Map Stories – April 27, 2014 Tornado (Mayflower and Vilonia, AR)


This Entergy substation SW of Mayflower received a direct hit from yesterday's tornado.  Click the image to view the preliminary track of the storm

This Entergy substation SW of Mayflower received a direct hit from yesterday’s tornado. Click the image to open an interactive map for this point as well as other areas along the damage path.

It’s April again and that unfortunately means it’s tornado season.  Clicking the image to your right will take you to an interactive story map showing the tornado path for this storm, with links to videos, pictures and other supporting information.  The story shows a step by step view over a 60 minute period during the life of this tornado.

This storm rotation path is based on NWS Weather Radar observations.  Points were added to depict the center of rotation at roughly five minute intervals as the radar updated.  Those points are then connected to depict an approximate rotation path, which is then buffered on each side to depict a 1/4 mile, 1/2 mile and 1 mile wide area.  The tornado width has not yet been determined by NWS Little Rock, however these ranges help to depict likely impact areas, with the most likely impact area being the 1/4 mile wide corridor (red area), followed by the orange area (1/2 mile wide corridor) and finally the 1 mile wide corridor (yellow area).

Additionally, the damage photos and videos were added to the story map AFTER the damage path was created.  This means that as videos and pictures are reported to/by local media, social media, emergency managers, etc., the location of the photos can be compared against the preliminary estimated damage path in order to verify the accuracy of the information.

The preliminary impact corridor is essentially serving to identify the hazard zone.  On top of that map, information on community facilities, demographics, etc can be overlaid, thus creating an realtime operational impact analysis or risk assessment.  That in turn can be used to help refine the response to the hazard so the community can respond and then recover as fast as possible.

When you don’t know the impact zone of any natural disaster, it’s nearly impossible to get your arms around the situation and make sure that the appropriate resources are being called upon to assist in the response.  However when the impact zone is clearly identified, it can facilitate improved collaboration and effectiveness of the response – from individual citizens and neighbors, to community groups, charities and finally local, state and national officials.

If you find this resource helpful, please pass it on to others.  Thanks.

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Interactive ESRI Story Maps view of the April 27, 2014 tornado that impacted Mayflower and Vilonia, AR.

 

Deadly Tornadoes Cut Through Central Oklahoma (Edmond, Carney, Norman, Bethel Acres, Shawnee)


Earlier this evening, several supercells erupted in Central Oklahoma, producing several strong to violent tornadoes.  These tornadoes impacted communities such as Edmond, Carney, Norman, Bethel Acres and Shawnee.  Much of the attention now including prayers have been focused on those impacted in a mobile home park directly in the path of the tornado where at least one fatality has occurred.

The following link goes to an interactive map showing the approximate paths of the three most significant tornadoes that impacted Central Oklahoma.  The map has a bookmark feature where you can view the Edmond, Carney and Norman to Shawnee tornadoes.  Similar tornado path maps have been very helpful and highly accurate for other significant tornadoes events over the past several years.

Click on the graphic to launch an interactive map.

Click on the graphic to launch an interactive map. The map contains bookmarks for the 3 tornadoes as well as an address lookup feature.

This information is unofficial information, but is based upon NWS Radar scans and uses the National Climate Data Center Weather/Climate Toolkit (NCDC WCT) and ESRI’s ArcGIS Online.  For official storm survey results, please follow the National Weather Service in Norman, Oklahoma (@NWSNorman).  In the coming days, the National Weather Service will be performing storm damage surveys.  When more information is made available, I’ll be linking to those products.

5/15/2013 – DFW Area Tornado Outbreak (Granbury and Cleburne Tornadoes)


– At least 6 dead in Hood County –
Preliminary Ratings Per NWS Fort Worth – Granbury – EF-4; Cleburne EF-3

GranburyAerialDamage_NWSFortWorth

Aerial damage photo from the area hardest hit by the Granbury tornado. Photo via National Weather Service – Fort Worth Facebook Page – https://www.facebook.com/US.NationalWeatherService.FortWorth.gov

On the evening of May 15th, strong to violent tornadoes went through portions of Hood County and Johnson County, TX.  Six people were killed in the Granbury area from this storm, and multiple tornadoes were produced as the storm cell tracked through the region.   The maps below were created from radar images, and depict the rotation paths of the tornadoes as they impacted areas near Granbury and Cleburne, TX.  As you can see from the images, the storms progressed from WNW to ESE (you can look at the timestamps), however the tornadoes tracked from south to north while they were on the ground.  I’m sure this scenario has occurred before, but the differences between the storm motion and the path of the tornadoes themselves could be lending to some of the initial confusion in reporting areas impacted.CombinedRotationPaths

