Weather Forecast

Here it is:

Allen, TX (75013) Weather

Updated: Aug 7, 2011, 7:45am CDT

Today Aug 7 Mon 8 Tue 9 Wed 10 Thu 11
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Pretty depressing, isn’t it? Unless something drastic happens, we’ll beat that 1980 records with no problem.
Shreveport forecast:
7 Day Forecast – °F | °C
sun mon tue wed thu fri sat
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Details for Sunday, August 07
Sunny. Very hot. High near 105F. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 mph.
Evening: Generally clear. Warm. Low 81F. Winds S at 10 to 15 mph.

It looks as though Shreveport is in the same boat that we’re in — only they have to contend with much higher humidity!

From the NOAA website:

2011 tornado information

Updated: June 15, 2011, 12:00 p.m. EDT

Preliminary tornado statistics including records set in 2011

May 2011

  • NOAA satellite shows storm system moments before spawning tornado in Joplin, Mo.

    Before - Click to see a High Resolution After - Click to see a High Resolution

    Before and after aerial photos of St. John’s Hospital in Joplin, Mo.

    (Credit: NOAA)

    On May 24, 2011, deadly tornadoes claimed 18 additional lives in Oklahoma (10), Kansas (2), and Arkansas (6).

    • During the severe weather outbreak, two separate tornadic supercells approached Norman, Oklahoma and the National Weather Center building where NOAA National Weather Service facilities are located.
    • The Weather Forecast Office, which is responsible for critical minute by minute warnings, continued critical life-saving operations throughout the tornado outbreak. Back-up plans could have been implemented had the staff felt an imminent threat.
    • The NOAA NWS Storm Prediction Center, which has longer range national watch and forecast responsibilities, proactively passed operations to their back-up, Scott Air Force Base, in an orderly manner, after assuring watches and notifications were in place.  No SPC services were disrupted by the temporary transfer.
    • Latest National Weather Service headlines:

      Everyone in the National Weather Center building other than the National Weather Service staff went to shelter.

  • On Sunday, May 22, 2011, an EF-5 tornado hit the city of Joplin, Mo., leaving an estimated 151 people dead.
    • The Joplin tornado is the deadliest single tornado since modern recordkeeping began in 1950 and is ranked as the 7th deadliest in U.S. history.
      • NOAA satellite shows storm system moments before spawning tornado in Joplin, Mo.

        NOAA satellite shows storm system moments before spawning tornado in Joplin, Mo.

        (Credit: NOAA)

        The deadliest tornado on record in the U.S. was on March 18, 1925.  The “Tri-State Tornado” (MO, IL, IN) had a 291-mile path, was rated F5 based on a historical assessment, and caused 695 fatalities.

    • The EF-5 Joplin tornado had winds in excess of 200 mph, was ¾ of a mile wide, and had a track lasting six miles.
    • NWS responded to the increased need for staffing by sending additional forecasters to the Springfield, Missouri Weather Forecast Office.  The larger team is now able to support the ongoing severe weather operations as well as the first responder response and recovery efforts in Joplin.  An Incident Meteorologist has been deployed to the Incident Command Post.
    • The latest information on the Joplin tornado is available online:
    • Deadliest Tornado Years in US History

      (Official NOAA-NWS Record: 1950 – present; Research by Grazulis: 1875-1949)

      Year Fatalities
      1925 794
      1936 552
      1917 551
      1927 540
      1896 537
      2011 536
      (151 in Joplin)
      1953 519
      1920 499
      1908 477
      1909 404
      1932 394
      1942 384
      1924 376
      1974 366
      1933 362

      The NWS Springfield forecast office issued a tornado warning with a lead time of 24 minutes for Joplin at 5:17 p.m. (local time).  At 5:41 p.m., the local storm report stated: “NUMEROUS REPORTS OF TORNADO ON THE GROUND WEST OF JOPLIN AND POWER FLASHES.”  The damage path began at South Black Cat Road and Newton Road.

    • The NWS Storm Prediction Center highlighted southwest Missouri for the potential for severe weather several days prior to Sunday’s storm. SPC also issued a tornado watch more than four hours in advance of the tornado touching down.
  • The Marion County long-track EF5 of 27 April 2011 claimed 78 lives.
  • NWS’s preliminary estimate is more than 370 tornadoes occurred during the month of May 2011. There were an estimated 170 fatalities.
    • The record number of tornadoes during the month of May was 542 tornadoes set in May 2003.
    • The average number of tornadoes for the month of May during the past decade is 298.
    • May is historically the most active month for tornadoes.

