mulhall, Oklahoma EF-4 tornado--which thankfully passed mostly over farmland--would have caused damage over a path 4 miles wide at its peak size, had it encountered a built-up area. The EF-5 tornado that devastated Greensburg, Kansas on May 4, 2007 was 1.7 miles wide.


Figure 4. Damage swath of the Wilber - Hallam, Nebraska EF-4 tornado of May 22, 2004 was up to 2.5 miles wide, making it one of the largest tornadoes on record.


Figure 5. Severe weather outlook for Wednesday, May 22, calls for a "Slight Risk" of severe weather over portions of the Ohio Valley and Northeast U.S. You can follow today's severe weather from our Severe Weather page.

No tornadoes reported on Tuesday; "Slight Risk" of severe weather on Wednesday
The severe weather outbreak of May 18 - 22 peaked on Sunday and Monday. We did not record any tornadoes on Tuesday, though there were many reports of large hail and damaging winds, including three thunderstorms with wind gusts over 74 mph. Tuesday was the first day since May 14 that no tornadoes were recorded in the U.S. And after issuing four consecutive "Moderate Risk" outlooks for severe weather, NOAA's Storm Prediction Center (SPC) is going with only a "Slight Risk" for severe weather on Wednesday in the U.S., with the main severe weather action expected to affect portions of the Ohio Valley and Northeast U.S. The primary threat will be straight-line wind damage and large hail, though we can't rule out a few tornadoes. During the three-day period May 18 - May 20, 70 tornadoes (preliminary) were recorded by SPC.


Video 1. Charles Cook caught the birth of the May 20, 2013 tornado at Newcastle, OK. It moved from there to Moore where it caused catastrophic devastation.


Video 2. NOAA's GOES-East satellite collected this view of the storm system that spawned a deadly tornado over Moore, Oklahoma on May 20, 2013. The animation runs from 10:45 a.m. through 6:45 p.m., Central Daylight Time. Images courtesy NASA GOES Project Science: ‪http://goes.gsfc.nasa.gov/‬

The Norman, OK NWS office has an excellent page with detailed info on the Moore tornado.

I did a 10-minute Skype interview with democracynow.org on Tuesday morning, discussing the Moore tornado.

I greatly appreciate all the valuable links members of the WU community have posted here, and I have used many of them in my posts over the past day. Keep up the great work!

How to help
Portlight Strategies, an organization that supports disaster victims with disabilities, will be working with shelter operators and disability stakeholder organizations in Oklahoma to serve the needs of people with disabilities. Further information and how to offer additional support can be found on their website.

Donations can be made to American Red Cross disaster relief at redcross.org/weather or by texting WEATHER to 90999 to donate $10.

Donations can be made on The Salvation Army's website or by texting STORM to 80888 to donate $10. You can also call to make donations of other monetary amounts at (800) 725-2769.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting Levi32:


I am here for 10 weeks to do a research project. It's an REU program. I'm one of 10 students in it this year. So far with the Moore tornado and now the activity today they have been too busy to get me started yet. It's unbelievable being in here. It's all glass walls, so I can see into SPC and HWT from where I'm sitting in the WFO. Surreal.


Welcome to our neck of the woods - enjoy this weather as much as you can - once June/July hits, you'll have plenty of time to get things accomplished (as the heat will literally drive you indoors).

Absolutely thrilled for you! Have followed you for years, and learned a lot from you. Miss the tropical posts, but understand that you'll be busy. Best to you, and if you are to give any presentations - open to the public - would love to be in attendance.
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Quoting Bluestorm5:
I'm sure Levi is enjoying his 2nd severe thunderstorm today in Norman. Also, today is my last regular day in high school. Only got to come back 4 more times for exams. Bittersweet, but I'm excited to start a new chapter in my life and to start learning about meteorology.
Bluestorm, congrats on your upcoming graduation. Your good writing and communication skills are noticeable, even in the short comment above that I quoted. Communication is an area where many young folks who are your contemporaries are lacking. They often don't seem to be concerned about it, and are touchy when criticized about it.

Good communication skills can make a big difference in your success in the world of science, business, or almost any field besides manual labor. And even in fields like construction, good communication skills can take you to higher levels of employment - supervision, sales and planning - or even becoming independent and running your own business.

Whichever path you choose, work hard, and I wish you success!
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Quoting Levi32:


I am here for 10 weeks to do a research project. It's an REU program. I'm one of 10 students in it this year. So far with the Moore tornado and now the activity today they have been too busy to get me started yet. It's unbelievable being in here. It's all glass walls, so I can see into SPC and HWT from where I'm sitting in the WFO. Surreal.


