Thursday’s Record Rainfall…A Personal Perspective

It is wonderful to have the sunshine! We have had enough rain for a while. That is clearly an understatement. Our forecast is dry through Tuesday and we need the break. Numerous rivers are still above flood stage. The  Fox River in Waukesha and Kenosha counties. The Rock River, Crawfish, and Bark Rivers in Jefferson county. These rivers will stay above flood stage the next few days, but thankfully only minor flooding  is expected.

I want to take you through the day on Thursday as the wild weather unfolded. I was actually encouraged early on Thursday because the clouds and rain came in during the morning. I thought that this would be enough to keep much of the severe weather at bay. That clearly did not happen as the warm front stalled right over our area on Thursday evening. I was off on Thursday, but was called in when the tornado watch was issued. Jeremy and Sally were already on the air when I arrived at the station and I thought it would be great to get out in the elements.

Photojournalist Bob Palmer and I hopped in a news car and made our way north toward Ozaukee county where a tornado warning was issued. We never made it that far. Heading north on I-43, we ran into a torrential downpour and decided that flooding may be a bigger story than the tornado threat. Visibility was almost zero in the heavy rain and we took the Silver Spring exit and went south on Port Washington road toward the railroad tracks where flooding had occurred a week earlier. Port Washington was already closed at the railroad tracks with a car stalled in about 3 feet of water.

I have been through two hurricanes and have never experienced rain as heavy as Thursday evening. Water was streaming down Port Washington and surrounding businesses creating a river that eventually flowed over I-43. We were helpless as numerous cars drove into the flooded interstate only to get stalled. The water continued to rise to about 4-5 feet. It was then that we witnessed a Glendale police officer rescuing a mother and child from the car under the railroad tracks on Port Washington road. The officer kept his cool the whole time and calmly placed the child in his squad car. His squad car ended up being stalled in the rising waters and had to be pushed out by another police SUV.

I truly felt sorry for the motorists who got stranded, but it is a good reminder to never drive into flooded roads. You never know how deep the water until it is too late. Take a look at a few of the pictures I took of the floods.

Look at how high the water is. It is almost to the rooftops of some of the cars. You can see a few of the drivers standing on top of their cars. I truly hope that everyone can learn from this past week and always take the weather seriously.

Thanks for reading and have a great day.



6 Responses

  1. There is something interesting about this year’s pattern. I will have to study it regarding the ample moisture that has been available. Think about the other areas that have had record flooding…

    Oklahoma City
    Kansas City

    and countless others…

    I guess if you tracked the timeline of these events and correlated it to the northward retreat of the jet with the same pattern, perhaps there is something that could have been forecasted further in advance…

    • Scott, the hard part of that type of forecast is the impact of shortwaves. They will always exist, but in various levels of strength. With the weaker summertime jet and lesser discernable patterns, I’m not sure this can truly for forecasted. Thoughts?

      • Mark- just a short reply…lol

        Its not something that can be pinpointed in a forecast. However, even with the weakening jet and plethora of shortwaves through the flow, there are some trends that can be expected with the pattern.

        There are many things to look at, but within a repeating pattern, long term longwaves will be evident. There will be a series of ridges and troughs that will generally fall in the same repeating axis.

        Knowing where the long term longwave features are at will help understand where more long range trends will occur. At that point, you then imagine the jet location and ride up or down a specific longitude.

        So, while the flow weakens, and the pattern gets harder to see, one of the last features to exit as we head into deep Summer is the long term longwaves.

        That said, much of the localized rainfall clearly is mesoscale and convective. There are some hooks in a mesoscale, but that is a much deeper discussion for another time.

        Robert – As far as the thoughts on La Nina/El Nino – yes, there can be some general long term trends…but there are anomalies with each setup. That is to say that with each pattern, there are plenty of outliers that fall out of the trend. I think as a general guide it is fine, but too often I see long range forecasts based purely on the ENSO cycle which seems short sided. Right now, we are generally in a mean state. By the Climate Prediction Center’s own definition – they state three months of La Nina conditions are required before appropriately deeming it so. I notice lately they are not following their own rules.

        Per the CPC – “NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, which is part of the National Weather Service, declares the onset of an El Niño/(La Nina) episode when the 3-month average sea-surface temperature departure exceeds 0.5oC in the east-central equatorial Pacific [between 5oN-5oS and 170oW-120oW]”

        So far for that area, it has been about a month below .5 degrees of mean.

        I do think we head into a La Nina, but each year’s pattern is what will it bring? It will be fun to watch set up in Fall….

        Daniel – the transpiration this year has been ridiculous! Normally a southwest wind brings in drier air for us south of you, but based on all the rainfall in Oklahoma and Texas it has been quite moist. All this moisture in some ways has helped protect us from the ridging that could be much worse right now. I believe it has helped keep some of that ridging flattened and confined to TX and OK. I about died a few days ago when we were 92/80 in KC. Walked outside and it felt like I was licked by a giraffe!

        Anyway…just my thoughts…


  2. All this excessive rain must have a lot to do with these consistently high dew points we’re dealing with this year. Last year between June 28 and August 7, the highest dew point we had was 66. This month we’ve only had 5 days below that number and already 13 days with a dew of 70 or higher. With all that moisture in the air, storm systems just can’t drop a quick hit of moderate rain like they usually do… instead it’s hour upon hour of the heavy stuff.

    • Well said, Daniel. With the higher available moisture we clearly get greater rainfall totals, however, there still has to be a trigger. When I lived in Iowa in the mid 1990’s we could have days on end with dews in the upper 70s and no rain. Thanks.

  3. Could this have anything to do with the developing La Nina? I know that a few years ago when we had La Nina we had the huge snow storms, and the terrible flooding in the summer of 08, and with El Nino last summer, it was very dry and cool. With the La Nina developing and El Nino fading, could we have that very active pattern setting up again?

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