Saturday, March 3, 2012

3 March 2012 Oh, the wicked wind and rain!

          31 dead in yesterday’s storms, 95 tornadoes reported to NWS.  Thousands of Americans are dealing with destroyed or merely damaged homes, injured, killed, or missing family members; and the necessity of rebuilding lives interrupted by the most intense atmospheric disturbance to occur in a location. 
          Small towns have been all but blown off the maps.  Civic structures and infrastructures are non-functional.  Emergency response teams are already at work clearing trees and debris from power, cable, and communications lines, replacing damaged sections with new wire and cable, in order to restore heat, lighting, communications, and a sense of normalcy where, suddenly, normalcy is no more. 
          The damage and devastation reach from Missouri to the eastern seaboard.  Further damage from this outbreak is still taking place in the Eastern coastal states this morning. 
          From about 1000 yesterday through midnight yesterday, we were under some form of watch or warning.  Lines of thunderstorms formed and pumped storm cells up the continent, sliding along the barrier of the southern Appalachians.  Simultaneously, a squall line formed in the lower Midwest’s and tracked steadily eastward, spawning severe storms.
          The entrained cells reached us about noon and continued to slide around and over us until about 1800.  After a two-hour calm, the second wave, the eastward bound squall line reached us and poured a line of super cell storms into the mix.  We could watch them on radar as the approached, intensified, and arced somewhat around us, the most intense sections missing us, barely, to the north or south. 
          I wore a path from television to computer as I watched both for minute vector changes that might signal the need to dive for cover.  About 2100 the lines began t pour even heavier storms into our vicinity.  We loaded our meds and some clothing into backpacks, added padded computers, back up hard drives, and other necessities, along with the documents “go-box,” into the internal bathroom, and waited for the squall line to sink south. 
          By 2200, the squall line began to bow outward, signifying high velocity line winds, and increased speed over ground to 60 mph.  We waited, watching TV and listening to what seemed like constant alerts on the NOAA radio.  At 2230, regional radar feed showed 5 confirmed tornadoes around us within a 100-mile radius.  Somehow, this seemed normal last night.  It was almost a certainty that we were going to wind up experiencing at least one very heavy squall-line bred, super cell thunderstorm last night, with all the opportunities for wicked wind and rain damage that go with the trip.
          As predicted by the NWS the squall line reached our location at 2300.  One moment it was calm with approaching thunder and lightning.  The next moment was a typical thunderstorm downward gust front and rain dump.  Surprisingly, the squall line began to weaken and split as it neared us.  We avoided the high winds and heavy rains reported around us.  We received 0.62 inches of rain between 0800 Friday and 0800 today.  We haven’t seen any apparent damage from this event.  The neighborhood – hit so hard last spring – seems intact.  Local news has no coverage of disasters. 
          I have no complaints.  The NWS SPC and local office at Morristown did a tremendous job of forecasting and updating.  Our local TV weather teams did yeoman’s work, staying on the air to pass on alert data as it became available.  When I think back to how forecast abilities have improved since the early days of tornado alerts, I’m really impressed.  The newest generation of weather radar is going to provide amazing results and allow even better warnings of active, on the ground tornadoes, avoiding the current masking effects of rain to a larger extent, homing in on particulate and larger debris. 
          We both slept well last night after watching the squall line clear our area.  We didn’t have to dive for cover.  That makes it a great night, when all is considered.  

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