Tornado Diaries: May 18th, 2013

The first post in this series detailed an exhilarating and dangerous chase under cover of night in northwestern Iowa. As a storm chaser, the drawback to a night chase is the near impossibility of acquiring photos and videos of the storms. On the afternoon of May 18th, 2013, darkness was not an issue as a violent tornado tracked across the open country of southwestern Kansas.

I had just graduated from Iowa State University the week before. My thoughts at the time were not on severe weather, but that would quickly change as long range forecast models indicated a multiple day severe weather threat across the Southern Plains. Recent grads and I made the decision to embark on one last chase in Oklahoma and Kansas before moving into the “real world.”

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Tornado Diaries: April 9th, 2011

Most meteorologists recall a moment in their childhood that fostered their obsession with weather. My moment was in second grade, when a severe thunderstorm hit my hometown while school was in session. I vividly remember classmates being frightened, while I sat in the school’s basement thinking the situation was pretty sweet, to use with the parlance of a second grader. After that day, I was hooked on severe weather, and although that specific event did not spawn a tornado, I remain fascinated by them to this day.

Many years later while attending Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, I had opportunities to travel across the Midwest during spring and summer, in search of the elusive and dangerous tornado. There are three specific storm chases I will be detailing this spring, the first of which occurred on April 9th, 2011.Read More »

Severe Storms Roll into the New Year

NCDC Level-II Data January 2017
NEXRAD Level-II reflectivity (left) and velocity (right) from 8:30am CST 01/02/17

It was a stormy and soggy start to 2017 for millions along the Gulf coast as a vigorous line of thunderstorms tracked from Southeast Texas to the Florida Panhandle on January 2nd. Sparked by an amplified trough of low pressure aloft, surface low pressure moved across Southeast Texas early Monday, causing widespread convection to form along and east of I-35. These storms moved quickly eastward through the morning hours, entering the Houston metro area after 7am CST.

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2015 Holiday Storm Retrospective

A powerful storm system tracked across the northern Great Plains this holiday season. Heavy snows and blizzard conditions were observed in the Dakotas, strong storms occurred in Kansas and Missouri, and an ice storm developed in areas between. Of significant note was a tornado report in Kansas that if confirmed would be the first tornado recorded on Christmas day in that state. In addition, wind gusts in excess of 70 mph were reportedIowa Environmental Mesonet Wind Speed Reports December 2016 in northwestern Iowa, causing structural damage in the area. These conditions are a stark reminder that like meteorologists, Mother Nature does not take the holidays off. Interestingly, a similar storm system impacted the southern plains last holiday season.

One year ago, a major storm system moved from Texas through the Great Lakes, capping off a year filled with extreme weather in Texas and beyond. Read More »