Updated: May 26, 2022
Spring rain is extremely important when looking at a summer outlook. Areas going through spring with dry conditions have a greater than average chance of high summer heat and humidity. A wet spring means high heat and drought will be delayed if it even develops at all. Why? Watch!
As of May 25th, we are running a rainfall surplus of almost 4'' which is a good thing going into early summer. While it will keep the actual air temperature out of the triple digit category, heat index temperatures could exceed it with excess soil moisture.
Let's look at where drought conditions exist as of late May. Much of the western United States has had a very dry spring with severe drought ongoing.
The drought outlook through the end of August shows the drought persisting over that same area. Excessive summer heat is likely over the west and that raises concerns for a bad wildfire season there.
This is one of the reasons NOAA has a high chance for above average temperatures over the west. The confidence in above average temperatures elsewhere is lower. Keep in mind, my observation has been NOAA does NOT use blue much meaning there's a chance some areas may end up with below average temps for the summer outside of the western U.S.
The private company, weatherbell.com shows slightly above average temperatures for much of the western United States with an area of well above average across Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, and South Dakota. The rest of the country is near average. Very interesting to see the differences and similarities between NOAA and weatherbell.
NOAA has a good chance for below average rainfall over the drought areas of the west with above average east. Equal chances here meaning there are no strong signals to indicate which direction it may go. Wish they would not do that, IMO.
Every year at this time, I reflect back on that horrifying April day in 2014. It changed many of you, it changed this state, it changed those directly affected, and I changed.
Part of being a weather geek is the adrenaline rush which comes with weather extremes. Whether it's covering the rare burst of heavy thundersnow, thundersleet, hurricanes, or severe weather; it's why many of us have the passion for weather. Watching Mother Nature demonstrate the power we only read about unleashed before our eyes is mesmerizing. We want to watch more of it and we want to cover more of it on TV, social media, or whatever avenue we can find.
The information we give can be life saving, but it can also be paralyzing for others.
Some of you may know the Tittle family. Kerry Tittle lost her husband and 2 kids in the blink of an eye on April 27th, 2014 when an EF4 tornado hit their western Pulaski county home. Her life was shredded faster than any of us can imagine. Ever since that day, thunder rattles their nerves and just the thought of severe weather can be crippling.
This past December 10th, Kerry was with her family in Branson, MO when the county was placed under a tornado warning. It was doppler indicated, and to the best of my knowledge, never developed. An employee of the hotel knocked on doors to alert the guests of a tornado warning and encouraged them to go into the hallways. Kerry and her family chose not to leave the room. She put her two younger sons in the bathtub while her 14-year-old daughter crawled under the sink, but quickly crawled back out and began vomiting. The youngest son, wide-eyed with fear, asked if this was the day he was going to die like his daddy did. This is the struggle few of us will ever understand and the Tittle family must cope with all the time.
While I hope time heals those wounds, it's time all of us reflect on the enormous impacts of our warnings, predictions, and voice on social media/TV. We must give the warnings and try our best to save lives. At the same time, keep those who are in deep pain in our thoughts. We need more empathy. We need everyone to understand there are families like the Tittles all over this country who need accurate warning, calming voices, and certainty that it's all going to be ok.
If you have a moment, please read this blog post from Meteorologist James Spann with our sister station ABC 33/40 in Birmingham, Alabama.
A false report of a tornado near Cabot was sent to the National Weather Service in North Little Rock on April 11th. Meteorologist Dennis Cavanaugh explains.
Later last week, a huge supercell thunderstorm tracked across far northern and northeastern Arkansas with several reports of a tornado. After Dennis and his team surveyed the area, no tornado damage was found. This opened up the possibility that it had happened again.
In my previous blog post, I wrote, " I truly believe most of them were not malicious. They did not knowingly send in bad information. They were truly trying to save lives. "
After investigating the northern Arkansas tornado warning of April 15th, Dennis Cavanaugh says, "Upon further information released by the president of Spotter Network, I am much more confident that the spotter network report of a 'large wedge tornado headed into Walnut Ridge' was made in good faith, although later proven to be inaccurate. Storm spotting at night is extremely difficult and I DO believe this person saw a wedge shaped wall cloud that, from his perspective, looked like it was in contact with the ground.
However, I also found that this report was made AFTER we issued a tornado emergency for Walnut Ridge and therefore didn’t play a role in our decision making anyways. Several other storm spotters, law enforcement, and firefighters also thought they saw a tornado associated with this storm.
Because it was a very well organized supercell in a low LCL environment, I have no doubt that from many angles it looked like a wedge shaped cloud was on the ground. The problem at night is that you have to rely on lightning strikes to see the clouds, and lightning strikes appearing in the perfect location to give a good view of the wall cloud are rare.
So I think Friday night was an instance where we had persistent radar rotation associated with a well organized supercell, and people on the ground had the unfortunate task of trying to spot at night, and made good faith reports of a cloud that looked exactly like a tornado, but simply wasn’t in hindsight. It also doesn’t help that both ours and Memphis’s radar can only sample thunderstorms at over 10,000 ft AGL for those counties in northeast Arkansas. That means radar essentially can’t “see” the lowest 2 miles of the storm which would have helped immensely in this case to make warning decisions.
As it is, we collectively did the best job with the technology and information that we had at the time. And despite the many reports of a tornado our only message to emergency managers, law enforcement and firefighters in these communities is to CONTINUE to storm spot and do the best job you can reporting what you see to the NWS. Without their help, we have NO information for the lowest 2 miles of thunderstorms in that area."
Dennis also says, "Yeah, basically we are working with SpotterNetwork to collectively do our best to make sure false reports are difficult to send using that software. The company itself is simply a non-profit organization looking to connect storm spotters with the NWS. They certainly don’t have any malicious intent. "
Notice Dennis mentioned the lack of radar coverage in northern Arkansas. This is a well known radar hole. I have mentioned this several times along with the radar hole in southeast Arkansas. When will this be fixed? Talk to your representatives in the U.S House and Senate. They would be the ones to help get the ball rolling on it.