October 9, 2015

Stormy fall, early winter may be in store for Nebraska

Snow on corn cropLong-range weather forecasts are turning more active as we head into fall.

State climatologist Al Dutcher says the El Nino weather pattern seems to be growing, which is often a sign of a milder winter to come for the Midwest.

“We’re seeing these upper air lows moving from the western United States through the Northern Plains on a fairly regular basis, about a week’s spread between events,” Dutcher says. “They have shown a tendency to slow down in the center part of the country and hang around for a couple of days. That’s consistent with the type of pattern we would see during an El Nino. It’s just we haven’t seen the moisture return in the western part of the state that we have in the eastern part of the state.”

Dutcher says he doesn’t expect a strong Arctic influence on the weather this winter. He says there’s no evidence a polar jet stream will bring super-cold air into the nation’s midsection.

“Yes, it will impact the Eastern United States more than likely the Upper Great Lakes and the Northeastern United States, but the direct channel of cold air coming into the center part of the country just doesn’t appear to be there,” Dutcher says. “If you look at this last 30 or 40-day period, all of these cold air outbreaks just seem to not have the penetration down into the Central and Southern Plains that they’ve had earlier in the year.”

Dutcher says weather patterns may stabilize as we get into winter. He says it could also mean we’re in for a stormy fall and an early winter, but a “fairly benign” mid-winter and the potential for above-normal moisture as we head into spring.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton


Developing El Nino pattern may bring Nebraska a milder winter

Snow on corn cropForecasters say Nebraska and the rest of the Midwest will likely have a mild winter because of the El Nino weather pattern that’s forming.

A strong El Nino, characterized by warm water in the central and east-central Pacific Ocean, is expected to start this fall and may extend into next spring.

National Weather Service meteorologist Wes Browning explains what that could mean for us: “The affects of El Nino are always a little bit tricky to forecast, especially in the Midwest,” Browning says. “Typically, we’ll be much more likely to have a warmer-than-normal winter with fewer very cold Arctic outbreaks. Precipitation should be about normal.”

Elsewhere, Browning expects drier-than-normal conditions in the north near the Canadian border and very hazardous weather from southern California to the Gulf coast, areas which have been plagued with rampaging wildfires for many weeks.

Browning says the Midwest overall is likely to have warmer-than-normal temperatures during the winter ahead.

“For the Midwest, the affects usually aren’t that dramatic,” he says. “Normally, when we get a strong El Nino, the odds are that we will have fewer very intense Arctic outbreaks, but as far as precipitation, it doesn’t have much affect at all.”

Browning say the El Nino pattern is expected to start this fall and could continue through spring.

Fall arrives next week and Browning says the strong warm-weather phase could arrive in a matter of several weeks, as the El Nino develops.

“Normally, a strong El Nino will last through the winter and on into the early spring before it starts to diminish,” he says.

Fall arrives September 23rd.


Wymore, in southeastern Nebraska, hit again by storms

DarkCloudsWymore is recovering, once again, from severe weather.

For a second time this week, severe weather hit the city of Wymore in southeastern Nebraska.

City Emergency Manager Mark Meints reports heavy rain, hail, and strong winds ripped through the middle of the town early this morning.

“We have a lot of power lines down yet, power poles snapped in half. We have several trees down, some hail damage,” Meints tells Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KWBE. “The hail was actually pea-sized to dime-sized hail, but it was just piles,”

Meints says some of those piles were three inches deep. He estimates the wind gusts hit 100 miles per hour.

Several buildings were damaged. Yards are littered with broken limbs and other debris. A few trees are uprooted.

No one has been reported injured.

The worst part of the storm shortly after 1am lasted only about 10-to-15 minutes, but it was a scary 10-to-15 minutes, according to Meints.

“In the 30-plus years I’ve been doing this, I have never been scared before and it was a scary few minutes there when the rain was actually coming through the door knobs on our front door.”

Doug Kennedy, KWBE, contributed to this story.

