Wednesday, April 24, 2013

20 years ago: April 24, 1993 East Tulsa/Catoosa tornado

April 24, 1993: F4 Tornado vs truck along Interstate 44 just east of Tulsa, Okla. The picture is from the KJRH 2NEWS archives.

One of the largest tornadoes in local history struck East Tulsa and Catoosa on this date 20 years ago. The April 24, 1993 tornado killed 7 people, and it remains the deadliest single tornado in the Tulsa area.

The pictures below are rare dashcam images taken from nearly inside the tornado. A Catoosa policer officer shot the video as he nearly drove into the huge twister. I've posted a few "screen grabs" from the video.

The tornado first formed in East Tulsa as a huge storm quickly exploded over town. Businesses, churches and homes near Memorial Drive and Garnett suffered damage as the tornado developed.

The tornado quickly intensified into a nearly mile wide, rain-wrapped F4. 7 people died at and near Bruce's Truck Stop when the tornado crossed I-44 and moved into Catoosa.

Huge hail also accompanied the storm.

Catoosa police dash cam video. Looking west at the tornado. View from 193rd and I-44 (near present day Hard Rock Casino). Due to its size and the rain, many folks didn't recognize this as a tornado.

Not realizing the dark cloud was a tornado, the officer drives toward it. He quickly turns around. Inflow wind of 80-100mph blows debris across I-44.

The officer rides out the "edge" of the tornado in his patrol car. A large advertising sign blows across the road. The dark cloud on the left is the tornado. Baseball-size hail zooms from west to east past his car.

The officer travels east along I-44 after the tornado passes. That's a large metal overhead highway sign support ripped apart by the tornado. Good thing he stopped!

Aerial view. Bruce's Truck Stop was in the direct path of the tornado. The policeman (on right side) missed the strongest wind.

Radar image of the "hook echo" from the tornado. Image is from the NWS Doppler radar located near Inola. This radar serves the Tulsa area. The tornado was put into service only one day before!
Large tornadoes are easy to see in the "Doppler" mode. The term Doppler refers to detecting wind velocity. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Night Twister: Sallisaw tornado, March 30, 2013

Power lines exploding and flashing near Sallisaw from a night time twister. The pics below are the tornado's 1 minute
life cycle.  

Tornadoes at night are the most dangerous, and this 175 yard wide tornado seen here is a perfect example.

Channel 2 and other media received an email and video from a Norman resident- I won't identify him here as he requests. While visiting family in far eastern Oklahoma, he recorded this twister which touched down 2-3 miles outside of downtown Sallisaw.

The tornado was later rated EF-1 by the Tulsa NWS as wind neared 100-110 mph. This small tornado formed then disappeared quickly.

Tornadoes at night like this one are most difficult for meteorologists and storm chasers: the twister lived on the ground briefly, lasting for one minute (a radar sweep can take 5 minutes). Also, the tornado was only visible by lightning and electricity flashes near the ground.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The snow forecast for February 25-26, 2013

[ DISCLAIMER: the purpose of me writing this comes from my heart as I love my job. I'm hoping you find this info educational and informative. :)  ]

7-year old Ryan found enough snow for a snowman! This pic was taken in Bartlesville where 4" of snow was reported. Only 1-2" was left by sunrise.

I was really, really surprised when I heard so many jokes and criticism about the weather forecast-- (I'll make jokes too about forecasters! ) But I honestly thought Channel 2 did really well forecasting the February 25-26, 2013 snow event.

A few thoughts on the snow:
- Most folks slept during the snow. Snow was officially observed in Tulsa for 7 hours from 10pm to 5am. The snow was heavy at times, but it melted away by sunrise.

- I forecast snow totals of 1-4" thinking 1" totals if the snow melts quickly and the 4" if the temperature dropped a couple of degrees.

- A few viewers in Broken Arrow reported about 2" of snow before it melted by sunrise.

- I tried explaining to our viewers that snow has difficulty accumulating if the ground is wet from previous rain. The snow began melting on contact.

- I also showed a graphic of forecast rainfall, and I explained this included melting snow.

- The snow forecast for the OKC area was a bust.

- Tulsa county was only under a Winter Weather Advisory for light snow and slush accumulations.

- The Bartlesville area was placed under a Blizzard Warnings (this surprised me, and this was likely a cautionary reaction due to the monster snow and blizzard in western Oklahoma). While the visibility in Bartlesville reduced to 0.75 miles and 30+ mph wind gusts were observed, the blizzard didn't meet the full definition. 

Many folks, myself included, were hoping that the snow around Tulsa would stick longer-- my snow sled I bought two years ago remains wrapped up in plastic!

Below are graphics broadcast on KJRH, and pictures of what actually happened. Thanks for reading. George

I showed this graphic on the Monday morning news, and updated it on the 11am Midday news. Snow was officially reported in Tulsa from 10pm to 5am. As expected the heavy snow avoided Tulsa.

I showed this on TV.  Despite the seven hours of snow in Tulsa, the warm and wet ground melted it quickly. 2" was reported around Grand Lake. 2-3" was measured in the Stillwater area,  7"in Ponca City and 19" in Alva. OKC missed the heavy snow.

Actual snowfall totals.
I showed this graphic explaining the melting snow and beneficial rain totals would result.  
The actual rainfall totals.

My commute to work Tuesday at 12:30am. Notice the snow accumulating in the grass-- it melted by sunrise.

KJRH viewer Debbie Cunningham's yard turned white along Osage/Washington county line. As expected, most of the snow stayed W, NW and N of Tulsa.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Winning $1,000 for the Tulsa Humane Society: Let's Ask America

If you missed it, I represented Tulsa as a contestant on "Let's Ask America" (LAA), a nationally televised game show. Four meteorologists played for charity in a "meteorologists only" episode.

