The North Texas area saw a significant increase in the number of weather warnings - tornado, flash flood and severe thunderstorm - this year.
Although some of the increase can be attributed to the National Weather Service’s switch to “storm-based” warning, where a separate warning is issued for each storm as opposed to one blanket-based warning covering multiple storms in an entire county, “The majority of the increase was due to the sheer magnitude and length of the severe weather season this year,” said Gary Woodall, warning coordination meteorologist.
“It was truly a remarkable year,” said Woodall, who pulled numbers for the entire years of 2003-2006 to compare to the period of Jan. 1-July 31, 2007, finding the following statistics:
Tornado warnings - 52 (2007); 27 (2006); 8 (2005); 31 (2004); and 25 (2003)
Flash flood warnings - 531 (2007); 98 (2006); 31 (2005); 242 (2004); and 11 (2003)
Severe thunderstorm - 464 (2007); 347 (2006); 341 (2005); 439 (2004); and 393 (2003)
Woodall also pulled out the numbers specific to Ellis County:
Tornado warnings - 2 (2007); 0 (2006); 2 (2005); 1 (2004); and 1 (2003)
Flash flood - 15 (2007); 4 (2006); 2 (2005); 8 (2004); and 0 (2003)
Severe thunderstorm warnings - 8 (2007); 7 (2006); 13 (2005); 8 (2004); and 8 (2003)
The National Weather Service’s Fort Worth office serves 46 counties, comprising the area from the Red River to Paris, and from Goldthwaite to Temple to Palestine.
“I believe the statistics show just how busy it was in North Texas this year,” he said.
And with five more months remaining in the year, Woodall expects still some increases in the 2007 numbers.
“We do have typically have a secondary peak in the severe thunderstorm numbers in the fall,” he said. “Some years, it is quite active in the fall and some we have very little that goes on in the fall. It varies depending on how the ingredients add up.
“As we saw last year, we can have tornadoes and warnings any time of the year, as you’ll remember from Dec. 29,” he said.
Part of the reason for this year’s extended pattern of rain and storms in North Texas was because the weather moved from an El Nino pattern during the winter and early spring into what the National Weather Service calls a “blocking pattern” up in the atmosphere.
Weather patterns typically move from west to east across the area during the course of a several-day period.
This year, however, upper level highs featuring clockwise patterns stationed themselves over the southwest and southeastern parts of the states with an upper level low featuring a counterclockwise pattern parking over the south central part.
The upper level highs contributed to the drought and hot temperatures over their sections of the country, with the upper level low providing continually cloudy, rainy and stormy weather patterns over the nation’s south center, Woodall said.
The three side-by-side closed-off systems were “meshing together like gears in a machine,” he said. “Nothing was able to move anywhere. … Whereas the last couple of years we’ve been high and dry, this spring we were stuck in the wet portion of these blocking-type patterns.”
The pattern was finally broken when the upper level ridges took over and squeezed out the low, Woodall said, saying, “What we are in now is a more typical summer time pattern for us.”
Woodall said it’s too early to make predictions for next year, although the National Weather Service can usually tell several months in advance if a large El Nino or La Nina pattern is in the works for the cold part of the year.
“It’s a little too early to speculate what next year’s severe weather season might look like,” he said, saying that as far as rainfall goes, 2007 is still about 8 inches away from cracking the top 10 listing of high rainfall years.
Topping that chart is 1908, with 45.07 inches. 2007 had posted about 37.69 inches as of last week.
“We’ll probably get there (the top 10), but right now, we’re still short,” Woodall said, noting that the state climatologist’s office has declared the drought over.
Discussing the hurricane season, Woodall noted it’s been a quiet one so far but it’s just now hit the peak, which runs from mid-August through about mid-October.
“We’ve had a few storms this year, nothing major, but that’s not to say the rest of the season won’t get active,” he said, noting that even if a year is inactive one big storm is all it takes.
“As far as numbers, in 1992, we had only six named storms, but one of those was Andrew. In 1983, we had four named storms - and one of those was Alicia,” he said. “It only takes one strong storm in a bad place to make for a bad season.”
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