No, it’s not just you, this is more rain than normal!

March 31, 2012

If you’re new to western Oregon, you just experienced the Pineapple Express!  It’s when warm tropical moisture streams right into western Oregon, providing what seems to be never ending rain.

Eugene picked up 2.55 inches of rain over the past 72 hours!

March, 2012 will go down as the 6th wettest March on record, and those records go back to the late 1800s. We’ve also seen nine more inches of rain so far this year, compared to this time last year.

Typically in March we see about five inches of rain.  This year, we’ve seen almost 10!

I’ll post the full March summary on Monday.

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Rain Continues But Flood Water Receding

January 20, 2012

Rain showers are expected throughout the rest of the night and through most of the weekend.

 

Here’s the breakdown over the next 24 hours. Details are below the graphic:

 

Another storm is bringing more heavy rain at times and strong winds late tonight. High Wind Warnings are up along the coast through early tomorrow and there is a possibility that we’ll see more trees and downed power lines with the very saturated ground conditions. Saturday afternoon stays showery with yet another blast coming early on Sunday.

 

FLOOD INFORMATION:

 

VALLEY/FOOTHILLS:

Three flood warnings in the Willamette Valley, all flooded areas have crested and are falling slowly. They’ll likely take until sometime Saturday to fall below flood stage. Click on the rivers for details:

Siuslaw (Mapleton), Mohawk & Marys (Philomath)

Willamette rivers gauges at both Corvallis and Albany are close to cresting tonight and they should both sit just below flood stage. Parts of Hwy 36 in Corvallis are down to one lane with high water creeping near the interchanges.

 

Here’s the latest levels:

 

WINDS:

High Wind Warnings have been posted along the coast through 4am Saturday. Winds should remain around 20-35 mph overnight with 50 mph gusts possible.

Very saturated grounds will likely allow for numerous downed trees and power lines late Friday into Saturday.

 

MOUNTAINS:

Snow levels will drop from 7500 feet to 2500 feet early Saturday morning. Passes and above will see 12-15″ of snow during this timeframe. Avalanche warnings are also posted for the Central and Northern Cascades with wet, heavy snow on top of lighter crusts. Lower elevations between 2000 and 4000 feet may see a few inches to half a foot.

 

Stay tuned to KEZI 9 News for the latest on this weekend’s winter weather.

 

Chief Meteorologist Justin Stapleton


One Year Anniversary of the Aumsville Tornado

December 14, 2011

Aumsville Damage During Clean-Up Efforts

One year ago, on December 14, Aumsville, Oregon saw a rare weather occurrence.  An EF-2 tornado tore through the eastern part of town, damaging dozens of homes.  Around 50 homes received damage, of those 10 were unlivable. Luckily, only two people were injured, and they were minor cuts and bruises.

The tornado marked only the fourth EF-2 in the history of Oregon.  Only 114 tornadoes have been recorded in the state since 1887. However, one of those 114 also set its sights on Aumsville back in March of 1960.

The tornado brought together a community. Dumpsters were set out for debris collection, neighbors helped neighbors pick up the pieces, and the Marion County Jail’s 48 inmates headed straight out to help.

Radar Animation

The track of the tornado was about 5 miles long; however, it is not likely it stayed on the ground the whole time. Besides the damage in the city limits of Aumsville, a few more reports were received from an area northeast of the town.

Track Courtesy NWS Portland

One year later, damage has been repaired and life continues in Aumsville. However, the town will always have the memory of that day that destroyed dozens of homes but brought a community together.

Damage Photo Courtesy Portland NWS

Tornado Ingredients: So why Aumsville? Generally in Oregon, we have some of the ingredients needed to form a tornado.  However, we hardly ever have all the ingredients at once, or over a large area.  You need energy or heat to create instability (generally measured by Convective Available Potential Energy or CAPE), moisture (something Oregon generally has plenty of), and something to cause the storm to spin such as a front or collision of air masses of some sort.

Radar At the Time of Tornado Production (Courtesy NWS)

Conditions on December 14, 2010: Over the few days preceding the Aumsville tornado, we built up warm, moist air near the surface.  We also caught a few peaks of sunshine Tuesday morning, before the deck of clouds rolled through.  Those components likely fueled the energy.  To add even more energy, we had a cold front bring in a cold pool of air aloft.  That temperature difference between the surface and the upper levels, caused air to rise quickly, thus creating thunderstorms. In fact the Lapse Rates that day were at 8 C/Km, where we are normally at 5 or 6 C/Km.  However, the layer in which most of this happened was pretty thin.  That being said, a lot of areas had several of the requirements to have thunderstorms, but most of them fizzled out due to lacking one of the ingredients.

