At the end of July, the U.S. state of Texas had experienced its driest August-July period on record, with no relief in sight. As of August 30th, just about the entire state was experiencing some level of drought and
81.1 percent fell into the exceptional category, the highest drought category as determined by the U.S. The agriculture industry was very hard hit by the drought. According to a media report updated on August 17th, from November 2010 to August 1st, 2011, Texas suffered an estimated $5.2 billion U.S. dollars in crop and livestock losses, surpassing the previous annual record loss of $4.1 billion U.S. dollars in 2006. The losses this year were expected to grow as the drought showed no signs of abating.
Due to record heat and drought, wildfire danger was also great across the arid region including Texas and Oklahoma. A 30-acre blaze in the central Texas town of Leander was reported on August 15th. The fire destroyed 15 homes but was 50 percent contained by the next day. On the 30th, the Possum Kingdom Lake fire in north Texas destroyed 25 homes and threatened an additional 125. By the end of August, a ban on outdoor burning was in effect for 251 of the 254 Texas counties. Also on August 30th, several homes in Oklahoma City were destroyed along with 1,500 wooded acres. Several hundred homes had to be evacuated.
Scorching temperatures that affected a large portion of the United States in July continued into August. The southern U.S. was hardest hit and many longstanding records were broken. Fort Smith, Arkansas saw temperatures soar to 115F (46.1C) on August 3rd, setting a new all-time high record, surpassing the previous mark of 113F (45.0C) set on August 10th, 1936 and recorded again on August 2nd of this year, just one day before the new record was set. By the end of August, Oklahoma City had seen 58 days of 100F (37.8C) temperatures during 2011, breaking the old record of 50 set in 1980. Twenty deaths were attributed to the extreme heat in Oklahoma. In north Texas, Dallas/Fort Worth had 40 consecutive days (July 2nd -August 10th) of maximum temperatures reaching 100F (37.8C) or greater, second only to the 42-day streak in 1980 (June 23rd-August 3rd). As of August 31st, Dallas had recorded 65 days of triple digit temperatures during this calendar year, second to the 69 days in 1980. Additionally, on August 17th, Dallas/Fort Worth broke the record for the most number of days in a calendar year with minimum temperatures above 80F (26.7C), at 40 days, breaking the old record of 39 in 1998. That number rose to 53 by the end of the month. On August 11th, Waco, Texas broke its record for the greatest number of consecutive days of 100F (37.8C) or higher temperatures. The previous record was 42, set during June 23-August 3, 1980. The streak ended on August 12th, with a consecutive total of 44 days. On August 16th, Waco also broke the record for the most number of days in a calendar year to reach the 100F (37.8C) mark, at 64, breaking the previous record of 63 in 1980. The streak continued and as of August
31st, the number of days stood at 79. Wichita Falls, Texas had even more 100F days by the end of August, 95 to-date in 2011, shattering its record of 79 days, also set in 1980.
Heavy rain fell over portions of the northeastern United States on
August 14th, bringing record precipitation and flooding to some areas. In New York City, an all-time daily maximum rainfall of 7.80 inches (198 mm) was recorded at Kennedy International Airport, handily breaking the old record of 6.27 inches (159 mm) set on June 30th, 1984 and shattering the daily August 14th record of 0.96 inches (24 mm) set in 2008. LaGuardia International Airport received 6.60 inches (168 mm) of rain on the 14th, the second highest all-time daily rainfall for LaGuardia behind 6.69 inches (170 mm) set on April 15th, 2007. No fatalities were reported.
On August 19th, 2.1 inches (53 mm) of rain fell within an hour in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, adding to 1-2 inches (25-50 mm) that had fallen earlier in the day. The heavy rains led to flash flooding and water as high as 9 feet (2.7 meters) in parts of the city. Four people were killed and many others were stranded as cars were submerged due to the floods.
