Five years since the Ides of March Outbreak

KCLX Level II radar image at 8:29 PM March 15, 2008, as seen through GR2Analyst. A supercell thunderstorm near Moncks Corner had just produced a tornado in the Strawberry neighborhood (between Moncks Corner and Goose Creek) while a forward flank downdraft from a supercell heading over southwest Charleston County was entering downtown Charleston (where I was living at the time). Radar estimated maximum hail size of 1.5 to 2 inches with these storms in addition to intense rotation.
KCLX Level II radar image at 8:29 PM March 15, 2008, as seen through GR2Analyst. A supercell thunderstorm near Moncks Corner had just produced a tornado in the Strawberry neighborhood (between Moncks Corner and Goose Creek) while a forward flank downdraft from a classic supercell heading over southwest Charleston County was entering downtown Charleston (where I was living at the time). While the tornado threat was greatly reduced near the coast, spotters reported quarter-size hail with storms near Johns Island, while baseball-size hail later fell on Hilton Head Island.

Today marks five years since supercells packing tornadoes, strong straight-line winds, and large hail ravaged South Carolina and Georgia in an incredibly unusual atmospheric setup for mid-March known as the Ides of March Tornado Outbreak. (Typically, our most favored time for tornadoes is April and May, according to a National Weather Service research study.)

The March 15 outbreak introduced me to the concept of a Particularly Dangerous Situation Tornado Watch, an enhanced type of severe weather watch more common in the Plains and in Dixie Alley (MS/AL). (Indeed, it was this outbreak which triggered my most intense study into meteorology as well as watch and warning dissemination and spurned on the creation of @chswx a few weeks later.) Here is the archived watch, PDS Tornado Watch 120, at the Storm Prediction Center website.

Three supercells from this event stand out for me: one spawned a EF1 tornado in the Strawberry mobile home community, causing $250,000 in damage and injuring several people (source). It struck a little too close to home for comfort; my parents live just a few miles south of Strawberry in Goose Creek and were very fortunate to dodge that bullet. A second supercell over Hollywood brought very strong winds to where I was living in downtown Charleston at the time — believe it or not, it was the first classic supercell thunderstorm I had ever been in! I didn’t see any hail but the wind was fierce — reminiscent of Hugo videos — with driving heavy rain. On Hilton Head Island, the third supercell produced baseball-size hail at the Hilton Head Airport causing severe damage to aircraft.

In the end, tornado damage up to an EF3 rating was found in several parts of the state (particularly on NWS Columbia’s turf). The Charleston metro area dodged a big bullet as a seabreeze had moved through earlier in the day which helped cut off needed surface-based instability for tornado formation closer to the coast.

Level III image from the afternoon of 3/15/2008 as supercells move through the Midlands of SC.
Level III image from the KCAE WSR-88D captured on the afternoon of 3/15/2008 as supercells moved through the Midlands of SC. (Please excuse the radar branding. Old inside jokes don’t hold up well in historical contexts…)

For more information, including a great technical discussion of the ingredients that led to such a rare outbreak, read NWS Charleston’s summary of the event; I also recommend their research paper (PDF) as it gets really deep into the meteorology. It also explores the challenges of issuing storm-based severe weather warnings in such a widespread severe weather situation (especially since storm-based, polygon warnings had just rolled out).

Fortunately, this March has been very calm and I’m pretty sure we all prefer it that way.


Severe setup for tomorrow

A fairly spring-like and potentially damaging weather event seems to be coming together for tomorrow. A really potent disturbance is making its way through the South, firing off some severe weather including tornadoes. We’ll be seeing that tomorrow — yes, with a threat of tornadoes — as well as a chance for some extremely high winds (some reaching up to 45 to 50 MPH 35 to 40 MPH at times even outside of thunderstorms, mostly in coastal areas). We’ve currently got a High Wind Watch for areas along the coast, and that could be bumped to a warning if the pressure gradient does indeed tighten the way forecasters expect it to. As expected, the Storm Prediction Center has us in a “slight” risk of severe weather tomorrow, so definitely keep an eye out to the skies and be ready for the unexpected. With the risk of high winds tomorrow, it may not be a bad idea to pull some loose stuff in tonight.

My day job has me sequestered in training for most of the day, but I’ll pop in during breaks in case something occurs.

UPDATE: The High Wind Watch was downgraded to a Wind Advisory, which takes effect at 1 PM. NWS now believes that the low, while still quite potent, won’t kick up the higher 45-50 MPH winds as first thought.

In Brief Weather

Rough day in store tomorrow

It’s never good when a meteorologist says “tomorrow looks crazy”. Apparently we are in for quite a wallop tomorrow. Mississippi’s getting pretty battered by severe weather now; there’s one cell in particular that’s kicked up a possible tornado and confirmed damage reports. If this holds together the way they expect it to, expect a heck of a show tomorrow. I’d take stock of what’s in your backyard and maybe tie it down. I’m going to try to timelapse it somehow, too. My next project in my news class is a music montage. This would be one heck of a montage…I can show a lot of time in a montage, after all.


