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Severe Weather 101 – Severe Weather Awareness Week wrap up

Saturday, April 20th, 2019 5:00am MDT
Supercell thunderstorms like this can be beautiful - but they can also be deadly. Do you know what to do when severe weather strikes? (Stormscape Photography / FLICKR)

Supercell thunderstorms like this can be beautiful – but they can also be deadly. Do you know what to do when severe weather strikes? (Stormscape Photography / FLICKR)

Over the past week we have highlighted some of the severe weather hazards that we face in Colorado every spring and summer in our Severe Weather 101 series.  The dangers these present are significant and not to be taken lightly.

Tornadoes grab most of the headlines and certainly are a danger however others like lightning and flooding are more common and actually claim more lives.  We ask all of our readers to please, take the time to review these important articles – they could save yours and your family’s lives!

The National Weather Service has published a nice wrap up of Severe Weather Awareness Week that covers all the basics – see it below.  For more in depth information, please use the links at the bottom to view each article on our Severe Weather 101 series.  Be safe and be weatherwise!

PUBLIC INFORMATION STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE GRAND JUNCTION CO
600 AM MDT SAT APR 20 2019

SEVERE WEATHER AWARENESS WEEK IN REVIEW

Severe Weather Awareness Week in review…

Severe Weather Awareness Week in Colorado concludes today. During the past week we have presented information and safety rules for tornadoes, lightning and wildfires, floods and flash floods, straight-line thunderstorm winds, hail, and our warning programs.

We will now review some of the most important safety rules in our effort to build a Weather-Ready Nation.

Be weather-wise by staying informed on expected weather in your area. The National Weather Service is typically aware of the potential for severe weather many hours or even days before any severe weather watches or warnings are issued, providing forecast products to heighten your awareness. A Weather Story product is posted each day on National Weather Service Internet pages and Facebook pages which includes a map and text on possible hazardous weather expected within the next seven days.

A Hazardous Weather Outlook is also issued daily with information on possible hazardous weather through the next seven days. A watch is issued when conditions for severe weather or flooding become possible. A warning is then issued when life threatening conditions are imminent or occurring.

Tornadoes

Tornadoes can even strike in mountain areas. In 2008 on August 23rd, this rope tornado struck Park County near Eleven Mile Reservoir. Image courtesy Jerry Bivens.

Tornadoes can even strike in mountain areas. In 2008 on August 23rd, this rope tornado struck Park County near Eleven Mile Reservoir. Image courtesy Jerry Bivens.

The best way to protect yourself from tornadoes is to have a plan of action. The safest place to be if a tornado approaches is in a basement or safe room within a well-built structure, or in an underground storm shelter. If none of these options are available, move to a hallway or a small interior room on the lowest floor, usually this is a closet or bathroom. Get under a heavy piece of furniture or in a bath tub and cover yourself with blankets. Remember, the greatest risk of injury from tornadoes is from flying debris.

Modular homes and mobile homes, even those tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes. If a tornado approaches, leave those locations and seek safety in a nearby sturdy building or storm shelter.

If you are driving in open country and see a tornado, if time permits, the best thing to do is simply drive away from the tornado path. Do not take shelter beneath a highway overpass. Wind speeds may actually be higher in these areas and often become collection points for debris.

If you are caught outside and cannot seek shelter inside a sturdy structure, crawl into a culvert or lie down in a narrow ditch or ravine and cover your head. But remember that the worst place to be when a tornado threatens is outside in the midst of flying debris.

Lightning

Lightning usually kills and injures more people in Colorado than any other thunderstorm hazard. Lightning also causes many wildfires.

The best defense to protect yourself against a lightning strike is to plan ahead and avoid being caught where you might be vulnerable. Check weather forecasts prior to venturing out, especially if you are heading into the mountains. Plan outdoor activities early in the day before storms develop.

If thunderstorms threaten, seek shelter in a building or in an enclosed metal-roof vehicle, making sure all windows and doors are closed. Never seek shelter under an isolated tree. During thunderstorms, stay off corded telephones, away from electrical devices, and away from plumbing. Also get out of shower stalls, bath tubs, swimming pools and lakes when lightning is nearby.

