Monday, August 7, 2023

Twas a Stormy Day, What's Next?

Tuesday (High 83, Low 69): Partly cloudy. Widely scattered showers and thunderstorms are possible.

Wednesday (High 84, Low 68): Mostly cloudy. Numerous rounds of showers and thunderstorms are possible, and some storms could produce strong, or even damaging, winds. 

Thursday (High 86, Low 70): Mostly cloudy. Numerous rounds of showers and thunderstorms are possible.

Friday (High 88, Low 70): Partly cloudy with a 40% chance of showers/thunderstorms.

Saturday (High 89, Low 70): Partly cloudy with a 40% chance of showers/thunderstorms.

Sunday (High 90, Low 70): Partly cloudy with a 30% chance of showers/thunderstorms.

Monday (High 91, Low 69): Mostly sunny with a 20% chance of showers/thunderstorms.


Wed (High 92, Low 81): Partly cloudy, hot and humid. Scattered showers and thunderstorms are possible.

Thu (High 94, Low 79): Partly cloudy. Isolated showers and thunderstorms are possible.

Fri (High 95, Low 80): Partly cloudy. Widely scattered showers and thunderstorms are possible. 

Weekend (High in mid-90's, Low in upper 70's): Partly cloudy with a 40% chance of showers/thunderstorms.

We had a partly to mostly cloudy day in Cullman today with a period of fierce summer storms. The High was 90, and the Low this morning was 70. It got down to 72 in the wake of those storms for a while this afternoon. 

I see that has put together a great article about the storms in Cullman and elsewhere. I can't get over the damage to the library, right in downtown. That would be a rare thing even in tornado season, and as far as I know, these were only straight-line winds from summer thunderstorms that became severe. Those winds must have been at least 75-80 miles per hour, I would estimate from my armchair. Would not be surprised if they were closer to 100 mph. But I will leave that to the storm survey team assigned to it. Interested to see what they will find. 

The summer of 2011 was pretty stormy, and I remember a day that the winds blew down two big limbs in a family member's front yard. The next day I came back to see him and his mother, and the first thing he said to me was, "You sure you wanna' park under that frickin' tree?" And it was totally sunny then. He just meant in case of the next storm. And that was a mobile home. There was a storm cellar nearby, but it was dilapidated and saved only for emergencies. Which the storm that broke those limbs blew up all of a sudden, before there was a severe thunderstorm warning out, was in Walker County. And that guy really didn't pay attention unless he heard "tornado". I've found that most people in the general public do not really care about severe thunderstorm warnings. My great-grandmother taught me to, and for the short time I was able to try college for meteorology, I found out she had been right. Over the years I'd come to think she was overly alarmist and that most of those warnings would not verify. But as I was in school and took more SKYWARN classes, I heard so many meteorologists echoing the things she had learned on her own, when she dropped out of school in about the 8th grade to work and help support her family. And that was one thing I kept hearing. Even Chuck Doswell said one time, "We've failed. If people think a severe thunderstorm warning means nothing, we've failed in our communication with the public." That is a paraphrase, but I remember him saying that, roughly around the time she passed away. And I remember thinking how lucky I was to have someone who did get the message. Some in our family got mad at her for waking them up in the middle of the night "for just a thunderstorm warning, not a tornado." Same people would not have been upset if she told them about a tornado warning, would have thanked her and come to the storm pit. 

Yesterday I had forgotten that the weather radio transmitter was offline and had fallen asleep. And woke up to a severe thunderstorm (checked Radarscope and wondered why the weather radio had not toned for it) that blew a large tree limb at me and came close to starting an electrical fire in the neighborhood. It was nothing compared to the widespread wind damage across other parts of the region yesterday, but it was a scary situation. And in the midst of it, I got a cat donated to me, whom I have tentatively named Salem Nyarlathotep. The lady who donated him (while the power was out) had named him Salem and thought about naming him Lucifer. I couldn't get those two names to go well together, no matter which order I said them in. But I did think he deserved a little more mystery than just ripping off a name from Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Then a relative mentioned to me that he looked Egyptian. So I finally decided on Nyarlathotep. Mainly for the fun of listening to people try to pronounce it. And to let him keep a simpler first name simply seemed like good manners. 

Maybe I'll throw in a picture of him on a day when the weather hasn't been so feisty. 

Overall yesterday's storms were a lot worse. But today was still a decent little damaging wind event. And locally, it is a day people will remember for years to come. Any time a town's library gets smacked by a severe storm, even if it is not a tornado, it is an event for the history books. As far as I know, nobody got hurt, and I'm glad of that. That is a situation where someone could easily be injured by broken glass. Hopefully people were sheltered when it hit, but I really do not know the situation.

