February, 2013

Wildfire season starts in March

February 28th, 2013 at 2:20 pm by under Weather

As daylight breaks, smoke shadows the orange sky in Bastrop County. (Jarrod Wise/KXAN)

Earth Gauge: Preparing for Wildfire Season

The spring months – March through May – are a time of increased wildfire risk in the southern United States and Texas. Wildfire risk can be especially high in areas where homes and buildings are located adjacent to woodlands, parks and other natural landscapes.

This is a good time of year to survey your property and reduce the amount of flammable material around your home.  An easy way to do this is to think of your property in zones:

  • Zone 1 is closest to your home and extends for at least 30 feet. This zone should be well-irrigated and planted with native plants that are well-suited to the local climate.
  • Zone 2 extends at least 20 feet from Zone 1. This area should also be well-irrigated and can include low-growing plants, shrubs and carefully-placed trees. Place trees at least 10 feet apart and trim away dead branches.
  • Zone 3 is the farthest from your home and extends at least 50 feet from Zone 2. Think of this as a “slightly modified natural area.” Thin out dense areas of trees and remove dead or dying trees and shrubs.

Learn more about making your home and community Firewise.

(Sources: National Fire Protection Association, Firewise. “Be Firewise Around Your Home.” http://firewise.gvpi.net/~/media/Firewise/Files/Pdfs/Booklets%20and%20Brochures/BrochureBeFirewiseAroundYourHome.pdf)


SKYWARN Training Returns!

February 28th, 2013 at 12:42 pm by under Weather

The next local National Weather Service SKYWARN training session takes place TONIGHT!!  If you want to be present at tonight’s presentation, head to the Community Center in Burnet, located at 401 East Jackson.  The session begins at 6:30pm and is expected to last through 8:30pm.

If you are not sure what SKYWARN is, here is a write-up from the Austin/San Antonio NWS office:

 

Austin/San Antonio SKYWARN Program

The Austin-San Antonio National Weather Service Office offers Skywarn severe weather training throughout year. Most Skywarn trainings are conducted in the Spring to coincide with severe weather season and allow citizens, first responders, emergency management, amateur radio operators, and volunteer organizations the opportunity to learn about severe weather preparedness and safety. Published trainings are all open to the general public.

After training is complete, usually 1.5 hours for the BASIC training, you will be an official weather spotter for the National Weather Service. The National Weather Service will count on you to be our “eyes” out in the field, when trying to verify severe weather across South Central Texas. With 33 counties under the jurisdiction of the Austin-San Antonio National Weather Service, it becomes very important to verify and accurately determine where severe weather is occurring. Real time reports to our office can save lives and property. Post storm reports can help help us find severe weather damage, tornado tracks, and verify severe weather warnings.

Skywarn training is now also offered online. This online training can be found athttps://www.meted.ucar.edu/training_course.php?id=23. This online training should only be used to supplement what is taught at a local NWS Skywarn training. Attendance at a local NWS Skywarn training is highly encouraged. Besides learning about severe weather topics specific to South Central Texas, procedures for reporting severe weather to the local Austin-San Antonio National Weather Service Office are also covered.

Please join us at one of the scheduled training. Additional trainings will be added to this site. If you would like the NWS to schedule a training in your area or schedule for a specific group, please contact Paul Yura, Warning Coordination Meteorologist, at 830-629-0130 ext 223 or email paul.yura@noaa.gov

 

For a complete training schedule, click on the “scheduled training” link in the paragraph above.  Enjoy!!


Panhandle blizzard snow pack visible from space

February 26th, 2013 at 8:10 pm by under Weather

Check out the snow pack on the ground, as seen from a visible satellite photo after Monday’s blizzard in the Texas Panhandle:

*This was the 3rd largest snowfall event at Amarillo – only behind March 25-26, 1934 (20.6 inches) and December 26-27, 2000 (20.2 inches)
*This was the 2nd largest snowfall for a calendar day — only behind March 25, 1934 (19.3 inches)
*This was the largest snowfall for a single day in the month of February.  The previous record was 12 inches on February 16, 1893
*The 17-inch snow depth at 6 AM on Tuesday, February 26 was the highest all-time snow depth measurement taken at Amarillo.  (Snow depth measurements are only take once a day at 6 AM)

CLICK HERE FOR MORE ON THE HISTORIC BLIZZARD

(National Weather Service)


Winter Storm “Rocky” brings heavy snow to TX Panhandle

February 26th, 2013 at 1:22 pm by under Weather

Snowfall amounts as of 10am Tuesday (Credit: Weather Underground)

The powerful upper-level low pressure system that inflicted damaging winds upon central Texas Monday (check out the KXAN photo gallery) brought very heavy snowfall to areas farther north.