Thanks Levi. I know all of us are happy you have this wonderful opportunity! Good Luck!
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Quoting hydrus:
All this bad weather...I think Mother Nature is aggravated...I hope she will not be aggravated during the North Atlantic Hurricane Season.
dice are loaded expect a wild a wacky summer and early fall weather patterns global wide

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Quoting Levi32:


I am here for 10 weeks to do a research project. It's an REU program. I'm one of 10 students in it this year. So far with the Moore tornado and now the activity today they have been too busy to get me started yet. It's unbelievable being in here. It's all glass walls, so I can see into SPC and HWT from where I'm sitting in the WFO. Surreal.


Knock yourself out and enjoy the internship. You will finish just in time as the Hurricane season gets well underway..for the big stuff.

i will look forward to your tid-bits.
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Quoting daddyjames:


Levi,

You may nave already posted this . . . but are you here only for the summer, or are you here long-term? Know that you have been looking at schools, and was wondering if you had made a final decision.

Quoting FtMyersgal:


What do they have you doing there Levi? How long is your internship?


I am here for 10 weeks to do a research project. It's an REU program. I'm one of 10 students in it this year. So far with the Moore tornado and now the activity today they have been too busy to get me started yet. It's unbelievable being in here. It's all glass walls, so I can see into SPC and HWT from where I'm sitting in the WFO. Surreal.
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Quoting FtMyersgal:


What do they have you doing there Levi? How long is your internship?


Well, that answers my question!
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After looking at aerials on Google map of the damage, one thing stood out the most. The tornado was moving on a NE direction and where there is the Central church of Christ along I-35 the tornado literally changed to an ESE direction going opposite of the church. There is no way the tornado should of turned like that. That is by far the most stunning event I've ever seen, and the evidence of the track change is evident.
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9628
Quoting Levi32:
So I'm sitting and tinkering around at a workstation in the middle of NWS Norman. Everyone here is super busy with the weather going on in Oklahoma. I woke up to lightning/thunder this morning. What a start to the day.


What do they have you doing there Levi? How long is your internship?
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Quoting Levi32:
So I'm sitting and tinkering around at a workstation in the middle of NWS Norman. Everyone here is super busy with the weather going on in Oklahoma. I woke up to lightning/thunder this morning. What a start to the day.


Levi,

You may nave already posted this . . . but are you here only for the summer, or are you here long-term? Know that you have been looking at schools, and was wondering if you had made a final decision.

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Absorb all you can while your there Levi.

We proud of ya Man.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127559
So I'm sitting and tinkering around at a workstation in the middle of NWS Norman. Everyone here is super busy with the weather going on in Oklahoma. I woke up to lightning/thunder this morning. What a start to the day.
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Quoting Bluestorm5:
Thanks! These exams shouldn't be difficult. Just have to do them and I'm ready for graduation on weekend of June 7th.


Good Luck!! the world awaits..
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Quoting barbamz:
Bad weather news from Norway:

Hundreds evacuated and damage spreads as flood waters rise
May 23, 2013

Neighbours were crying and hugging one another Thursday morning as they watched raging flood waters slam into their homes in Kvam, in the valley of Gudbrandsdalen. Nearly 300 homeowners were evacuated during the night, as were others farther south in Eidsvoll and in several other communities around southern Norway as rain and snowmelt turned rivers and creeks into uncontrollable torrents.

Photos and video from a chopper are here.
All this bad weather...I think Mother Nature is aggravated...I hope she will not be aggravated during the North Atlantic Hurricane Season.
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Quoting daddyjames:


Good luck on those exams, and wish you continued success as you venture forth into the new chapter.
Thanks! These exams shouldn't be difficult. Just have to do them and I'm ready for graduation on weekend of June 7th.
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Quoting Bluestorm5:
I'm sure Levi is enjoying his 2nd severe thunderstorm today in Norman. Also, today is my last regular day in high school. Only got to come back 4 more times for exams. Bittersweet, but I'm excited to start a new chapter in my life and to start learning about meteorology.


Good luck on those exams, and wish you continued success as you venture forth into the new chapter.
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I'm sure Levi is enjoying his 2nd severe thunderstorm today in Norman. Also, today is my last regular day in high school. Only got to come back 4 more times for exams. Bittersweet, but I'm excited to start a new chapter in my life and to start learning about meteorology.
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Is there first return LiDAR of the Track area pre-storm, that could be compared post storm? That might be a great way to indicate damage locations too.

Also, was that brief F2 marker on the Radar Animation #823 at 9:11 frame, an indicator of more than just a storm center?
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The Euro has a low in the northwest Caribbean 10 days. This means the Canadian, GFS and euro all agree on a low developing the northwest Caribbean 10 days from now.
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91E Rainbow Animated GIF
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127559
Have you noticed that when aislinn posts her morning breakfasts to the blog, your imagination goes wild with these incredible visions of food....but when Grothar posts his they just kind of slap you in the face, your mouth starts watering...

lol

Lindy
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Quoting ncstorm:


its funny that NC never changes but we have been getting nothing but rain almost every other day, why is that?


