Monday, March 06, 2017

Morning Severe Storm Event of March 1st

Lightning damage in Dorset, Ohio

We just experienced our first severe weather event during the morning show in almost 3 years.  Given the volatile history of the storm system which was responsible for baseball size hail and one fatality from a tornado in central Illinois, we knew this event had pretty high potential for severe storms and a tornado warning or two.  We mentioned the increased likelihood of strong/severe storms more than 24 hours before the event.

If you familiar with my weather casts, you know that I rarely use the word "severe" to describe storms unless the situation warrants it.  The reason why is simple: When most people hear the word "severe" when describing storms, they immediately think "tornadoes".  The last thing I want to do is invoke the idea of tornadoes when in most severe storm cases (less than 10%) the chances of a tornado occurring are small.

Tuesday morning--24 hours before--was one of those instances where I used the word "severe" multiple times to describe the next day's outbreak. The possibility of northern Ohio going under a severe thunderstorm watch was high enough to be included in the forecast. All high resolution projections showed two distinct severe storm clusters tracking across Ohio between 12am and 8am. It was the second one that had us concerned not only because of it's elevated severe weather potential but because it was developing overnight when most people are sleeping. This animation below was generated at 1am Tuesday more than 24 hours before the event:

The two severe storm clusters projected location at 1am Wednesday.

By Wednesday morning, the second storm line above had already produced a strong tornado in central Illinois and one fatality.  That same storm produced baseball size hail.

Ottawa, Illinois

The Storm Prediction Center had issued this discussion specifically for the second line of storms BEFORE the severe thunderstorm watch was issued at 3:25am. See the strong wording below.

Mesoscale Discussion 0233
   NWS Storm Prediction Center Norman OK
   1244 AM CST Wed Mar 01 2017

   Areas affected...Portions of southern Lower
   Michigan...northeastern/central Indiana...and northwestern Ohio

   Concerning...Severe Thunderstorm Watch 45...49...

   Valid 010644Z - 010745Z

   The severe weather threat for Severe Thunderstorm Watch 45, 49

   SUMMARY...A squall line will continue advancing east across the
   discussion area early this morning. An attendant threat for damaging
   winds will persist as these storms track east.

   DISCUSSION...With broader large-scale ascent (e.g., coupled upper
   jet structure) spreading across the Great Lakes region, rejuvenation
   of an ongoing squall line over southern Lower Michigan/northern
   Indiana has occurred. Despite some surface-based convective
   inhibition/weak low-level stability, the upscale organization of the
   line, combined with 1-km flow around 50 kts, will maintain a threat
   for occasional damaging wind gusts, especially in any bowing
   segments. Additionally, considering the magnitude of the low-level
   shear, a brief tornado remains possible.

The severe thunderstorm watch was issued a few hours later for ALL of northern Ohio. Remember, on FOX8News This Morning the day before, we mentioned the strong possibility of a watch being issued.

Several tornado warnings were issued for portions of CUYAHOGA, GEAUGA, SUMMIT. MEDINA AND PORTAGE counties between 6 and 6:30am Wednesday morning by the National Weather Service due to rotation being detected by Doppler Radar. By 7am, the line was east of northern Ohio. The Severe Thunderstorm watch was discontinued from west to east.


Yet even after a potentially dangerous situation like this, there continues to be individuals especially on social media who question how we covered the event. For the record, I always grade myself after events like this. Did I do everything right?  Did I convey the seriousness of the event without blowing it out of proportion?  I can honestly can that I wouldn't have done anything different.

In the weeks ahead, we'll talk about the advancements of severe weather prediction and communication.