September 3, 2015

Storm downs tree limbs and power lines

A small but powerful storm hit eastern Nebraska Friday morning around 4 am that dumped heavy rain and strong wind. The storm’s path targeted the central part of Omaha and downed tree limbs and power lines.

The Omaha Public Power District reports that at one point 12,000 customers were without service. Spokesperson Jodi Baker says, “They had trouble shooters out there looking for the problem and at that point repair crews head out.”   As of noon about 4,500 were still without service.

Drivers this morning were on alert and had to drive around tree limbs blocking streets. There is also one report of a limb landing on top of a vehicle. No injuries were reported.

UNL drought forecasters look ahead to hot & dry versus cold & wet

DroughtLong-range forecasters say the overall trend of cooler, wetter weather will likely continue for the next several months, with some periods of hot and dry mixed in, followed by what may be a mild winter ahead.

Brian Fuchs, a climatologist at the National Drought Mitigation Center, which is based at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, says the regional climate outlook, going out just eight-to-14 days, shows the rest of July and into August will be on the warm side.

“The eight-to-14 is showing temperatures being above normal during this time,” Fuchs says, “and when you couple that with the precipitation, it does look like after the next seven-day period, it is looking like the potential for drier-than-normal conditions from the Ohio River Valley into the Midwest.”

Fuchs says the trend from late summer into fall looks to be more of what we have seen most of the first half of the year.

“If you look at the probabilities of seeing above-normal precipitation, that starts out in the Southwest and continues into the Central Rockies out onto the Plains and catching part of the Midwest,” Fuchs says. “That’s also associated with temperatures being below normal.”

With a very strong El Nino weather pattern developing in the Pacific Ocean, Fuchs says the winter outlook is trending toward less snow and cold for most of the country’s northern half.

“We’re seeing those warmer-than-normal temperature probabilities staying in place from the Pacific Northwest through the Northern Plains,” he says, “and the below-normal temperature probabilities from the Southern Plains through the Southeast continue as well.”

Fuchs says the El Nino is now trending up and could be one of the strongest ever recorded.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton


New drought research facility planned for Lincoln

DroughtThe University of Nebraska-Lincoln will become home to the new Drought Risk Management Research Center, as part of the National Drought Mitigation Center.

Program area leader Mark Svoboda says the upgrade will help the facility to better coordinate resources between state and federal agencies to improve drought response.

“Given the cross-cutting nature of drought and how it impacts so many sectors, just becoming more efficient in responding to drought, to researching the questions that people want answers to from the field, including the farmer community and the rancher community,” Svoboda says, “I think that’s a key thing moving forward and how we deal with droughts in this century.”

Svoboda says cutting-edge mitigation techniques and long-term planning data for droughts will benefit Nebraska, the region and the nation. He says the new center will enhance drought prediction, warning systems and preparation.

“Can we research better ways to predict them so we can give people a bit more time for a heads up, which is a difficult task here in the middle of the U.S. as compared to some other areas,” Svoboda says. “It gives our center some flexibility to research those key questions instead of always responding to droughts when you’re in a drought.”

The center has a $2.4-million dollar, three-year grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to set up the program. It should be operational later this summer.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton


Hazy skies due to smoke from Canadian wildfires

Hazy skies are covering most of Nebraska. National Weather Service – Valley Meteorologist Josh Boustead says that is smoke from Canadian wildfires. How long it will remain depends on several factors.

Boustead says, “One is how long they last. They are quite large so we don’t expect that to end anytime soon but also it depends on when the wind pattern within that smoke pattern changes. We do expect that to change over the next couple of days.”

Boustead says they are also keeping close tabs on the air quality. He says it is just getting toward the unhealthy range now. There are no air quality alerts in place at this time. He says those who are sensitive to smoke should take some precautions as we near that unhealthy range.

Health department officials advise people with lung disease to take note and avoid strenuous outdoor activity.

Summer’s here, time to take threat of lightning much more seriously

LightningThis first week of summer is Lightning Safety Awareness Week, as summertime is the peak season for lightning and Nebraskans are being reminded about the dangers and how to take precautions.

Meteorologist Mindy Beerends, at the National Weather Service, says lightning strikes kill about 50 people nationwide every year.

While some Nebraskans like to sit on their front porch and watch storms approach, Beerends says that’s not a good idea. She says you should take seriously the motto: “When thunder roars, go indoors.”

“If you can hear that thunder, it is close enough that lightning can strike,” Beerends says. “Lightning can strike up to 10 miles away from a thunderstorm. It’s definitely not something I would recommend to try and watch the storm roll in. Even when you’re in your home, try to stay away from doors and windows as you could get struck by lightning through those areas as well.”

Lightning can also travel through wiring and water pipes. During storms stay away from bathtubs, sinks, corded phones and anything that uses electricity, including TVs, computers and appliances. If a storm rolls up while you’re out playing soccer, riding your bike or checking the corn crop, Beerends says take immediate precautions if there’s no cover.

“Stay away from trees, stay away from lampposts, anything that’s taller than you,” Beerends says. “If you are caught without shelter nearby, crouch down on your tiptoes and cover your head with your hands.” That’s an effort to minimize your surface area touching the ground and to minimize your height. She says to do that until the storm passes.

When possible, take shelter immediately and remain in the shelter for at least 30 minutes after the last rumble of thunder.

No Nebraskans have been killed in lightning strikes this year. Between 1959 and 2013, there were 45 lightning deaths in Nebraska, ranking the state 31st in terms of lightning-related fatalities. Florida is by far the deadliest lightning state with 471 deaths over those years, while Alaska and Hawaii were tied with zero.

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