It's because it was abnormally dry dating back to the end of last year. Florida to North Carolina finally started getting some much needed rains once April hit and it will take much more to get us out of the drought officially although you wouldn't know it here in Orlando as the water tables are actually pretty high now.

Downtown Orlando has received 5.26" of rain just this week with many areas receiving 6" to 9" so far for the month of May and that is on top of 4" to 9" that fell in April.
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Bad weather news from Norway:

Hundreds evacuated and damage spreads as flood waters rise
May 23, 2013

Neighbours were crying and hugging one another Thursday morning as they watched raging flood waters slam into their homes in Kvam, in the valley of Gudbrandsdalen. Nearly 300 homeowners were evacuated during the night, as were others farther south in Eidsvoll and in several other communities around southern Norway as rain and snowmelt turned rivers and creeks into uncontrollable torrents.

Photos and video from a chopper are here.
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Quoting ncstorm:


its funny that NC never changes but we have been getting nothing but rain almost every other day, why is that?


Depends, the drought monitor is based upon soil moisture - so, if you have been experiencing downpours, that rapidly run off the surface with little time to absorb into the ground, that may explain it.

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Quoting rmbjoe1954:


Is it an official 'blob'?


How about this its an offical tropical wave

Quoting StormTrackerScott:
Models beginning to show development in the Western Caribbean next week.



It always have been NAVGEM
Yes GFS CMC/GGEM NOGAPS/NAVGEM and EURO all show it
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 11033
Quoting pcola57:
Todays Updated Drought Monitor..



12 Week animation for comparison..



its funny that NC never changes but we have been getting nothing but rain almost every other day, why is that?
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Look at WV loops look like that upper ridge in the E Eastern Pac is now push a little E so now Eastern Half of upper ridge is in the Western Caribbean
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 11033
Quoting JRRP:


Windshear?
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Quoting AGWcreationists:
Puh-leeze. It was pork. A disaster relief bill should stick to the disaster in question, instead of getting loaded up with this kind of pork:

One of the most stunning elements in the amendment is $16 billion for the Community Development Block Grant, a slush fund that states and localities can hand out pretty much anywhere they choose. The amendment contains several pages of language ostensibly aimed at restricting use of the funds, but also says they can be applied to %u201Cother eligible events in calendar years 2011, 2012, and 2013.%u201D It%u2019s just a guess, but events in 2011 and 2013 are not likely the result of Hurricane Sandy.

http://blog.heritage.org/2013/01/14/hurricane-san dy-relief-an-early-opportunity-for-budgeting/

It wasn't about making a statement back home (and nice job disparaging those in flyover country). Political leadership should not be about exploiting the good nature of the American people to pork up a disaster bill.
A bunch of amendments were proposed in addition to the one that was eventually approved. According to the GOP write up linked earlier:


Transportation, Housing and Urban Development %u2014 $19.773 billion

The amendment provides funding for repairs to Sandy-related damage to roads, bridges and tunnels through the Federal Highway Administration%u2019s Emergency Relief Program as well as the repair backlog for previous disasters. It also provides supplementary funding for repairs, replacement, and reconstruction for various transportation infrastructure: Federal Aviation Administration facilities and equipment; Amtrak rails and equipment; and affected public transportation infrastructure in the New York City metropolitan area (including the MetropolMetropolitan Transit Authority, the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey, New Jersey Transit, and ferries operated by the New York City Department of Transportation). To support community and housing needs for Sandy and other 2011-2013 eligible disasters, the amendment also provides added funding for the Community Development Block Grant program to assist state and local governments meet needs for public infrastructure like hospitals, utilities and roads, repairs for small businesses, rental assistance, and other community development projects.

I'm not saying there was no pork in this bill, but it may have been leaner than a lot of people assume. The Club for Growth and other conservative groups were vehemently opposed to this bill, and I'm sure they got their publicity out.. I'm not a fan of most of the people currently holding office in Washington (or Lansing or Tallahassee) but facts matter. Facts matter. I'm willing to listen to facts.

Edited to add: but I would rather listen to you all talk about weather.
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Models beginning to show development in the Western Caribbean next week.

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Quoting wunderkidcayman:
Convection blowing up big time for the tropical wave skirting the South American Coastline


Is it an official 'blob'?
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Quoting Grothar:
Getting on a plane in a few minutes. Everyone stay safe today and don't over eat. Sorry I didn't have breakfast for you, but I've been too busy. I'll just leave you a little snack.