In fact, the winter storm dubbed “Rocky” brought Amarillo its second-snowiest day on record with 24-hour amounts totaling 19″!  Wind gusts to hurricane force created snow drifts more than five feet tall.

A meteorologist from the National Weather Service Amarillo office stands in the parking lot next to a massive snow drift (Credit: Weatherdude from DKos)


Peak wind gusts Monday

February 25th, 2013 at 10:40 pm by under Weather
PUBLIC INFORMATION STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE AUSTIN/SAN ANTONIO TX
934 PM CST MON FEB 25 2013

...HIGHEST WINDS IN THE PAST 24 HOURS BY COUNTY...

...LOCATION...                             ...TIME...     ...WIND...

...ATASCOSA COUNTY...
2 WSW PLEASANTON (413 FT)(AWOS)            215 PM FEB 25      51 MPH
1 W PLEASANTON (409 FT)(APRSWXNET)         305 PM FEB 25      32 MPH
7 N POTEET (610 FT)(APRSWXNET)            1244 PM FEB 25      32 MPH

...BANDERA COUNTY...
1 SSW LOST MAPLES STATE PARK (RAWS)        246 PM FEB 25      48 MPH
5 NW BANDERA (452 FT)(APRSWXNET)           131 PM FEB 25      38 MPH

...BASTROP COUNTY...
4 WNW CEDAR CREEK (593 FT)(APRSWXNET)      210 PM FEB 25      47 MPH
3 NE ELGIN (577 FT)(APRSWXNET)             430 PM FEB 25      46 MPH
1 NW CAMP SWIFT (116 FT)(RAWS)             408 PM FEB 25      39 MPH
ROSANKY (522 FT)(APRSWXNET)                509 PM FEB 25      25 MPH
1 W BASTROP (371 FT)(AWS)                  239 PM FEB 25      22 MPH

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High winds to continue into the evening

February 25th, 2013 at 4:16 pm by under Weather

Here is a message from the National Weather Service regarding today’s extremely high winds:

…Damaging 50 mph wind gusts to continue through this afternoon…Wind Advisories and Red Flag Warnings are in effect through 7 pm…Fire danger will be High…

AREA OF CONCERN….All of South Central Texas

IMPACTS…Sustained west/northwest winds of 25 to 35 mph with occasional gusts to over 50 mphPower outages, downed trees, and downed powerlines can be expected.  Blowing dust may lower visibilities and driving will be difficult…especially high profile vehicles.   Minor wind damage can be expected.  Humidities below 20% will lead to a high fire danger.  Any fire that gets started will spread very quickly.   Grass fires have already been reported.

TIMING…Damaging wind gusts will continue through 7pm.  Winds will slowly start to decrease after the sun goes down although winds of 20-30 mph are still expected until midnight.  Wind directions will become more Northwest as the night progresses.   With strong winds expected through the late evening hours…the high fire danger will continue through 7pm as well…diminishing by late evening as humidities increase.

DISCUSSION….A very strong storm system moving across the southern plains is causing a blizzard in the panhandle and windy/dry weather elsewhere.  A front has pushed through the area…and winds have switched to the West. Sustained speeds of 25 to 35 mph…gusts could get over 50 mph.  Dry air has moved into the area and humidities are below 20%.   The combination of windy conditions, dry air, and plenty of dry grasses will allow for a high fire danger today.  Some grass fires have already been reported.  Wind Advisories and Red Flag Warnings are in effect until 7 pm tonight.  Any wildfire or grass fire that does start will move quickly.   Wind speeds will slowly decrease overnight but breezy conditions are still expected.

Keep informed by going to our webpage at www.weather.gov/austin


Here Comes The Wind

February 25th, 2013 at 8:22 am by under Weather

HERE IS THE RED FLAG WARNING MESSAGE FROM THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE
URGENT - FIRE WEATHER MESSAGE
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE AUSTIN/SAN ANTONIO TX
622 AM CST MON FEB 25 2013

...A RED FLAG WARNING IS IN EFFECT FROM 10 AM TO 7 PM TODAY
FOR ALL OF SOUTH CENTRAL TEXAS...

.A DRY RIDGE OF HIGH PRESSURE WILL INCREASE ACROSS SOUTH CENTRAL
TEXAS TODAY...IN WAKE OF A FAST MOVING PACIFIC COLD FRONT.
VERY DRY AND GUSTY WEST AND NORTHWEST WINDS WILL PREVAIL TODAY
THROUGH THE EARLY EVENING HOURS. 20 FOOT WEST AND NORTHWEST WINDS
WILL INCREASE TO BETWEEN 20 AND 30 MPH...WITH GUSTS TO NEAR
40 TO 45 MPH. THE RELATIVE HUMIDITIES WILL FALL INTO THE TEENS
AND 20S. BRIEF AND SPOTTY WETTING RAINS EAST OF IH35 EARLY THIS
MORNING WILL MOVE EAST OF THE AREA BY MID AND LATE MORNING.

