Dennis’ Local Almanac

By DENNIS McTIGHE

70-degree days, where are you?

On Sunday, May 5, we were at the midpoint of spring and we’re still waiting for that elusive 70-degree day. Here at the halfway point, spring of 2024’s first six weeks are the chilliest on record with an average high temp of only 63.3 degrees. We’ve hit 69 for a high a couple of times but that’s about it. We’re still getting cold fronts from the northwest with even some rain showers on Saturday. Behind the front’s passage came strong gusty WNW winds that did a real number on our water temps. They scratched and clawed their way up to 62 last Friday, but yesterday, they plunged back into the mid 50s.

It doesn’t appear that it’s going to warm up much anytime soon as that stubborn trough of low pressure with its chilly temps is still loitering off most of the Pacific West Coast. Some parts of the Sierra Nevada picked up nearly 10 inches of snow down as low as 4,000 ft., and parts of the Cascades in the Northwest had upwards of a foot and a half down to 3,500 ft. It’s hard to predict what kind of summer we’ll get this year at this point, but an impending La Niña event might be a factor to some degree. Stay tuned on that one.

I’m sure that some of you out there have witnessed firsthand a powerful super cell thunderstorm and all the violent weather it has to offer. This month is the prime time for such atmospheric dramatics.

This year, April finished with the second highest number of reported tornadoes with 254. Only 2011 had more tornadoes nationwide with a whopping 354. If you’ve never been to the plains and America’s heartland of the Midwest in the spring, chances are you’ve never witnessed firsthand the kind of weather I’m talking about here.

Out here in the West, especially everywhere west of the Rockies, we do have our share of some strong thunderstorms, but not with the magnitude of these storms anywhere east of the Continental Divide. There, different air masses come into play on quite a regular basis from April through June. During this period, the whole thing starts when a Pacific front moves onshore bringing some rain and wind, but generally below severe status as the surrounding air in the west is fairly stable as a rule.

Once that system crosses the Rockies it’s a whole different ball game – these Pacific-borne systems are now the property of a place known as “Tornado Alley” where the weather goes completely haywire. This Tornado Alley starts in Texas and stretches to the north sometimes all the way to the U.S. and Canadian border and beyond. When conditions are ripe, dangerous tornadoes form that are deadly and most destructive, similar to what’s going on as we speak. Not only do we have tornadoes of great concern, but then we have intense hailstorms that can produce hailstones as big as softballs or even larger on some occasions. On top of that, there are torrential rains up to a foot or more in just 24-48 hours, and on top of all that, there are dangerous straight-line winds as high as hurricane force.

I have personally witnessed all this insanity firsthand in early May of 1967 at a place called Amarillo, Texas Air Force Base in the North Texas area known as the Texas Panhandle (in the southern end of Tornado Alley) while I was attending weather school. Being a California native of Laguna Beach, I had no idea how intense these super cells could get, as here in town we only average a few thunderstorms per year, and they aren’t that severe. Boy, was I in for a real surprise! Gotta run.

See y’all next week, ALOHA!


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