Thursday, July 24, 2014

Summer Heat: Where Is It And How To Stay Safe?

Heat related illness is a deadly consequence that strikes every summer. In fact, the amount of deaths (~400 per year) that are attributed to heat are considered the greatest weather related killer nationwide.  

This poses a great danger to the young and elderly.  Specifically, a child's body can heat up three to five times faster than an adults body.  Elderly may have respiratory issued and a lack of means of remaining cool during an extended heat wave.  Athletes that expose them to possible heat exhaustion or heat stroke if precautions are not taken.  Heat stroke is very serious and potentially deadly with the internal temperature of the body rises above 105°. 

Other symptoms may include:
  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness and light-headedness
  • Lack of sweating despite the heat
  • Red, hot, and dry skin
  • Muscle weakness or cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat, which may be either strong or weak
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Behavioral changes such as confusion, disorientation, or staggering
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness

If you suspect that someone has a heat stroke, immediately call 911 or transport the person to a hospital. Any delay seeking medical help can be fatal.
While waiting for the paramedics to arrive, initiate first aid. Move the person to an air-conditioned environment -- or at least a cool, shady area -- and remove any unnecessary clothing.
You may also try these cooling strategies:
  • Fan air over the patient while wetting his or her skin with water from a sponge or garden hose.
  • Apply ice packs to the patent's armpits, groin, neck, and back. Because these areas are rich with blood vessels close to the skin, cooling them may reduce body temperature.
  • Immerse the patient in a shower or tub of cool water, or an ice bath.
If emergency response is delayed, call the hospital emergency room for additional instructions.

May have commented that our summers are growing hotter and more extreme in a changing climate?  

Well, the actual scientific answer is complex and still remains a heated debate.  First, it is fact that climate is supposed to change!  It is simply the average weather for a location over a determined time.  I did look at some facts.  I analyzed the average number of 90 degree days or warmer each decade since the 1920s. Take a look at what I found for Toledo:

This chart shows that during the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s Toledo averaged nearly 20 days at 90 degrees or warmer a year.  This is LESS than the current 15 days per year the Toledo currently averages at 90 degrees or warmer.  This does show that this 30 year period during the 30s, 40s and 50s was in fact more extreme with the number of 90 degree days experienced each year.  Our summers are and always have been hot in a climate that is by nature always changing. 

This summer is a perfect example of how cool summers can be.  The current July temperature is nearly 4.0° below average for the entire month.  This year has only had 3 days at 90 degrees or warmer with essentially no chance of even coming close to 90 degrees the rest of the month!  Here is why.  There is strong agreement in the long range models of a highly amplified upper air pattern with a persistent North Atlantic blocking high pressure ridge and an Eastern United States trough all of next week and into early August. 

This pattern is essentially a lock to bring temperatures well below average over the next 6 to 10 days.  However, when the heat does come back, remember that heat related illness could become more of a danger due to the fact that we have not been acclimated to the extreme heat that would be more common for a typical summer.  

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Planning for Long-Term Power Outages

Between 2003 and 2012, weather caused 80 percent of all power outages in the United States.
During the sweltering heat of summer, losing electricity limits access to air conditioning, fans and other methods of keeping cool.
"Generally, bad weather doesn't hit the whole system at once," said Senior Communications Representative for First Energy Chris Eck.
In June of 2012, however, it did. An intense, long-lived line of thunderstorms known as a Derecho swept through the Midwest. 
Courtesy Storm Prediction Center of the NWS
 A video posted to YouTube shows footage of the storm and a northwest Ohio resident saying, "I've never seen it storm like this."
YouTube Video: Derecho in Newark, Ohio
"That wind storm did a great deal of damage to our system and it took a long time to recover," adds Eck.
Of the event's roughly 1,200 storm reports, nearly 10 percent cited damage to power lines and utility poles. The impacts of the Derecho's 90 mile per hour wind gusts were felt immediately and for days and weeks afterward as thousands suffered without power.
According to the National Weather Service, a derecho, or a damaging line of thunderstorms may occur once per year in the NW Ohio area, climatologically speaking.

