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In Climate and Weather….

The Free Press WV

►  NWS Meterologist: Harrison County tornado appeared in “radar hole”

The National Weather Service in Charleston said Friday night’s confirmed EF1 tornado in Harrison County will offer an interesting case study for West Virginia’s meteorologists in the future.

“It was not the easiest tornado to detect,” Charleston National Weather Service Meterologist Dylan Cooper said. “The tornado actually occurred after the warning expired when we thought the storm had lost it’s tornadic characteristics.”

Cooper said that area of Harrison County — just east of Salem — is too far away from the radars in Charleston or Pittsburgh to deliver pinpoint precision.

“Unfortunately, that far away from the radar we are only able to see about the 8,000 feet mark and above,” he said. “So it’s really hard to get an idea of what’s going on in the very bottom part of the storm. But with the rotation increasing like it did, we decided to issue the tornado warning.”

The tornado touched down around 7:58 p.m., in what Cooper described as a “radar hole,” incurring straight-line wind damage near Jarvisville Road at Sycamore Shaw Road.

Several structures were damaged in the Sycamore Shaw Road area, including a barn that collapsed and partially slid off its foundation. Additionally, a two story home suffered partial wall failure on its eastern side. No injuries or fatalities were reported, but the tornado continued moving towards Clarksburg.

“The most extensive tree damage was on Old Davisson Run Road where we saw multiple healthy hardwood trees that were completely snapped,” Cooper said.

At wind speeds topping out at 110 miles per hour, Cooper said the tornado was on the high-end of the EF1 category. It was, likely, the strongest tornado to hit North Central West Virginia Friday. In a span of less than twenty minutes, three tornadoes touched down in the region Friday. Based on preliminary reports, the first tornado touched down in the Cheat Lake area around 7:40 p.m., and a second tornado touched down about ten miles south of Morgantown seven minutes later. The tornado east of Salem touched down at approximately 7:58 p.m.

“Usually when we see these kind of decaying tropical systems like we had with Cindy, that has the potential to produce several usually smaller spin-up type tornadoes — which is what we saw on Friday,” Cooper said.

West Virginia averages around two tornadoes per year. Cooper said the quantity of tornadic activity Friday wasn’t completely unprecedented — though he hardly called it commonplace. More unique, he said, was when and where the Harrison County tornado touched down.

“We started watching the storm a couple of counties over, and as it passed through Doddridge County we saw the rotation really start to increase,” Cooper said.

When radars can’t tell the entire story, Cooper said it becomes vital that weather spotters continue to report information to the National Weather Service.

“We try to drive home the importance of having people tell us what they are seeing out there, because if the radar can’t see it — if we’ve got eyes that can — that certainly helps us in our warning decisions,” he said.

The EF1 tornado traveled approximately 4.42 miles with a path width of 400 yards before dissipating about 3.7 miles away from Clarksburg.

The Flood of 2016 Cannot Wash Away Our Mountaineer Spirit

The Free Press WV

Friday marked the one year anniversary of the Great Flood of 2016 in West Virginia.  Up to ten inches of rain forced creeks and rivers in the central part of the state over their banks and surging into homes and businesses, washing out roads and bridges.

The turgid waters swept away 23 lives, 15 of them in hard-hit Greenbrier County. The body of Mykala Phillips, 14, wasn’t found until two months after the flood, six miles from where she went into the water.

Initially, shocked eyewitnesses struggled to describe the extent of the loss.  One community after another in a ten county region suffered damage: White Sulphur Springs, Clendenin, Rainelle, Richwood, Clay, Rupert, Brownsville, Belva, Camden on Gauley, Jordan Creek, Wills Creek, Queen Shoals, Nallen, Russellville, Elkview, on and on.

During the worst night, first responders and volunteers risked their own lives to save others. State Police Superintendent Jan Cahill was Greenbrier County sheriff at the time. “A lot of people were pulled off of roofs, trees, the top of automobiles, off of platforms where billboards are,” Cahill said. “That could have easily been several dozen more fatalities if not for the efforts of all involved.”

State and county agencies, along with the National Guard, responded rapidly to the crisis. Where cracks in the relief effort appeared, local residents rolled up their sleeves and assumed command of the situation.

President Obama quickly issued a disaster declaration and Federal Emergency Management Agency officials moved in.  As of today, FEMA has paid out $42 million in individual and housing assistance to 4,950 flood victims.

The tragedy ignited a remarkable spirit of altruism.  Volunteers descended on the flood zone to muck out homes and businesses, serve meals and offer encouragement.  In Clendenin, a stranger gave the shoes off of her feet and a 20-dollar bill to 89-year-old flood victim Ruby Hackney.