Hurricane Irene brought torrential rainfall to parts of New England on
August 28th-29th. Vermont, a landlocked state, suffered some of the worst damage from record heavy rains that led to catastrophic flooding in the state. Several towns, including Brattleboro and Bennington, were underwater. According to NOAA's U.S. Records, 26 monitoring stations, including 11 in Vermont, broke their all-time daily maximum precipitation records between the 27th and 29th. In New York, the Passaic River, as measured by the National Weather Service at the Pine Brook gauge, rose above major flood stage on August 28^th and reached a new record height of 24.12 ft (7.35 m) on the 30^th , surpassing the previous record stage of 23.2 ft (7.1 m). Several towns and areas along the East Coast were cut off as roads and bridges were washed away. Rains from the storm added to the monthly August precipitation amount, bringing New York City, New York, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Newark, New Jersey their wettest months on record. Newark also set a record for its highest recorded daily rainfall on the 28th, at 8.92 inches (227 mm). Damages from the storm were initially estimated to be around $7 billion U.S. dollars.
A line of severe thunderstorms moved through central Indiana on August
13th. High winds of at least 60 mph (100 km/hr) ahead of the storm caused the roof of a concert band stage to collapse at the Indiana State Fair, killing seven people and injuring almost 40 others. Severe thunderstorms and associated strong winds are not uncommon in this region of the country during the warm summer months.
A heatwave across parts of Europe near the end of August brought temperatures of 95F (35C) to northern Italy. At least 10 people reportedly died due to heat-related illnesses on August 23rd-4th. Cape Carbonara in Sardegna reached a record high 117F (47C), according to local media reports. The Austrian tourism industry welcomed the heat wave. After cooler-than-normal temperatures and rainy weather during much of June and July, the warm temperatures were expected to provide a boost to that sector. Switzerland, Germany, France, and Spain were also impacted, along with the Balkan countries of Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia,
Montenegro, Albania, and Croatia, where heat warnings were issued on August 25^th advising residents to stay indoors and drink plenty of water. In nearby Hungary, similar heat warnings were posted. In Greece,
6,200 acres (2,500 hectares) of forest and cropland were destroyed, prompting officials to declare a state of emergency. Numerous other wildfires were also reported across several countries. The heat wave was due to strong high pressure over Central Europe and subtropical air from northern Africa.
In Belgium, high winds from a severe thunderstorm caused a stage collapse at the Pukkelpop music festival on August 19th. The festival was located about 50 miles east of the Belgian capital of Brussels. Five people were killed and about 40 others were injured.
Heavy monsoon rains in northwestern Pakistan triggered flash floods that killed at least 42 people and left at least 20 more missing on August 24^th . The floods struck Kundian Valley in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Each year, monsoon rains begin in July in Pakistan and flooding is common.
Heavy rains during August 26th-29th in the southwestern Nigerian city of Ibadan led to flooding that killed at least 25 people and displaced 3,000. August is in the middle of Nigeria's rainy season, which lasts from April to September. However, according to a media report, rainfall is higher than normal this year and this flood was the worst in the past 12 years.
Rainfall was also heavy in part of East Africa. On August 29th, torrential rains caused a huge landslide in the Bulambuli district of Uganda near the Kenyan border that killed at least 23 people.
An EF-3 tornado struck the town of Goderich, Ontario on August 21st. According to preliminary estimates, the twister had sustained wind speeds of 174 mph (280 km/hr) and the path of destruction was roughly one-third of a mile (0.5 km) wide. One person was killed and 37 others were injured as the tornado tore through the center of the town. The tornado was the most powerful recorded in Ontario in more than a decade. According to Environment Canada, fewer than five percent of tornadoes in Canada are rated EF-3 or higher.