I can tell you my experience of it. I went to my shelter spot, a closet, just because the new cat was nervous about the storm, and because after yesterday, I decided to play it safe, even though I saw that the city of Cullman was right beyond the warning polygon. I mainly did it to comfort the cat, because he's still getting used to a new home. (And I only got him a pooper scooper today, that lady did not have one, though she gave me a box and some litter, as well as some food for him.) But it was the right decision. Because of what happened in the heart of downtown. I was taken aback when I saw that. Even yesterday was just bad luck here, but no really serious damage, just a big tree limb with some unfortunate effects on nearby electrical lines. But today, if we'd had those kinds of winds at my place, I could have been seriously hurt or even killed if I was out in the open room, close to windows that blew out. And it is a really sobering reminder that when it comes to severe weather, a lot of times, it is better safe than sorry. My family has splintered up in a lot of crazy ways since those days when our great-grandma took us to a storm cellar and kept a weather radio and a regular radio going until the weather cleared up. And I have to say, a lot of them still don't care a whole lot about staying safe in the weather, unless it's a tornado warning. And even then, they might want it to be confirmed first. So a lot of times I've given in and just taken a more laid-back attitude. But that's really not right. I have disagreements with people over a lot of other things, so I think from now on, I'm going to call the weather like I see it, if I bother to post stuff online or talk to people about it. If it gets on people's nerves and they think I'm an alarmist, too bad. Because what has happened over the last two days reminds me of that summer of 2011, when we had a lot of summer storms that became severe, and I was ridiculed for trying to get people to take my great-grandma out of that mobile home and at least into a sturdier house nearby. And there was a site-built house that was just as close as the old storm cellar. And as much as I hate to add to the drama these days (too much drama in everything, not just weather . . . but basically all news and politics), this kind of weather could get somebody killed. It does not always take a tornado, and today was a reminder, it doesn't always take your having trees around your place. Windows can break even in well-built houses or really strong public buildings. And while I can't do this blog every single day like I could in college, I still think it's important to do a little something to spread the word around. The National Weather Service in Birmingham has started a thing they call "be a hero." You might be the only person in your family or circle of friends who knows when the weather turns dangerous. So . . . check on people. Or just let them know something is coming. 

I basically gave up on that because of the 2011 tornado outbreak and the summer that followed. Usually now if I send people radar images or whatever, I'll send a text to the effect of, "This probably isn't a big deal, but . . . you might want to know this." And maybe that has been a mistake. When something like this happens, there are times I think maybe it's better to just throw the information out there, and let people gripe if they want to. I'd feel a lot worse if I downplayed it, and then we had a day like today. Or suppose somebody got hit the way I did yesterday, with only very minor wind damage, but it actually did start a fire at their house . . . that would be serious too. And it would not be right to give them a false sense of complacency. We do have storms every summer in the heat and humidity, but we've had some unusual patterns this summer. And today was really a doosie. Yesterday took me by surprise for several reasons. I am not watching the weather 24/7 these days. 

Almost a side note, I saw that Taylor Sarallo has left ABC-33/40 in Birmingham. She is one of the best broadcast meteorologists I've ever seen, so whatever happened, it is their loss. Whoever she gets replaced with will probably do inferior work, but . . . I haven't seen that person's work yet . . . and I've been surprised before. 

Now to get on to the weather forecast. What I'm really doing with this blog is trying to remind myself of what I learned about meteorology, learn some new stuff, and pass the information along. A lot of times I don't have the time or energy for it now. But today was quite a day for weather around here. So here we are, even though it's August. 

The storms have moved well to the East Coast now, mainly in the Mid-Atlantic region, there in the Carolinas. 

Looks like the cold front is going to move South of our area tomorrow, and then drift back northward as a warm front that is nearly stationary on Wednesday. 

Tomorrow's rain chance is looking about 30%. High should be about 83, Low about 69. 

The threat for stronger storms tomorrow should stay over Central and South Alabama. Even in counties like Walker, Blount, Marion, the risk of a thunderstorm becoming severe is low tomorrow. 

And then on Wednesday, we do have another threat for damaging thunderstorm winds. The basic 15% risk covers places like Huntsville, Decatur, and the Shoals, along with about the Western two-thirds of Tennessee counties. And stretches back into parts of the Midwest. 

As you get down toward Cullman, Guntersville, Albertville, Blountsville, Jasper, the risk of a thunderstorm becoming severe is in the 5% marginal category. 