Granbury Tornado (Hood County, TX) – As of the morning after the storm, authorities in Hood County were reporting -6- fatalities from the storm, with nearly 100 injuries.  Based on radar observations, correlated to scanner reports of streets impacted, below is some preliminary information on primary impact area.  The hardest hit area was located south and east of Granbury, TX on the north side of Lake Granbury.  Some areas / roads in the area most impacted include the area near Rancho Brazos Estates / Tumbleweed Lane (http://goo.gl/maps/HRxfL – Google Maps Link).  There were a number of tweets reporting structural damage, homes collapsed.  Looking more closely at some of the buildings in this area show that many homes are mobile homes, likely contributing to the high casualty numbers.

Tornado Debris Signature ~810pm CT depicting debris from the Granbury Tornado

NWS Dual-Pol Radar image showing Correlation Coefficient (CC) and the Tornado Debris Signature ~810pm CT.  Low values of CC in areas with high rotation (likely tornado areas) are consistent w/ debris being produced by a tornado on the ground.  This location correlates with law enforcement and social media reports describing the hardest hit areas. (click for larger image)

RotationPath_HoodCounty_Imagery

Rotation Path for the 5/15/13 Tornado – Hood County, TX (Aerial – Click for larger image)

Bing Maps imagery showing the area hardest hit by the Granbury tornado.  Note the concentration of mobile homes in the center of the image.  Many homes were "wiped off their foundation".  Because of their vulnerability to winds, my guess is that these homes were some of the hardest hit in the area.

Bing Maps imagery showing the area hardest hit by the Granbury tornado. Note the concentration of mobile homes in the center of the image. Many homes were “wiped off their foundation”. Because of their vulnerability to winds, my guess is that these homes were some of the hardest hit in the area. (Click for larger image)

RotationPath_HoodCounty_Roads

Rotation Path for the 5/15/13 Tornado – Hood County, TX (Street Map – Click for larger image)

Damage photo via Twitter (WFAA screenshot)

Later in the evening, another large tornado (reported by spotters to the NWS as a mile-wide tornado) impacted areas South and West of Cleburne, TX.  One of my best friends from College lives there, so I’m quite familiar with that part of town.  There is a lot of new residential development in that part of town – single story homes, most without basements, however the relative age of the homes hopefully means that they’re built to withstand stronger winds.  The roofs in most of this area are hip roofs which hold up better to stronger winds.  Here’s a link to Google Maps to Southwestern parts of Cleburne (http://goo.gl/maps/JfMvA)  I’ll update more as I hear more from the Cleburne area, but the radar images did not look good.  Thankfully though, the strongest radar images occurred outside of town.  Below are the timestamps (UTC) showing the rotation path through the Cleburne area.

Picture of mile wide tornado (backlit from lightning) near Rio Vista, TX – via Fox4 Weather Facebook Page

RotationPath_Cleburne_Imagery

Rotation Path for the 5/15/13 Tornado – Cleburne, TX (Aerial – click for larger image)

RotationPath_Cleburne_Roads

Rotation Path for the 5/15/13 Tornado – Cleburne, TX (Street Map – click for larger image)

Damage to houses along Lakecrest Court in Cleburne (image from WFAA).  For more pictures from WFAA, visit http://www.wfaa.com/home/HD-chopper-8-gets-first-look-of-tornado-damage-in-Cleburne-207684041.html?gallery=y&c=y

Damage to houses along Lakecrest Court in Cleburne (image from WFAA). For more pictures from WFAA, visit http://www.wfaa.com/home/HD-chopper-8-gets-first-look-of-tornado-damage-in-Cleburne-207684041.html?gallery=y&c=y.  Note: Lakecrest Court is located almost exactly at the 0215 UTC location dot on the previous map, depicting the approximate path of the tornado.

Central Plains Blizzard: Snow Amounts Likely to Take Many By Surprise


A Blizzard Warning and Winter Storm Warning has been issued parts of the Southern and Central Plains, the second such blizzard in a week for some residents.  However a concept in disaster preparedness can be readily displayed with the forecast for this event.  Currently, the National Weather Service is forecasting a foot as the upper limit to the snowfall values in Kansas and 15″ as the upper limit to snowfall values in extreme Northeastern part of the Texas Panhandle.  But the highest snowfall totals for this storm could be much much higher….