After impacting the Philippines at the end of July, Tropical Cyclone Muifa continued its northwest track into the East China Sea and Yellow Sea in early August. Although its strength had dissipated from its one-time super typhoon status at the end of July, Muifa led to four fatalities in South Korea on August 8^th and an estimated 220,000 South Koreans were impacted by the storm as heavy rains flooded their homes. The storm worked its way northward, making landfall in western North Korea near the Chinese border. At least 10 people were killed in North Korea and more than 100 homes were destroyed. China's National Meteorological Center reported that up to five inches (127 mm) of rain fell and winds gusted up to 52 mph (83 km/hr) in northeast China close to where the storm made landfall. No casualties were reported in China but more than three million Chinese were affected and direct economic losses were estimated to be over $469.5 million U.S. dollars across five coastal
provinces, according to Xinhua news media.
Hurricane Irene (the ninth named storm and first hurricane of the 2011
Atlantic season) formed on August 20th east of the Lesser Antilles. The storm moved west-northwestward across Puerto Rico, knocking out power to about one million people. The storm reached hurricane strength before passing over the Turks and Caicos, then rapidly intensified into a Category 3 major hurricane with maximum sustained winds reaching 120 mph (193 km/hr). The hurricane weakened and made landfall near Cape Lookout, North Carolina on August 27th as a Category 1 storm. The storm lost strength as it moved over the state's Outer Banks and was downgraded to tropical storm status as it churned up the eastern seaboard into Canada over the next two days, impacting U.S. states up through New England and parts of eastern Canada. At least 42 people were killed across 12 states and one person was killed in Canada. An estimated five million U.S. residents and 250,000 Canadian residents lost power as the storm roared through the region. Thousands of flights were cancelled and major transportation services were shut down in major cities including New York City.
Super Typhoon Nanmadol (also referred to as Mina) formed on August 23rd in the northwest Pacific and reached its maximum strength of 155 mph (250 km/hr), just below Category 5 status on the Saffir Simpson Hurricane Scale. The storm decreased in strength to 109 mph (176 km/hr) before making its first landfall over Gaonzaga, Cagayan in the northern Philippines. More than 300,000 people were affected by the storm and agricultural damages were estimated to be close to $29 million U.S. dollars. At least 29 people were killed and 12 were missing. The typhoon made a second landfall over Taimali, Taiwan on August 28th with maximum sustained wind speeds of 86 mph (139 km/hr), equivalent to a Category 1 hurricane. Some areas received more than 20 inches (508 mm) of rainfall, including 20.8 inches (528 mm) in Bruwan, Hualien County and 20.4 inches (517 mm) in Hengchun, Pingtung County. One person was killed. The storm once again moved over open water into the Taiwan Strait and made a third and final landfall over Fujian, China as a tropical storm on August 30th, weakening rapidly as it remained over land. Hundreds of home were destroyed and 272,000 residents were impacted, according to a China state media report. Nanmadol was the 11th tropical cyclone to strike China this year.
An Antarctic polar blast brought frigid temperatures and rare snowfall on August 14th-16th to parts of New Zealand that are not accustomed to this extreme type of weather. On the North Island, the country's largest city of Auckland saw its first snowfall since 1939 and recorded its all-time lowest maximum temperature of 47.8F (8.2C) on August 15th, breaking the previous record of 47.7F (8.7C) set in July 1996. Wellington recorded its second coldest day since records began at Wellington Airport in 1959, at 44.2F (6.8C), just above the current record of 43.7F (6.5C) set in June
1976. Thousands of homes in Wellington, Christchurch, and Coromandel
Peninsula lost power and schools across the lower South Island were closed. High winds produced swells that reached 5 meters (16 feet), halting ferry services in the Cook Strait between the North and South Island. A New Zealand MetService forecaster described the harsh weather as a "once-in-a-50-year event for the South Pacific island nation. Of note, the Antarctic Oscillation. When it is in its negative phase, the oscillation brings low pressure and hence unsettled weather to New Zealand. During the week of this unusual polar blast, the AAO index values were among the most negative since NOAA's Climate Prediction Center records began in 1979.
Jim G. Munley, jr.
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