Unreal Tornado Outbreak in Mississippi

I’ve had GRLevel3 open today to see if it’s going to rain around here anytime in the next few hours, and caught that Mississippi is being ravaged by tornadoes this afternoon. Looking on the map, there are at least eight warnings out right now, for some very sinister-looking storms that have very clearly-defined tornadic echoes.

This outbreak comes on the heels of a deadly Midwest outbreak earlier this week. We’ve got storms forecasted for tomorrow, but thus far NWS’s language has not outlined any particular severe weather threat for the area, though that could change.

Yes, it’s January, not April — though it sure feels like April.


Stormy weather!

I’ve gotta say, those storms that rolled through at about 6:30 yesterday were pretty intense. You don’t see tornado warnings around here every day, and sure enough, we had two. The first warning was issued for Berkeley and Charleston counties which apparently stemmed from a sighting of a funnel cloud. The next warning was triggered by a Doppler-indicated rotation (though it’s worth noting NEXRAD didn’t specifically point out a TVS with this storm, it did see rotation briefly. Typically in situations in which there is a high risk of tornadoes, NWS engineers will reconfigure the affected areas’ radars for more sensitive tornado detection.

Here’s where I’m going to SCREAM about something, though — namely, Comcast’s slow as hell method of breaking in to EVERY CHANNEL on cable to let people know of a tornado warning ten minutes after it was issued. I was being texted as soon as the warnings were issued, and I timed the response between the text message (which was in conjunction with the e-mail I also get) and the display on Comcast. (The Weather Channel is dead-on accurate, as usual.) The fact that they broke in five to ten minutes later than the issue time is very likely five to ten minutes too late. If they’re going to interrupt my housemate and I watching “How It’s Made” (a GREAT show on Discovery), then they need to make sure they’re doing it ASAP.

That aside, the mini wall cloud that approached with the storm was amazing. I got a picture of it — I’ll upload it tomorrow. It was pretty amazing seeing the sky go from light, to dark in the west, to completely dark within the course of 10 minutes. I used to see this all the time when I lived further inland in Goose Creek, but living downtown has been a different story; often times, the storms don’t hold it together by the time they make it here. We got a little under a half inch of rain in the course of an hour, just enough to connect the puddles on Ashley to make things tricky. It also helped to drop the temperature about 15 degrees. If it weren’t for the storm, I’m sure the lows would not have gotten out of the 80s again. It looks like it’s going to hold steady at 75 throughout the night, and then back for more heating tomorrow. It looks like they hold a chance of storms every day for the rest of the week — a good thing, because we need the rain, but not good for the baseball fans out there. Such is a summer in Charleston, though.

As Per Whatever Weather

March Madness of a different type…

It’s one heck of a busy night/morning for the National Weather Service. Lots of warnings going up everywhere. These storms just love to rotate…we have a tornado watch for a few more hours. I’ve been taking some screenshots of GRLevel3 tonight and sharing them on a Facebook album called Tornado Vortex Signatures (And Other NEXRAD Phenomena). It’s open to the public, so please, feel free to peek. :)

I would have blogged during the day, but the Internet connection at the College was out all day. A vital piece of hardware at the College’s ISP failed and they had to ship down a new part. In other words, they were carrying replacement tubes for the Internet(s) inside a big truck. Haha.

See you all tomorrow. Be careful driving over the bridge(s) — it’s going to be pretty windy for the next few hours…

As Per Whatever

Post-Christmas Debriefing

Christmas this year was nice — naturally, I stayed with the family in Goose Creek for the night as is tradition. I was pretty slack in not completing my wrapping until 1am, though, as I was frantically trying to post Christmas messages on as many MySpaces possible — a very Web 2.0 way of caroling (I inevitably missed some people, too…oops!) This year certainly marked the first time I ever awoke on Christmas morning to a tornado warning, though. It could have been a lot worse, though: my hearts go out to the families in Florida whose homes were seriously damaged by the tornadoes that touched down yesterday.

After that bit of excitement and bamboozlement got out of the way, the next struggle was getting my brother to wake up. That took a while, but he was eventually wooed at the idea of cinnamon rolls, etc. :) Then we opened our gifts — not around the tree, thanks to a new addition to the family (I’ll be getting to that in a few), but rather at the table. It was also the most organized unwrapping of gifts we had ever done, because as soon as something was unwrapped, the wrapping went in the trash — no conglomeration of dead wrapping paper trees or anything like that. This, too, was a consequence of the as-yet-unnamed New Addition to the Family.

