Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Useless Commentary

Random thoughts and mindless ramblings from my brain this week:

Yesterday I received an email ad for this new "vibrating" mascara. Not to disparage the Maybelline company or anyone who buys this product, but is this not the ultimate in laziness? Although I cannot put on my mascara at the rate of 7000 vibrations per stroke, I have never been rendered physically exhausted by the act of applying mascara. And with my klutz reputation, I am not keen about putting a vibrating wand within millimeters of my eyeball.

A major movie began production this week in Guthrie, Oklahoma, a pretty little town about 20 miles north of Edmond. The Killer Inside Me will star Jessica Alba, Casey Affleck, Kate Hudson, and my current favorite actor, Simon Baker, the Australian star of one of our favorite TV shows, The Mentalist. I have a crush on him I think he is hot I really like him and find him attractive because his eyes reflect kindness and humor. And I don't think he wears mascara.

We are having a new fence built in our backyard, which means our dogs, Buddy and Holly, are spending quality time in the house this week. Their boredom is evident in their frequent yawns and whines, and the week promises to be a trying time for all of us. Buddy sighs and stares forlornly out the window. Holly declined to have her picture taken, as she was napping at the time.

The weather is beautiful, but boring, as high pressure has set up over the state. I try not to complain, because the temperature is near-ideal, with low humidity, but it is May, I live in Tornado Alley, and I want thunderstorms. Here is a photo from a more exciting day last week.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

I Love Weather

Living in the heart of Tornado Alley is definitely not boring, although I do find clear, sunny days a little dull.

If you think that all the weather-related links and posts on my blog indicate that weather is a major focus in my life, you are right. I have suffered from college degree-remorse for many years, having obtained a degree in mathematics instead of meteorology; so weather has become an avid hobby a freakish obsession instead of a vocation.

In March, I completed an evening of training to become a storm spotter for the National Weather Service. According to the Spotter page on the NWS website:
The training lasts about 2 1/2 hours and includes instruction on how to safely observe severe storms, how to identify important features, and how to make accurate and timely reports. In our area, storm spotters are a resource of each local community, and work with local emergency management officials to help protect their community from dangerous storms.
Very capably taught by Norman, Oklahoma NWS Office Warning Coordination Meteorologist, Rick Smith, the training was informative and fun. Such a diverse group was gathered, including newbies (like me) as well as people that had "spotted" for years. There is always something new to learn about weather. My favorite part of the evening was the discussion of how to differentiate between SLC, or Scary Looking Clouds, and a rotating wall cloud, which usually precedes a tornado.

Armed with my newly acquired spotter knowledge, a weather alert radio, an official rain gauge, and my camera, I can't wait to "spot" those storms.

This week is memorable for many Oklahomans, as Sunday marked the 10th anniversary of the May 3, 1999 Oklahoma tornado outbreak. Incredibly, almost 60 tornadoes occurred that day, along with the highest recorded tornado wind speeds (300+ mph), during the mile-wide F5 tornado that hit Moore and Bridge Creek, southwest of Oklahoma City. Sadly, forty people lost their lives in the state that day and over 600 were injured. However, thousands more lives were saved due to warnings from media personnel such as Gary England, Chief Meteorologist for KWTV Channel 9, who continuously urged viewers and listeners to "get below ground now". Credit also goes to live video coverage by storm chasers, spotters, and helicopter pilots.

Here is the classic hook echo of the F5 tornado:

And here is a map showing the path of the tornadoes:

The reason for the difference in these two radars of the same storm is phenomenal:

The radar on the left is of the tornado on open land. In the radar on the right, according to the National Severe Storms Laboratory,

The bright red colors at the tornado location represent not rain or hail -- but the aggregate signature of car parts, pieces of houses, shredded tree branches, dirt and other debris, hoisted thousands of feet skyward by the tornado vortex!
I highly recommend Storm Warning, a very readable account of that terrible day by Oklahoma native Nancy Mathis, not only for its riveting personal stories and interviews, but also for the scientific data on the devastating storm and a well-researched account of the evolution of storm prediction.