Recently, the NOAA Hydrometeorological Prediction Center (HPC) began issuing probabilistic snowfall graphics (shown below) that show snowfall forecasts where snowfall values are exceeded 90%, 75%, 50%, 25% and 10% of the time.

prb_48hsnow_50prcntil_2013022412f048_sm

HPC 50th Percentile Snow Forecast
(Click for larger image)

prb_48hsnow_90prcntil_2013022412f048_sm

HPC 90th Percentile Snow Forecast
(Click for larger image)

Essentially a 50th percentile snow forecast is the forecast that 50% of the time the amounts will be higher and 50% of the time, the amounts will be lower.  For planning purposes, this is the likely amount forecasted if you’re going to play the middle of the road.

However the 90th percentile forecast is quite different.  It shows the amounts that will be exceeded only 10% of the time.  While many people want to forecast snow amounts accurately, the 10% probability event is a great resource to “Plan for the worst” and the 50% probability event is “hoping for the best”.

The wild card in events like this is thunder snow. Essentially, areas where thunder snow occurs can receive locally higher snowfall amounts. The snow probabilities point to this potentiality, although the bands of intense snowfall will not cover the entire area. Depending on where the most intense bands set up, it will dramatically impact the amounts of snow received in those areas. This again points to the importance of the 10% exceedance threshold. Most people will receive snow amounts closer to the 50th percentile amount, but there will be pockets where people receive substantially higher amounts.

Snow_BlizzardKansas_Feb24

Comparison between NWS forecast (left) and HPC 90th percentile / 10% exceedance forecast (right) Current as of 0800CT on 2/24/2013

You may be saying right now, “that’s great but I hate math and hate probabilities”.  Communicating potential risk, especially in low probability, high impact events is critical for anticipating the worst and taking protective action while hoping for the best.  If there was a 10% chance of an intruder in your house, going after you and your family, would you take protective action?  If there was a 1 in 10 chance that you could lose your job, would you start developing a backup plan?

We’ll see how this specific event unfolds, but the current forecast (left in map above) isn’t even at the levels depicted in the 50th percentile event (likely underestimating snow  amounts).  Between that and the incredible disparity between the forecast and 10% potential snowfall amounts, this is a classic example where people can and likely will be caught surprised by the event.

Mayor: “We Were Blessed” – No Fatalities as Tornado with Winds Up to 170mph Tears Through the Deep South


Damage to Music Building at University of Southern Mississippi (WDAM)

Damage to Music Building at University of Southern Mississippi (WDAM)

UPDATE: 536pm CT – The National Weather Service office in Mobile, AL has released the preliminary storm survey results confirming two tornado tracks in their forecast area produced by the same storm that impacted Hattiesburg, MS.  The storm survey team found EF-1 intensity damage in Wayne County with a tornado tracking nearly 17 miles in a discontinuous path.  The tornado first touched down near the community of Clara and then tracked to Denham before lifting.

Additionally, EF-0 damage was found in Northwest Perry County – an extension of the track of the same tornado that moved through Hattiesburg and Petal, MS.

Additional details will be forthcoming over the next few days after survey teams complete their data, especially looking on Tuesday in the Washington and Clarke County areas in Southwest Alabama.

UPDATE: 505pm CT – The National Weather Service in Jackson, MS has just upgraded the intensity from the Hattiesburg / Oak Grove tornado that impacted Lamar and Forrest Counties yesterday.  The tornado was preliminarily rated EF-3, but that rating has since been upgraded as damage consistent with 170mph winds was observed in the area of Oak Grove High School.  This violent tornado was only the second violent tornado (EF-4 or EF-5) recorded in Lamar or Forrest Counties since record keeping beginning, the other tornado being the April 24, 1908 Purvis tornado which was on the ground for 155 miles and impacted a wide ares from Louisiana into Mississippi (Source: NWS Jackson MS).

The  NWS storm survey teams have also preliminarily confirmed EF-2 tornado damage in Southwest Marion County – a separate track from the tornado that hit Hattiesburg.  This confirms the suspicions in the original  post that the storm “cycled” and produced separate tornadoes – as indicated by radar signatures.

