Monday, December 22, 2014

Backgrounder from Sunday's lightning event in Tampa

So what happens in the background when a large venue event client contracts the services of a company like Weather Decision Technologies? Here's a brief synopsis regarding the lightning event in Tampa Bay yesterday that you no doubt know about by now. Here's a quick recap:

Seven people were taken to the hospital Sunday after a lightning strike occurred in Raymond James Stadium parking lot #14 occurred following an NFL game in Tampa, Florida. It doesn't appear that anyone was directly struck and that a nearby SUV took the hit. Four to five other people received treatment at the scene but were not hospitalized per the Tampa Fire Department.

Clients in this case are Fox Sports Media Group via Sports Production Safety Group. Our job is to notify key operations personnel when weather threatens so that camera operators and support staff can vacate their positions and other asset-protection activities can be carried out. At 2:39pm EST we alerted the client that lightning had entered their first threshold which is 20 miles from the stadium:

At 3:52pm EST the first lightning strike entered a radius threshold of 8 miles of the stadium. The NFL game concluded prior to this time so current operations at the time consisted of dismantling equipment. Appropriate actions were taken by those onsite per pre-determined safety precaution checklists. Information sent to onsite personnel:

The lightning strike that affected fans in the parking lot occurred at 4:10pm EST. Between 4:00pm and 4:15pm, 349 strikes occurred within 15 miles of the stadium. There's no doubt many people were at risk. Lightning data following the time of the lot #14 strike looked like this (click to enlarge):

It is important to note that a consumer technology for lightning alerting can be found in WDT's Weather Radio and STRIKE applications available on iOS and Android. Perhaps with one of these apps those who were affected on Sunday would have been able to minimize their exposure before the strike.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Just another post about the Tampa lightning strike

WDT's WeatherOps with lightning overlay at the time of the event.
Seven people were transported to St. Joseph's Hospital after lightning struck in a parking lot near Raymond James Stadium after Sunday's game between the Buccaneers and Packers.

A Tampa Fire Department official said there was an "indirect lightning strike" in Parking Lot 14 minutes after the game ended and multiple people were knocked to the ground by the force. The official said four or five other people were knocked down, but declined to be transported to the hospital.

Medics that were staffing the game were the first to arrive on the scene and began treating the injuries. The official said the age of those who were transported ranged in age from early 20s to above 70.

The Weather Channel lightning map features a strike nowhere near lot 14
One of the vehicles affected by the strike
Another view
Emergency responders
Wide view of responders on the scene
It's truly impressive just how well social media works to collect news. With exception of the top map, which I produced out of the WDT WeatherOps system, each of these images were available within minutes of event occurrence.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Top 10 Tornado Days of 2014

Seems like the popular thing to do today is write articles about the recent release of the graph below. I'd be remiss if I didn't add to the clutter. 

Top 10 tornado days of 2014:

2014 was one of the lowest tornado years on record with only 876.

Friday, December 19, 2014

January - March 2015 Temperature/Precip Outlook

Here is the Jan - March 2015 temperature outlook from the NOAA's Climate Prediction Center:

And here is the three month, Jan-Mar 2015, precip outlook from NOAA's Climate Prediction Center:

