I received an email from Jeff Lindner, Harris County’s meteorologist, around 1PM today that warned of possible severe weather from next Monday afternoon into early Tuesday Morning. As I explored it more, I also came across a fascinating academic study about the communication of weather risk that you may want to share with friends and relatives. One of the key findings: mobile home owners may need more response time than typical tornado warnings provide.
Possible Tornados, Hail, Damaging Winds, Street Flooding Early Next Week
“All severe modes will be in play Monday afternoon and evening including tornadoes, large hail, and damaging winds. The tornado threat appears highest north of HWY 105. The severe threat will be lowest near the coast and around Matagorda Bay,” said Lindner. “Heavy rainfall is also becoming an increasing concern.”
While most models show from one half to two inches of rain around Bush Intercontinental Airport, one model predicts four inches. Lindner predicts 1-2 inches of widespread rain north of I-10 with isolated totals of 3-4 inches possible. South of I-10 rainfall amounts of .50-1.0 inch will be possible.
“Given the dry grounds in place, some of this rainfall will soak in,” says Lindner. “But potential for high hourly rainfall rates poses an urban street flooding threat.” In other words, rain may fall faster than it can soak in or drain off, and then collect in streets.
NWS Cites Conditions Favorable for Supercell Formation
The National Weather Services Storm Prediction Center cites atmospheric conditions favorable to the formation of supercells, such as those that tracked across Harris County in January. Along with these supercells, they discuss the increasing potential for large hail and tornados Monday afternoon.
The Intersection of Weather and Communications
The NWS Storm Prediction Center contains a wealth of information for weather aficionados including academic publications on meteorology. Mindful of how a January tornado struck Kingwood at 1:30AM and also how the Lake Conroe release during Harvey arrived in the middle of the night, the following study caught my eye:
- Krocak, M.J., J.N. Allan, J.T. Ripberger, C.L. Silva, and H.C. Jenkins-Smith, 2021: An Analysis of Tornado Warning Reception and Response across Time: Leveraging Respondents’ Confidence and a Nocturnal Tornado Climatology.
All researchers work in Norman, Oklahoma. They studied what time of day the public was least confident about receiving and responding to tornado warnings. Answer: between midnight and 4:00AM. Not a big surprise there. Most people are sleeping then. But the authors also studied several related questions:
- Where do most overnight tornados take place?
- Who is most at risk?
- How and when can you best communicate that risk to protect lives?
The authors found the southeastern portion of the US most susceptible to nocturnal tornadoes. East Texas is on the edge of the highest risk area. They also found that:
- People’s confidence in their ability to receive warnings is lowest when the risk is highest for these storms.
- The Southeast has a high rate of mobile home ownership, but mobile home owners don’t always perceive that they have higher risk, a perception that makes them especially vulnerable to tragic outcomes during nocturnal tornado events.
- The number of weather resources that an individual had access to affected weather awareness and preparedness more than any demographic characteristics.
- Forecasters and communicators should continue to emphasize the use of multiple forms of communication. They suggest “weather radios, cell phone apps, Wireless Emergency Alerts, and other forms of passive notification systems. Increased use of these tools will ultimately increase the likelihood of someone receiving warning information while they are asleep or otherwise occupied.”
- The challenges of nocturnal tornadoes cannot be addressed if residents do not receive forecasts or warnings in the first place.
- People will take action not just on forecasts, but their personal perception of risk. More communication about the degree of risk may help people make better decisions.
- Forecasters should communicate the degree of risk before 10PM so that people can prepare severe weather plans before they go to sleep.
- People in mobile housing need more response time than typical tornado warnings provide.
These findings should help inform forecasters and emergency managers about communities that need more time to respond to overnight tornado events. In the meantime, change the battery in that old weather radio! It’s springtime in Texas.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/19/2022
1663 Days since Hurricane Harvey