Severe Weather Recap…Speculating on Storms

Last Thursday and Friday we had roughly three bouts of severe storms that impacted North Central Wisconsin.  Round #1 materialized during the mid-afternoon hours on Thursday with a warm front that was pushing slowly northward through the region.  There were a few reports of wind damage in Waushara and Juneau Counties , along with an isolated hail report.  The brunt of the storms however were focused along the I-94 corridor during the late evening hours, when storms began training one after the other the same general areas in Monroe and Juneau Counties.  This lead to areas of flooding across Central Juneau County last weekend and closed some roadways.  The next day, we started off bright and early with an MCS (or Mesoscale Convective Storms) that fortunately weakened some prior to driving through Central Wisconsin between 4 and 8 am.  Later on in the night on Friday, a strong cold front blasted across the area from 9 pm to 1am.  The main severe aspects from these storms were damaging winds which downed trees and power lines from Arbor Vitae, to Tomahawk, Minocqua and Crandon.  Of most concern was the fact this was all happening while the Hodag Festival was ongoing in Rhinelander with a huge number of folks having to take cover prior to and during the passage of these storms.  In our case, it was all a matter of timing.  As mentioned, the complex of storms in the morning lost their steam prior to getting here, while the late night storms did produce wind damage in some places, it may have been a different story if they had pushed by during the afternoon or early evening.  Case in point, while this cold front was sliding through Minnesota a few hours earlier, there was not only a tornado watch in effect, but also storms which produced up to baseball sized hail and an EF-3 Tornado which touched down to the southwest of St. Cloud.  I should note that the atmospheric conditions where the most unstable on Friday in Minnesota (in comparison to North Central Wisconsin), however the time of day played a role.  Statistically speaking, tornadoes most frequently occur from Noon to Midnight. If you recall last year on June 7th, the storms that produced 5.25” hail in Port Edwards and tornadoes that ravaged through parts of the area developed in the early to mid afternoon. That’s not to say there aren’t twisters or damaging storms that blow through during the morning hours, but the atmosphere tends to have its strongest dynamics during the second half of the day.

Meantime, last week I talked about Hurricane Bertha, which was the first hurricane of the 2008 season.  This past weekend it weakened to a strong tropical storm, before passing near Bermuda on Monday, on its way out to the central Atlantic .  In relation to this, I like to keep up to speed on the news and what’s going on with the financial markets, and always have on one of the business channels during the day.  Well, sure enough, they went out of their way to mention on Monday that a new tropical disturbance was forming out in the Atlantic , to the east of the Lesser Antilles .  Why is this important?  The main reason is because the folks that control the price of oil immediately perk up their ears at the hint of any tropical system and if it is even within earshot of the Gulf of Mexico , you know what is going to happen to the futures trading on oil.  We witness this pretty much every year, if and when a storm develops, and whether it heads into the Gulf or not.  In 2005 with the parade of hurricanes that rolled through the Gulf, traders drove up the price (which back then was running in the $50 a barrel range) up into the mid $70s to near $80 prior to Hurricane Katrina hitting Florida.  This did cause gas prices to jump initially, then settle back a bit, but sure enough once Katrina blasted through the oil refineries near Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas, prices at the pump soared 40 cents in one day….which I still think is the most I’ve ever seen happen.  This is includes when I lived along the east coast when the great blackout in the summer of 2003 occurred.  No less, these speculators have already driven us crazy with the current price situation and it makes me cringe when they start hyping up a developing low in the Atlantic which could end up having little to no impact in the Gulf and in the process push prices up even higher. 

eedless to say, I could have a field day talking about some of the crazy things I’ve heard on the business channels over the years that have moved the market. The part that really bothers me is when they act like they are meteorologists in predicting the track of tropical systems, or how the winter weather in the northeastern US automatically applies to folks in the rest of the country.  If it’s warm, heating fuel will stay steady or go down, if its snowy and below 32 in New York, everyone is going to be needing more heating fuel and thus the hypothesized supply and demand issue.  Okay, that’s as far as I’m going on that subject.

Either way, this week will be typical summer fare in Wisconsin with some heat, noticeable humidity, and the threat for storms through the remainder of the work week.  We’ll be here to keep you updated on any storms that could be severe.

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