Friday, December 28, 2012

A Not So Merry Christmas!

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter's nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

From The Night Before Christmas

For some there were no children snug in the beds with visions of sugar-plums dancing in their heads.  No time to settle down for a long winter’s nap.  The winds were howling and the snow was flying, while tornadoes danced south keeping everyone on edge.  This year Mother Nature would be part of the tale.

Meteorologists were kept busy forecasting what’s next;
Many monitored each storm and sent out the text;
For many the weather was not so genteel;
Like the tornado that passed through the heart of Mobile;
Most were quite nervous as the storms moved east;
Not knowing what to expect from this awesome beast;
But most survived Mother Nature’s disorder;
Because they were warned by meteorologists and reporters.

There was no surprise from the Christmas Day storm.  It had been forecast well in advance.  The European model hinted that it might take place as I mentioned on-air a week before it happened.  What happened?

A bitter cold air mass move south through the Plains as an upper-level disturbance strengthen over the South Central states.  It began to come together on Christmas Eve and produced a blizzard for some on Christmas Day.  The blizzard warnings extended from northeastern Arkansas to the Northeast.  It was the first blizzard warning on record for northeastern Arkansas.

Warm air surged north colliding with the cold air producing numerous thunderstorms along the Central Gulf coast.  A strong low pressure center was moving through the lower Mississippi River Valley by early in the evening on Christmas Day.

The Christmas Day storm system as of 7 p.m. EST with the satellite and radar composites.  Click on the image for a larger version.  Image Credit: WLTX-TV.

An outbreak of tornadoes occurred in the warm sector of the storm system.  In fact it was a record outbreak for Christmas Day.  There were 39 preliminary reports of tornadoes which will likely whittle down to 25-30 after all of the damage surveys are done.  But even the downward revision is more than twice the record of 12 tornadoes on any Christmas Day.

The forecast from the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) was exceptional.  You don’t expect to see this kind of thing at this time of year.  All of the severe local storms occurred in their outlook area.

Verification of the storm reports over the forecast outlook.  Click on the image for a larger version.  Image Credit: NOAA/SPC.

If you haven’t seen it, below is a very good video of the tornado that hit Mobile, Alabama.  The flashes you see around the storm are the transformers exploding as the tornado passes.  Fortunately, there have been no deaths attributed to this storm.  The National Weather Service rated this tornado as an EF 2 with winds to 135 mph.

Earth Gauge put out a list of the most memorable winter storms for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  Here is a list of those dates:
You can click the link to find out more about each one.

Many in the midlands of South Carolina would like to see a snow on Christmas Day.  This year is an example of why you should be careful what you wish for.  But what are the chances of seeing a white Christmas in Columbia.  The graphic below gives the historical chances for a white Christmas nationwide with the percentage chance for Columbia.  We have actually seen more snow on Thanksgiving Day than on Christmas Day.

Odds of seeing a white Christmas nationwide with the percentage in Columbia, SC.  Click on the image for a larger version.  Image Credit: Climate Central.