2011 Year-to-Date (and record annual) Statistics

  • NWS’s preliminary estimate is that there have been approximately 1,475 tornadoes so far this year.
    • The previous yearly record number of tornadoes was set in 2004 with 1,817.
    • The overall yearly average number of tornadoes for the past decade is 1,274.
  • The preliminary estimated number of tornado fatalities so far this year is 536.  NWS records indicate that there were 365 tornado fatalities before the Joplin event.  There were 151 fatalities from the Joplin tornado.  An additional 18 fatalities were reported in KS, OK, and AR from a tornado outbreak on May 24, 2011.
    • 2011 is preliminarily the 6th deadliest tornado year in U.S. history.

April 2011

  • April 2011 is ranked as the most active tornado month on record with 753 tornadoes (For more information, please visit NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center). There were an estimated 361 fatalities.
    • The previous record was set in April 1974 with 267 tornadoes.
    • The average number of tornadoes for the month of April during the past decade is 161.
    • The previous record number of tornadoes during any month was 542 tornadoes set in May 2003.
  • NWS records indicate 321 people were killed during the April 25-28 tornado outbreak.
  • NWS records indicate 361 people were killed during the entire month of April 2011.
  • April 25-28 Preliminary Tornado Tracks Map (Based on NWS Storm Survey Findings)

And another article concerning climate change and tornadoes, from April 2011:

2011 Tornadoes: Is Climate Change To Blame For The Devastating Weather? [UPDATE]

Tornadoes 2011 Climate Change

First Posted: 04/29/11 12:34 PM ET Updated: 04/29/11 04:29 PM ET

The tornadoes that tore through the southeast United States on Wednesday were cumulatively the deadliest twister disaster since 1932, with the death toll at 318 people and still rising.

“In my career I have never seen this many tornadoes or this many fatalities,” said Joshua Wurman, the lead tornado researcher and president of the Center for Severe Weather Research. He is more widely known for his role as the scientist on the Discovery Channel’s “Storm Chasers” show.

April has already shattered the benchmark for the number of tornadoes in a single month by a long shot. Meteorologists estimate that close to 600 tornadoes have formed thus far in April. That’s nearly four times the average of 160, and twice the amount of the previous April record, 267 twisters in 1974.

Until Wednesday, the deadliest day of tornadoes since the Great Depression was in 1974, when a series of tornadoes killed 315 people. Yet, as state officials confirm a death toll of at least 318 people, with more than 200 in Alabama alone, Wednesday is now the deadliest day of tornadoes in nearly 80 years. In March 1932, a series of tornadoes killed 332 people.

This April’s historic devastation has many wondering: What’s with all the tornadoes? The question is far from reactionary. Data shows a steady, overall increase in tornadoes over the last 50 years. But as for this April, the jury’s still out on whether climate change or regular old bad weather is to blame.

“Climate change? No,” said Howard Bluestein, professor of meteorology at University of Oklahoma. “This is something that happens every 10 or 20 years when everything comes together like this. This is just natural variability.”

Most meteorologists agree with Bluestein.

“Any particular years you can’t attribute to changes in global climate,” said Wurman. “If we started seeing this every year, we’d say that this is a climate change. But we’re not seeing that.” Rather than a climactic shift, he said, “this is really just bad luck.”

While the number of officially recorded tornadoes has risen dramatically, that’s primarily due to better reporting, tracking and more people, homes and infrastructures in the twisters’ paths, say researchers.

That means that small twisters — ones that do little more damage than tear the branches off trees or peel the surface off roofs and may have flow below the radar screen in the past — are now being counted. The number of serious tornadoes, on the other hand, has stayed constant, evidence that Wednesday was a rare event rather than part of a trend.

Yet some scientists say that climate change — especially the increased greenhouse gas concentrations associated with global warming — may be at least somewhat related to the formation of tornadoes.

A 2008 report from the U.S. Global Change and Research Program, a federal interagency research program overseen by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, found that more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere could lead to an increase in severe storm conditions that make tornadoes possible.

“We can’t say there is a correlation between a specific tornado and global change,” said program director Thomas Armstrong. “But the reports do indicate that there is a positive correlation between climate change and the frequency of conditions favorable to the formation” of tornadoes, he said, while stressing that the research is still preliminary.