— Original Post Below:

“We were blessed”.  That is what the Mayor of Hattiesburg, Mississippi said repeatedly when interviews on CNN after a strong tornado tore through the city on an otherwise calm Sunday afternoon in February.  As he stated repeatedly, even though the University of Southern Mississippi, several high schools, and the American Red Cross center were all directly hit by this storm, there were only limited injuries and not fatalities.  The fact that we’re reporting on damage to buildings, NOT fatalities is key in this story, and with storms like these, timing is everything.

First off, with students already on a long weekend break with Mardi Gras coming up, so the tornado occurring on the middle day in a four-day weekend meaning that the campus was relatively quiet.  Throw in the fact that the campus is a short two-hour drive from New Orleans, many students were likely out of town for one reason or another.  Additionally, the Elam Arms residence hall was hit by the tornado, blowing out windows to the multi-story residence hall… But the residence hall has not been used for some time, and according to a July 15, 2011 story from WDAM in Hattiesburg, the university was hoping to tear down the dormitory because “it’s considered to be in a prime location, for a developer to put in a business…. An excellent site for a hotel.”

According the University website, several structures in the southern portion of the campus were damaged including Jazz Station, the Mannoni Performing Arts Center, Ogletree Alumni House, and Elam Arms.

Mississippi is no stranger to strong tornadoes as we have seen in years past in places like Yazoo City.  This storm was similar to previous supercells producing long-lived tornadoes.  The supercell tracked from Southern Walthall County in Southern Mississippi through the counties of Marion, Lamar, Forrest, Perry, Jones and Wayne.  The same storm was also responsible for damage near Millry and Coffeeville in Washington and Clarke Counties in Southwest Alabama.

Based on an initial review of the radar data from this storm, the same supercell appeared to have cycled at several points along this 3.5 hour, nearly 170 mile long path.  The National Weather Service Offices in New Orleans, Jackson and Mobile will likely be performing damage assessments over the next several days.  It will be interesting to see where the damage paths are confirmed to have started/stopped, but the most likely points for breaks in the paths appear to be located near the following locations in that path:

  • Near the Marion / Lamar County, MS line – slight jog in the storm path to the right
  • Southwest Wayne County, MS – Just west of Camp Eight Road in the De Soto National Forest
  • Clarke County, AL – The storm appears to have crossed US-84 roughly 5 miles east of Coffeeville, AL
Radar-based rotation path for the Hattiesburg, MS supercell.  Note the path changes and possible locations for breaks in the path (cycling supercell).

Radar-based rotation path for the Hattiesburg, MS supercell. Note the path changes and possible locations for breaks in the path (cycling supercell).

In all, it is pretty likely that there were multiple tornadoes along this path.  The worst of the damage appears to be EF-2 to EF-3 in intensity, with the Hattiesburg tornado causing damage consistent with a tornado of at least EF-3 strength.  EF2 and greater tornadoes are rated as strong, so regardless of the damage, it is clear to say that the area was impacted by a strong tornado.

Tornadoes are rated by the damage they produce.

EF0…WEAK……65 TO 85 MPH
EF1…WEAK……86 TO 110 MPH
EF2…STRONG….111 TO 135 MPH
EF3…STRONG….136 TO 165 MPH
EF4…VIOLENT…166 TO 200 MPH
EF5…VIOLENT…>200 MPH

On a related topic the National Weather Service in Mobile tweeted the following graphic.  Incredibly their 30 minute forecast for this supercell was HIGHLY accurate both temporally and spatially.  The storm passed within a mile of Robinson’s Junction at 0027 UTC – right in line w/ the forecast graphic below.  The use of Social Media in this case to not only get out the tornado warnings, but to EMPHASIZE areas that are at greater risk represents a MAJOR opportunity for the National Weather Service to enhance their communication with customers.

NWS Mobile – Projected Path of Tornadic Supercell – VERY ACCURATE 30 MIN FORECAST – Storm passed w/in a mile of Robinson’s Junction at 0027 UTC.

Is the worst flu season in the past several years? Google says it is and here are the maps to prove it.