622 AM CST MON FEB 25 2013

...RED FLAG WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM 10 AM THIS MORNING TO
7 PM CST THIS EVENING FOR STRONG WINDS AND LOW RELATIVE
HUMIDITIES ACROSS THE HILL COUNTRY AND SOUTH CENTRAL TEXAS...

* AFFECTED AREA...THE FOLLOWING SOUTH CENTRAL TEXAS COUNTIES...
  LLANO...BURNET...WILLIAMSON...VAL VERDE...EDWARDS...REAL...
  KERR...BANDERA...GILLESPIE...KENDALL...BLANCO...HAYS...
  TRAVIS...BASTROP...LEE...KINNEY...UVALDE...MEDINA...BEXAR...
  COMAL...GUADALUPE...CALDWELL...FAYETTE...MAVERICK...ZAVALA...
  FRIO...ATASCOSA...WILSON...KARNES...GONZALES...DE WITT...
  LAVACA...DIMMIT.

* 20-FOOT WIND...WEST AND NORTHWEST AT 20 TO 30 MPH WITH GUSTS TO
  NEAR 40 TO 45 MPH.

* HUMIDITY...10 TO 25 PERCENT.

* IMPACTS...ANY FIRES THAT DEVELOP WILL LIKELY SPREAD RAPIDLY.
  OUTDOOR BURNING IS NOT RECOMMENDED.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

A RED FLAG WARNING MEANS THAT CRITICAL FIRE WEATHER CONDITIONS
ARE EITHER OCCURRING NOW...OR WILL SHORTLY.  AVOID THE USE OF
OPEN FLAMES OR ANY ACTIVITIES THAT MAY GENERATE SPARKS.
ACCIDENTAL IGNITIONS WILL HAVE THE POTENTIAL TO GROW QUICKLY INTO
DANGEROUS WIND DRIVEN WILDFIRES.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________
URGENT - WEATHER MESSAGE
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE AUSTIN/SAN ANTONIO TX
608 AM CST MON FEB 25 2013

...A WIND ADVISORY IS IN EFFECT FOR THE WESTERN AREAS OF SOUTH
CENTRAL TEXAS AND THE HILL COUNTRY FROM 6 AM TO 7 PM TODAY...

...A WIND ADVISORY IS IN EFFECT FROM 10 AM THIS MORNING THROUGH
7 PM THIS EVENING FOR THE REST OF SOUTH CENTRAL TEXAS...

.A DRY RIDGE OF HIGH PRESSURE WILL BUILD OVER SOUTH CENTRAL TEXAS
TODAY...IN WAKE OF A FAST MOVING COLD FRONT.  WEST AND NORTHWEST
WINDS AT 25 TO 35 MPH...WITH GUSTS TO NEAR 45 MPH AT TIMES...ARE
EXPECTED TODAY. THE STRONG WINDS WILL DIMINISH THIS EVENING TO
BELOW WIND ADVISORY CRITERIA...HOWEVER...BREEZY CONDITIONS OF
15 TO 25 MPH ARE EXPECTED THROUGH MIDNIGHT.

608 AM CST MON FEB 25 2013

...WIND ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 7 PM CST THIS EVENING...

* TIMING...6 AM CST TODAY THROUGH 7 PM CST THIS EVENING.

* WINDS...STRONG WEST AND NORTHWEST WINDS OF 25 TO 35 MPH...WITH
  GUSTS NEAR 45 MPH POSSIBLE.

* IMPACTS...LIGHT WEIGHT OBJECTS SUCH AS TRASH CANS...PATIO
  FURNITURE AND LAWN DECORATIONS WILL BE BLOWN AROUND. BLOWING
  DUST POSSIBLE. HIGH PROFILE VEHICLES MAY BE DIFFICULT TO
  CONTROL.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

A WIND ADVISORY MEANS THAT SUSTAINED WINDS OF 26 TO 39 MPH ARE
EXPECTED. WINDS THIS STRONG CAN MAKE DRIVING DIFFICULT...
ESPECIALLY FOR HIGH PROFILE VEHICLES. USE EXTRA CAUTION.

Strong winds will increase fire threat Monday

February 24th, 2013 at 10:06 am by under Weather

We’re tracking a strong cold front set to push through central Texas during the dawn hours on Monday morning.

With the front’s passage, we will see a 50% chance of scattered showers – with an isolated stronger thunderstorm possible. For those of us who do get a shower, rainfall amounts will unfortunately remain light.

