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A wild weather Sunday

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 4:03 PM GMT on March 13, 2006

Sunday was a wild weather day across the Midwest, with 104 reports of tornadoes sent to the Storm Prediction Center, 336 reports of hail, and 89 reports of damaging thunderstorm winds. Damage survey teams are on the ground today to determine the how many tornadoes actually touched down, and how strong they were. Several of the tornadoes were 1/2 mile in width, and may have been violent F3 storms. I'll report tomorrow on the results of these damage surveys. The number of tornadoes was no doubt less than 103, since many of the tornado reports referred to the same tornado that affected more than one county.

Figure 1. Severe weather reports from Sunday's severe weather outbreak.

The severe weather will continue today, but atmospheric conditions are not nearly as volatile. The greatest threat of severe weather will be from large hail and damaging severe thunderstorm winds, although a few scattered tornadoes may pop out late this afternoon across Ohio and adjoining states. Today should be the last day of the severe weather outbreak, as the cold front associated with the strong low pressure area responsible moves off of the East Coast Tuesday morning.

Wildfires in Texas
Grass fires in drought-parched Texas killed seven people yesterday in the Panhandle, four of them in a car crash on I-40 caused by thick smoke obscuring visibility. More than 1,000 square miles of Texas burned yesterday--an area about two-thirds the size of Rhode Island. These fires were far more extensive than the ones in January that prompted the governor to declare a drought disaster. "This is probably one of the biggest fire days in Texas history," said Warren Bielenberg, a spokesman for the Texas Forest Service, in an interview with CNN. Amarillo has had only .32" of rain so far this year, compared to 1.55" in a normal year. The outlook today is more promising, as winds are expected to be lighter and temperatures cooler. The 10-day forecast is also somewhat promising, as a very active jet stream pattern is forecast to bring the chance of a major storm system to the desert Southwest and Texas early next week. However,this could also bring another severe weather outbreak to the country.

Figure 2.Latest drought map for the U.S., showing dry conditions in the Texas Panhandle that contributed to yesterday's deadly fires.

Jeff Masters
Lightning at St. Louis Gateway Arch
Lightning at St. Louis Gateway Arch
Lightning show at the Gateway Arch


The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

Wonder why the media are giving such short shrift to the weather horrors of yesterday and today? Internet headlines are still making little notice. The cable and network news 'war channels' are barely mentioning it.
maybe accurate reporting on the weather is less lucrative than the latest gossip on some celebrity..

Note that we're not out of the woods in the northeast yet, mean lines of storms are pushing on through from New York through Ontario, Michigan and all the way down to Texas though there seems to be less energy at the southern end of the frontal line.
I think they're waiting for footage and damage reports to come in, but weather is always worfully underreported. Even TWC was showing storm stories last night.
Colby- I saw some of your posts a few days ago as the storms started to form. What was the most aberrant aspect of the weather which led you to believe the system would be as violent as it has been?
Nothing about this storm was particularly unusual. To clarify - it's not unusual to draw an Ace of Spades, or a Jack of Spades, but drawing a Royal Flush is rare. We had a strong jet stream going over a beautifully defined dryline and plenty of warm moist air coming up from the Gulf. There wasn't alot of question.
But not to take extra credit for this - 99% of my knowledge of tornadoes has been aquired in the last couple of months from members on TalkWeather
But notice how much attention is given when severe wx affects THEM. LOL. I did notice TWC interrupted their storm stories on the half hour w/ updates from Dr. Forbes...N Missouri and adjacent areas must look like a war zone today. Some amazingly long-lived supercells...tracked one cluster for 7 hrs yesterday aftn/eve from W MO to Cen IL.
Good call, Colby!

Tornado watches now up for southwestern Ontario, severe thunderstorm watches for much of the rest of southern Ontario. Buffalo weather office also concerned about possibility of tornados in NY west of the Finger Lakes including Buffalo and mentioned possibility in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

We had one wild line of storms come through last night, a second is now overhead, and a third is building to the southwest...
Some of the first water vapor of a 'counterclockwise' nature in a while.
Water Vapor Image Globalize referenced is in NHC Disscussion Below.
105 PM EST MON MAR 13 2006



To Paraphrase Author Douglas Adams,
Don't Panic, But Always Know Where Your Towel Is!
11. F5
I can verify that the southern end really didn't have much energy. The SPC had modified the SLGT risk area yesterday to include pretty much all of N TX, and we were waiting on the dryline to approach all day. About 7:00 PM, the dryline started retrograding, leaving us fully capped. Although CAPE was between 2000 and 2500, there was nothing to break the cap until the dryline got close enough. Well, after the retrograde, they said we'd have to wait until the Pacific front caught up with the dryline and pushed through. It happened about midnight last night, and basically was much ado about nothing. No rain, maybe a flash or two of lightning too far away to even hear the thunder.

