October arrived with a bang! For the first time in modern records the US experienced a simultaneous threat from tornadoes, blizzards, extreme wildfires and—oh yes—an approaching tropical storm.
Ugh! Everywhere you looked, the US faced rotten weather.
On October 4, the NOAA hazard map warned of Blizzards, Severe Weather, High Winds, Wildfires, and Tropical Storm Karen!
Click to enlarge picture above.
The problem is that the Arctic air mass is unusually cold. It was the coldest Arctic summer on record. The Atlantic was warmer than average. When two air masses with extremely different temperatures crash--they produce explosive weather. That’s what we saw during October’s first weekend.
Fortunately, not all of the weather events happened. The Northern Plains had a roaring blizzard. Tornados ravished Nebraska. Hot Santa Ana winds and wildfires burned California. Despite the warnings, however, Tropical Storm Karen wimped out in the Gulf of Mexico.
The blizzard rumbled through Wyoming and the High Plains on Friday, October 4. By Saturday, some areas in South Dakota’s Black Hills reported more than four feet of snow with drifts over 15 feet high. Several feet of snow covered Wyoming and South Dakota and thousands were left without power.
This is the first week in October? Source: Wikipedia
The collision of the cold air with the warmer air in the south and east triggered severe storms and tornadoes. Multiple tornadoes—one of them a mile wide—struck Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota. There were seventeen reported cyclones and fifteen people were hurt, but fortunately, no one was killed.
Strong winds ruled the West as well. Hot, dry Santa Ana winds blasted Southern California with some gusts reaching 90 mph. The heat, drought and broken power lines triggered numerous fires, including one at the Marine Corps' Camp Pendleton, forcing residents and hospital patients to evacuate.
Tropical Storm Karen died out before it hit the Gulf.
Amid all the chaos, the one area that got a break was the Gulf Coast. Tropical Storm Karen, predicted to become a hurricane, wimped out. High sheering winds shredded the storm and it died out into a depression before it hit land. It will bring soaking rains as it surges inland and the remnants move up the East Coast, but there will be little wind damage.
It was a record-breaking weekend. Let’s hope the rest of October is more boring.
Evelyn Browning Garriss, historical climatologist, is a longtime writer for The Old Farmer's Almanac. She is also editor of The Browning World Climate Bulletin and has advised farmers, businesses, and investors worldwide on upcoming climate events and their economic and social impact for the past 21 years.