The latest Storm Prediction Center Day 4-8 Severe Weather Outlook issued on Apr 4, 2015 hints at a potentially active severe weather episode across several states. Several ingredients will be missing early in the week, so that will keep things in check. On Wednesday, conditions look more interesting, especially across Kansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri. In the map below, the Day 5 (D5) severe weather probability is outlined in yellow and currently is at 15%. That may not sound like a lot, but it’s enough for the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) to take notice of. In the Storm Prediction Center Outlook, “WITH STRONG INSTABILITY AND MODERATELY STRONG SHEAR EXPECTED…ENVIRONMENT WILL FAVOR SUPERCELLS…AND ASSOCIATED RISK
FOR LARGE HAIL…DAMAGING WINDS…AND POSSIBLE TORNADOES.” (Please note: The use of upper case letters is standard for all NOAA/National Weather Service products). Essentially this means that instability (energy for storms to form) and shear (movement of air in the atmosphere that will help storms form large hail, and possible tornadoes) will be present.
Looking ahead to Thursday, the Day 6 (D6) Outlook has a higher probability of severe weather across several states…from Texas and Oklahoma to Illinois and Indiana. This is where the forecast becomes more challenging. Storms that may have formed on Wednesday can be 1.) ongoing and still severe Thursday morning and/or 2.) affect the atmosphere in such a way that it will be difficult for forecasters to pin down a more specific outlook area where Thursday’s storms might form. Regardless, the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) is confident enough to have added a 30% probability to the Day 6 outlook. From the outlook discussion, “A FAIRLY BROAD AFTERNOON AND EVENING ZONE OF RISK FOR LARGE HAIL AND DAMAGING WINDS ALONG WITH A FEW TORNADOES IS EVIDENT EXTENDING FROM ILLINOIS SOUTHWESTWARD ACROSS MISSOURI/ARKANSAS INTO SOUTHEASTERN KANSAS/EASTERN OKLAHOMA AND POSSIBLY INTO NORTH CENTRAL/NORTHEASTERN TEXAS.” Having said that, confidence is rather high that Thursday will be a very active severe weather day with all the trimmings. Now for the caveat emptor.
WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN FOR ME?
Let’s clear up a few things first. This forecast can and will change during the week. Like any of the best laid plans, things evolve or “Plan B” needs to be put into action. The Storm Prediction Center (SPC) is simply trying to convey the “heads up” that they see the potential for severe weather for the middle of the coming week. This post is also only my own subjective take on the SPC’s outlook along with some other computer model forecast information I’ve been watching. The Storm Prediction Center, your local National Weather Service Office, and the broadcast meteorologists of your choice are the best and most reliable sources of information to keep you and your family safe. If you want to keep close tabs on these severe weather outlooks, please follow the Storm Prediction Center on Twitter and visit their website often (at least two or three times a day) to monitor updates. On the menu to your right, click on the “Outlooks” tab for information pertinent to severe weather forecasts. Their website also has a wealth of information on how forecasts are made and what the Marginal/Slight/Enhanced/Moderate/High risks mean. It’s a very good “bookmark worthy” resource that everyone with even a passing interest in weather can benefit from.
- Should I worry?
- No. Simply make note of the possibility of severe weather this week and how it may affect your errands, commute, family plans, school, or work schedule, etc. It’s also a very good time to check your NOAA weather radio to make sure it has fresh batteries and is functioning properly. If you prepare ahead and stay on top of official forecasts, you will be safe (and feel safer) not just for this week, but the coming weeks and years ahead. Severe weather is a fact of life for most of the contiguous USA east of the Rocky mountains and, like the big snows in upstate New York, are something you should expect, prepare for, and take necessary precautions should you need to if a warning is issued for your area.
- For those of you who have a degree of anxiety with storms, you’re not alone. Even the most modest of storms can bring some people into a very distressing panic attack. One thing that many severe weather aficionados don’t understand is there is a significant proportion of the population that does not share their enthusiasm. Some folks have a simple phobia of storms, lightning, thunder, etc. Others carry psychological and/or physical scars after having suffered through devastating personal loss directly related to a storm event in their past. If you’re in those groups, there’s one thing (well…make that two) you need to remember. First, the chances of the worst case scenario happening are very small. Second, stick with official sources of weather information and avoid the fear mongers at all costs. A good analogy is a quiet lake full of ducks…it looks calm until one or two start flapping their wings, splashing around, and cackling like they’re stark raving mad. While their “death-from-the-skies” rants may garner them a lot of followers on Twitter, likes to their Facebook pages, and visits to their websites, they rarely offer anything of value to the vast majority of folks like you who simply want to know reliable forecast information and how that will impact your everyday life.
- What’s the purpose of this post?
- 1. To pass along information that Mother Nature may throw a tantrum this week…so stay on top of your local forecasts. Be weather aware and plan accordingly. It’s that time of year.
- 2. Give you a “laypersons” guide to what may happen and pass along resources of weather information.
- 3. Reinforce the importance of being prepared for storms whether you’re at home, work, or school.
- 4. Reassure those who are distressed by storms that knowledge is power, will keep you safer, and avoid the hype-sters who will only increase your anxiety.
- 5. Remind once again that Tornado Quest is not and never should be looked upon as an official” source of potentially life-saving severe storm watch or warning information. I only pass along severe weather watch and forecast discussion information for purposes of convenience (I have a high percentage of Twitter followers in the Great Plains states) and severe weather forecast updates (aka Mesoscale Discussions) from SPC that, while often technical, give you insight into what some of the countries best forecasters are thinking regarding severe weather that is affecting your area. The only people who save lives are the hard-working folks at the National Weather Service. Broadcast meteorologists and emergency management officials should also be given credit where credit is due (especially the former) since they often convey a vast amount of life-saving information to a concerned or frightened public who is (understandably) not often able to discern what is happening…especially in moments of high fear or stress.
- Last but not least, forget sirens. They’re old-school Cold War era technology that, at best, works for those who are a stones throw from the pole they’re on…and they do malfunction at the worst possible times. In most homes, schools, and commercial buildings, you’ll not be able to hear a siren over the cacophony of large hail, torrential rain, and high winds as a tornado bears down on your neighborhood…hence the importance of relying on NOAA weather radio along with broadcast meteorologists and (if available) a high quality smart phone warning app.
We’ve covered a lot of information here. My main purpose was to address the severe weather potential. As I thought about the general public’s concerns for impacts, I felt the need to address some issues that are of concern to me. The safety of you and your loved ones is of the utmost importance…and remember (especially in social media)…caveat emptor.
Have a great week everybody…I’ll post a few updates as we get closer to our chances of severe weather.