This is the eatenest weather blog on the planet..:)
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Quoting fireflymom:
They also note damage to trees -branches or trunks twisted and  broken, bark striped off or just gone. How the ground has been affected- grass remaining or stripped off, ground dug down into by the tornadic winds.



Good morning all, evening Aussie. Safe trip Grothar.

I wonder do they take into account the type of tree it is? The different strengths inherent in the wood would produce different results.
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Convection blowing up big time for the tropical wave skirting the South American Coastline
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 11033
Quoting Grothar:
Getting on a plane in a few minutes. Everyone stay safe today and don't over eat. Sorry I didn't have breakfast for you, but I've been too busy. I'll just leave you a little snack.





Safe journey Gro..
Thanks for the treat.. :)
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Getting on a plane in a few minutes. Everyone stay safe today and don't over eat. Sorry I didn't have breakfast for you, but I've been too busy. I'll just leave you a little snack.



Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25369
Thanks Fire,

(I am trying to understand how the assessment works so the best possible tools can be developed for damage prevention and recovery for this and other events.

Those ground scrapes and grass-less strips indicate to me that the storm was at similar wind speeds on the ground, before it reached the School, not a sudden bump or teardrop that the assessment contours seem to be showing. Wouldn't you expect more of a lens shape changes in wind speed?
On the other hand, I realize open fetch can let wind build as it crosses open areas and buildings do reach up into the wind field where there is less ground friction/drag.
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Todays Updated Drought Monitor..



12 Week animation for comparison..

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Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25369
Quoting Neapolitan:
Oh, I see. Bastardi was referring to this weekend, when the US celebrates Memorial Day with a three-day weekend. I inadvertently referred to traditional Memorial Day, which is the 30th--the first day of the 8-14 forecast. (My great-grandfather was killed at the tail end of WWI; in deference to my great-grandmother, and to abide by her wishes that we continue tradition, our family has always honored his death [and the subsequent deaths of a few others in WWII and Vietnam] on May 30, which sometimes leads to confusion, as here.)

At any rate, there may be a few flakes at higher elevations, but that forecast is totally out of whack. ;-)


Morning Nea..
Thanks for sharing that family legacy..
We all should take time to honor our hero's, personal or otherwise, in our own way and on whatever day seems personally appropriate..
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Quoting biff4ugo:
Blue Tarps on the roofs also help judge damage in photo assessments.

Is that another big storm cell over OK already today?

Thanks Dr. M for the Solar Storm assessment link.


Yepo mate!

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Blue Tarps on the roofs also help judge damage in photo assessments.

Is that another big storm cell over OK already today?

Thanks Dr. M for the Solar Storm assessment link.
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821. JRRP
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They also note damage to trees -branches or trunks twisted and  broken, bark striped off or just gone. How the ground has been affected- grass remaining or stripped off, ground dug down into by the tornadic winds.
Quoting biff4ugo:
Morning/Evening

Is the severity of a weather event determined by who built the structures it impacts? If it hits a mall instead of a hospital and does the same types of damage, is the tornado weaker because the mall it hit isn't a government building?
Wind speed I get, it is the same if it blows past a tree or a truck. Is the Fujita scale for human damage assessment or a way to gage the strength of the storm? Something seems off when the ratings jump only when passing structures, is there a better way to judge wind speed when passing a field or farm fences, instead of just buildings?

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Look at how fast the anomalies have changed since April

http://www.ospo.noaa.gov/data/sst/anomaly/2013/an oma.5.2.2013.gif
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Quoting goosegirl1:


Forecast for Bar Harbor is rain only, not nearly cold enough to snow: Link

It won't be cold enough to snow in Caribou either :)

I'm not trying to be contrary, but I was surprised to see that forecast for the north east. The mid-atlantic sweated right through yesterday at 90 degrees and humid with severe storms, so if it snowed this weekend- that would define whiplash weather!

It is a model run, not an official forecast. Yeah I doubt there would be a good snow system in the NE. It would be crazy if it somehow materialized though.
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Quoting Neapolitan:
Oh, I see. Bastardi was referring to this weekend, when the US celebrates Memorial Day with a three-day weekend. I inadvertently referred to traditional Memorial Day, which is the 30th--the first day of the 8-14 forecast. (My great-grandfather was killed at the tail end of WWI; in deference to my great-grandmother, and to abide by her wishes that we continue tradition, our family has always honored his death [and the subsequent deaths of a few others in WWII and Vietnam] on May 30, which sometimes leads to confusion, as here.)

At any rate, there may be a few flakes at higher elevations, but that forecast is totally out of whack. ;-)
It is my harmless opine that this will be winters last whine...Zonal flow should prevail after the forecast omega block breaks down.Ye old Bermudi High will flex its muscle soon, and a summery pattern takes hold on the eastern half of our Great Nation. God bless to your relatives that fought and gave all during the wars.
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.