We really can have severe weather any month of the year around here. It's not worth worrying about all the time, but even when we're not in our tornado seasons (we do have a second peak in November around here . . . some people now even want to count every month from then through May as one big tornado season, but the traditional way was to have the Spring months as our main season, and then you have to watch things again in November, sometimes lasting into December), good idea to have a NOAA Weather Radio with battery backup. And have a second source if you can, like wireless alerts enabled on your cell phone, or if you want to take it more seriously, a service like WeatherCall. And have a plan, especially if you live in a mobile home. Ideally even in a Severe Thunderstorm Warning, you want to be in a sturdy site-built house (anchored to the ground . . . a house up on blocks has a lot of the same hazards as a mobile home, as far as the wind being able to get up under it) in a small room or hallway near the center, on the lowest floor. And of course, you stay away from windows, at the very least, and don't mess around with electrical stuff until the storm passes. Usually I wouldn't put a lot of energy into safety reminders in the summer months, but today was a trip. 

Anyway for Wednesday a 50% chance of rain looks reasonable. With the front trying to stall out, we could have multiple rounds of rain and thunderstorms. But through the day and night, I think there's about a 50/50 shot of any one spot getting one of those showers or storms. The High might get up to about 84 or 85 with the warm front lifting northward, but tomorrow night into Wednesday morning, the Low may drop a degree or two, about 68 or 67, while we have a little less moisture briefly.

Thursday the front should be back into Tennessee. Keeping rain chance at 50%. High should remain in mid-80's, might try to edge toward upper 80's, but I think the moisture, clouds, rain will temper that trend. The overnight/morning Low should be near 70 thanks to that warm front moving north of the area though. 

Then on Friday as it continues to stall and waffle back and forth in the region, rain chance can come down to 40%, High should be in upper 80's, Low near 70 again. 

Will hold a 40% chance of rain for Saturday. similar temperatures to Friday.

Then gradually starting Sunday, the high pressure will spread further into our neck of the woods. This frontal boundary looks like it will stay weak and kind of stalled, more like just waffling around, maybe not all that well-organized. So for Sunday probably only a 30% chance of rain, High rebounding to about 90. 

And then Monday the rain chance should only be about 20%, more typical summer stuff, High may rise to 91 or 92 since less cloud cover and rain chances to keep temperatures down, and that high pressure from out West. 

Hurricane Dora is at major hurricane strength but is passing well South of the Hawaiian Islands. 

And most of us will probably see an average of an inch or two of rain for this forecast period, a little wetter than a lot of weeks in August a lot of years. The climate is variable, but this summer has been just plain weird. Some of it could be the El Ni~no effect. Usually the tropics are a lot more active this time of the year. And some of it could have to do with climate change. Though I hesitate to blame it on that, since we've had such mild periods at times this summer, with extra storms, but not as much heat as usual. So I'd feel kind of lame trying to blame that on global warming. I think everyone finally agreed that the planet is warming overall, the climate is changing, and that pollution is one of the reasons why. Even the people who are not fans of Greta Thunberg, at least in the meteorological community, have all admitted that, from what I've seen. Back in the day, I heard out all the arguments back and forth, and even got to hear Dan Satterfield talk about visiting the North and South Poles. I never became an expert on even local meteorology, forecasting the weather for the next week, let alone fancying myself a climate expert. But when the weather gets as weird as it has this summer, not just in our region, it is one of the things that crosses my mind. I like to watch John Stossel's YouTube channel sometimes, but I really disagreed with him when he said that electric cars or trying for better sources of energy than just fossil fuels was a lost cause. I think people have known for decades that we should try to move in that direction. The only thing holding it up has been politics. So . . . many thanks to Elon Musk for finally bringing us the Tesla car, which I've been lucky enough to ride in, thanks to a family member who could afford one. Even if the man (Elon) later made Twitter an even bigger mess than it was before, perhaps he had good intentions even there. And he does deserve credit for dragging us out of the same-old, same-old when it comes to transportation. Some people say that using solar power or wind energy is too expensive, but I wonder: Why? That is probably as simple as greed. Jesse Ventura has talked about using solar power when he stays in Mexico. Nobody's very interested in it these days, on a large scale, but it would be nice if we treated the atmosphere and the planet with a little more respect. I know . . . I know . . . it's out of fashion unless you're on a big political crusade. But I loved when Brian Peters cut through the fat years ago at a SKYWARN class, saying that regardless of your personal opinion on global warming, it was a moot point, because we did have pollution problems, and needed to try to address those. I think he's mainly worked in state parks after he retired from weather. Good for him. 

P.S. Adding this at 8:36 PM - What I meant to say before I got off on a ramble at the end was that isolated heavier rain amounts are possible, especially on Wednesday, when we might have to watch just in case of one or two spots dealing with localized flooding issues. Those could occur in this setup just as well as the damaging thunderstorm winds. 

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