Graph of Google Flu Trends for the United States - As of 1/10/2013

Graph of Google Flu Trends 2012-2013 Flu Season in the United States – As of 1/10/2013

Over the past several days, there have been an increasing number of stories about this year’s flu season (2012-2013 flu season) being one of the worst in several years (Huffington Post, Boston Herald, NY Post).  There are even stories of schools closing down for a day because of high absenteeism because of illness (Oklahoma, Minnesota)  Starting in 2003, Google began tracking search terms because there was a correlation between words people were searching for and the intensity of the flu season.  As a result, the site http://www.google.org/flutrends/ was created.  One of the best items with this site though is that Google allows users to download data (CSV) for analysis.  As a result, the following maps were created to depict the strength of this year’s flu season in comparison to previous years.  As you can see, the 2003-2004 (H3N2) season and the 2009-2010 (H1N1) season are the worst seasons according to Google flu trends data since 2003 when the information was first tracked.

Additionally, the Google flu trends data is tracked and updated daily, while the data from state health organizations and the CDC is usually 1-2 weeks behind the actual occurrences.  This is for a number of reasons (onset of symptoms vs seeking treatment, delay in reporting, etc), but the Google trends charts are very similar to the charts disseminated by the CDC.  With this in mind, expect a surge in stories from states and localities beginning to implement health emergency plans for extremely high levels of flu activity.

Map Google Flu Trends Data - Showing Worst Season Since 2003-2004

(Above) Map Google Flu Trends Data – Showing Worst Season Since 2003-2004

GoogleFluTrends_PercentOfRecordYear

(Above) Current (As of 1/10/13) Google Flu Trends Values Relative to Previous Record (2003-2013)

Using Digital Maps to Study Digital Preparedness and History – WNYC


New Tech City: Using Digital Maps To Study Disaster Preparedness and History – WNYC.

Genius!!  Pure genius!  This is a major challenge with disaster preparedness today, and learning lessons from history and previous disasters are essential to minimizing impacts from future disasters.  Case and point NYC… With Hurricane Sandy, the storm surge was referenced as being a record surge.. even higher than the hurricane that occurred in 1821.  This still begs the question – “what if the hurricane of 1821 happened again today… what would the impact be?”  Additionally, as stated in http://stevengoddard.wordpress.com/2012/11/15/1821-hurricane-struck-new-york-at-low-tide/, the 1821 storm actually struck at LOW tide.. meaning the Category 3 storm then could have produced a tide level even higher than Sandy had it struck 12 hours earlier or later.  Again.. this means for preparedness… “THIS COULD HAPPEN…”   Again, great advances in technology, now we just have to put it together to answer the core questions… what if it happened again today, and how could we be more prepared…

Mapping Severe Weather Probabilities


Have you ever wondered if there are patterns to where and when severe weather occurs in the United States?  There are days where we see tornado watches, severe thunderstorm warnings, reports of high wind, hail and even tornadoes.  But, what if you could see these patterns visually – say for example on a map of the country.  Well, University of Oklahoma Ph.D. candidate Patrick Marsh has just created an incredible set of animations hosted on Youtube depicting daily severe weather probabilities over a 30 year period.

You can read more on Patrick’s most recent posts at the links below:

Hurricane Storm Surge Scales – What Does the National Hurricane Center Think?


Link: NHC Views on Storm Surge Scales
Released September 10, 2010

There are scales for tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, and other natural hazards.  In the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac, there were numerous calls for the National Hurricane Center to add back in a storm surge scale into the hurricane scale.  In an August 31st article from the New York Times, “Climatologists like Kerry Emanuel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have said that any classification should include both wind speed and surge. Otherwise, he argues, coastal residents can be easily misled.”

In 2010, the National Hurricane Center removed verbage in the Saffir-Simpson Scale that referred to storm surge in hurricanes.  In a one-page document posted on the National Hurricane Center (NHC) website earlier this week, the NHC Public Affairs staff shared the reason why storm surge was removed from that scale.  Additionally, they elaborated on why: Continue reading

“Worst Drought Since 1956” – A look at what comes next…


This week it’s hard to miss the hundreds of articles and thoughts on the severity of the current drought, and how it is the worst drought in aerial coverage since 1956″

Huffington Post – “The percentage of affected land is the largest since December 1956, when 58 percent of the country was covered by drought, and it rivals even some years in the Dust Bowl era of the 1930s”

LA Times – “The drought gripping the Midwest and about 80% of the country is the most widespread since 1956, stoking massive wildfires and decimating the nation’s breadbasket crops”

UK Telegraph – “The United States is experiencing its widest-spread drought in 56 years, according to a release by the nation’s meteorological agency.”

Continue reading