This is the second time this year that we've been prognosticated for a severe outbreak and gotten absolutely nothing. Last weekend, we spent a number of hours in a tornado watch only to have it cancelled, storms approach, then dissipate before the got to my area. A few areas experienced some isolated storms, but nothing like the outbreak they had been predicting. Apart from the two decent rains we had, this year is eerily similar to last year, which started our drought. And while I don't wish severe weather on anyone, we desperately need rain and if severe storms are the only way to get it this time of year, then so be it. Because if it doesn't rain much soon, we are going to be in a world of hurt come late spring and summer.
Well, we didn't get much here in Indiana. I was looking forward top some good storms too.
oops, TOP should be TOO.
Actually it should be TO.
LOL louastu - nothing like a typo to keep you humble.

F5, sorry to hear of your water woes. Would love to share - we are saturated, creeks at bank full or flooding, with one last line of thunderstomrs to come through this evening and then snow for the next few days as winter returns.

the E storm is update to a cat 5 storm come see my blog for more and drop me a post as well
I was up for over 24 hours. Needless to say I am a little tired.
I already knew Emily was upgraded. I found out at about 7:00 AM.
Being from Amarillo I indeed can confirm that it has been dry here. I've had to use Carmex on my lips lately, and I hardly ever have to do that. Lake Meredith is headed for a record low level:

The good news is that Taos Ski Valley (http://skitaos.org) just received four feet of powder...and I'm LEAVING!
Don't worry Texas, hurricane season is just around the corner.
Hopefully this season won't be as bad as last season.
I have updated my blog with summaries of the severe weather (when it was in my area), along with all of the reports from the 7th to the 12th - there were a total of 1,450 reports in that period.
Want to go totally out of your mind?

^^ That game can drive you to insanity. ^^
The air is pretty dry, but is anyone else seeing this low?


Look E of the Bahamas.
I can spot it, doesn't look like much of a threat to me.
What is your highest score on that game?
I made it to level 5. Looks too hard.
There are other games here
I figured I would check in on this band of storms and let everyone know that Wisconsin's drought problems are probably not forefront on our Wisconsinite minds right now - those of us who are shoveling two and a half feet of snow and breaking four and a half foot plow ridges, that is. XD

This is the most snow we've seen all winter, and in our area near Almena, WI it's the most snow we've seen in years, especially in one snow fall.

If I get any photos of this mess, I'll definitely post them up for everyone to laugh at. XD
I can't remember what two and a half feet of snow looks like.
We had 3 feet of snow in Denver 3 years ago (March 18-19, 2003). It was fun - shut everything down for a couple of days! This winter we've had a hard time getting more than 3" out of any one storm. Season total for DEN only 25".
Play this game : Kitty Canon

My high score is 2228 feet
The most memorable snow for me was a storm that dropped 6 inches of snow in about 2 hours, on a day that we were not supposed to have any accumulating snow. That storm was also memorable for me because it melted in about 3 hours.
We had 0.2 inches of snow here in Orlando in 1977.....
In Orlando anyway.
What the heck?
I thought I had already posted "Is that the most you have seen?"
January '77 was amazing. Even Miami had a few flurries. I think the FL Panhandle had a good snow with 2 or 3" in Pensacola.
Yeah, Tallahassee recorded 3.3 inches.
Seems like whenever I go to Orlando it is in the upper 30's.
Not most days. I was there day before yesterday at Disney, was like 78.
42. F5

Thanks...wish it were possible. The fires out in W TX are amazing. I walked out of the house this morning and could smell the smoke. We are 8 hours from there. Last week, there was a pretty big fire a couple miles from my house, but fortunately, they got on it pretty quick. Even more lucky for the mobile home park right next to where the fire was.

Supposedly there's a chance for rain next weekend. Have to wait and see if it pans out or not. Hope you don't flood out. I've been in that position too, with lots of snow on the ground, then thunderstorms melting all the snow. Bad combination.
I guess it is probably because I always go in January.
Refering to the recent severe weather, I have a bad idea that this year will be a very bad tornado season, because May is peak tornado season and there has already been an outbreak with 100+ tornado reports (which would still mean 50 tornadoes if half of the reports verify). Take a look at this, and compare this year (so far) to the past 3 years.
I wish it was in the upper 30s, louastu! Today the heat index reached 91 degrees in Orlando. Very nice but a little too warm for March even here.
That is summer like weather for Indiana.
Although weren't you guys in the 70s today?
Ya, it is gonna be in the 40's tomorrow though.
Lol, March must be so topsy-turvy up there with all the strong warm and cold fronts coming through. I though Orlando was bad enough (85 tomorrow, 72 on Wednesday).
It can be.
43F right now, with the wind coming from the West at almost 30 mph.
I was moved by something in the CNN article that Dr Masters posted enough for me to share my knowledge of Horses & Wildfires. I put it in my blog...