WeatherBug says these are the top weather stories of 2014

From January to December, here’s a look at the Top 10 U.S. Weather Headlines for 2014 in chronological order:
1. Arctic Chill Grips Half of U.S.: In January, record-breaking cold Arctic outbreaks swooped across the U.S. east of the Rockies. Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia all had among the coldest Januarys on record. The cold weather helped push the Great Lakes’ ice coverage to 92.2 percent by March 6 -- the most since 1979.
2. Winter Storm Paralyzes East: In Februarya powerful Nor’easter swept up the East Coast before Valentine’s Day. One to 3 feet of snow covered the Mid-Atlantic to eastern New England. Farther south, ice coated roads from central Alabama to eastern North Carolina. At least nine people died across the Atlanta area and more than 70 percent of flights were canceled in Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Charlotte, N.C.
3. Spring Snow Wallops Upper Midwest: In April, two snow storms within two weeks helped the Twin Cities and Duluth, Minn., enter the record books. On April 3-4, a storm dumped 6.5 inches on the Twin Cities, while other areas got more than a foot. Less than two weeks later, a second storm brought more than 6 inches of snow to Duluth – bringing the city’s total to 125.3 inches for the season and making it the fifth snowiest season on record.
4. Slow but Fierce Tornado Season: On April 25, nine tornadoes hit eastern North Carolina. A baby died and more than 300 homes were damaged or destroyed. A rash of tornadoes two days later from the Mid-South to the Plains and Upper Midwest killed 22. On April 27, the deadliest tornado of 2014 tore through Mayflower and Vilonia, Ark., causing 16 of these deaths. Rare twin tornadoes hit Pilger, Neb., June 16, leveling much of the town and killing two.
5. Hurricane Arthur Clips East Coast: As the July 4th holiday weekend approached, Hurricane Arthur became the earliest known land-falling hurricane to hit North Carolina. Its peak wind gust hit 101 mph at Cape Lookout as Arthur made landfall as a Category 2 storm on July 3. Arthur accelerated on July 4, dampening Independence Day festivities across the Northeast. Total damage from the Bahamas to Nova Scotia was estimated at more than $50 million.
6. Wildfires Gut Western U.S.: Spurred by prolonged drought and Santa Ana winds, wildfires burned more than 3.5-million acres, causing $640 million in damages. In northern California, the Happy Camp Complex fire burned more than 134,000 acres. Washington’s Carlton Complex Fire burned more than 250,000 acres, becoming the largest in the state’s history. Oregon’s Buzzard Complex Fire was the largest in 2014, burning almost 400,000 acres.
7. Relentless Drought Plagues California: A relentless three-year long drought continued to plague California. In the wake of the driest-ever year in 2013, 2014 (through November) ranks as the state's twenty-third driest year in 119 years. As of December 17, California’s major reservoirs held just 57 percent of their average storage and 78 percent of California is in an "extreme" drought.
8. Tropical Systems Soak Southwest: In early September, the sixth major hurricane of the eastern Pacific season pumped record rain into the Southwest. The storm washed out a 50-mile stretch of Interstate 15 north of Las Vegas. On September 8, a record-setting 3.30 inches of rain fell in Phoenix. The next day, Yuma, Ariz., got 1.44 inches, breaking the daily record. Overall, Phoenix got 5.11 inches -- its second wettest September on record.
9. Lake-Effect Snow Buries Buffalo: Two weeks before Thanksgiving, snow fell at an astonishing 4 inches per hour on the eastern Great Lakes and the Buffalo, N.Y. area, which received total snowfall up to 6 feet. Snow shut down a swath of Interstate 90 and the New York State Thruway. A second system brought 1-2 feet of additional snow. The lake-effect snow forced the typically weather-resistant NFL to reschedule the Buffalo Bills’ home game from November 23 to the following night in Detroit.
10. Much-Needed Rain for California: On the Way: Mired in a multi-year drought, many Californians recently saw a glimmer of hope. A series of Pacific storms dumped more than a foot of rain across the state in December. Whiskeytown measured an astonishing 14.48 inches, while Lakeshore Shasta County, Hawkeye, and Boggs Mountain each soared past 10 inches in under 72 hours. San Francisco, Oakland and Santa Rosa, Calif., all boasted records on December 11.
"The top 10 weather events of 2014 were chosen based on the impact they had in each part of the U.S., says WeatherBug Meteorologist Chad Merrill. “There was no single, outstanding storm -- like a Hurricane Sandy or Katrina -- that gripped the nation. Despite that, a plethora of events unfolded, starting with the major cold outbreak that kicked off the year in the Central and Eastern U.S. to drought, wildfires and flooding that plagued the West."

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Why not balloons?

I read an article today about better understanding tornadoes by penetrating them with scientific instruments attached to $30-50k drones. The article is entitled "Drones might help explain how tornadoes form" and can be found here.

I'm really curious as to why rarely anyone considers the weather balloon as a viable way to deliver instruments near to or into a tornado. So many people concentrate on hair-brained ideas like flying helicopters and RC airplanes or shooting rockets, seemingly never able to consider that in application they will be in a supercell environment. Not only are these expensive, they are not going to fly well in the inflow.

Weighted sensors and cameras on the ground have proven successful and seem to be what the majority of chasers and/or scientists lean toward when attempting to gain usable data. The activity of placing these in the path of an approaching tornado can prove deadly.

So why not the balloon? No, probably not a full fledged weather balloon due to the fact that the logistics of filling on location would be a huge downside; but rather a scaled down version capable of carrying pertinent instruments, cameras, and a locator. Getting the instrument headed toward its target is as simple as releasing it into the inflow. Sure, the balloon will burst when impacted by debris but at that point it is likely close enough to provide valuable data.

Rain and more rain + Cali update

Impressive rainfall amounts are expected over the next three days as yet another strong system delivers with it plentiful energy. The upper NW coast is in the crosshairs this week with 6+ inches of rain possible along with up to 8" of snow in the higher elevations of northern California.

Worth noting is a small area of east Texas and central Louisiana that could receive over 3 inches of rain in the next couple of days. There is no drought to extinguish in that area.

Dents have been made in the California drought situation and hopefully this map will look even better next week for the northern 1/3 of the state. Last week's rain helped to supplement reservoir levels. The Nov. 28 Trinity, Shasta, Oroville, Folsom, and San Luis Lakes percent of capacity was 23, 23, 26, 28, and 23; on Dec. 16, they increased to 29, 32, 33, 38, and 33 percent, respectively.