Interesting graphic concerning the areas where #wildfires occurred yesterday (3/6/2018) and where the smoke from them was detected in the atmosphere. It’s amazing how far some of the smoke went!

Fire Locations and Smoke plumes, 3/6/2018

Fire locations (red triangles) and smoke plumes captured on satellite photos 3/6/2018. Cloud cover in eastern Kansas and Arkansas is believed to be the reason smoke plumes didn’t show there.

Today’s topic for Severe Weather Awareness Week is wind and hail.


According to NOAA, tornadoes are not the top damage-producer. In fact, they aren’t even listed separately in the summary stats!

The distribution of damage from U.S. Billion-dollar disaster events from 1980 to 2017 (as of January 8, 2018) is dominated by tropical cyclone losses. Tropical cyclones have caused the most damage ($850.5 billion, CPI-adjusted) and also have the highest average event cost ($22.4 billion per event, CPI-adjusted). This total now includes the initial cost estimates for Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, which are continually being assessed and may increase further in cost. Drought ($236.6 billion, CPI-adjusted), severe storms ($206.1 billion, CPI-adjusted) and inland flooding ($119.9 billion, CPI-adjusted) have also caused considerable damage based on the list of billion-dollar events. Severe storms have caused the highest number of billion-dollar disaster events (91), while the average event cost is the lowest ($2.3 billion, CPI-adjusted).

Hail produces far more economic damage in most years than tornadoes. Insurance industry numbers indicate that in 2013, 2014 and 2015, more than 2.1 million claims were paid for hail damage. The economic loss from value of those claims averages $1 billion a year. The Insurance Information Institute reports damage in 2016 was over $3.5 billion!

Here’s how it broke out by state:

2016 Top 5 States for Hail Damage

Here’s the trend for the past five years (2012-2016, numbers not yet released for 2017):

The largest hailstone recorded so far fell July 23, 2010, in Vivian, SD. It was the size of a dinner plate, measuring 8 inches in diameter and weighing 1.94 pounds. The record before that was a hailstone which fell in Aurora, NE, on June 22, 2003, and measured 7 inches in diameter and weighed 1.67 pounds. Here’s a video of the Vivian, SD stone:

Hail safety tips, courtesy of the NWS:

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I sometimes wish I had a nickel for every time someone claimed their house/farm/neighborhood had been hit by a tornado when the damage was obviously from straight line winds. It’s blatantly obvious from the air, but here’s how you tell from the ground:

Straight-line wind:

Albanay, GA storm damage, credit WCTV

This photo, taken in Albany, GA, is an example of straight line wind damage. (Credit WCTV, via Valdosta Today)

Notice how every branch and fallen section of tree is blown from left to right in the photo. That is a hallmark of straight-line wind. A special kind of straight-line wind damage that can be confused for tornado damage is from a downburst or microburst. In any one location damage is oriented in a single direction, but as you arrive at a different edge of the damage the limbs and so forth are oriented another direction. The mechanics of a downburst/microburst should make clear why:


Here are a couple of interesting photos of microbursts:

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Safety tips for straight-line wind, from the NWS:

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When you see it, report it!

Reporting Wind Speed

Wind Speed Reporting information, Credit NWS Dodge City

…And for the tornado junkies among us….

Types of Tornado Infographic

Have a great Wednesday!