Just because there are favorable conditions for twisters — which includes wet, hot air near the earth’s surface and a strong, cold jet stream above — doesn’t mean you’ll get one. Meteorologists still can’t definitively say there will be a tornado, even when staring down a serious, twister-producing thunderstorm called a “supercell.”

“We knew that the general condition of warm soupy air below and wave of jet stream aloft provides the condition for circling,” said Wurman. “But we just don’t understand the details. We don’t know exactly where, or exactly when.”

Whether climate change may have contributed or not, what researchers do know is that Wednesday’s disaster began with a far more innocuous — and more typical — event late last week: a gust of warm air.

Last Friday, a mass of hot, humid air started traveling north from the Gulf of Mexico. It blew ashore and crept slowly north over the weekend, blanketing the Southeast in the type of thick, 80-degree air that that keeps one’s skin feeling sticky even after stepping out of a cold shower.

By Wednesday, the dew point — a measurement of how much water is in the air — was hovering around 70 degrees, and meteorologists knew bad weather was brewing.

“That’s a very humid air mass,” said David Imy, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center. “Several days of Gulf moisture coming up from the south set up this scenario perfect for long-track tornadoes.”

This hot air near the earth’s surface collided with the colder, fast-moving air in the upper-level jet stream, creating an unstable atmosphere. To try to bring the atmosphere into balance, a supercell erupted. Inside the storm, the warm air got sucked up into the upper levels of the atmosphere and the colder air moved lower. As these upward and downward drafts became more powerful, they turned into violent tornadoes.

Soon, about a hundred twisters were whipping across much of the Southeast. Some were a mile wide and tearing across the land at 55 to 65 miles per hour. That’s about as big and powerful as tornadoes can get.

“Some were reported as a mile wide — they don’t get much wider than that,” said the University of Oklahoma’s Bluestein. When asked whether he was tracking the storms on the ground, Bluestein was shocked. “Oh no. We can’t keep up with tornadoes moving 60 miles an hour.”

In addition to the states where people were killed, tornadoes touched down in at least nine others: Arkansas, Missouri, both Carolinas, both Virginias, Maryland, Indiana, Ohio. Reports of nighttime twisters forming as far north as New York are thus far unconfirmed.

Most of the tornadoes occurred outside Tornado Alley — the swath of land in the middle and south of the U.S. where twisters often strike — but the location was not unexpected. Tornadoes hit the Southeast every year, and they are often more deadly because the Southeast and the Eastern seaboard are far more densely populated than Tornado Alley.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the states where Wednesday’s tornado struck rank fairly high by population density. Most average between 40 and 50 people per square mile. In contrast, Tornado Alley states like the Dakotas have a mere seven or eight people living in the amount of space.

For researchers, who know they can’t control the tornadoes path, the events were still hard to swallow.

“It is sobering to us to see that tornadoes in the 21st century can still cause so many deaths,” said the Center for Severe Weather Research’s Wurman. “We had hoped that through increased warnings, better buildings and increased public awareness, the years of these events had passed.”


Seven Months

It’s been seven months since my last blog post, and the situation of humanity on this earth has only worsened. In March, an 8.9 earthquake followed by a huge tsunami hit Japan, caused complete destruction of many areas on the east coast of the country.  The video that came from the scene was astonishing. The tsunami came as far as 6 miles inland, pushing cars and buildings out of its way as if they were styrofoam cups.

The tsunami also damaged a nuclear power complex and three reactors suffered partial meltdowns, producing large regions of dangerous radiation. This is a problem still affecting the country, because the area was partially agricultural, and all their food products are radioactive to some degree. One of the worst contaminated products is milk.

The Missouri, Mississippi, and other rivers had passed far beyond flood stage this year. In a controversial move, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened a spillway in Louisiana that allowed waters to flood areas of Central LA all the way to the coast. This decision was made because the central areas are much less populated, and if the spillway had not been opened, flooding in the cities of Baton Rouge and New Orleans would have been worse, affecting a large number of people.

Forest fires have been raging, due to extreme drought in the southwest. The drought is worst, in magnitude and in area affected, in Texas. A heat wave has been breaking records since May, not just in the South but also in the Midwest and Northeast. Currently DFW stands at 36 consecutive days at 100 or above and is approaching the all time record of 42 consecutive days which occurred in 1980. Given the forecast for the upcoming week, we should have no problem topping that record.