Derecho Climatology, According to the NWS

Derecho Climatology, According to the NWS
 When it comes to power outages, most people's plan is to light a few candles and wait it out. But what happens when the power company leaves you in the dark for longer than you expected?
"You can't make your infrastructure weather proof. Mother Nature can always throw things at you that you aren't prepared for," said Eck.
In northwest Ohio and southeastern Michigan, multiple companies control the power supply. First Energy owned Toledo Edison and Ohio Edison provide energy for most of northwest Ohio from the Indiana border to the shores of Lake Erie. South of the Glass City, AEP Ohio provides energy for parts of Central Ohio, including the cities of Findlay, Lima and Upper Sandusky.
Map shows coverage areas for local energy companies
With more than 300,000 miles of wire in the air, First Energy conducts ongoing preventative maintenance to keep the grid working smoothly. In a severe weather situation, all of the local energy companies work around the clock to restore power starting from the largest service areas, down to the minor ones.
"Sometimes, you might have your power out and it's been a few hours and you haven't seen a truck and you wonder if we're working. We're working our way out to you," said Eck.
In the meantime, emergency services personnel identify potential hazards, and provide support.
"When we arrive on the scene of a weather related incident, it can be very dynamic. Our first thought is to secure that area if a power line is down if a tree is down. Our first thought is public safety, not only to us, obviously, but the public, as well. Any time we have an energized power line on the ground that presents a danger," said Toledo Fire and Rescue Lieutenant Matthew Hertzfeld.
You can stay safe by watching for things like caution scene tape and notifications of live wires and by planning in advance. 
Battery operated flashlights and radios can come in handy during power outages. Remember to fully charge your mobile devices and fill your tank with gas before a potential severe weather outbreak.
A battery powered fan will prevent you from getting too hot this summer, but it's also good to have a back-up plan when it comes to keeping cool.
In the days leading up to and following the 2012 Derecho event, high temperatures ranged from the lower 90s into the triple digits.
Temps after the Derecho in 2012 were well into the triple digits
"I've got a thermometer in my room and this morning when I got up, it was at 92," said one Findlay resident, who found refuge at a Red Cross cooling center.
The Lucas County Emergency Management Agency partnered with the Red Cross to provide families will bottled water and non-perishable foods and to open shelters and cooling stations.
"There are definitely concerns, especially when we have the [summertime] heat and no air conditioning. We ask that citizens check on their elderly neighbors to make sure that they are safe and maybe get them to a cooling center," said Lucas County EMA Director Patricia Moomey.
Michigan and Ohio top the list for the most major outages per state. A new study conducted by Climate Central in April of this year suggests that not only have the number of power outages risen in the past decade, but they will continue to do so in the future.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

2 Derechos to end June?

Shelf Cloud, Monmouth IL 6/30/14 -- Jeff Last

The word derecho has been thrown around a lot ever since late June 2012 when the national media grabbed hold of the term. While many forecasts have included the term over the past 2 years, very few storms have actually verified as a true derecho. But on Monday, June 30th it could be argued that two derechos struck the Midwest. 

First, let's review the true criteria for a derecho.

While many MCS (Mesoscale Convective Systems) have come and gone with widespread wind damage, many times it is the high end wind damage (75 mph or greater) reports that are lacking to define a storm as a derecho. That was not the case with either of these thunderstorm complexes. 

The first had 7 confirmed reports of 75 mph winds or greater between 1 PM and 4 PM. (Reports are via SPC filter storm reports)

1810 81 HARDIN IA
1949 80 LINN IA
2007 80 CLAYTON IA
2017 80 LINN IA
2045 90 DUBUQUE  IA
2048 80 SCOTT IA
2100 78 GRANT WI

The second line of thunderstorms that develop also produced widespread wind damage between central Illinois and near Detroit, MI. Over the 240 mile base line criteria. 

303 82 WILL IL
320 85 COOK IL
327 75 COOK IL
330 75 COOK IL
331 75 WILL IL
335 85 BEAVER OK
342 86 LAKE IN
500 75 CASS MI

While these two complex of thunderstorms went over the parts of the same geographic areas, they were two distinct line of storms. The first squall line affected more square miles, but the second resulted in more significant wind reports. So the question is asked, do we classify one of these as a derecho or both? 

It should also be noted and not debated the job of those who work at local NWS offices and the SPC for their job with predicting this severe weather outbreak. Below is a verification of the SPC 1630z severe weather outlook.