Late May weather signature
“Coming up to the Memorial Day weekend — sure to have some weather soon” said a colleague at the paper earlier this week and we agreed that several severe weather outbreaks have happened at this time in the past several years. Sure enough, just as the warnings were sounding and the staff headed for shelter in the cellar of the Gazette we looked at each other and grinned. A vague forecast perhaps, but still accurate.
Frequently with the change between summer and winter, a storm or series of storms will occur which have been named through generations as “line storms.” The word line refers to an imaginary line drawn between summer and winter weather and there are references to the events all over the globe. Spring events in our region have included severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. The driving force is the difference in temperature between air masses from the south and the north colliding overhead. When that is coupled with a strong jet stream and the air rises quickly then super cell thunderstorms and possibly tornadoes will result. While “tornado alley” in the Midwest suffers the greatest frequency of these storms, they can and do still happen in our area.
New York state logs around 15 tornadoes annually. A major outbreak of these cells and tornadoes occurred in 1998 when an estimated 30 tornadoes were on the ground in one day in late May. More recently, an F2 level storm touched down in 2013 — again in May. Every year of the past five have logged damaging winds from thunderstorms during this month.
The good news? While these storms present major inconvenience and property damage the outstanding warning system, which the Albany National Weather Service dispatches is working and no fatalities have been reported as a direct result of the storm events. When your cell phone, television screen, radio station or other source lights up with a warning it means business. These warnings are like life jackets or seat belts: they do not work if you do not use them. We need to be prepared that these events can and will occur and the only sensible action is to take cover immediately.