Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Feeling Cheated by the October 26th 2010 Storm of the Century? (updated)

Feeling that this "record storm" didn't live up to its hype? Wondering why the news and weather geeks such as myself were going so bonkers over it? Sneering at the fact that you secretly wanted  to see destruction and chaos and upset it did not materialize? Wondering just what in the hell was the big deal? Well, here we go.

The storm was forecast to be a record breaker, as I mentioned in my previous blog. Well,

- Chicago set a new low pressure record. At 7am the barometer plummeted to 29.02in, old record set in 1959 was 29.11in

- But perhaps the most important record of all. The all time, new, lowest barometric pressure ever recorded in any non-tropical storm system to form in the US mainland. The low made it down to 956mb with some unofficial reports of it going just a tad lower. Thats not a lie, although the data is still preliminary so I don't know of any official statement yet which I can post.

*Weather 101 fact for the non weather savvy - the lower the pressure, the stronger the storm system.*

So, when you hear "strong storm system" here is what they are talking about.

To put it into perspective, most storm systems don't go below 990, most stay around 1000. So 954 is INCREDIBLY strong. So when they are talking about a storms strength, its that pressure they are referring to.

To those who feel that they were cheated and the storm did not live up to its hype, you were just that, cheated. Especially for my friends in the Chicago area. The fact of the matter is the timing of the storm system is what spared us its greater wrath. The storms formed along the storms advancing cold front. Which happened to plow through here just after dawn. This, and this alone is the sole reason why severe weather wasn't more widespread across the Chicago area.

*Weather 101 fact #2 - Storms need energy to become severe, the main source of this energy is the sun, thus, at night and during the morning there is the least amount of energy*

The predawn hours are the LEAST favorable time for severe weather, and sure enough, thats when the front came through this area. Normally severe weather would not be forecast at all when the timing is such, but again, we were dealing with a record strong storm, which can sometimes offset the lack of energy, and it did. We did get storms and severe weather in the early morning hours, it just wasn't widespread.

So here is some of the evidence of severe weather occurring in the area.

Tornado damage photos near Peotone, courtesy of Dave.

This one is too awesome not to share.

Closer to home, some tree damage in the Chicago and Oak Lawn areas. Taken by myself and my father-in-law.

Here is a radar shot I took showing the storms moving through, the white box is actually a tornado warning just south of the Chicago area.

As mentioned though, the fact the storms came through in the early morning during the least favored time is what kept it from being more widespread. As the storms pressed east and the day got later the magnitude of the event can be seen in the amount of damage reports in the following graphics.

Ok ok you get the point. The event was a significant one, and because it is still ongoing much more information has yet to come in. Everything above is preliminary and maybe I will post a followup with some official totals but the bottom line is this.

If you feel cheated by this event, you should. It did indeed do everything it was supposed to do but remember this. Severe weather in itself is a rare and isolated phenomena, it can greatly affect your block, and leave the next untouched. So don't worry, your time will come. No one location can dodge the bullet forever.

For the latest information, see the NWS in Chicago: http://www.crh.noaa.gov/lot/

UPDATE 10/28/10 - it now appears the storm DID NOT break the record, but nearly missed it by a measely .2mb. It looks like a stupid nor'easter still holds the top title: http://www.crh.noaa.gov/news/display_cmsstory.php?wfo=lot&storyid=59038&source=0

Monday, October 25, 2010

Waiting for the Big One!

Its been awhile since there has been this much excitement over a coming weather system. In less than 24hrs the Midwest is going to be under the assault of a near record level storm system that is in its early stages of ramping up as I type this. I mean, check this monster out!!

Weather nerds such as myself are excited to see what this sytem will bring us. The threat of severe weather is indeed there, the only main limiting factor is the poor timing of the front here in Chicago. The morning hours are the least favored time for severe weather, but ironically the NAM is generating the best CAPE with this sytem as it moves through IL in the morning hours. The 4km wrf brings a broken line of storms through the area before congealing it all into a massive squall line as it races east of here.

The system is forecast to strengthen rapidly and deepen incredibly low, for those who are un-weather savvy, the deeper a low pressure gets the stronger it gets. Typically most low pressure systems don't deepen anywhere below 990mb and most stay around 1000mb - well, this one has the potential to go all the way down to 955mb! That is a category 2 hurricane!

I am monitoring the situation like a hawk stalking out a fish in a lake for I am undecided if I want to attempt to chase this or watch it from home. It will be a last minute decision without a doubt.

