Entries in National Weather Service (16)


New National Weather Service Warnings Helped, Meteorologist Says

Comstock/Thinkstock(SILVER SPRING, Md.) -- When it comes to escaping the path of a tornado, every second counts.

So when an unpredictable, massive storm system that produced over 75 reported twisters began brewing in the Plains states over the weekend, the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center took the unusual step of issuing dire warnings in advance, using phrases like “life-threatening event” and “catastrophic.”

For the next few weeks, the NWS will be studying whether these series of warnings, using specific, powerful words, will make a difference in helping people survive these vicious storms.

Mike Hudson, a meteorologist for the NWS, said the test conducted over the weekend worked. "Early indication says that our warnings did help people make decisions in order to deal with the storm and it ultimately saved lives,” Hudson said.

Some NWS offices issued warnings that sounded almost Armageddon-like. On Saturday morning, the weather service in Wichita, Kan., warned that residents “could be killed if not underground or in a tornado shelter” and that “mass devastation is highly likely, making the area unrecognizable to survivors.”

“What we’re attempting to do with impact-based warning is to address risk,” Hudson said. “People make a decision based on experiences they’ve had in the past. By using words that describe what’s going to happen, people will make appropriate decisions and seek shelter.”

Typically, warnings are issued minutes prior to storms hitting a given area, and even people who live in towns with tornado sirens have been caught off-guard. Over the weekend, in Woodward, Okla., 20 tornado sirens failed to sound after the power had been knocked out. Six people were killed, including three children.

“The nighttime tornadoes are extremely dangerous…and the sirens are one part of the warning system puzzle,” Hudson said. “Ultimately the important thing is getting that information.”

Hudson said that that being underground is the safest place to be in a tornado. But for those who don’t have a basement, Hudson advises going to a room in the middle of the house or a storm shelter. Do not be outside or in a mobile home, he said.

“Best advice for people living in areas prone to tornadoes: Have multiple ways to get information about the threat,” he said. "Take action on it and make decisions that could save your life.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Unusual Weather, Record Hail, Pounds Hawaiian Islands 

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(HONOLULU) -- Unusual weather patterns, dubbed “unprecedented” by the National Weather Service, moved across the Hawaiian Islands during the past few days.

Reports of tornados and thunderstorms were prevalent. A 30-minute hailstorm over Oahu on Friday pounded the island with pellets the size of tennis balls, according to the National Weather Service in Honolulu. Some hail stones reached a record size of 3 inches wide.

No injuries were reported in the storms.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Winter Weather Advisory Issued in Several States

Comstock/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) -- The National Weather Service issued a winter weather advisory to several states in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest for Saturday and Sunday.

Washington, Oregon and Kentucky are among the states where cold temperatures and snowfalls are expected on Saturday.

After a fairly mild winter across the country, January brought winter weather to some states including Chicago which received about 8 inches of snow on Thursday night resulting in the cancellation of over 400 flights at O'Hare Airport due to the weather.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Flash Floods Wreak Havoc on Houston

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) -- Strong winds and flash floods plagued southeast Texas Monday after an unusually dry winter, with rainfall exceeding the monthly average in a few hours.

City roads were flooded and thousands of Houston residents were without electricity after strong thunderstorms hit the area.

The torrential downpour came as a shock to many Texans, after 2011 finished as the driest year on record for that area, according to the National Weather Service.

Houston endured a total of 4.05 inches of rain by 4 p.m. Monday, according to the National Weather Service. The monthly rainfall average for that area is 3.79 inches.

A funnel cloud was sighted southwest of Houston and roads flooded across downtown Houston. Flooding shut down exit ramps and lanes on several major highways, wreaking havoc on the Houston area.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Western U.S. Sees Last Lunar Eclipse of 2011

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Those in the right place at the right time Saturday morning received a special viewing – the last lunar eclipse of 2011.

Around 6 a.m. pacific time, the moon was completely consumed by the earth's shadow.

Michael Eckert, a senior branch forecaster with the National Weather Service said states in the western and northcentral United States would have the best view of the moon as it turns a dark, rusty red.

Totality -- when the moon is completely consumed by Earth's shadow -- began at 6:06 a.m. Pacific time Saturday, and ended at 6:57 a.m.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


At Least 4 Dead in Extreme Weather

Hemera Technologies/ -- One person died in Wisconsin as violent storms swept east across the country Friday.

At least three people were killed in Pittsburgh in flash floods, with one more missing and presumed dead.

Rescue crews used inflatable boats to reach motorists stranded by floodwaters.

The National Weather Service issued flood warnings for the Washington, D.C. area. Rain is expected to continue on Saturday in the northeast.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Stifling Heat Wave Torments Millions From the Midwest to Northeast

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The mercury hit 104 degrees Friday in New York City, the highest temperature the city has seen in 35 years.

"This is as hot as New York City gets," said John Miksad, who works in the Electric Operations division for Con Edison, the city's power company.

The National Weather Service is predicting 103 degrees this afternoon in what some might call the Baked Apple, and no New Yorkers are sweating out the heat wave more than utility crews, who are working around the clock to maintain the power grid. The city broke its all-time record for power demand at 1 p.m. Friday, topping a mark set Aug. 2, 2006.

The bright lights of Times Square were turned off Friday to conserve energy.

New York was not the only place battling the heat. Newark, New Jersey, hit an all-time record at 108 degrees.

In the Chicago area, the heat may be responsible for at least six deaths, including an 18-year-old boy who was riding his bike and running and may not have drunk enough water.