Fortunately (as far as comfort is concerned), it is a very dry heat. That also makes it easier for fires to occur. I receive e-mails from FEMA about disaster areas and have frequently seen Texas counties on the list because of fires.

Notice the fire between Longview and Marshall!

Tornadoes rampaged in the spring, with the most famous one destroying parts of Joplin, Missouri.

Most recently there has been difficulty with Congress, i.e. the stubbornness of the Republicans, especially the Tea Party, with regard to raising the debt ceiling. They spent at least a month arguing, digging in their heels, threatening each other (Democrats too!) and engaging in other non-productive activities, while citizens worried more and more (and felt disgusted), and who knows what the rest of the world was thinking.

Earlier this week, on the last day (8-2), a compromise was finally reached and signed into law. Not a good compromise, of course. I don’t even want to think about it right now. Tomorrow I’ll post an op-ed I did for Associated Content.

And in spite of the compromise, Standard & Poor’s lowered the U.S. from its triple-A credit rating to double-A.

At the moment, I’m too depressed about all this to write anything more.

Another number trick

As reported at American Prospect blog, the Republicans have found a new way to massage the numbers concerning health care reform: simply choose another source, specifically, themselves. The apparent reason for this choice is the fact that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported that the health care bill (ACA) will produce a surplus, rather than increased debt. Naturally they can’t allow that, because it doesn’t fit into their viewpoint. Thus they have decided to select the answer that they want, even though it isn’t connected to reality.

Meanwhile, the world keeps turning and people get poorer and the environment becomes poisoned and we may all die next year. Well, c’est la vie.

Health Care Reform: Another Look at the Numbers

Discussion of most political matters involves numbers, but the debate over the health care reform bill has presented us with a huge discrepancy in numbers such as “how many people support repealing the bill?” and “how much will the bill cost or save?” as presented by different sides. Some numbers result from polling, others from government agencies, and still others from demographics and other statistics.

How is the average American to know which numbers are more accurate than the others? Which ones can be computed exactly and which ones can never be more than estimates? How are the statistics computed and what potential errors exist? Does everyone need courses in statistics, political polling, and accounting to truly understand?

Naturally, a person who has background in one or more of those areas has an advantage over someone who does not, but the rest of us can improve our interpretations of all these numbers with knowledge of a few basic concepts.

Numbers that result from polls, such as the percentage of the population that wants to repeal health care, can be determined in more ways than one. For example, a person could ask all of his/her friends what they think. Most Americans know that is not a valid way of polling, since the result is biased in favor of the individual’s own beliefs. Similarly, a poll that is restricted to a certain group will be affected by the self-selection of group membership (think about asking the health care repeal question at a rally held by the Tea Party). That is why the phone-in or text-in polls created by news networks do not really mean much. The sample consists only of people who watch a certain news show.

In order to give truly valid results, a poll must be conducted with a randomized sample. For instance, a computer program can be designed to select phone numbers at random from all the phone numbers in Texas, or even in the entire United States. Then pollsters call these numbers and ask the questions of interest. Sometimes even this method can result in misleading results, since respondents must agree to answer the questions, but it is one of the best methods available to those who seriously want to find the truth.

In the course of discussion about the health care bill, numbers regarding the financial effects of the bill were bandied about. Some said the bill would result in extra costs which would then be transferred to taxpayers, while others said the bill would actually save the government money. Most of the time numbers like this are meaningless since there is just no way of predicting them, considering the many factors that are involved. One might as well attempt to predict the value of the S&P six months from now. Any stock trader will tell you it’s impossible. An estimated value can be determined, but there are huge margins of error because we just don’t know what will happen between now and then.

The best prediction that can be made about a new government program is that it will cost more money – possibly just a little more, possibly a lot – because very few programs have been known to actually decrease costs.

When demographics are used only in a descriptive fashion, the information obtained can be very accurate. The Census conducted every decade produces an excellent resource for many scientific studies. In between, smaller studies are carried out with the same purpose of describing the characteristics of a certain population. Although demographics always fall behind reality (during the time in which the data are collected and interpreted, the population has already changed), they represent a valid way of presenting facts about a population as a whole.

