Epic 2012 of Weather Extremes
It’s time for my 2012 year end recap of the weather here in the Appalachian Mountains. I am using this first week of 2013 to write a little every night about the freak weather that we survived last year. It will only take 5 events to understand the extraordinary dynamic that sets 2012 above the other 24 years in my tenure at WSAZ.
From a nearly snow-less winter to a scorched summer, Mother Nature gave us what may well be a torrid preview of what life will look and feel like on a globally warmed planet as the 21st century continues to unfold. That warm air helped fuel devastating twisters, a punishing summer of heat and drought, a rare derecho and finally a full fledged October snowstorm. I challenge anyone to find a year of violent weather extremes here in our region that compares to 2012!
If you are a disbeliever in the notion of global warming, I must caution you that the finest scientists in my field, of which I am not one, are in stark agreement on the reality of what life will look like later this century. Throw away the frivolous notion of ‘tree-hugging” and the concept that weather goes in cycles and repeats itself every 500 or 1000 years and one is left in a likely real world of weather extremes, theoretically in perpetuity.
After every event I add I links to the big stories I wrote about here at my blog at wsaz.com. Oddly along the rocky 2012 road we started on a quiet note in January and ended equally docile in December. You see on a globally warmed planet, the weather extremes still come relatively infrequently, they just come harder and have longer lasting effects.
I.) MARCH 2, TORNADO OUTBREAK
On the evening of March 2nd, something happened in our little corner of the world that shook me and many others. The whirlwinds that hit that night dispelled the notion that the hills and mountains protect us from the really big tornadoes.
Aided by a tremendous contortion in the winds a few miles over our heads, violent thunderstorms blew up in the late afternoon through Central and Western Kentucky. As these storms raced eastward at 50 miles per hour, they spun up a handful of twisters. Remarkably these were not the small, short lived tornadoes that are occasional nuisance visitors to our region. Instead these were the maxi tornadoes indigenous to the famed Midwest Tornado Alley.
Here’s what I wrote about that weekend after my trips to “tornado-ravaged” West Liberty and Left Fork of Little Blaine Kentucky.
II.) MARCH 15 COALFIELD FLASH FLOODS
By mid March, the signs of a scorching summer were already showing up as the late winter sun wetn to work and produced 80 degree highs. No surprise then that some spring-like thundershowers formed on the morning of the 15th.
As I lay in bed in Barboursville (In the northern end of the Guyandotte Valley) the morning cracks of thunder awakend me from a sound sleep. Soon the cells passed to the south toward Salt Rock and Branchland as a funny thing happened. The cannon shots of thunder refused to fade. Instead for more than 2 hours, the thunder keep reverberating even though the rain was over in the Village of B-Ville.
The storms had stalled in Lincoln and Logan Counties and unleashed a tremendous amount of rain on the mid-Guyandotte Valley. More than 6 inches of rain fell that fateful morning with violent flash flooding swallowing several tributaries of the Guyandotte.
Here was my take of these devastating downpours.
III.) SUMMER SIZZLE AND DROUGHT
Summer droughts are among the harder forecasts to make for several reasons. Since our farmers rely on accurate predictions, it is imperative to not overstate the risk. In addition, late spring and summer rains are notoriously inconsistent. Heavy rains can drown one town while a nearby rural meadow gets away scott-free.
Still by early June the developing dryness spurred me to predict 100 degree heat "before the month is out". In time, we would reach reach the century mark six times in Huntington and 4 in Charleston, the most since the drought summer of 1988.
Here's what I wrote back in the waning days of spring.
IV.) DERECHO CRUSHES OHIO, KANAWHA VALLEYS
In the last days of June, the summer swelter did indeed take hold and for the better part of a month temperatures routinely crested in the 90s or higher. That heat was so intense on Friday June 29th that a massive, fast moving squall line of thunderstorms pummeled our region with near hurricane force winds.
Here's a look at the blog I wrote that night and a look at the super impressive radar sweeps of this 12 hour lived, nearly 1000 mile storm sweep.
V.) SNOW HURRICANE SANDY
By fall, the weather had settled down and sunny, dry and warm days were the norm. From the Jackson Apple Fest grounds in Ohio, to the home of Old Fashioned Days in Greenup to Black Walnut Avenue in Spencer, I traveled the autumn festival circuit with a passion. Along the way I made many new friends and renewed acquantances with old chums.
Then a late season hurricane named Sandy changed the lives of many on the Eastern Seaboard while pummeling the West Virginia mountains with 2 to 3 feet of power sapping snow.
Here are a few "Sandy-inspired" blogs I authored.
As I mentioned in the prologue, on a globally warmed planet, weather extremes like these will become more common. I stress, one can not blame Sandy or the Derecho or the Tornadoes on global warming. It is just that events like this, inspired by the greenhouse warming of the planet Earth, will become more common in the decades to come.