Damaging storms that also traumatize us

Storm Prediction Center, NOAA.  Day 1 and 2 convective outlooks for wind. (Click to enlarge)

Storm Prediction Center, NOAA. Day 1 and 2 convective outlooks for wind. (Click to enlarge)

The American Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions are in for some strong winds and severe weather, today in the Midwest and tomorrow in the Mid-Atlantic states, per the Storm Prediction Center.

The potential is there, today and tomorrow, for another big windstorm like last year’s derecho on June 29th.

It may or may not verify – such things are very difficult to predict, but certainly there is going to be a lot of stormy weather in these areas, and it’s the kind that depends on atmospheric factors, not the sun, so it’s going to continue overnight.

The SPC and other weather offices and emergency notification sources are quite good at what they do, and I only blog about it when the SPC uses the word “outbreak” in their forecasts, because they use it rarely and the potential threat then justifies spreading the word in every way possible.

Of course, severe weather, particularly tornadoes, happens according to its own rhythms, not humanity’s. Oklahoma’s recordbreaking El Reno EF-5 tornado, which came this close to Oklahoma City, occurred on a day when the SPC only had a Slight risk forecasted.

Professional meteorologists are awesome, both for the way they handle such potentially deadly events on a daily basis as well as for their knowledge. I can’t easily face up to the really bad stuff and choose to limit my blogging on severe weather episodes this way because such things are traumatizing.

Superstorm Sandy

Last week, the National Hurricane Center did something I have never seen them do during the several years I’ve been following such things: They continued covering a storm – Andrea – after it had transitioned into an extratropical system.

ZCZC MIATCDAT1 ALL
TTAA00 KNHC DDHHMM

POST-TROPICAL CYCLONE ANDREA DISCUSSION NUMBER 9
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL012013
500 PM EDT FRI JUN 07 2013

SURFACE OBSERVATIONS AND DOPPLER RADAR DATA INDICATE THAT ANDREA IS
NO LONGER TROPICAL. DEEP CONVECTION OVER NORTH CAROLINA
APPEARS TO BE ASSOCIATED MORE WITH A FRONTAL ZONE THAN THE
CYCLONE ITSELF…AND THE LOW-LEVEL CENTER HAS BEGUN TO LOSE
DEFINITION. HOWEVER…EVEN THOUGH THE CYCLONE IS BEING DECLARED
POST-TROPICAL…ADVISORIES FROM NHC WILL CONTINUE UNTIL THE SYSTEM
NO LONGER POSES A SIGNIFICANT THREAT TO THE U.S. EAST COAST.

Andrea, fortunately, never even became a hurricane. It was a soaker, but by the time it got up to the northeast, it was moving too quickly to cause historic flooding.

Andrea did intensify rather quickly just as it was making landfall in Florida, but conditions were different on June 7th and 8th. It wasn’t really an exceptional storm, but I had to live-blog it.

I think there was such a fuss over Andrea because it was the first cyclone in the area since Sandy last year.

We live in an information age, and frankly, while it was awesome, it was also too much to be able to sit and watch New York and its environs get trashed in real time last year. I think we all got scarred from that experience somewhat.

Experience counts

Knowing that now, I feel more understanding when thinking about the evacuation controversy over some parts of the media coverage of the El Reno tornado.

Just 30 miles away, another EF-5 had hit the Moore area less than two weeks before the 2.6-mile-wide El Reno tornado. People were traumatized, and then they were threatened by another, even worse tornado.

Having recognized the “Sandy hangover” with Andrea here in the East, it’s easier to understand why those broadcasters warned people as they did on May 31st. Perhaps even some of the meteorologists who now criticize them might have done the same thing, had they been in the same situation.

Certainly objectivity is central in hazard management, but we need to include the human psyche in the database. Only those who were close to that horrible end of May in the Oklahoma City area can really judge how well the events were covered. The rest of us just aren’t in the same boat as those meteorologists and their viewing audience.

Their experience, difficult as it was, can teach us much about how best to handle the emotional as well as the physical threats of severe weather.

The question is, how much do we want to learn when it is so painful?



Categories: Weather

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