Severe weather season revs up during the month of April and here I am finally talking about it.
We have dodged several bullets, so far. We’ve had an extremely active severe weather season from a line that stretches from Austin to Cameron to San Saba northward. North Central Texas has been the target.
We’ve seen our share of severe weather and tornado watches, but we don’t seem to have all the ingredients it takes to spin up tornadoes or even heavy hail. We haven’t seen anything like a Jarrell scenario in a long, long time and we’re thankful for that blessing.
We’ve been lucky to escape the tragic damage in Franklin and Alto and the huge tornadoes that plague Mississippi, Alabama, Oklahoma and states to the northeast.
I’m intrigued by severe weather and have studied it for years and read about the mechanics of tornado development whenever I get a few minutes. It is fascinating to learn that so many elements have to be exactly right for a funnel to descend from the sky.
Not only do weather conditions have to be aligned at the surface but several miles up in the atmosphere.That’s where the action is.
There are a few consistent conditions I’ve noticed here that have been indicators of severe weather developing near us. Notice those winds that blow at 30 miles per hour for days? That is one ingredient that is pumping Gulf moisture northward, that will eventually collide with a cold front, dry line, low pressure or other suitable atmospheric conditions.
Another prime indicator is the dew point. When meteorologists talk about dew points near 70 degrees or more in Central Texas, and there are storms on the horizon, it’s time to pay attention.
Dew point, measured in degrees, indicates how much moisture there is at the surface. The higher the number we’re beginning to reach the saturation point which is a dangerous sign. When the tornado struck Jarrell in 1997, the officially recorded dew point by the National Weather Service was 78 degrees. That’s unheard of, and look what those conditions produced.
There are two websites that I’d like to share with you and want you to use them depending on how much of a plunge you want to take to learn a lot of fascinating stuff.
The first one is weather.gov. When you open the home page, you’ll see this huge map of the United States. Click on your region of the country and in our case information from the National Weather Service in Fort Worth will appear. There is everything you need to know. Just explore a while and learn.
The second one is spcc.noaa.gov. This is the National Storms Forecast Center in Norman, Oklahoma. These are the guys and gals that issue severe weather and tornado watches. They have computers and radar that reaches into every level of the atmosphere.
Bob Massey is a Herald correspondent.