Moisture and instability really were not a problem.  I think the major igniter of this storm was wind shear, which created the spin.  Lots of things in Oregon can create wind shear.  We have topographical features which can aid in trapping winds and causing velocity changes.  However, in Aumsville’s case, I think it was how near the strong low pressure system it was.  Aumsville was just far enough north to catch stronger wind shear, but just far enough south to catch the heat from the weekend’s ridge.  Wind shear value that day in Salem (west of Aumsville) was around 40 knots between 11:00 a.m. and noon that day.

However CAPE cannot be ruled out as a contributor. While the rule is generally 1000 J/Kg of CAPE to support tornado formation, the Aumsville tornado occurred in an environment with around 500 J/Kg. While energy was not the main cause of the tornado, I think it just added to the other variables that lined up perfectly for only a few minutes. The fact that these ingredients came together at the same time is amazing and highly unlikely for this time of year in this part of the country.

Why Not the Southern Valley or Umpqua Basin? While areas further south of Aumsville were warmer, the key component was the wind shear.  Areas such as Eugene, Cottage Grove, and Roseburg, were just too far away from the center of low pressure.  The coastal region has plenty of moisture and strong winds, but lacked energy to get the storms to lift.  That doesn’t mean some of the areas went without significant weather.  The mountains picked up significant snowfall, the northern coastal areas had gusty winds into the 40 mph range, and several areas in the Willamette Valley picked up hail.

The Enhanced Fujita Scale: Here is the EF scale and how it matches up with wind speeds:

0   65-85 mph
1   86-110
2   111-135
3   136-165
4   166-200
5   Over 200

For more information on the criteria for EF Scale ratings, click here.

Final Thoughts: While the Aumsville tornado was not the biggest, baddest tornado ever seen, the fact that it even happened is amazing in itself. While Oregon has only seen a few more than 100 reported tornadoes since 1887 and that two of them happened in Aumsville is also amazing.  From someone who has seen the “textbook” supercells in Tornado Alley, this tiny storm with hardly any classic support was hardly a suspect to drop a life-threatening tornado. It goes to show you that it doesn’t matter where you are and what time of year, if Mother Nature provides the opportunity, severe weather could strike.

While Aumsville is slightly out of our coverage area, we tried to capture the storm not only weather-wise, but as it impacted the community.  To see some of our live coverage of the storm the night after it happened, click here.

To see some of the stories our reporters put together about the challenges the community faced during clean up, click here. Use the links at the bottom of that page to view more stories.

For more information about tornadoes in generally and some safety tips, click here.  Remember it is always a good idea to be prepared, no matter where you live and what time of year. Aumsville proves it can happen anytime, anywhere.

— Meteorologist, Megan Taylor

If you have questions or comments about tornadoes or severe weather in general, the weather team would love to talk to you.  Comment below on this story or visit us on Facebook or Twitter. You can also send weather questions to our email.


Early White Christmas

November 29, 2011

I know it’s not in our backyard but this will give you a bit of an idea of what I used to forecast for when I was working at WCBI in Columbus, Mississippi (which is about an hour SE of Memphis on the map).  This is a very strong, cold, upper level low centered just north of Memphis, near Jackson TN on I-40.

The trick for southeast US weather guys and gals is where does the center of the low track. Because it’s so intense right in the middle, the air is supercooled, literally a refrigerated column of air that is turning everything within it’s circle to snow, whereas ten miles outside the circle is a nasty mix of freezing rain and slush, ten miles outside of that, all rain. Talk about tricky!

Anyway, here is a link to what I think is one of the best weather departments in the Southeast:  ABC 33/40. James Spann is a legend in the weather world and his team runs a great weather blog. They have pics of the snow and great in-depth analysis of the situation. Enjoy!

– Chief Meteorologist  Justin Stapleton

 


The Life of a Storm Chaser

September 30, 2011

If you joined us tonight for KEZI 9 News at 6:30, you probably caught a story about meteorologist Reed Timmer’s description of his diet.  He mentions that you just have to grab and go, and for him he reaches for beef jerky, orange juice, and energy drinks.