I think yesterdays outbreak of storms pretty much crushed my hopes of it being a below average year for tornados.
Yeah, yesterday was amazing.

Members of my site, I've got a poll up.
The 2005 readings for CO2 levels in the atmosphere have come out, and the news is not good Link
StSimons~ That is bad...
"Today we're over 380 ppm," he said. "That's higher than we've been for over a million years, possibly 30 million years. Mankind is changing the climate". (Professor Sir David King)

It's monday ~ weekly ENSO report is out...


Interesting stuff. The weather channel said it was the worst March out break ever from early reports. I would have thought there where worse but shows how much I know. I feal kind of bad because yesterday I wasnt focused on the east so much as the west coast.

LA tied a record cold temp last night at 42 degrees and broke a record the night before.
57. Inyo
the lows in the higher mountain areas of southern california were near zero this weekend.. i think some all time record lows were broken up there.

A month ago it was nearing 70 degrees up there and plants were starting to sprout. It will be a weird spring.
look like SteveGregory may had did his last update ever
any one like to come to my blog it is hot tonight so drop me a post
The biggest March outbreak was the Deep South Outbreak on March 21-22 1932. Contained 73 tornadoes, 27 of which were killer tornadoes, and resulted in over 350 fatalaties and 2150 injuries.

I believe 2006 could break that 73 mark.
I was driving from Branson, MO to Chicago, IL yesterday. You can imagine it was an interesting trip. I drove into Springfield, IL at just after 8pm. They just had a huge tornado rip through town and the whole city had no power. It was pretty creepy driving through.
I live in Lawrence,KS and have for about 18 years. I have seen many severe storms and a few tonrnadoes. The storms that blew through on Sunday AM and the wodespread damaage were things I have never witnessed before. Street signs were snaped in half, major power poles were snapped in half, 100+ year old trees were snapped in half, roofs were striped from buldings etc. And it was not localized, it was all over the city. It was like a hurricane hit the city. I've seen microbust damage and torndao damage, this was something I have never before witnessed. It terrified my neighbors, all of who lived through a tornado striking my neighborhod three years ago. To call it bizarre would be an understatement. Someone needs to study this storm to figure out what the hell happened here.

I am not sure if this is what occurred, but it sounds like it MAY have been a derecho. A derecho would be a bizarre event to say the least.
65. Inyo
yeah, something on that size scale doesn't sound like a tornado.

One thing to think about: were all the trees, power poles, etc, blown down pointing the same direction? This is usually indicative of 'straight line' winds whereas tornados just throw stuff all over.
louastu, thanks for the terminology. It does seem like it was a derecho. If you click on the "Readers photos" link there are some very good pictures of what it looked like.

Inyo, there were a lot of reoprts of funnel clouds, but I saw it and looking at the photos its clear that iut was not a torndao. However, there were street signes that faced north and south that were snapped in half and there were signs that faced east and west that were snaoppoed in half. Some trees fell toward the east while others fell the west. It was like a swirling non tornadic wind - if that makes any sense.
Weatherwannabe, I live in Lee's Summit..and not sure that the set up was a derecho..that would have indicated more of a linear bow echo type storm, and I believe when you all got hit, it was still much like meso single type storms. No doubt you all got hit hard, and based on the speed of the storms that day [ some moving at 85mph ], I would think that the combo of the speed and outflow might have created 80mph + winds. Definitely, we all got hammered! We like many got the golfball/baseball size hail!

img border="0" src="http://media.lawrence.com/img/photos/2006/03/14/Kristi_Johnson_BEFORE_t600.jpg
" width="600" height="400">

The first two pics really make me wonder what happened there...also seeing the snapped phone pole. Its hard not to want to call this tornadic. Too weird! Great pics.
Sayhuh, thanks. We are all wondering what the heck hit us. Those pictures are a tiny sample of the damage that was all over the city. It was the same or worse all over the city. I've been through so many severe thunderstorms I've lost count. I've also had a torndao hit my neighbothood about 3 years ago. I've never experienced anything quite like it. It was a unique sever weather event. The local newspaper today called it a microburst, but we're talking damage over a 20-30 square mile area.
Dunno..hard to explain that one. I was focusing more on the storms closer to home regarding the storms that pasted Holton, Warrensburg, Sedalia...