Airports near Washington and Baltimore hit 105. Philadelphia hit 103 degrees, as did Boston. The Emergency Room at the Framingham Hospital outside Boston is seeing twice as many patients.

"Death from heat is greater than death from tornadoes or hurricanes or from the cold," said Dr. David Morris, who works at Framingham Union Hospital.

Doctors warn that in these conditions, the body, even at rest, can lose a quart of fluid an hour. They say to wear light clothing, don't go outside unless you have to and drink plenty of water.

It's also important to be careful of metal objects outside. A manhole cover in Manhattan was measured at 139 degrees. The slide in an empty jungle gym was 120 degrees.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Extreme Heat: Triple-Degree Temperatures Ravage Southern States 

Getty Images(DALLAS) -- Extreme temperatures have been soaring into the triple degrees across the Southern Plains, not only breaking records, but having dangerous weather effects across other regions of the U.S.

Seven states from Tennessee to Texas have excessive heat advisories or warnings Saturday and Sunday, including the cities of Memphis, Tenn., Little Rock, Ark. and Kansas City. The next two days will feel like 107 to 113 degrees.

Dallas endured its eighth consecutive 100-degree day Saturday, forecasting a high of 103 degrees, making it the city’s longest 100-degree weather streak for this summer. The average number of 100 degree days in Dallas for the year is 16--the highest reported in 1980 with 69 days.

In Texas, it’s the third worst drought year in history, according to meteorologist reports.

In addition to the heat, much of Southern Plains and Southeast are in the grips of extreme to exceptional drought with no end predicted, according to meteorologists.

The soaring temperatures are linked to 20 heat-related child deaths in cars this summer.

In addition to causing death, the elevated temperatures are spawning dramatic weather patterns in areas across the country.

In the Northeast, record rainfall pounded the corridor from Connecticut to Maryland Friday.  Rainfall rates were reported almost 2 inches in 20 minutes outside Philadelphia that same day.

Six tornadoes touched down in North Dakota Friday, while Colorado reported flooding and 70 mph winds.

Some of the heat will push into Midwest Sunday, but only briefly, meteorologists reported.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


What Is an EF-5 Tornado?

Hermera Technologies/Thinkstock(NORMAN, Okla.) -- The EF-5 is a category reserved for only the fiercest and most devastating of tornadoes and it's based on what little is left rather than the force of what swept through.

James LaDue, a meteorologist at the Warning Decision Training Branch, says EF-5s are worse than hurricanes and in terms of damage potential equal the tsunami that struck Japan in March.

"It is capable of completely sweeping away one- and two-story houses, leaving nothing left but the basement itself," said LaDue. "It's also capable of turning vehicles into missiles."

According to the National Weather Service, one of the tornadoes that killed hundreds in the South was an EF-5 tornado, the first to hit Mississippi since 1966. The tornado, which hit Smithville, was a half-mile wide and packed winds of 205 miles per hour. It was on the ground for almost three miles, killing 14 and injuring 40.

The tornado that hit Smithville has been preliminarily categorized as an EF-5 based on photos, but a complete survey of the damage is required before the classification is confirmed. The tornado must of had winds of 200 miles per hour or greater for about three seconds.

"Any tornado has the potential of doing EF-5 damage, you just don't know when or where," said LaDue.

EF-5 tornadoes are extremely rare, but LaDue believes that once more of the damage is surveyed it is likely that multiple EF-5s touched down in the South during the tornado outbreak.

"The last time ... where more than one EF-5 was reported in a day was back in 1990," said LaDue. "And if we have more than two EF-5s out of this then the last time before that was probably in 1974."

The chances of surviving the most powerful tornado possible without a concrete reinforced safe room or a basement are "pretty slim" LaDue told ABC News.

"People are not trained and prepared," LaDue said. "There is very little collective knowledge or history, and certainly most people don't have a memory of what these things can do."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Cleanup Continues in St. Louis Following Tornado

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images(ST. LOUIS) -- St. Louis' Lambert Airport opened Saturday night for some arriving flights after a tornado caused such terrible damage to the main terminal on Friday.

The storm ripped part of the roof off the airport's main concourse, blew out glass windows and wreaked havoc on the runway, damaging a handful of planes.

"It's going to take a while before the C concourse can be functional," airport director Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge said. "A good portion of the roof is absolutely gone, every window is out of that as well as extensive damage to a number of the actual restaurants and stuff in the concourse."

She said one passenger jet was severely damaged and five or six others sustained lesser damage.

Officials hoped to restore the airport to 70 percent operating capacity by Sunday, though they cautioned that to achieve that, they need to first restore electricity to the facility. The damaged concourse will be closed for the coming months.

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said today that already crews have made dramatic progress cleaning things up at the airport.

Gov. Jay Nixon said 750 homes in the region were damaged and that President Obama pledged federal assistance during a phone conversation. The tornado also caused widespread damage and power outages in St. Louis County, and power company officials said many could remain in the dark until Monday.

The National Weather Service reported damage consistent with winds gusting over 135 miles per hour during the brunt of the storm.

Most of the danger at the airport resulted from shattered glass, which was sent flying when approximately half of the windows in Terminal 1 blew in as the storm hit.

Despite the damage, officials said they were relieved that only five people were hospitalized due to injuries sustained at the airport, and that all of them were treated and released.

According to the National Weather Service, the storm was one of about two dozen tornadoes that hit across five Midwest states Friday, and it is likely that there are more to come, especially in Oklahoma and Arkansas.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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