It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Supermoon!

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A lot to go over this AM. Good morning and thanks for stopping by. Today you’ll be reading about some noteworthy anniversaries in the world of weather, and also about the “Supermoon” that will hopefully be visible (weather permitting) tomorrow night. First let’s let to the anniversary..

Want to take a stab at where this picture was taken?

It was taken on 5/5/07. It was taken in Kansas…and it was the result of an F5 tornado. here is the radar image of the storm which should clarify the location for you.

Today marks the 5th anniversary of the Greensburg Tornado that struck late in the evening on the 4th, killing some 13 people and injuring 60+ while destroying 95% of the town. This was just one of some 25 tornadoes that occurred that night. There is a full slate of activities planned for today as they celebrate the tragedy to triumph story that has become the new Greensburg.

Now let’s go farther back…to May 4th 2003. What happened that afternoon? More hints…closer to our area…biggest tornadoes since the late 1970s for us…1 death but hundreds of homes damaged or destroyed. Here is a map to give you a big clue.

Yes, today marks the 8th anniversary of the 5/4/2003 tornado outbreak around the KC metro area. Several tornadoes, including an F(4) tornado struck the region. Here is a synopsis from the NWS about the event.

“A damage assessment team from the National Weather Service in Pleasant Hill, Missouri, has performed a survey of tornadoes which struck Miami County in Kansas, and Cass, Johnson and Pettis Counties in Missouri on May 4, 2003. Results of the survey indicate four distinct tornado paths in these counties, and one of the tornadoes received a maximum intensity rating of F2 on the Fujita damage scale.

The first evidence of a tornado touchdown was noted near Black River Ranch on west 391st and Somerset, about 3 miles southwest of New Lancaster in rural Miami County. Damage was noted from the ranch approximately one half mile in length from the touchdown, with a width of 200 feet. Damage to ranch buildings was rated F1 on the Fujita damage scale. Intermittent F0 damage was noted further north and east into southwest Cass County before the path of the tornado ended.

A second tornado touched down just southwest of the corner of east 299th Street and Sycamore Grove Road in northeast Cass County. The tornado damage path was approximately 860 feet before it briefly lifted before crossing Missouri Route 7. The tornado touched down again near Z highway and Route 7, and had an intermittent path length of about 15 miles, to near the intersection of Missouri Route 131 and Missouri Route 2 in Johnson County, Missouri. Damage was noted along this path to about east 285th Street and Index Road, with emergency management visual reports for the remainder of the path. Eyewitness reports indicated this tornado had two vortices near Z Highway and Route 7. Damage was noted to residences near this intersection, with F1 damage to a farm house noted southwest of the intersection of east 238th Street and O’Bannon Road. The tornado produced F2 damage to a house about 1/8 mile south of the aforementioned intersection. Damage of F0 to F1 intensity was noted for the remainder of this tornado’s path.

The third tornado touchdown was observed about a half mile northwest of the intersection of of SE 401st Road and SE 300th Road, or near the city landfill. Damage of F1 intensity was noted at this location to a private business. The tornado continued northeast to near Whiteman Air Force Base before dissipating. Damage along the path was rated F0 through this area. The tornado was confirmed by weather observers at Whiteman.

The fourth tornado briefly touched down in rural western Pettis County near Buckley Road and Guier Road. A pole barn was destroyed, with a boat thrown about an eighth of a mile and some fence damage. This tornado was also rated F0.”

The storm was caught on video and on SKYFOX back in the day. Take a look at this video showing one of the good things about the outdoor warning system.

In this case the sirens did exactly what they were designed to do. A family outside, not aware of the weather around them, sirens go off, and they become aware of the weather.

What I remember about the tornado(s) is that we had never covered anything like that before. We had strong indications that something bad could happen for a couple of days so we were fully staffed. DH was in SKYFOX and I was at the wall with MT in as well at the wall at times with me. When we were alerting our viewers about what was happening at some point I remember them going to the helicopter shot and there it was off in the haze. Tough to see at first and then becoming more and more recognizable as the minutes went by. I had a sinking feeling as it was happening because you can clearly see that this was no ordinary tornado for our area. This was the one that we had been warning about for decades. This was our Oklahoma City type tornado and it was happening live on the air.