Even if we somehow miss the storms, we are under a high wind warning with non thunderstorm gusts expected to reach 60mph! That is just insane for this area, so even without storms, the potential for damage is there. Halloween decorations? BYE BYE!

LOT has an interesting comparison on their homepage: 2nd deepest low? Wow, truly we are about to be hit with a rare, historic storm. I will post updates as time allows! http://www.crh.noaa.gov/news/display_cmsstory.php?wfo=lot&storyid=58925&source=0

Friday, October 15, 2010

Discovery Storm Chasers and Other Stuff

Discovery's popular series StormChasers is back on and while many may bitch about it I always found it to be entertaining. I don't get why people bitch so much about anything on TV related to chasing. Of course it is going to be fake of course there is going to be cheesy drama added in but what TV show doesn't have that? IMO the drama there is no different than the drama and bitching I have to read about stupid football every Sunday and Monday, so we all partake in it one way or another. I think some chasers need to stop trying to hate whats popular just for the sake of going against the crowd...that whole mentality is just...stupid. If you really don't enjoy the show, fine...don't make it public then because even YOU are helping expose it by talking about it.

I will continue to enjoy it and discuss amongst my peers. I will say this though, according to their website some new "love interests" are to brew up, and if its one thing I cant stand it is cheesy love crap. So I seriously hope they don't go too overboard with that as that is probably the only thing that could really kill the show for me.

Honestly I would love to someday do a show, not for big fame or fortune, but to have it be a big part of my life and what I do. Chasing is what I love, its who I am, so why wouldn't I want to spend as much of my life doing it? Yea, new pressures may arise that could ruin the "fun" out of it but...the only reason people need chasing as a hobby or escape route in the first place is because their normal jobs are lame and unsatisfying and they have given in to a fabricated lifestyle. I for one do not want to have to escape from my life, because if you have to escape from your life by chasing [or anything else for that matter] then I must ask why even continue to live it the way you're living it? I guess I have a different way of looking at things than most people.

In personal news I, along with Skip and Danny gave a presentation to a club at a high school about chasing. I really enjoyed it and the students were great. It was simple and short, just going over some basics about chasing, ourselves, and then showing some youtube video of highlights which they especially enjoyed. The room lit up with lots of questions, some of the students even wanted to stay late [after the meeting had ended] to see more. If its one thing I enjoy its talking weather to people who want to listen. I love sharing what I know and what I have done, and helping those better understand things they don't know as well as perhaps get them started with a chasing career of their own.

Oh, speaking of chasing...the GFS is hinting towards a pattern change more conductible to severe weather. It is still out in fantasy range and I wont look too much into it, but perhaps fall 2010 may warf out a system or two worth chasing. Something to keep an eye on. I was roused out of bed Wednesday morning by a loud clap of thunder as a narrow line of storms moved through ahead of an approaching cold front. Although they only lasted about 20 minutes it was a welcome break to the boring fall pattern we've been stuck in.

One last tid-bit before I depart. I was fishing Tuesday and a little thundershower developed in the distance. I watched it bubble up from a tiny cumulus cloud to a towering storm that resembles Pegasus, the greek mythological horse. As I fished this agressive little cloud tower sent some nice booming shockwaves my way as I fished in sunlight. Again, it was a welcome relief to the overall boring fall pattern.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Ugh, and it continues.

This image of Grandpa Simpson will become all too familiar unless this damn pattern changes.

At least this year, unlike last year its been warm and sunny instead of chilly and cloudy with thunder-less drizzle. Currently the Chicago area is in the middle of an unusual stretch of 80 degree weather that began on Friday [even though the official site at Ohare only made it to 79 all the surrounding areas including the lakefront were 80 and above.] So at least I have been able to get out and enjoy some late season fishing and camping type activities.

Midway Airport set a new record high of 87 degrees on Saturday beating the old record of 86. So this is exceptionally warm weather. Still though, the thought that I may not see any more storms or severe weather until next March is one that irks me. We've had some awesome October severe weather outbreaks around here in 05, 06, 07 and some decent storms in 08...but '09 and so far '10 have been lamer than the lamest of lames. I have a lightning time lapse project I want to finish but I need some storms to get the shots I need first. The last time we had storms here, of course, I had a pre planned business meeting. Oh mother nature, I hate you sometimes.

GFS has been trying to barf up a system around the 17-18th but the latest runs keep wobbling back and forth between a bannana low system and a low that marches up the OH valley putting us on the cold side by only 20 miles. Figures.

So for now, enjoy the nice warm weather!