Drought expands as does work of Drought Mitigation Center (AUDIO)

Climatologist Brian Fuchs with the National Drought Mitigation Center talks with farmers at Husker Harvest Days, in Grand Island/UNL File Photo

Climatologist Brian Fuchs with the National Drought Mitigation Center talks with farmers at Husker Harvest Days, in Grand Island/UNL File Photo

As drought concerns spread in the southwestern and western portions of the United States, demand for the services of the National Drought Mitigation Center rises.

The center, located on the East Campus of the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, is expanding to meet the growing need.

National Drought Mitigation Center Director Mike Hayes says the center, now in its 20th year, has had to rely on grants and contracts, tying its work to specifically funded tasks.

NOAA locating its drought center at UNL will allow for more research.

“And now we have a little bit more flexibility to look out three to five years and say what are the priorities of NOAA or the nation in terms of dealing with drought and drought resilience?” Hayes tells Nebraska Radio Network.

The Drought Mitigation Center has received regular funding from NOAA in the past, but the location of NOAA’s new drought center at UNL provides for more opportunity. Hayes says it will enhance the center’s capacity and provide for more emphasis on research.

Drought has much of the southwestern United States in its grip, including nearly crippling conditions in the once-lush valleys of California and the once-crowded rangeland of Texas. The drought has many concerned and many turning to the Drought Mitigation Center for help.

“I do think it’s a great opportunity for national-level discussions and conversations about drought and what works best in dealing with droughts for the future,” Hayes says.

Hayes says the expansion will allow the center to put theory into practice in an effort to better forecast and prepare for drought conditions.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:50]

Strong storms bring hail, heavy downpours and rope tornadoes

DarkCloudsTornadoes, hail and heavy rain were reported in storms that moved along the Nebraska-Kansas border in the late afternoon hours of Labor Day. Two spotter reports to the National Weather Service described rope tornadoes near Reynolds and south of Fairbury, according to John McKee, the Jefferson County Emergency Management Coordinator.

“If we did have any touchdowns from those ropes, they were probably in remote areas,” McKee says. “There’s one home that had some siding damage and a broken window or two just from the hail.”

McKee says the late afternoon storms caused some isolated power outages in the southern half of the county.

“It wasn’t big sections down, it was just individual areas and trees coming down and individual homes,” he says.”

Southeast Nebraska was under a Flash Flood Watch beginning at seven o’clock on Monday night and that watch was to extend through this (Tuesday) morning. McKee says there were some reports of heavy rain falling in Jefferson County in a short period of time, including one report from the Fairbury area of one inch of rain in 20 minutes.

“It was very welcome for our area and hopefully we’ll see some more because we had cracks all over the ground from two to three inches wide and some of them, you can drop a yard stick into and not have it hit bottom,” McKee says.

Weather spotters reported hail from Monday’s storms in both Nebraska and Kansas as large as tennis balls. A rope tornado was also reported by a weather spotter four miles southwest of Barneston and a tornado report was received from three miles north of Steele City, in Jefferson County.

Severe weather knocked out power in some communities of Saline County last night. Emergency Management Coordinator B.J. Fictum says the communities of Dewitt, Western, Swanton and surrounding rural areas were without electricity following strong storms. Norris Public Power District crews had power restored in the town of Swanton, by 9:30 PM Monday.

Fictum says the main damage consisted of high winds knocking down tree branches. Wilber received 1.75 inches of rain, while areas around Swanton and Friend received a half-inch of rain or less. Dime to nickel-sized hail fell briefly, in Wilber.

Sunday night, areas around Lincoln and east of the capital city received hail and heavy rain from severe thunderstorms. The National Weather Service reports 5.82 inches of rain fell just southwest of Eagle, while 4.1 inches of rain fell about 8-and-a-half miles northeast of Lincoln. Between 3 and 4 inches of rain was reported by several spotters, east and southeast of Lincoln.

By Doug Kennedy, KWBE, Beatrice