How did I get to be on the game show?

The LAA producers put out a casting call for meteorologists, and someone within my company submitted my name. I knew nothing about it and was quite shocked to get a phone call from California asking me to try out, a welcome surprise!

LAA recorded me playing a practice show via Skype, and within a week I received a call telling me that I made the cut. Yay! I got most of the questions correct too, so I was feeling confident.

Setting up for the game show was easy: The Channel 2 staff set up a laptop computer with Skype in the TV studio and connected it to the Internet. The game show was then recorded, editted and broadcast nationally on January 31, 2012. All contestants play from home or work.

How did I do on the show?

Hurricanes or politicians: Which did people in Florida say is more likely to make a mess of their state?

Florida, politicians and elections: wow, that's too easy! I remembered seeing silly questions before on the show and thought this might be the trick question. I answered hurricanes, thinking too of Hurricane Andrew from 1994. I missed it!
Answer: Politicians

Boyfriend or dog: Who did female dog owners say they keep on a shorter leash?

Hmmm. Do they want a silly answer or a serious answer? Based on the previous question, I didn't think they would have two silly answers in a row; therefore, I answered dog. I missed it!

Black or white: Which automobile color did car enthusiasts say is the hardest to keep clean?

Oh good, an easy one! Oklahoma's red dirt can cover a dark colored car in a hurry: black. I missed it! (I guess they didn't ask car enthusiasts from Oklahoma!)

The third wrong guess eliminated me from the show, despite my lucky sunshine tie!

Amber, the Phoenix meteorologist correctly answered "white." She won a total of $47,000 for her charity! The Humane Society of Tulsa did win $1,000 for my appearance.

Bottom line: I really, really had fun for this unique game show opportunity. Thank you Let's Ask America for the fun! I would certainly do it again.

Hopefully I'm better at guessing the weather forecast than my game show results. Thanks for reading. 


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Forecast: Heavy snow in Tulsa... Maybe. Ok, nevermind!

Channel 2 viewers in far eastern Oklahoma enjoyed a White Christmas. Up to 8" of snow reported.

You have probably have questioned the sanity of your local weatherman if you've lived in Oklahoma during an alleged snow event!

Why do snow forecasts vary so much?

Why do we sometimes miss the snow storms?

Here are some excuses (uhm, reasons):

Most "winter storm" type snow events in Oklahoma are caused by smallish, compact, intense Low pressure areas. If you are reading a detailed meteorological forecast discussion, you might see a Low called a shortwave, lobe and vort max to name a few.

Due to the Low's relatively small size but sometimes intense strength, big snowfall differences can result over a short distance. Your scenery can grow from zero snow into a winter wonderland in 20-30 miles!

So-- where does the heaviest snow occur ?

The highest totals are usually 100 to 150 miles north of the Low's center, mainly depending on the temperature profile, size and strength of the Low.

Where does the Low need to go for Tulsa (or other Oklahoma town) to get snow?

For Tulsa to get a major snow, the center of the Low must travel through southern Oklahoma or extreme north Texas-- basically traveling from W to E or SW to NE near the Red River.
This 500mb vorticity map is an example of a computer
model that meteorologists use to gauge the
strength of an approaching Low (near Arizona).
One of a zillion graphics to analyze!    
A Low has a counterclockwise circulation toward itself.

Why is there a short distance between heavy snow and zero snow?

A Low has a counterclockwise circulation toward itself.

This means that as bands of snow form, the precip rotates in a tight circle around and toward the center-- you might picture the circulation around a hurricane. It's the same idea.

(Sometimes you will see heavy snow on the north and west side of the Low with strong thunderstorms in the warmer air southeast of the Low.)

Much drier air and north wind exist just north of the snow bands, and this drier air evaporates the northern fringe of the snow. The dry air combined with the Low's tight circulation creates a sharp precipitation cut off. Sometimes an area as small as one county can be the snow line.

Another issue: snowfall forecasts are most likely to be a "busted forecast" if the Low travels too far south instead of north-- that's what happened on Christmas Day of 2012 at Tulsa ended up without measurable snow.

Several days before when the Low was 2,000 miles away, its center was progged by several computer models to track near the Red River. Instead, the Low moved about 100 miles farther south. The resulting snow line cut-off occurred between Tulsa and Interstate 40 instead of Tulsa and Bartlesville.

How much snow fell?

Viewers south and east of Tulsa reported totals of 0-1" near Muskogee; quickly increasing to 6" in the Warner/Interstate 40 area just south of Muskogee. 6-8" totals covered the ground near the OK/AR line south of Fort Smith. Low visibility and strong wind created near blizzard-like conditions for drivers.

While some complained about how horribly meteorologists performed, the snow was correctly forecast the night before. Dan Threlkeld was on the 10pm news that night, and he nailed it.

He lowered the snowfall to Tulsa to 0-1" for Tulsa. Most folks were spending time with their families on Christmas Eve night, so many didn't see the new data.

In summary:

- snowfall total forecasts more than 24 hours out can have huge errors.
- do not believe a forecast see you on the Internet a week away of heavy snow!
- a compact, Winter Storm type Low is hard to forecast due to its compact strength and small size.
- if a Winter storm type Low travels too far south, you could completely miss out on the snow.
- snow, precipitation type and snowfall amounts are the most difficult weather to forecast

Also, I have never tried to "hype" a weather event. I try to call it as I see it. :)

Hope this helps! Thanks for reading, George

Channel 2 viewers in McAlester and Checotah emailed us these pictures of their White Christmas.