Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

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May 21, 2013

Expert explains causes behind recent severe weather

By CHRIS AGEE

Following last week’s devastating local storms, the nation’s midsection took a beating over the weekend with serious damage reported in Oklahoma and Kansas.

Sunday’s storms were defined by severe hail and numerous tornadoes – similar to those that destroyed structures and automobiles throughout Mineral Wells and killed six in Granbury last Wednesday evening.

Research Meteorologist Harold Brooks, a regional spokesperson for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, explained some of the factors that can lead to potentially deadly storms.

“Anytime we have severe thunderstorms, we’re looking for a set of ingredients,” Brooks explained.

Experts first look for warm, moist air at low levels and winds that increase with height.

“That’s what we had over the past few days,” he noted, “and if we look back a week ago, the flow aloft in the middle of the atmosphere was from the northwest.”

Such conditions, Brooks explained, were exacerbated by the arrival of significant moisture.

“We were really starved of moisture in the central part of the U.S. until this weekend,” he said, noting a “large-scale weather system came out across the Rockies. It was sort of over northern Idaho, Montana, and it dove southeast. Now what we’ve got is a pattern where it’s over southern Arizona and moving toward the Northeast.”

With moisture arriving from the gulf, Brooks said conditions for serious storms are “much more favorable.”

The most damaging twister of the weekend  hit Shawnee, Okla., and received a preliminary rating of EF-4 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale – the same designation given to Wednesday’s tornado in Granbury. Both storms contained wind speeds up to 200 miles per hour.

The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., received 24 tornado reports Sunday as at least two individuals in the state were killed and nearly two dozen injured.

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