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FLIRTING WITH SUMMER...

A CATALYST IN MY LIFE

Before I get into the details of the forecast, I will take a moment to recount the Charles City and Oelwein tornadoes that occurred on this date, May 15, 1968. I was 13 and vividly remember the day and the news reports of the storms. Following severe weather that morning, including a hailstorm that heavily damaged my dad's Chevy Caprice in Iowa City, new storms erupted in the afternoon. The famous image above, was taken by sheriff L.L. Lane as he radioed back to the station near the fairgrounds west of Charles City, that a large tornado was about to strike the town. On trips through the region, I've pulled over a couple of times in this very spot to visualize and imagine the magnitude of the moment. This is the storm that sparked my intense interest in tornadoes and extreme weather. It was a catalyst in my life that led me directly to the science of meteorology.


The storm was one of two rare Iowa F5s that hit the NE part of the state about 45 minutes apart during the late afternoon. Combined, the tornadoes killed 18 individuals in Iowa. The first F5 tornado moved through five counties with a continuous track of 65 miles. It affected the town of Charles City just before 5 PM, destroying much of the community. Damage figures were pegged at $30 million in Charles City alone, while $1.5 million of damage was recorded elsewhere. This tornado killed 13 and injured 462 others.


The second F5 tornado affected Fayette County and damaged or destroyed nearly 1000 homes. The hardest hit areas were Oelwein and Maynard, where even more homes were completely swept away from their foundations. Five people were killed while 156 others were injured. Damage was estimated at $21 million.


Both tornadoes were exceptionally violent. Just as incredible is the fact both reached EF5 status, (200mph+ winds) and were only about 60 miles apart. Destruction was complete in spots. The images below are from Charles City.





Below, you can see some of the newspaper headlines recounting the event. Stories about the recovery would run for months. My parents subscribed to the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Iowa City Press Citizen. I saved the original accounts of both, which I still have in a scrap book related to historic Iowa storms.


Despite the passage of 56 years, I always take the time on this day to remember the victims, people, and communities impacted. Your tragedy and loss led me to a deep understanding of severe weather and allowed me to work in a career devoted to saving lives and property. As always, my thoughts are with you again today. More on the weather below.


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A BETTER DAY ON THE WAY...

Tuesday's dreary mess is now history as high pressure builds into the region Wednesday. That should provide the region with mostly sunny skies and high temperatures that reach the 70s. A pleasant day.


Thursday, the next system is already upon us, with another threat of showers and storms. This disturbance is a fairly fast mover. However, it does ingest enough moisture to get dew points to push 60. With highs in the upper 60s to low 70s, that generates some small CAPE (instability). Scattered showers and thunderstorms appear likely, especially in the afternoon.


Assuming Thursday's system is as progressive as the EURO suggests, Friday should largely be a dry day. With winds returning to the SW in the afternoon, warming commences too, with highs reaching the mid to upper 70s.


THE WEEKEND

Saturday promises to be a warm and very springlike day, with mostly sunny skies until late in the day. Temperatures should surge ahead of a weak short wave trough, climbing into the low to mid 80s. Dew points also reach the low 60s, which means some fuel for late day or evening thunderstorms when the trough approaches. A couple stronger storms are possible into the evening, but a few things have to come together for that concern to materialize. Something to watch.


Sunday, weak ridging behind the trough, should provide the area with another nice mild day, although readings will be a few degrees cooler (77-82) and dew points lower. Sunday night a front settles into the region where it should waver into much of the week. That puts the region in the crosshairs of another active pattern that could see periods of thunderstorms, with the potential for some to be strong and others to be heavy rain producers as early as Sunday night. The mesocale details, (still unknown) will drive the areas of stronger convection. To my point about more rain, here's what the EURO and GFS indicate for rainfall over the next 10 days.


The EURO

The GFS

The bottom line is that the atmosphere is in an energetic state and there's plenty of weather on the table, (good and bad) the next week or so. More than anything, we are going to flirt with summer a bit, and that is music to my ears. Roll weather...TS

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