All the stations did a great job with the storm. We received hundreds of emails telling us about the experiences that you went through and the value of our coverage that saved lives that afternoon. It’s pretty incredible that the tornado killed one person and not dozens more since it was churning out towards the speedway. Perhaps now, that same tornado with all the build-up out there would be far deadlier.

Here is some security video that really shows the storm. You can tell how strong it became.

Finally this AM, let’s talk about the future. Tomorrow night, as the sun is setting and the moon is rising, it MAY appear larger than usual. For good reason. The moon tomorrow night is FULL and it’s orbit is closest to the earth (called perigee). I’ll let the folks at NASA pick it up from here.

The full Moon has a reputation for trouble. It raises high tides, it makes dogs howl, it wakes you up in the middle of the night with beams of moonlight stealing through drapes. If a moonbeam wakes you up on the night of May 5th, 2012, you might want to get out of bed and take a look.  This May’s full Moon is a “super Moon,” as much as 14% bigger and 30% brighter than other full Moons of 2012.

The scientific term for the phenomenon is “perigee moon.” Full Moons vary in size because of the oval shape of the Moon’s orbit. The Moon follows an elliptical path around Earth with one side (“perigee”) about 50,000 km closer than the other (“apogee”).  Full Moons that occur on the perigee side of the Moon’s orbit seem extra big and bright.

Such is the case on May 5th at 11:34 pm Eastern Daylight Time1 when the Moon reaches perigee.  Only one minute later, the Moon will line up with Earth and the sun to become brilliantly full.  The timing is almost perfect.

Super Moon 2012 (splash)

A ScienceCast video explains the facts and fiction of “super-moons.” Play it

Okay, the Moon is 14% bigger than usual, but can you really tell the difference? It’s tricky. There are no rulers floating in the sky to measure lunar diameters. Hanging high overhead with no reference points to provide a sense of scale, one full Moon can seem much like any other.

The best time to look is when the Moon is near the horizon.  For reasons not fully understood by astronomers or psychologists, low-hanging Moons look unnaturally large when they beam through trees, buildings and other foreground objects. On May 5th, this Moon illusion will amplify a full Moon that’s extra-big to begin with.  The swollen orb rising in the east at sunset should seem super indeed.

Super Moon 2012 (perigee)

Perigee is the point in the Moon’s elliptical orbit closest to Earth. Diagrams:#1, #2

Folklore holds that all kinds of wacky things happen under the light of a full Moon.  Supposedly, hospital admissions increase, the crime rate ticks upward, and people behave strangely. The idea that the full Moon causes mental disorders was widespread in the Middle Ages. Even the word “lunacy,” meaning “insanity,” comes from the Latin word for “Moon.” 

The majority of modern studies, however, show no correlation between the phase of the Moon and the incidence of crime, sickness, or human behavior.  The truth is, the Moon is less influential than folklore would have us believe.

It’s true that a perigee full Moon brings with it extra-high “perigean tides,” but according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration this is nothing to worry about. In most places, lunar gravity at perigee pulls tide waters only a few centimeters (an inch or so) higher than usual. Local geography can amplify the effect to about 15 centimeters (six inches)–not exactly a great flood.

Super perigee Moons are actually fairly common.  The Moon becomes full within a few hours of its closest approach to Earth about once a year on average.   The last such coincidence occurred on March 19th, 2011, producing a full Moon that was almost 400 km closer than this one.  As usual, no trouble was reported–unless you count a midnight awakening as trouble.

If so, close the drapes on May 5th. Otherwise, enjoy the super-moonlight.

++++++

Weatherwise we should be in good shape for the event. i won’t rehash everything I talked about for the last couple of days from a sensible weather situation. See my previous blogs about all that. Suffice it to say, today we’ll be well in the 80s. It’s possible tomorrow we get to 90° with light winds. Then a front moves through,sometime on SUN. We will be capped ahead of the front, so it may be difficult to generate storms and there are still timing questions when that front moves through. I’ll let KR and MT deal with that today and of course give you updates all weekend on the air and on the blog.

It does look like, depending what happens on Sunday, that the rainfall for the next week+ will be well below average for this time of the year.

Have a great Friday

Joe

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