You should wait at least 30 minutes after the last sound of thunder before resuming outdoor activities. When thunder roars…go indoors.

Floods and Flash Floods

The Big Thompson Flood in 1976 claimed the lives of 144 Coloradoans and serves to remind us of the dangers of floods. (USGS)

The Big Thompson Flood in 1976 claimed the lives of 144 Coloradoans and serves to remind us of the dangers of floods. (USGS)

When flooding or flash flooding is possible, you should remain alert and be ready to quickly evacuate to higher ground or climb to safety. Flash floods often occur suddenly and without warning. You need to follow some basic flood safety rules:

  • Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams and washes, particularly during threatening conditions.
  • If you are near a river, be aware of water levels and be prepared to move to higher ground if river levels rise.
  • Do not enter areas that are already flooded.
  • If walking or fishing along a river, be aware that erosion from swift running water can cause river banks to collapse.
  • Never let your children play around high water, storm drains, viaducts or arroyos.

At least half of all flash flood fatalities are vehicle related. While driving your automobile, look out for flooding at highway dips, bridges and low areas. Two feet of moving water will carry away most vehicles. Never attempt to drive across a flooded road. And be especially cautious at night when it is difficult to see flood dangers.

Strong Straight-Line Winds

Straight-line winds from thunderstorms, including microbursts, can become quite strong, even reaching speeds in excess of 100 mph in extreme cases. When thunderstorms approach, high winds can suddenly develop, causing things on the ground to become swift moving airborne missiles with a potential force to injure or kill. As with any thunderstorm, seek shelter before the storm arrives.

Hail

This is one of the largest recorded hail stones which is more than 7 inches in diameter and fell in Nebraska in 2003. (NOAA)

This is one of the largest recorded hail stones which is more than 7 inches in diameter and fell in Nebraska in 2003. (NOAA)

Large hail can pose a danger to animals and people. Hail also produces considerable damage to crops and personal property each year in Colorado. Again, get indoors before thunderstorms arrive. A fall of small hail can suddenly change to a fall of very large ice missiles which can injure or kill. Make efforts to protect personal property before storms threaten.

Warning Notification

When thunderstorms threaten, tune to NOAA All-Hazards Weather Radio, The Weather Channel, or your local radio or television stations. Also check the Internet web site from the National Weather Service office serving your area. And if you have a relatively new cell phone you should receive Tornado and Flash Flood Warnings on your phone if you are in the area of the warning.

During threatening weather days, plan the actions you will need to take so that you will be prepared if dangerous weather conditions actually develop.

NOAA’s National Weather Service wishes you a safe severe weather season.

Severe Weather Awareness Week in Colorado concludes today. During the past week we have presented information and safety rules for tornadoes, lightning and wildfires, floods and flash floods, straight-line thunderstorm winds, hail, and our warning programs.

 

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Severe Weather 101 – Lightning and lightning safety

Friday, April 19th, 2019 5:08am MDT
This is NOT the time to be outside. (michaeljames / FLICKR)

This is NOT the time to be outside. (michaeljames / FLICKR)

Of all the weather types associated with thunderstorms – hail, tornadoes, floods, etc – lightning is usually the most dangerous. In the United States there are an estimated 25 million cloud to ground lightning flashes each year and each one is a potential threat to life and property.

During the past 10 years there has been an annual average of 39 lightning fatalities in the United States. Last year, 23 people lost their lives due to lightning.

Colorado is ranked # 2 in lightning related deaths (2001 – 2010) so the danger this presents to life and property is very significant for us. It is interesting to note though that Colorado ranks only 32nd in the number of cloud to ground strikes over that same period. Which means, in short, we have fewer strikes than many other states and yet more deaths.

This highlights the fact that, quite frankly, folks here in Colorado are not aware of the dangers lightning presents and they do not take proper steps to protect themselves. One of the great things about Colorado are the outdoor activities we all enjoy, but there comes a time when we need to head indoors.

