2011 Leonids – Booooo!

In the words of Jed Clampett – “Pitiful, pitiful”.  I’m not against sitting outside and looking at the night sky when nothing spectacular is happening, but I usually reserve those nights for the summer.  Not when the wind chill is dipping into the 20′s.

I just came inside from an hour watch of the Leonid peak – my grand total number of observed meteors – zero.

For three nights now, I have devoted quite a bit of time looking for Leonids.  Six.  This show wasn’t supposed to be a good one, but I expected better than that.

I have one image here that looks like a meteor, but in reality, it was an iridium flare.  In fact, there are two satellites in this image.  One just below the one which produced the flare.

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Not long now…

…until the trees are shed.

It doesn’t seem like it matters what the goal is – there is always a chance to come up short.  Each year I want to storm chase as much as I can, catch all the space weather goodies, get to the southwest U.S. for the monsoon, go somewhere cool for the fall colors.

This year, I really didn’t need to go far for interesting fall colors – I passed them daily on my way into and out of Oklahoma City.  For some reason – maybe the late heavy rainfall – they really seemed to stand out.  Even with that opportunity – I kept driving by until finally seeing leaves drop over the past couple of days.

This evening, I spent about an hour driving around the outskirts of town and picked up a few shots.  Not quite the fall color portfolio that I would have liked to have logged – but a few neat ones anyway…

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*100 years ago*

It’s the night before… if we had hindsight and the current technology – the forecast may have read for Okarche:

TONIGHT… PARTLY CLOUDY WITH LOWS IN THE MID 50′S.  SOUTHWEST WINDS OF 15 TO 25 MPH AND GUSTY.

TOMORROW… PARTY CLOUDY EARLY… BECOMING MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF LIGHT SNOW.  EARLY HIGH IN THE MID 80′S WITH TEMPERATURE DROPPING TO NEAR FREEZING BY SUNSET.  WINDS BECOMING NORTH AT 25 TO 35 MPH WITH GUSTS OVER 50 MPH.

TOMORROW NIGHT… PARTLY CLOUDY TO CLOUDY WITH A LOW DROPPING INTO THE MID TEENS.  NORTH WINDS AT 20 TO 30 MPH WITH GUSTS OVER 40 MPH.

Some call it the “Great Blue Norther of 11/11/11″.  But things were a lot different 100 years ago.  Forecasts were based largely on extrapolation… not on model data and forecaster expertise.

People were enjoying a mild November 10, 1911, and in a lot of cases did not expect the weather change that was coming the following day.  Without the TV/radio broadcasts, some may have left their house the morning of the 11th in short sleeves – ready for another nice day.  Little did they know that a brutal cold front was not far away and racing southward.

Mild early morning temperatures quickly turned cold in the panhandle.  Across the main body of the state… the sun warmed people up into the 70′s and 80′s.  Such a shock was headed their way.

For Oklahoma City… this is the only day in the record books where the high temperature and low temperature record is held on the same day.  Making it up to 83 degrees during the early afternoon had people shedding their extra clothing only to be searching for warmth when the temperature dropped to 17 degrees by midnight.

In Springfield, Missouri – the temperature dropped 67 degrees in 10 hours.

The front produced severe storms and tornadoes across the upper Mississippi Valley, a blizzard in Ohio and a dust storm in Oklahoma.

Nine tornadoes were reported in the states of Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin.  An F4 tornado hit Janesville, Wisconsin killing 9 and injuring 50.  Within an hour of the tornado, survivors were working in blizzard conditions and near zero temperatures to rescue people trapped in debris.

100 years later and nothing similar will be going on.  After a low in the upper 30′s… we should see a high on the 11th near 70 degrees before dropping into the upper 40′s on Saturday morning.  Winds will be a bit gusty at times, but nowhere near what our “Great Blue Norther” produced.

Weather map from 8 AM on November 11, 1911:

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Additional photos from the 7th / Record rainfall

The total precipitation in Okarche on November 7th was 3.04 inches.  This sets the record for the date… the previous record was 0.44 of an inch set in 1998.  In addition, this is the most single day rainfall ever in the month of November.   The previous record was 2.70 inches set on November 20, 1994.

A couple of other chase pictures from the 7th… the first was a storm over Hobart that was rotating strongly as it passed the city.  Hard to believe that this didn’t produce a tornado.

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The second is of the storm which produced most of the tornadoes on the day as it was moving into Caddo County.

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Can you imagine working for the State Chamber of Oklahoma?

I can’t remember the quote exactly, but the credit goes to Vince Miller who had me laughing hard.  How in the hell can you get anyone to move to this state?  We start with blizzards that will kill you at the beginning of the year… kick in severe drought and the hottest summer ever… dry up your water… burn you down with wildfires… all the while throwing tornadoes and earthquakes at you.  It scares me and I ain’t afraid of nothin’.

Parameters came together on Monday for severe storms which hit southwest Oklahoma the hardest.  Doug Speheger and I called it a chase day – met in El Reno – and hit the road west on I-40.

