At least a dozen tornadoes hit Dallas and northern Texas yesterday. Here is a video showing a funnel tossing semi trucks and trailers high, high into the air.
View more videos at: http://nbcdfw.com.
I spent a few hours yesterday afternoon watching the live broadcast from NBC 5 in Dallas/Fort Worth.
Weather everywhere is getting weirder.
Not weird. Not really. Tornadoes went along an almost identical path along I-20 about 10 years ago. There have also been periodic “large” hail events in the same area over the past 30 years (grape fruit size stuff). This is tornado season in the South Plains; again, not so weird. The weirdness is why major urban areas in the South and Central Plains don’t get hit more often – think about it, the DFW area is larger than the state of Connecticut. It should be getting hit regularly. So should San Antonio and Austin and Oklahoma City and Wichita and Omaha.
… and Washington D.C. But that’s a different topic.
Washington’s, like Minneapolis’, was an omen. Not weird, but truly scary.
Tornado Alley in spring time? Not weird at all.
Whatever happened to storm cellars, like the one in The Wizard of Oz? It seems like a really smart idea in tornado country, but in TX most homes don’t even have basements.
Tom said (@1):
Weather everywhere is getting weirder.
That’s the kind of claim that’s extremely difficult to substantiate … or disprove. But it seems more likely to me that belief in weirder weather correlates better with one’s political/religious ideology than it does with any objective weather statistics.
Jon said (@4), how can we tell if a particular phenomenon is an “omen” or not? Also, the Minneapolis area gets its share of tornados, and, depending on which definition you use, is also in Tornado Alley.
SK said (@2):
the DFW area is larger than the state of Connecticut. It should be getting hit regularly.
Even though I spent two decades in the Metroplex, I had to look that one up. I guess it depends on how widely you define “the DFW area”. Wikipedia says the “urban” area is around 1400 sq.mi., while the “metro” area is 9300 sq.mi. Quite a difference, that, with the size of Connecticut (at 5500 sq.mi.) being the average of the two figures.
Still, if we take the larger of the two areas, then on what basis are you arguing that “the DFW area” isn’t “getting hit regularly”?
My point being that, the reason why yesterday’s tornadoes made so much news is because they hit fairly urban sections of the Metroplex. But the 9300 sq.mi. figure takes into consideration not just Dallas and Tarrant counties, but also Delta, Hunt, Wise, Parker, Kaufman, Ellis, and Johnson. Tornadoes could touch down in lots of those places without too many people noticing — certainly without a lot of media attention.
You’d think my comment @ 1 implied anthropogenic global warming or something. Sheesh, what a touchy bunch. 😀
DonS (@5), I’ve only ever seen storm cellars in rural areas (and that was in NE Arkansas). Seems like most urbanites consider them to be not very good uses of space. At least you can store your goods in a basement.
Of course, the reason why many Texas homes lack basements probably has something to do with foundation issues. The clay soils of Texas apparently do not lend themselves to great stability (there were always cracks in the walls after a heavy rain or during a prolonged drought). Seems like trying to put a basement in that is just asking for trouble.
Still, I think you’re missing the extreme statistical unlikeliness that your local neighborhood is going to get hit by a tornado — and tornadoes are remarkably localized events, as scary as they are. For the vast majority of people, storm cellars would simply be wastes of time and space.
Thanks, tODD. I didn’t realize the soils issue, which is significant when building underground shelters.
I have had the “opportunity” to experience two killing tornadoes first-hand, however. One was in Eau Claire, WI, sometime back in the 1970’s, and the other on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota in 1988. In both cases, they struck within 1/2 – 1 mile of where we were, and killed a total of 3 people. Even though there is an extreme statistical unlikelihood of you being actually hit by a tornado, there is a much higher percentage chance of being terrorized by the possibility, especially when you are huddling in what you consider to be inadequate shelter, such as under a bridge in a campground, or in a dilapidated church basement.
Growing up in the Kansas City area, I was used to going to the basement several times each summer. It’s weird that I have never actually seen a twister, even when in close proximity. So I move to Edmonton in 1985 and think I have escaped the odds, and then in 1987 Edmonton is hit with a devastating storm. Had I just gone up the stairs from lower level to ground floor and looked out the south-facing window, I would have had a full-on look at that one. But I didn’t do that, so my record of never seeing one remains intact.
Todd – Just read your comment this am. The tornadoes did come down in more urbanized areas in the Metroplex. To some extent the coverage of the tornadoes was more extensive simply due to the proximity many of them had to I-20 and the simultaneous presence/proximity of news helicopters being in the area. While there are lots of areas within the DFW region that are still open field, there are also lots of newly emerging suburban and exurban communities that are now being incorporated into the behemoth. I would expect that over time more of the DFW area will be exposed to tornadic activity, simply due to the expansion of the urban boundary; I’m more surprised though that this hasn’t manifested itself sooner.
As to the size of DFW, the central and eastern portions of Parker County are now effectively west Fort Worth, and much of northern Johnson County (Burleson for example) are simply far south Fort Worth. Where I used to live in Arlington (one tornado touched down right near my high school) used to be the suburban fringe – it is now well within the urbanized area boundary however you define it. Mansfield has now extended itself, in competition with Grand Prairie, down to the outskirts of Waxahachie and I-45. Moreover, Waxahachie is now far south Dallas. The fringe of the DFW area can probably be traced as line connecting the points of Decatur, Mineral Wells, Granbury, Ennis, Kaufman, Terrell, Greenville/Commerce, Sherman, Gainesville and then back to Decatur. A simply massive urban agglomeration consisting of densely urban areas, open fields, suburban edge cities and an increasingly urbanizing exurban fringe of small towns and communities.
Actually defining what is urban or urbanized or suburban or what have you is an interesting problem – one we are actually wrestling with here at work. What is the best method for classifying and calculating population densities v. population counts? It isn’t as straightforward as you might think.
Anyhow, generally, I include in the “core” Tarrant, Dallas, Denton, Parker, Wise, Johnson, Ellis, Rockwall, Kaufman and Collin counties. I would probably not include Hunt and Delta in my definition, but that may be more to my general ignorance of the far eastern reaches of DFW. So, for me DFW is Connecticut size; if you include Hunt and Delta, it becomes Connecticut + Rhode Island sized, although there is still a lot of open land in the interstices between the different urbanized pockets contained within the area.