April Showers Turn Violent
By John Lawrence
As April drew to a close, drenching rain expanded across the Southeast states, bringing the threat of flooding and travel delays. Strong thunderstorms were also a concern for Florida.
April has been a particularly wet month across the Southeast due to several slow-moving storms that soaked the region over the past several weeks. Mobile, Alabama, has been one of the wettest cities in the entire country last month from a series of storms – recording over 13 inches of rain.
This is nearly three times higher than their normal rainfall for the month. Their ground is saturated leading to the possibility of flooding if any more rain occurs. According to the National Weather Service, there are still dozens of river gauges across the Southeast that are in either minor flood stage or near flood stage.
April started with a bang. Hail as big as baseballs pelted 8 southern states breaking car windshields and causing assorted other damage. There were more than 130 reports of hail. 60 mph winds caused more damage. In April tornadoes were recorded almost every day of the month.
On April 2, the worst rainfall and flooding in Chile’s history wiped entire towns off the map and killed 24 with dozens missing. It will cost at least $1.5 billion to rebuild.
April 3 brought a huge flood emergency with millions on high alert for tornadoes in the US. A mother and child in their car were swept away in Kentucky and are still missing. A massive industrial fire in Louisville may have been sparked by lightning. There were more than 160 water rescues. Near Lexington one woman was killed in a campground after a large tree fell on her tent. A tornado touched down in Kansas in a region also pummeled by hail. Wind gusts were up about 60 mph with 2 inch in diameter hail.
April 7: A fast moving storm dumped 3 and a half inches of rain in 40 minutes in the Saint Louis area flooding streets. Hail the size of golf balls saturated some areas. There were mudslides. 5 inches of snow blanketed Michigan. A funnel cloud was seen near Sacramento, CA. Hail near Lodi, CA.
April 8-9: A two-day severe weather episode affected parts of the Great Plains and Midwest. Several EF0 tornadoes occurred on April 8 in the south central part of Kansas, including some to the northwest of Wichita. An EF1 tornado caused moderate damage as it struck the town of Potosi, Missouri that evening as well. Several tornadoes were also reported from Texas to Illinois on April 9. A multiple-vortex EF1 tornado struck the towns of Clinton, Iowa and Fulton, Illinois, and an EF2 tornado near Mount Selman, Texas snapped and uprooted numerous trees, damaged outbuildings, and removed the roof and collapsed a few exterior walls at a frame home.
The most significant event of the outbreak was a violent, long-tracked, very high-end EF4 wedge tornado that moved along a 30.2 mile-long path across several counties in northern Illinois, killing two people and injuring another 22. Hail the size of grapefruits was reported in Kansas and Missouri. 95 million Americans were in the threat zone stretching from the Great Lakes to Texas. Winds up to 70 mph were reported.
April 10: A deadly outbreak of tornadoes. A tornado killed 2 people and left the town of Fairdale, Illinois totally destroyed. There were frantic efforts to save those trapped underground. Buildings were ripped from their foundations and vehicles sailed through the air. The tornado plowed a 50 mile path of destruction a half a mile wide with 200 mph winds. Rochelle, IL also was hit by EF-4 tornado.
April 16: Tornado and severe thunderstorm watch in Texas. Large hail expected. Snow in Denver. Accidents and pile-ups on I-70.
April 17: 10 tornadoes touched down in Texas overnight. I-70 in Denver shut down after 2 semis, a motorhome and 2 busses overturned. At least a dozen people hurt. Another pile-up on I-80 in Wyoming involving more than 40 vehicles including a tanker carrying hazardous material that erupted in flames.
April 18: Several inches of rain in Houston led to flooding. Severe thunderstorms in Wichita and Oklahoma City caused to flash floods.
April 19: Raging wildfire near Los Angeles. Millions in south under threat of severe storms. High winds derailed a freight train in Alabama. Tornado and severe thunderstorm watches throughout the south. Winds up to 60 mph with flash flooding.
April 20: Major east coast cities under tornado watch cross 9 states. Philadelphia, Washington DC and Baltimore among them. 70 mph wind gusts up and down east coast.
April 22: Violent weather threat including tornadoes all the way from Texas to Connecticut. 22 million people at risk.
April 25: A multi-day outbreak of extreme storms blew 18 wheelers on their sides in Louisiana. Tornado warnings and watches were in effect across several southern states. 32 million were at risk for severe storms. Reports of damaging winds, torrential rains, flash flooding and large hail.
April 26: A mile-wide tornado touched down in north-central Texas as a storm system swept through with large hail and damaging winds, the National Weather Service said. The storm knocked out power to more than 60,000 people in Texas, according to online reports compiled from local power companies. Numerous trees were either snapped or uprooted causing downed power lines. Minor damage to barns and outbuildings was recorded. In Johnson County near Dallas at least 50 homes were destroyed. Torrential rain, heavy winds and softball sized hail pummeled the area.