Our first target storm moved northeast into Greer County where we intercepted it at Willow.  We were excited at first as the storm displayed a large wall cloud and had a considerable amount of motion.  It even got to the point where we thought a weak tornado may have been occurring with it.  We didn’t get to enjoy it long – it sent off a left split… stuck its tongue out at us and quickly became disorganized.

We were still in position to play other storms and started toward one which was organizing rapidly as it approached Hobart.  We put ourselves in a great position just south of the city and watched a strongly rotating wall cloud develop to our northwest.  This too didn’t last long and we were left scratching our heads as the storm went downhill quick just after it seemed to be getting the show going.

With two good storms, but not much to show for it under our belts, we started toward the supercell which had been producing tornadoes from Tillman County to northwest Comanche County.  We plotted an intercept point near Fort Cobb and took off with our last chance of the afternoon.  We might have killed this one too, but it appeared to have too much momentum for us not to see a tornado.  The first tornado we saw was about 8 to 10 miles southwest of Fort Cobb.  Condensation was not on the ground for very long, but the rotation was incredible and other tornadoes would occur with it.  There were a couple of times that we suspected that “something was happening” – we just didn’t have a good view because of trees and hills.  Finally, we broke into a clear area north of Fort Cobb and watched as a long-lived, large, and strong looking tornado took shape.  Our best photos came as the tornado was several hundred yards wide and exhibited a quite impressive multi-vortex state.  The storm finally figured out that we were hanging around and decided to start its quick weakening.

We were quite pleased with our results – of which included me seeing my first November tornadoes.  There were several little things that we could have done which may have – or may not have – improved our chances at better results.  In the end, you have to realize that luck still plays as much in the process as anything.  Overall, the Doug and Dave show worked pretty well again.

After dropping off Doug at his vehicle, I headed into severe storms that were impacting Okarche.  I have not officially measured the rainfall yet, but I’m sure we are sitting at least over 2.50 inches for the day.

I was on the phone with Rocky telling storm stories and started feeling my chair shake back and forth… once again – another earthquake.  This one was an aftershock which reached M4.7.  Not often one gets to experience tornadoes and earthquakes only a few hours apart.  I have a couple of pictures of the tornadoes… sorry, didn’t get any of the earthquake.

First is a small tornado over some beautiful fall colors – southwest of Fort Cobb:

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The Second is of the ugly, multi-vortex event northwest of Fort Cobb.

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It still appears that plenty of rain is possible over the next 12 to 18 hours and maybe a few other severe events.  With our luck – another earthquake or two.

Severe weather likely today in southwest and central Oklahoma…

A powerful upper system is marching toward the southern plains this morning.  Thunderstorms in advance of this system have developed across much of the state and are lifting northward.  There will be clearing behind this activity later this morning and afternoon over southwest Oklahoma.

Afternoon heating… mid level cooling and a steady increase in low level moisture will lead to a fairly unstable atmosphere near and east of a low pressure area/warm front and dry line.  Conditions usually reserved for the spring are setting up here in early November and the result will be some significant severe thunderstorms this afternoon.

Given the strength of the wind at all levels, good shear profiles and a moist/unstable atmosphere – several of the storms are going to be capable of becoming supercells.  There will be large hail and a tornado threat with sustained storms.

The calendar says November – but people in southwest and central Oklahoma and northwest Texas should review their safety rules and be prepared for dangerous weather today.

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Look up, Look down, Hang on, What’s next?

For someone who considers themselves a weather enthusiast, space weather enthusiast, and to a lesser degree – geology enthusiast – I’m not really sure which way to look next.

First off… Oklahoma experienced it’s strongest recorded earthquake ever last night at 10:53 P.M. CDT.  It was centered 44 miles east northeast of Oklahoma City and felt from near Chicago, Illinois to Midland, Texas.  The shaking in Okarche lasted about 20 seconds, but there are reports closer to the epicenter that the rolling went on for a couple of minutes.  We are seeing quite a few pictures of damage this morning including buckled highways.

Who knows what this will lead to – as of now, we can start printing the “I Survived the Great Quake of 2011″ shirts.

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On to something that is a little more up by alley.  Severe thunderstorms will visit the state on Monday and the threat will include tornadoes.  This morning… a powerful storm system is diving southeastward along the California coast.  By Monday morning and afternoon… this system will be moving through Arizona and New Mexico resulting in an increase of mid-level flow across the southern plains.  In advance of the system… low level moisture will be steadily increasing and there will be a chance of showers and thunderstorms this afternoon – mainly in eastern Oklahoma.

While it doesn’t look like the cleanest of forecasts (numerous showers and thunderstorms will be possible during the morning and early afternoon as lift and moisture increase) – it still appears that there will be an area of focus in southwest Oklahoma near the low pressure area which will favor vigorous convection.  Sustained storms will likely be able to take advantage of favorable shear profiles and produce damaging wind / hail / and a couple of tornadoes.  The threat may migrate toward the Oklahoma City area during the evening.

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On the space weather front – Sunspot group 1339 is huge and beginning to turn earth facing.  It has been responsible for many M-class flares and has the capability of producing X-class flares over the next couple of days.  This could mean an increasing chance at Geomagnetic Storms and Auroras in the near future.