» Click here to read the rest of Severe Weather 101 – Lightning and lightning safety

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Thornton’s weekend starts out pleasant, unseasonably warm; will end cooler and wetter

Friday, April 19th, 2019 4:55am MDT

A bit of a mixed bag of weather ahead for us over the three day period. Friday and Saturday will be gorgeous with very mild temperatures but a storm system will cool it down and dampen things come Sunday.

For today, look for sunny skies throughout the day with calm conditions. Highs today will top out in the mid-70s. Tonight, mostly clear skies will be above with lows in the low to mid-40s.

Saturday will be the warmest day of the period with highs right near the 80 degree mark. Mostly sunny skies will be above and conditions calm. Saturday night cloud cover will increase with lows in the mid-40s.

Sunday we will see the effects of the storm. Some light showers may be possible early with coverage then becoming more widespread and a bit heavier in the afternoon through the evening. Mostly cloudy skies will be above with highs right near the average for the date of 63 degrees.

All in all, not too bad. Have a great weekend.

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Severe Weather 101 – Hail and Wind

Thursday, April 18th, 2019 7:06am MDT
Straight line winds can be as damaging as a tornado. This image is from a park in Tennessee. (NWS)

Straight line winds can be as damaging as a tornado. This image is from a park in Tennessee. (NWS)

During the spring and summer months in Colorado, a wide array of severe weather can strike. Tornadoes may grab all the headlines, but straight line winds and hail can do a great amount of damage in their own right – and they are more common.

Straight line winds are winds out of a thunderstorm and are classified as severe when they hit 58 mph. These winds can reach tornado and hurricane force and as a result, cause property damage and can injure and even kill animals and humans.

These winds are usually the result of air cooling rapidly due to precipitation or evaporation. As the cooler air is heavier than the surrounding warmer air, it rushes downward, accelerating toward the ground and spreads out as it hits, much like pancake batter being poured onto a griddle.

» Click here to read the rest of Severe Weather 101 – Hail and Wind

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Seasonal temperatures, breezy winds for Thornton’s Thursday

Thursday, April 18th, 2019 5:33am MDT

A pretty decent day today for us with temperatures right near normal and a good bit of sun above. We will however also have some breezy winds to go along.

The day starts with mostly sunny skies and similar conditions should be above throughout the day. Temperatures will top out right near the average high for today’s date of 62 degrees.

Winds will be picking up by mid-morning and be breezy until about sunset. Look for gusts to 30 mph or so at their height.

Tonight, winds will be easing, skies will be mostly clear. Overnight lows will be in the upper 30s.

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Thornton’s Wednesday to see seasonal temps but with breezy winds, clouds

Wednesday, April 17th, 2019 5:31am MDT

A split system with parts passing to our north and south will mix things up a bit today. We will see temps near normal but with a good dose of clouds and some breezy winds.

The day starts with mostly cloudy skies and we will have similar conditions above until mid-afternoon when they may ease a bit.

Temperatures today will top out right near the 60 degree mark. Winds will be picking up this morning and be breezy into the evening.

Tonight, mostly cloudy skies will be above with lows in the upper 30s.

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Severe Weather 101 – Floods and Flash Floods

Wednesday, April 17th, 2019 5:05am MDT
The Big Thompson Flood in 1976 claimed the lives of 144 Coloradoans and serves to remind us of the dangers of floods.

The Big Thompson Flood in 1976 claimed the lives of 144 Coloradoans and serves to remind us of the dangers of floods.

For much of Colorado, floods and flash floods present a grave danger to life and property. These usually are the result of one of two things – spring snow melt occurring rapidly or a severe thunderstorm. Colorado is very susceptible to flash flooding and these occur somewhere every year in the state.

The waters from flash floods can move with extraordinary speed and strike with little or not warning.  Their force can be extremely destructive and when coupled with trees, dirt, rocks and other debris they carry downstream, they are deadly.

Flooding is the number one weather killer in the United States.

» Click here to read the rest of Severe Weather 101 – Floods and Flash Floods

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Severe Weather 101 – Tornadoes and tornado safety

Tuesday, April 16th, 2019 5:50am MDT
Last year's Windsor Tornado highlights the very real danger twisters present in Colorado. Do you know when to do when one strikes?