Behind the front is when another threat comes into play.

The National Weather Service has issued both a Wind Advisory and a Red Flag Warning for central Texas from 10 AM – 7 PM Monday.

Gusty NW winds ushering in colder, dry air could reach speeds of 40 MPH Monday afternoon! Be sure to use extra caution, as the risk of wind-driven wildfires will be very high.


January Climate Overview

February 23rd, 2013 at 6:33 pm by under Weather

From NOAA NCDC:

Climate Highlights — January

  • The average temperature for the contiguous U.S. during January was 32.0°F, 1.6°F above the 20th century average, tying with 1958 as the 39th warmest January on record.
  • January brought warmer-than-average conditions to the eastern half of the contiguous U.S., despite several cold air outbreaks. The largest warm temperature departures from average were in the Southeast, where Georgia and Florida both had their 11th warmest January with monthly temperatures 5.7°F and 5.6°F above average, respectively.
  • Below-average temperatures were anchored in the western United States. Nevada had its ninth coolest January on record, with a monthly temperature 5.9°F below average, and Utah had its eighth coolest January, with temperatures 7.5°F below average.
  • The January nationally-averaged precipitation total of 2.36 inches was 0.14 inch above the long-term average. The January precipitation average masked both wet and dry extremes across the nation. Drought conditions remained entrenched across the Southeast, Great Plains, and the mountainous West.
  • Wetter-than-average conditions stretched from the Southern Plains to the Mid-Atlantic, where Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Michigan, and Virginia each had January precipitation totals ranking among their ten wettest. The above-average precipitation generally missed the core drought areas of the central and southeastern United States.
  • Drier-than-average conditions were observed along the West Coast, the central Rockies, and parts of the Northern Plains, Southeast, and Northeast. California, Connecticut, and Florida each had one of their ten driest Januarys.
  • According to data from the Rutgers Global Snow Lab, the January snow cover extent for the contiguous U.S. was slightly above average at 1.4 million square miles. Mountain snowpack was near-average for much of the West, with the exceptions in parts of the Northwest where snowpack was much above average, and in the Central and Southern Rockies where snowpack was much below average.
  • Alaska was warmer and wetter than average. The statewide average temperature was 7.1°F above average and the precipitation total was 64 percent above average. Parts of the state had monthly temperatures more than 10°F above normal.
  • According to the January 29thU.S. Drought Monitor report, 57.7 percent of the contiguous U.S. was experiencing moderate-to-exceptional drought, smaller than the 61.1 percent at the beginning of the month. Drought conditions improved in parts of the Mid-Atlantic and Mid-Mississippi River Valley.

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Continued U.S. drought a bad sign for upcoming summer, could be linked to climate change

February 23rd, 2013 at 10:54 am by under Weather

As KXAN meteorologist Natalie Stoll reported, the drought in central Texas continues to worsen as drier-than-normal conditions have persisted this winter and are expected to continue through the spring.

All of central Texas is currently experiencing some degree of drought, with most of the area in moderate to severe drought conditions.

Texas’ latest drought conditions, courtesy of the U.S. Drought Monitor

The ongoing drought has not been confined to central Texas.

A handful of states from the Rocky Mountains through the central Plains are currently in the most severe (exceptional) drought category.

Thin winter snowpack near Vail. Photo courtesy of Matthew Staver, NY Times

Many hoped that heavy winter snowfall in the Rockies and Great Plains would ease the devastating drought conditions the area endured last summer, but mother nature has not risen to the task.

As the New York Times recently reported, lacking mountain snowpack and dangerously low reservoir levels have meteorologists and water planning experts alike worried that this summer could bring more destructive wildfires and even larger crop losses than what the area weathered last summer.

According to the U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook for the upcoming months, drought is expected to continue or worsen from Texas to South Dakota, and California to Kansas.

The seasonal drought outlook, courtesy of the Climate Prediction Center

This ongoing drought already ranks as the worst in both severity and geographical extent since the 1950s. And as the drought is expected to intensify through the spring, experts have a grim outlook.

Brad Rippey, a meteorologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, recently said the drought “will probably end up being a top-five [costliest] disaster event” of the last three decades.

Some scientists, such as Texas State Climatologist Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon, are connecting the dots between the current drought situation and global climate change.

Nielsen-Gammon, a professor of meteorology, suggests that the overall warmer climate caused by human-induced global warming has amplified the severe drought by triggering more intense heat during the spring and summer of 2012. The warmer temperatures evaporate more moisture from the soil, thus worsening the drought.

Read more on climate change’s possible connections to current U.S. weather events at Climate Central.

To learn more about the science behind climate change, as well as how human activities are contributing, click over to Climate Change Basics from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.