Remarkable progress has been made over the last year rebuilding homes and businesses and restoring lives.  Yes, you still find frustration among some over the pace of recovery or the inevitable bureaucracy of government assistance, but there is also gratitude and hope.

The loss of life and the destruction were horrific. However, in the midst of the mud and the mayhem, we again witnessed the best of West Virginia, the indelible Mountaineer Spirit that has been strengthened through adversity and blessed with empathy.

In Climate and Weather….

The Free Press WV

►  Cindy Storm may be remembered most for wind damage

What was left of what was once Tropical Storm Cindy exited West Virginia early Saturday leaving behind downed trees and some high water.

The storm, which combined with a cold front as it entered the Mountain State Friday, didn’t cause widespread severe flooding but heavy winds did some damage.

A tornado may have touched down in the Jarvisville area of Harrison County where there were reports of “hundreds” of trees torn apart. Wind damage was also reported in Marion, Monongalia and Preston counties.

Boats and other watercraft were turned upset down at the Cheat Lake Marina near Morgantown. The Crab Shack Caribba restaurant reported damage. The owner said he thought it was a tornado.

The National Weather Service is expected to send teams to the various areas to check out the damage.

High water was reported in low-lying areas. Some basements were flooded and there were other high water problems but there were no severe flooding reports.

Rain totals topped three inches in Wheeling and Cheat Lake in Monongalia County. There was 2.4 inches of rain in the Marion County town of Mannington. Heavy rain forced the closure of several viaducts in Huntington. High water was also reported in and around Parkersburg. Residents in the Marshall County town of Cameron also reported nuisance flooding.

Mon Power and Appalachian Power reported several thousand customers without service Saturday morning including approximately 2,100 in Harrison County and more than 3,000 each in Cabell and Mingo counties.

The weather picture will be rapidly improving during the day Saturday, according to meteorologists. Skies will clear with high temperatures in the 70s and low 80s for the rest of the weekend and into early next week.

The major rivers, the Ohio and Kanawha, will likely be rising over the next few days from the Friday night rain but flooding is not expected.

In Climate and Weather….

The Free Press WV

►  Forecast says bulk of potential flooding in West Virginia comes tonight

The possibility of flash floods remain in West Virginia for the overnight hours of Friday night into Saturday morning.  West Virginia got the first wave of rain on Thursday night with about a half-inch of precipitation in the western lowlands according to Meteorologist Maura Casey at the Charleston Weather Bureau.

Friday afternoon, she says will appear sunny and pleasant.

“Don’t let it fool you,” said Casey on MetroNews Talkline. “With the clearing we will heat up a little bit and have thunderstorms throughout the area.  Those storms could be potentially damaging.”

High winds are also expected to accompany any thunderstorms in West Virginia Friday afternoon.  The bulk of what is leftover from the storm named Cindy will roll into West Virginia behind the thunderstorms and has the potential for problems.

“The main batch will come through overnight and that will be a more widespread, moderate rainfall,” Casey explained. “The areas which get heavy rain from Thunderstorms this afternoon, will certainly have to be on the lookout with the remnants of Cindy coming through overnight.”

Flood watches are posted for most of the state through tomorrow morning.

In Climate and Weather….

The Free Press WV

►  Cindy promises heavy rain and floods but no repeat of 2016

The remnants of Tropical Storm Cindy are headed our way, but the storm system packing heavy rain is complicated by the influx of a cold front from the northwest. The storm was downgraded to a Tropical Depression Thursday, but still packs a heavy punch of rain as it moves across the southeast toward the mid-Atlantic.

The front and the rain are to arrive in West Virginia Thursday night and start dumping intense rainfall in bands on West Virginia. The uncertainty makes it hard for forecasters to give a narrow forecast with any degree of confidence.

“We do have higher confidence in multiple bands of heavy rain in the mid-Ohio Valley and Central Appalachia, which of course is not extremely geographically precise, but that’s about the best we can give you,” said Maura Casey, meteorologist at the Charleston Weather Bureau.  “We have lower confidence in the precise locations of those heavy bands, but we do have high confidence that everybody is going to be getting some sort of rain.”

Thursday, the National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch for most of the state from 2 a.m. Friday until 2 a.m. Saturday.

The wet forecast comes with tragic irony on the one year anniversary of the catastrophic flooding of 2016 which killed 23 people and left thousands homeless in West Virginia.  Despite the possibility of flooding again, Casey says Cindy’s wake will not come close to the rain of a year ago in West Virginia.

“The worse case scenario we’re not up into that June 23, 2016 range,” she said. “Even with the statistical models we have, it’s giving us a very low probability of anything happening like we had last year.”

Still, there is the possibility of flooding and Casey says residents need to stay alert, particularly if they live in low lying areas which are prone to flooding.

