One more completely dry day, and remembering May 3, 1999

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SUMMARY

We’ll squeeze out one more dry day before the front out west gets close enough to bring in some shower chances around here. We’ll keep some clouds around again today. These are remnants of the big storms that have been occurring over the Plains. The tops of those clouds blow off and move this way in the westerlies (we call it cloud debris). We’ll see more of that today, as more storms rage across the Plains. When the front finally does make it here  on Saturday, the severe threat will have dwindled. All we’ll be left with is scattered showers and storms. It will be quite warm and humid tomorrow and Saturday and will feel very summer-like.

The front tries to clear us on Sunday and that could bring in a bit drier air, but we’ll hold on to a chance of a shower, since that front will still be hanging out in our area. Another disturbance arrives Monday with a better chance of showers/storms. There continues to be no clear indication of widespread severe weather over the next week to ten days.

This chart was designed yesterday by a gentlemen in Middle TN who keeps track of all the warnings issued by the NWS Nashville office. This really is remarkable and is due to this very cool, wet spring we had. The chart highlights the number of days that the NWS Nashville office has issued tornado warnings.

One. One day this whole spring. And nothing came of the warnings that day except some minor straight-line wind damage. So, complain as we might about the cool, damp spring weather, at least we have had no lives lost or hurt, or homes destroyed by severe weather that would likely have resulted from warmer days.

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DISCUSSION

As for the rain chances this weekend, if you have outdoor plans make sure you have an alternative plan, or a place to seek shelter from lightning should a storm visit you. The air mass will be so warm and humid that this front will be just enough to kick off showers and storms. It won’t be a washout, but keep in mind that showers and storms will be around and most of us will see some rain.

I mentioned how quiet it has been this spring with severe weather. It’s been quiet for most of our country! Even Oklahoma has been quiet. It had looked like yesterday was going to be a very active severe weather day for them, and it many ways it was very active. But, we did not see any long-track, violent tornadoes that many of us were rather confident that they would see. They may have broke their tornado-free streak, but barely. They had some very impressive storms but they seemed to struggle to get rotation to the ground. That’s just how it goes sometimes.

The chasers were out in mass yesterday, for sure! Many of them were disappointed. Even the storms that did rotate enough to produce tornadoes tended to have rain-wrapped tornadoes. Which is never a good thing if you’re trying to see one while chasing.

This is a screen shot I took at one point. Each of those little dots (I have arrows pointing to three of them) represent a chaser with the app on their phone to let us track them on radar. They usually have their phone numbers available, too, so you can call them and ask them what they’re seeing. I’ve had that happen to me several times while chasing. It helps the others know what’s worth trying to get too.  This is actually  a bit tame looking, I’ve seen it get much worse than this. They all crowd toward the storms and they remind me of ants going for spilled honey on the kitchen counter. Ha

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Today is a very important anniversary in the weather world and a date that most of us weather weenies simply refer to as “May 3”. Just say “May 3” the next time you’re in a crowd and you’ll automatically summon the weather weenies amongst you (ha). (Seriously). On this day in 1999 we witnessed a tornado outbreak that, in my opinion, remains unmatched in many ways. First of all, models showed that severe weather was likely and that tornadoes would occur, but they never indicated the magnitude of the likes we would see that day. In fact, when the data is plugged into today’s models, they still fail to predict the magnitude of what happened that day.

The most powerful tornado ever recorded by radar was recorded in Bridge Creek, Oklahoma in the afternoon of May 3, 1999. A wind of 318 mph was measured with a mobile Doppler radar from the University of Oklahoma. At that time, we still had the regular Fugita scale and F-5 stopped at 318 mph. Today, the enhanced Fugita scale cuts tornadoes off at EF-5, so we’ll never have an EF-6. I should add that the winds of a tornado increase dramatically with height and that 300+ measurement was recorded about a 100 feet off the ground. That’s still little comfort, right?

What’s worse is that the storm moved right into the southern suburbs of Oklahoma City and into Moore, Oklahoma. The devastation was unlike anything we had seen. Everything was gone. I’m not saying that to mean that there were piles of rubble and upside down cars, etc. I mean, in many instances, everything was gone. Gone. Think about this, our Tansi tornadoes hit EF-3, with winds of 150ish mph. Folks, try doubling that. Yeah.

This tornado was on the ground for over an hour and gave folks in Moore so much time to prepare that many of them simply got in their cars and left town. In fact, some broadcast meteorologists in Oklahoma City were actually telling people to do that. It was unsurvivable above ground (some died in their basements). News helicopters following the storm showed a landscape plowed by this storm and many knew it was at least an F-4. Now, we tell people to stay out of their cars but this situation was different. It was unsurvivable. Less than 1% of all tornadoes fall into this category. Driving away saved lives. Plus, the roads out there are straight and it’s easy to navigate. The coverage of the storm by media outlets was phenomenal, so you had that in your favor too. In other words, the conditions for getting away from a storm are VASTLY different there than for most any place in the country. Therefore, it is best to take cover in your home.

Nearly 80 tornadoes rakes the state of Oklahoma that day. Many of those were quite strong to violent. Forty-four lives were lost in Moore but that is incredible considering the damage.

A few years ago another big tornado threatened Moore and folks tried to leave in their cars again. This time, they got stuck in traffic jams and it’s a miracle they didn’t all get killed.

I was out there just two weeks after the 1999 tornado to tour OU University. The damage was absolutely insane. I could tell stories all day. I had scheduled that tour months in advance. If I had scheduled it exactly two weeks earlier, I would have been there for this tornado.

I would see that kind of damage there again in 2013, while out there chasing. I missed seeing the 2013 EF-5 by only miles. Moore has a bizarre history with tornadoes that I’ll tell you about later.

We have only had one F-5 in Tennessee….ever. That was April 16, 1998 in southern Middle TN. Let’s hope we never see anything like that on the plateau!

Here is a famous pic taken of the May 3, 1999 tornado as it moved across the rural countryside, headed to Moore, OK. Notice the satellite tornado off to the side.

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You all have a great day and be thankful our weather is so quiet!

 

 

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