So if last year was the Year of Whiz-Bang Gadgetry for Jared’s PC(s), this year was the Year of the Gift Card to Finally Buy New Clothes For The First Time in a Year and a Half. So yeah, I’ll be checking out the Tanger Outlet when things start to calm down a bit. Should be good — yes, it really has been that long. I just don’t wear things out like I used to. I got some other nice, random things that I’ve needed so that’ll be useful. I’m definitely a big fan of utility gifts. One thing I do need to do with some of my Christmas money is buy Anchorman, though. It is a travesty that’s not in my collection yet.

The rest of the day was playing Gears of War on my brother’s Xbox 360, watching Talladega Nights, and falling asleep as Philadelphia embarrassed the Cowboys. Then I went home and cranked Trammell Starks, as no one else was in the house. :) A good day, to be sure.

I mentioned this “new addition to the family” a couple times. Well, a couple weeks ago my dad — despite his temporary stay in my mother’s doghouse as a result — brought home Holly, a part Siberian husky/yellow lab mix. And, well, she’s adorable, if not quite a handful at the moment (7 weeks!). Yes, there are pictures (click the thumbnails for larger sizes):

Holly Holly Holly

So here we are, on the home stretch of 2006. This year went fast. I’ll be finishing up a semi-large Year in Review blog post here soon (it’s in my drafts). Now I need to find out what/if I’m doing anything for New Years’, as this whole sitting alone playing Counterstrike thing like I did last year, well, completely blew. ;)


It’s not over yet…

If you’ve stepped outside this morning (in Charleston, anyway ;)), you will definitely notice that the cold front has yet to come through. Those storms were pretty intense last night, causing some damage in Summerville according to the local news outlets. In my little nook of downtown, there wasn’t so much thunder and lightning activity as there was a great deal of heavy, wind-blown rain. It was pretty intense, and in the short time the storm was around, it dumped a bit over a half an inch of rain. Ponding? You betcha.

But, as the title indicates, it’s not over yet. The Storm Prediction Center issued a new tornado watch this morning. Here’s why, in meteorologist-speak:

Discussion… potential will continue for development of a few
supercells in strongly sheared Low-Cape environment ahead of
segmented cold front
now crossing Piedmont NC/SC.

In layman speak, this means there is still a chance for thunderstorms that have that rotation necessary for tornado development. With the sun peeking out between the clouds, that could further excite the atmosphere and thus ramp up thunderstorm formation. Looking at the radar this morning, there are still some showers out there but as the daylight heating hits, one never knows what could happen. Keep a headsup until about 3 or so, when the watch expires…


Busy night ahead…

Keep an eye to the sky as the day progresses into tonight; we’ve got one heck of a cold front headed in with strong winds associated with it (35-40 mph winds are expected) along with some severe thunderstorms. The main threat with the severe thunderstorms is damaging winds. Check out the wind advisory and the Special Weather Statement about the impending excitement tonight…

UPDATE: Seems the NWS is using unusually strong language, categorizing this as a “significant severe weather event” and stating it is a “potentially dangerous situation.” Here’s the latest statement:

1143 am EST Wed Nov 15 2006

…Significant severe weather event possible tonight…

A strong storm system will move from the Tennessee Valley to the
eastern Great Lakes region tonight through Thursday. This will
allow a strong cold front to push through southern South Carolina
and southeast Georgia late tonight or early Thursday morning.
Very strong winds just above the surface will develop in advance
of the cold front this evening and will continue overnight. As the
system approaches the area…widespread showers and thunderstorms
are expected to develop…mainly after midnight. Although the
amount of instability remains in question…wind fields are quite
supportive of severe weather…and the stronger cells that develop
will allow the stronger winds aloft to mix down to the surface.
Aside from the damaging wind hazard…strong low level wind shear
will also result in a chance for isolated tornadoes across the

At this time…it appears the best chance for severe weather will
be from midnight through mid-morning Thursday. Because winds will
be so strong just above the surface…intense rain showers
producing absolutely no lightning will be capable of producing
damaging winds at the surface as well. Therefore…wind gusts
greater than 58 mph will be possible with little or no warning.

This is a potentially dangerous situation. Stay tuned to NOAA
Weather Radio all hazards…TV or your local news source for the
latest statements from the National Weather Service. Be sure to
keep your NOAA Weather Radio in alert Mode at all times.

Very, very interesting…apparently NWS Charleston is even conducting a briefing for broadcast meteorologists in Charleston and Savannah at 4 today. Might be a good idea to keep an eye on Brian Goode’s blog today, as things could get quite nasty tonight.

As Per Whatever Politics Weather

Last few days’ roundup

I’ve been going quite nuts toward the end of this past week trying to secure a new apartment, deal with stuff at work, and the like. Forgive me for my lack of bloggage. I’ll try and make it up with a crash course of the last few days.