April 27: More than a dozen tornadoes tore through the south over the weekend. Storms pounded the Dallas area tearing apart homes. At least three were killed in a sailboating regatta off the Alabama coast. Three are still missing. 10 boats capsized. 40 people had to be rescued. Thunderstorm winds blew several railroad cars off the Huey P. Long Bridge in Metairie, Louisiana. Major flooding shut down highways and roads. Power was also knocked out at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. Wind gusts of up to 71 mph were measured at the airport during the storm.
On April 29 severe storms pummeled parts of eastern Texas with softball-sized hail, damaging winds and tornadoes. A tornado struck Rio Vista, Texas, about 40 miles south of Fort Worth. Local emergency management reported overturned trucks and various building damage, including the local high school. After surveying the area on Monday afternoon, the National Weather Service reported the damaged aligned with an EF0 tornado. Earlier that night, additional tornadoes touched down near Stephenville and Glen Rose, Texas.
On April 30 damaging storms swept through southern Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. Over 60 million people were under threat as high, near hurricane force winds and heavy rain permeated the Gulf Coast. Storms with drenching rain also reached the western part of the Florida panhandle. Elsewhere, the roofs of several homes were damaged in Thibodaux, Louisiana. A tornado was spotted in the area by law enforcement. More than 150,000 Entergy Louisiana customers were without power during the midday hours.
The Thunder Down Under
In Australia four were killed as severe storms lashed New South Wales. An 86-year-old woman was killed in the Central Hunter region when her car was swept into flood waters, police said. Two men and a woman were found dead in Dungog north of Sydney, one of the worst affected areas, where homes have been washed away by flooding. Dungog was among 12 communities declared a natural disaster area by emergency services. Residents in the capital Sydney have been urged to evacuate after days of heavy rain have put more than 200 homes in the south-west of the city under threat from rising river levels.
200,000 homes in the state were left without power. Parts of the region experienced more than one foot of rainfall, wind gusts of more than 60 mph and waves reaching record heights of 50 ft. Mike Baird, the premier of New South Wales said, “To give you a sense of the size and scope – in Dungog … there’s more rain that has come down in the last 24 hours than they have seen in a 24-hour period for the past century.”
It’s That Old Devil Global Warming Again
Man-made global warming is responsible for about 75% of all hot-temperature extremes worldwide in the past 100 years, according to a study published Monday in the British journal Nature Climate Change. It is also responsible for about 18% of heavy rainfall, the study said. Even worse, climate change will cause higher percentages of extreme weather in future decades. For example, by the middle of this century, if temperatures continue to increase, about 95% of all heat waves — and about 40% of precipitation extremes — will be due to human influence.
Man-made climate change is caused by the burning of fossil fuels such as gas, coal and oil, which release greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, warming the globe to levels that cannot be explained by natural variability. The study’s scientists used 25 climate computer models to test their theories. Lead author Erich Fischer, a climate scientist at ETH Zurich, a Swiss university, said the models “agree remarkably well on the change in heavy rainfall and hot extremes at the global scale.”
“The idea that almost half of heavy rainfall events would not have occurred were it not for climate change is a sobering thought for policymakers seeking to mitigate and adapt to climate change,” wrote Peter Stott of the United Kingdom’s Hadley Centre in a commentary that accompanied the study.
Governor Brown Toughens California Greenhouse Gas Emission Targets
In an executive order, Brown called for the most aggressive cuts to carbon emissions in North America. The order establishes that California “must cut the pollutants to 40% below 1990 levels by the year 2030, more than a decade after he leaves office,” the Los Angeles Times reported.
“California is taking the most aggressive steps to deal with pollution and the effects of climate change,” he told a roaring crowd at a climate-change conference in California.
As Bloomberg notes, in order to achieve this new target, the state will have to “require utilities to get more electricity from low-pollution sources, compel industries to cut smokestack emissions further and encourage greater numbers of cleaner cars on roads.” One likely upshot is that California’s efforts are going to impact businesses and utilities in other states, making the Golden State’s policy a meaningful factor elsewhere in the country.
With alarming reports about water shortages and the state’s warmest-ever winter, Brown has successfully folded the issue of the drought into a broader slate of ambitious environmental reforms. But even as he puts together billion-dollar relief packages and labels climate-change opposition “immoral,” he does so without explicitly linking the drought to global warming.
Even though reports from agencies like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have refrained from laying the historic drought at the foot of global warming, Brown has used the general sense of crisis to move ahead on climate-change issues. Brown’s efforts are not only affecting California, but the rest of the country as well.