Problems may occur, however, when data about smaller groups is extracted from the larger census or from a randomized polling study. At the highest level (the population or the random selections), the study may be sufficiently randomized, but lower levels such as “all blacks” or “all Christians” may not be randomized. It is a good idea to check the source of the numbers, regardless of whether they are demographics, polls, or financial predictions. This is particularly true in the health care debate, which still rages on despite having been signed into law. Legislators and their constituents should take a long look at the numbers associated with health care reform to find out where, when, and how they were obtained. With that information, one can make a determination of which side to support.

Back from the wilderness

Not really. 🙂 But sometimes it feels like it.

How about that election? Although the Republicans now control the House (I hate to see Pelosi leave the post of Majority Leader!), they don’t have the Senate, which means there wasn’t a clean sweep as some had predicted. Most significantly, in my view, the real crazies (i.e. Angle and O’Donnell) will not be going to Washington in a few months. Thank God!

Now, the Beltway gossip — actually, it’s not just gossip, it comes straight from the Republicans’ mouths — says that their first priority is to extend the Bush tax cuts. This will make all the rich people ecstatic and the middle class pleased. That is, pleased until they realize the tax cuts will require harsh, merciless slice-and-dice  to some of the major entitlement programs. Or cuts somewhere in the budget — defense, perhaps? No, hardly anyone would like that. Members of Congress would fight the closing of any bases in their jurisdictions. They have to if they want to keep their seats.


Another oil rig explosion?

Thursday witnessed the explosion of another Gulf oil rig, this one in much shallower water than the Deepwater Horizon. According to, the rig was undergoing maintenance at the time of the explosion, and all 13 workers evacuated safely, then were rescued by the Coast Guard a few hours later. Because the well was not producing at the time, it did not result in the kind of oil spill seen earlier this year with the BP well.

However — there is one small incongruity. When the explosion first occurred, the rig operator reported seeing a mile-long oil slick. The Coast Guard stated that when it arrived 2-3 hours later, there was no sign of a spill.

Which story is correct? Why did the operator report seeing a slick? I don’t see any motivation for that. On the other hand, the CG may have had a great deal of motivation for hiding the truth, considering what a huge debacle Deepwater Horizon was for everyone concerned.

I just wish I could hop on a ‘copter and see.

Is Religious Tolerance Dead?

I continue to be amazed and saddened at the anti-Muslim rhetoric and actions that proceed from American fears, especially among Republicans. Anti-Muslim sentiment did not begin with 9/11, but has been present in the US before,  beginning with the Immigration Act of 1965 if not sooner. This Act allowed for increased numbers of immigrants from Asia as well as Central and South America. Many of the Muslims who migrated were professionals such as doctors or lawyers who were immediately accepted by virtue of their professions — that is, until 9/11. The World Trade Center bombing attracted attention to Muslims all over the US, and suddenly their professions were not enough to establish them as Americans (see AOL news story on anti-Muslim fervor). Fear caused non-Muslim Americans to view them as dangerous, even though terrorists number only a small percentage of all Muslims.

Religious intolerance has swelled at certain points in US history, aimed at Jews, Mormons, and Catholics plus other smaller groups such as Buddhists, Hindus, Amish and Quakers. Even some of our Founding Fathers thought of religious freedom in terms of various flavors of Christianity, specifically Protestant Christianity. Other religions might be tolerated, but also might not, in the same way that the inalienable rights in the Declaration of Independence were in practice given only to white free landholding males in the beginning. Women, non-whites, slaves, and those who possessed no land were out of luck.

I perceive that after the Aquarian Revolution of the ’60s passed, in which the greatest amount of religious tolerance was practiced, the pendulum began to swing in the other direction. The ’80s and part of the ’90s were marked by areligious, if not atheist, world views. But as the new millennium approached, religious fervor and intensity spread; after 9/11 the interest in religion was bolstered further.

There is always at least one group in the pariah status of society, with seemingly logical and rational reasons for that status. Over the last 2 millennia, Jews have been common targets but one only has to think about the Crusades to understand that European anti-Islam activities began long ago, in the Middle Ages.

Who will be the next scapegoat? Yesterday, peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians began again in Washington, DC. ; however, the talks are criticized by many on both sides and Israel continues new construction on its West Bank settlements. Will any peace treaty that is developed turn into a “phony peace”? What happens in the daily life of citizens — suicide bombing, IEDs, or army attacks — no matter what it is, daily life is much more significant than any peace treaty established at the highest level.

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