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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

More storm stuff from around the country

While we in the Pacific Northwest have been focusing on this weird (really weird) low that hung out off the Vancouver Island coast this past weekend, some other really large storms have been happening east of the Rockies that are considerably noteworthy as well.
Right now we're seeing the deepest low ever recorded in Minnesota (954.8 mb at Bigfork Airport, comparable to a category 3 hurricane if the isobars had been stacked up closer). Today the cold front marching out in front of that is spawning tornadoes from Alabama to Virginia (my oldest daughter just texted me from NC, they've just canceled the latest tornado warning there, where three tornadoes have touched down in the past few hours).
There's a lot of discussion going on right now over at the Cliff Mass blog about whether or not the low over Minnesota should really be considered "the biggest storm of all US history", as some media outlets are hyping it as. Cliff Mass correctly points out that many of the extra-tropical lows which are generated in the Gulf of Alaska and spin down to the coasts of southeast Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and northern California have deeper lows than any midwest storm, and even deeper than many hurricanes, but that for whatever reason these are under-reported by most media outlets and even textbooks, especially those based in the east coast.
So, having lived on the east coast, the west coast, and the midwest, I'd like to throw my opinion into the fray and say that the different types of big storms which affect each region are simply DIFFERENT TYPES OF BIG STORMS. I've been through hurricanes on the Atlantic seaboard (and in the middle of the Atlantic), tornadoes in Kansas (including the F5 that leveled Topeka in 1966, pictured above), and I've been through huge extra-tropical lows in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. And each has its very own unique characteristics and problems. I don't think one can categorize one as being "worse" than another.  
What is much more interesting to me than the squabble of "my storm's bigger than your storm", is the fact that the strange extra-tropical low in the Pacific Northwest and the low in Minnesota happened in such close time-proximity to each other. Correlation does not prove causation, but it does "waggle its eyebrows suggestively and gesture furtively while mouthing 'look over there'", as Randall Munroe of the brilliant comic XKCD once put it. The fact that we're seeing such strange weather all across the US is at least worthy of further investigation.


  1. For the record, I was really, really young when the Topeka tornado happened.


  2. Oh yes it was loads of fun. I get back to work after going out for lunch (got drenched in the process)swung by the Pharmacy to buy some chapstick. Everyone had a good laugh about me looking like a drowned rat(me included) I go to punch in and come back to relieve the next tec and the whole Pharmacy's shut down. Our managers in ALL their wisdom decided to round every body up into the middle of the store with the clothing underneath....wait for it...SKYLIGHTS of all things. Please sombody explain that logic to me? escpecially since the Pharmacy has no outer walls and a giant bathroom that can more than fit all of our staff?

  3. Ah. Perhaps I should write a bit about tornado safety...
    Glad you're all okay!

  4. Starting with if you see a funnel cloud GET TO SHELTER don't stand there taking pictures and sending them on your phone! They're cool and all but most definately not worth it.

  5. I agree that standing around and taking pictures of a tornado is a Really Bad Idea. However, since your friend did this, I'd love to post the pics she got here, if she's willing.