The 2008 Windsor Tornado highlights the very real danger twisters present in Colorado. Do you know when to do when one strikes?

One fact that may surprise those new to Colorado is that we are actually on the western edge of the infamous Tornado Alley. This large swath of land comprises much of the nation’s midsection and is a unique place as the United States sees more tornadoes than any other place on earth. In fact, tornadoes have been recorded in all 50 states including Alaska and Hawaii.

Closer to home, Colorado sees our share of these storms. In fact, one metro area county – Weld County – holds the distinction of being the “tornado capital of the world.” With 252 tornados from 1950-2011, no single county in the nation has had more tornadoes! Adams County is number two in the state and isn’t far behind with 156 over that same period.  Granted these numbers are skewed a bit simply due to the sheer size of those counties, but it does serve to highlight the real danger that tornadoes present.

Even here in the metro area tornadoes are a real danger. The Thornton area was struck in 1981, one of the worst tornadoes to strike the Denver area in history. At 2:30 p.m. this tornado touched down and by 2:45 p.m., the tornado had hit Thornton City Hall. The tornado’s destruction sent 53 injured people to hospitals, 25 homes were destroyed and 239 structures were damaged.

One common myth is that tornadoes don't strike metropolitan areas. This has been disproved many times including here in Colorado in 1982 when an F2 tornado struck Thornton. Image courtesy the City of Thornton archives.

One common myth is that tornadoes don’t strike metropolitan areas. This has been disproved many times including here in Colorado in 1981 when an F2 tornado struck Thornton. Image courtesy the City of Thornton archives.

The most well known tornado outbreak in the metro area occurred on June 15, 1988. Five tornadoes resulted in seven injuries and damage in excess of $15 million.

We all of course also remember in 2008 when the town of Windsor, not far from Denver, was struck with an EF-3 tornado that claimed one life and destroyed and damaged hundreds of buildings.

The greatest threat for tornadoes occurs during late spring and early summer when you have a combination of heat and moisture in the lower atmosphere. Here in Colorado, tornadoes are frequent from May through August with June being the most active month.

However, there is no hard and fast rule for when tornadoes strike, as Colorado witnessed on March 29, 2007 when Holly, Colorado was struck by an EF-3 tornado with winds of 165 mph. Two women lost their lives as a result of that event and 160 homes were damaged.

Colorado ranks 10th in terms of the number of tornadoes with 1,911 events from 1950-2011. One good thing is that our high altitude and drier air do make it harder for the monster supercells that spawn the biggest tornadoes to form. Most of our tornadoes are small and short lived. Further, thanks to the wide open spaces of the eastern half of our state, many strike sparsely populated areas. This is reflected in the fact that we rank 38th for tornado related deaths.

» Click here to read the rest of Severe Weather 101 – Tornadoes and tornado safety

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Cooler temperatures, chance for showers and thunderstorms for Thornton’s Tuesday

Tuesday, April 16th, 2019 5:42am MDT

A weak cold front that moved in last night coupled with a disturbance coming through today will mix up our weather a bit. Temperatures will cool down but remain above normal and we see just a chance for a PM shower or thunderstorm.

The day starts with partly clear skies and similar conditions will be with us into the afternoon after which coverage will increase. Temperatures today will top out in the upper 60s, cooler than yesterday but still a good bit above normal.

The afternoon brings a chance for a shower or thunderstorm with the best opportunity coming between about 3:00pm and 6:00pm. Only scattered activity is expected with most action being to our south.

Tonight, a light rain shower may be seen before midnight with lows in the low 40s.

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Thornton’s workweek starts out with mild temperatures, calm conditions

Monday, April 15th, 2019 5:02am MDT

A very nice looking spring day gets things started for the workweek. We will enjoy a good dose of sun and temperatures well above normal.

Mostly sunny skies will above for much of the day with a few mid-level clouds popping up. Temperatures start out cool then will warm to a high in the low 70s, well above the average high for the date of 61 degrees.

Tonight, we will have partly cloudy skies with lows in the low 40s.

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