First Freeze of the Season

At 8:01 A.M. this morning, the low temperature reached 32.2 degrees in Okarche.  It didn’t do it by much, but this marks the first freeze of the season – which is one day later than the average of November 2.

Currently (10:30 P.M.) the temperature is 34 degrees.  With a low dew point, very light winds and clear skies – we should be enroute to another freeze tonight.  Expect the low temperature to reach the upper 20′s.

Strong cold front to blast through the state…

A strong cold front will be blasting into the panhandle at daybreak on Wednesday – clearing the state by nightfall.  This front is just one in a series during this active period – and will be stronger than the last.

A tight pressure gradient will allow winds to increase through the day to speeds of 25 to 35 mph from the north.  Wind gusts will likely approach 50 mph in central Oklahoma and 60 mph in parts of the west.

Precipitation will be limited.  The nature of the fast moving storm combined with limited moisture will prevent widespread / long-lived precipitation.  A few showers and storms may form which will quickly move off to the east.

The exception will be more widespread precipitation forming in Colorado/Kansas and extending northeastward toward southern Wisconsin.  It appears that the air will be cold enough for a few inches of snow from Colorado/northwest Kansas and southern Nebraska.  This combined with strong north winds will create near blizzard conditions for a short time.

The main impact in Oklahoma will be colder weather.  It appears that a freeze will spread across much of the northwest half of the state by Thursday morning.  A freeze in Okarche would be just one day off the average first freeze date of November 2.

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2nd Annual Ewoldt House of Horror – great time with friends…

The Ewoldt House of Horror (2nd annual) went off without a hitch.  Despite some weak advertising, and a lot of word of mouth… it just seems like we are having a hard time breaking the 60 visitor barrier which was similar to last year.  It is what it is however, and what it was – was a fun time for all involved.  Make no bones about it, there were a number of people that didn’t come by this year because they said last year was “too scary”.  We did see some new faces that liked the show we put on and expect to see them back next year.  Our set this year was much more elaborate than 2010 and was a blast.

I will eventually get a lot of photos up on a pbase page, but for now will leave you with this one.  It means a lot to me.  You see, we are living in an age when photos like this are a part of our regular society.  I could have had this one on facebook in a matter of minutes.

I’m saddened by this photo as much as I love it.  I could have taken many like it back in the 80′s and 90′s, but the technology wasn’t quite there yet.  No camera phones, no DSLR cameras, no facebook or other instant media source.  You just occasionally shot with film and hoped that you would get something worthwhile.  Usually you didn’t.  I’m saddened by the number of times I missed photos like this while I was racing, working with the fire department, fishing, storm chasing, hanging out, whatever.

In 1986, I went to an Oklahoma/Nebraska football game in Lincoln with my good friend Kenneth.  We were not expected to win the game and found ourselves down 17-10 with not much time left in the 4th quarter.  The first miracle happened when we managed to tie the game at 17, and the second miracle had us kicking a field goal to win 20-17 as time expired.  We ran down to the field, but I wasn’t about to jump the fence because I thought we would get arrested or something.  Kenneth – who was a lot bigger than I – bailed over and grabbed me, lifting me up over the fence.  Not knowing really what to do, we just ran around in the excitement of the win.  Then I turned head first into Anthony Phillips – OU guard – 6’3″ – 280 lbs.  I guess that he was in need of someone to celebrate with as well and grabbed me and threw me around in a complete circle/hug.  How about that for a facebook moment – that didn’t exist.  We jogged off the field with the team until they wouldn’t let us go any farther and the rest was history.

My story jumps to a scene from “Dead Poets Society”.  One of my favorite Robin Williams films.  He takes his first class out into the hallway to point out all the pictures on the walls…. football players, various groups of people that are all in black and white photography and probably date to the early 1900′s.  At first he tells them that they are no different – look into their eyes – full of ambition – ready to change the world.  Then reminds them that they are all worm food.  Pushing up daisies.  Dead.  Gone.

Carpe diem – seize the day he whispers.

My wife said something to me the other day that was both beautiful and sad.  As we were enjoying some time on the couch – she mentioned that she would like to spend forever with me.  After a pause, she added, but their not going to let me do that.   I said no, I don’t think that’s how it works.

So, we come up on our Ewoldt House of Horror – 2nd edition.  It was important to me to catch all the players after the game was finished.  All the smiles, all the hopes, all the ambition – myself, Jocelyn, Mari, Mike, Jackie, Betsy, Andie, Shan, Cody, Jim, Eric, Jake and Billy.  World by the tail.  It would be nice to see the 40th annual Ewoldt House of Horror, but the reality is that someone – sometime – will look at that picture and realize that they are the only one that hasn’t become worm food.

I’m so happy that I caught the picture – one that I might not have 20 years ago.  As our guests left, there was a lot of talk about next year, but there are no guarantees.  Enjoy your friends, play golf, have a few drinks, watch a football game or put together a haunted house.  Carpe diem….

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