Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.
By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:03 PM GMT on March 13, 2006
Sunday was a wild weather day across the Midwest, with 104 reports of tornadoes sent to the Storm Prediction Center, 336 reports of hail, and 89 reports of damaging thunderstorm winds. Damage survey teams are on the ground today to determine the how many tornadoes actually touched down, and how strong they were. Several of the tornadoes were 1/2 mile in width, and may have been violent F3 storms. I'll report tomorrow on the results of these damage surveys. The number of tornadoes was no doubt less than 103, since many of the tornado reports referred to the same tornado that affected more than one county.
Figure 1. Severe weather reports from Sunday's severe weather outbreak.
The severe weather will continue today, but atmospheric conditions are not nearly as volatile. The greatest threat of severe weather will be from large hail and damaging severe thunderstorm winds, although a few scattered tornadoes may pop out late this afternoon across Ohio and adjoining states. Today should be the last day of the severe weather outbreak, as the cold front associated with the strong low pressure area responsible moves off of the East Coast Tuesday morning.
Wildfires in Texas
Grass fires in drought-parched Texas killed seven people yesterday in the Panhandle, four of them in a car crash on I-40 caused by thick smoke obscuring visibility. More than 1,000 square miles of Texas burned yesterday--an area about two-thirds the size of Rhode Island. These fires were far more extensive than the ones in January that prompted the governor to declare a drought disaster. "This is probably one of the biggest fire days in Texas history," said Warren Bielenberg, a spokesman for the Texas Forest Service, in an interview with CNN. Amarillo has had only .32" of rain so far this year, compared to 1.55" in a normal year. The outlook today is more promising, as winds are expected to be lighter and temperatures cooler. The 10-day forecast is also somewhat promising, as a very active jet stream pattern is forecast to bring the chance of a major storm system to the desert Southwest and Texas early next week. However,this could also bring another severe weather outbreak to the country.
Figure 2.Latest drought map for the U.S., showing dry conditions in the Texas Panhandle that contributed to yesterday's deadly fires.
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