The latest season of the show in which Reed Timmer stars, Discovery Channel’s “Storm Chasers,” just premiered last Sunday.  About this time each year, I get a lot of viewers asking questions about the life of storm chasing. Growing up in the Midwest, I’m no stranger to severe weather.  As I have developed my skill in meteorology, I have also joined in a few chases.  However, the adventure is no longer what it used to be.  Thanks to television and movies, storm chasing has been portrayed as an exciting, action-packed life-style where adrenaline runs high.  However, the real life of a storm chaser, isn’t what you’d expect.

So let’s break down what storm chasing actually is.  You wake up in the early morning hours, grab a quick breakfast (as it may be your only meal), and check out the forecast.  For those of us who are trained meteorologists, we have been watching the forecast models very closely and do our own analysis to decide on a starting point.  You load up, you drive possibly up to several hours and find a place to park.  Then you wait.  And you wait.  If you’re lucky, you won’t have to wait longer, but you mostly likely will.  I’ve actually spent 8 hours in a Wal-mart parking lot in Texas, waiting for storm cells to fire.  Once the initiation point shows up on radar, you may have to adjust your position, which means more driving.  If you’re in a good spot, you have more waiting to do.  If you are lucky enough to get a storm in your area, with good roads and no traffic, you’ll have an exciting day like the one you see on television.  However, more often than not, the storm falls apart, you run out of roads, one of your members has to stop, you get stuck behind trees and can’t see anything, your car breaks down, you run into debris and either have a blocked road or have to stop to help people, or you hit heavy traffic for the hundreds of “storm chasers” trying to catch the same storm.  Not as exciting as you might have thought.  I’ve been on chases with extremely proficient forecasters to only see blue sky and a Starbucks.  Still want to be a storm chaser?

From my few trips out into the field, I have developed a strong opinion that many do not share.  Many, many people on the road are meteorologist, emergency personnel, or people who are trained to spot storms and call them in.  However, most are not.  Most people are out looking for a thrill, endangering lives as they fly down crowded highways doing 100+ miles per hour.  They don’t know what they are doing, and only escape death because they are not skilled enough to actually catch a storm.  Meanwhile, the responsible spotters and meteorologists trying to learn more from field research are blocked, ran off roads, and prevented from doing what many considered a job. (Some, such as Mr. Reed Timmer, make a living from this).  The best thing for the science and safety of people who are in the path of these storms (in my opinion) is for people who are not trained to just stay home.  So, if you like the excitement of Discovery Channel’s “Storm Chasers” or the movie “Twister” and really want a chance to get out and learn in the field about these storms, do it the right way.  Get yourself trained and find professionals to guide to.  It will ensure the safety of the scientists and observers on the road, as well as yourself.  I’ll step off my soap box now.

 

 

For more information on how to become a trained storm spotter in your area (you can spot more than just tornadoes as well!), click this link.

 

For more information on Reed Timmer and Discovery Channel’s “Storm Chasers,” click here.

 

— Meteorologist Megan Taylor


Very Active Atlantic!

September 8, 2011

Courtesy: National Hurricane Center

Right now we have three named storms in the Atlantic: Hurricane Katia, T.S. Maria, and T.S. Nate.

GOES Floater Satellite Imagery

Courtesy: National Hurricane Center

While Katia reached Cat 4 intensity at one point in her life, she is spinning around the outside of the Atlantic high, and was push along by shortwave that ejected from what used to be T.S. Lee.  That means she’s grabbing the ocean currents and heading out towards the UK.

GOES Floater Satellite Imagery

Courtesy National Hurricane Center

T.S. Maria is still pushing west, but is not in a favorable position to strengthen much as of now.  In fact, she is spinning beneath the Atlantic high, and is being pulled apart by higher winds in the upper level.  The NHC official track does put her close to U.S. soil by the end of the forecast period, but is it not clear yet at what intensity she would hit the U.S. if she does at all.

GOES Floater Satellite Imagery

Courtesy: National Hurricane Center

The latest storm to join the party is Tropical Storm Nate.  Nate is on the cusp of becoming a hurricane, and will likely do so by tomorrow afternoon. Right now models are pulling the storm hard west, and making landfall in the central Mexico peninsula.  However, the NHC is pulling the track a little further north, with a slight chance of extreme southern Texas getting some of the impact.  That would not be a terrible scenario if they caught a weak band or two coming in considering the massive drought that is currently occurring, as well as numerous fires.  However, hurricane force winds and severe weather with torrential rain would only make matters worse.