“Around and inch and a half to two inches, but where the band sets up we could get into the three inch range.  It is possible we could get locally higher amounts,” she explained. “It’s not as dire as we were looking at at first, but there is still the possibility of locally higher amounts.  It means we’re still looking at a flash flood on smaller creeks and streams and a pretty decent chance for flooding if you receive the heavier rain.”

Also unlike the 2016 flood, the system due to arrive this week in West Virginia is moving at a much more rapid rate and will be gone by Saturday night.

“Luckily, the cold front associated with this system, which is actually what’s making it complicated, will clear everything out for the second half of the weekend,” she added.

Residents are advised to stay tuned to local radio alerts and to keep a sharp eye on rising water near their homes for the next 24 to 48 hours.

In Climate and Weather….

The Free Press WV

►  Tropical Storm Cindy threatens Gulf Coast; Bret in Caribbean

Tropical Storm Cindy formed Tuesday in the Gulf of Mexico, hovering south of Louisiana as it churned tides and spun bands of heavy, potentially flooding rain onto the central and eastern Gulf Coast.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey issued a state of emergency because of the threat of torrential rains and other severe weather, including dangerous high tides and rip currents. Double red flags snapped in the wind on the public beach at Gulf Shores in her state, warning visitors to stay out of the pounding surf.

Workers on Grand Isle, a barrier island community south of New Orleans, worked to reinforce a rock levee protecting the island’s vulnerable west side. Officials there decided against calling an evacuation but said in a statement that anyone who wanted to head for the mainland should do so as early as possible because water might eventually cover low-lying parts of the only route off the island.

The Louisiana National Guard dispatched high water vehicles and helicopters into flood-prone areas. The state said the Federal Emergency Management Agency was moving 125,000 meals and 200,000 liters of water into Louisiana.

Governor John Bel Edwards said the advance notice of the storm gave officials time to put emergency plans in place. Louisiana was slammed with major flooding last summer from an unnamed storm that heavily damaged the Baton Rouge and Lafayette regions.

The third tropical storm of 2017, Cindy was stationary Tuesday afternoon but to resume moving and reach the northern Gulf Coast late Wednesday and rumble inland Thursday over western Louisiana and eastern Texas. Forecasters warned 6 to 9 inches of rain and up to 12 inches in spots was the biggest threat in parts of Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and the Florida Panhandle.

Already some flooding was reported on Alabama’s Dauphin Island and flood control locks and gates were being closed along Louisiana’s bayou-marbled coast. Authorities in various coastal Louisiana and Mississippi communities handed out sandbags for areas along rivers and bayous.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said Cindy was, on Tuesday afternoon, about 280 miles south of Morgan City, Louisiana — or about 360 miles southeast of Galveston, Texas. It had top sustained winds of 45 mph.

A tropical storm warning was in effect from San Luis Pass, Texas, to the Pearl River’s mouth along the Louisiana-Mississippi line.

Rain and tides, rather than wind, were considered the main danger from the system.

At a news conference in New Orleans, Mayor Mitch Landrieu urged vigilance as bands of rain from the system swept over the city. Forecasts said the system could dump from a few inches to more than 12 inches, depending on Cindy’s development and path. At worst, the storm could flood neighborhoods outside the city’s levee system and cause flash flooding even in protected areas.

“This is going to be a very serious event,“ Landrieu said.

In coastal Louisiana’s Terrebonne Parish, Kim Chauvin said the shrimp processing businesses she and her husband run helped put out the word Monday that shrimpers should return to port and unload their catch before flood control structures closed.

“We call them, we text them, we Facebook them, we Twitter, them. Any way we can get to them,“ she said.

Earl Eues, an emergency official in Terrebonne, said the closing of locks and flood gates began Monday and would be completed Tuesday evening,

Parishes along the coast made sandbags — or sand and bags — available to people who wanted to protect homes and businesses.

At the Escatawpa Hollow Campground in Alabama, near the Mississippi State line, owner Larry Godfrey was prepared for flooding that would add to the woes of a rainy spring.

“We’ve had so much rain, we haven’t done any business in about eight weeks because of the rain,“ said Godfrey, whose campground typically hosts swimmers and boaters. He said the Escatawpa River, at 15 feet, would typically be lower than 3 feet at this time of year.

While the northern Gulf Coast braced for Cindy, the southern Caribbean region was dealing with the aftermath of Tropical Storm Bret, which unleashed heavy flooding, knocked out power and ripped off several roofs in some areas of Trinidad &Tobago. Bret had degenerated into a tropical wave by Tuesday afternoon..

All airports in Trinidad & Tobago reopened later Tuesday, though public schools and many businesses remain closed.

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