GLOBAL WEATHER HIGHLIGHTS
Heavy snow and ice, freezing conditions wreaked havoc across the north of the UK on Thursday night and Friday (3rd-4th) mornings as the storm swept in from the Atlantic. Snowfalls of up to 10 cm on higher ground forced schools to shut in parts of Yorkshire and Lancashire on Friday, and in Northern Ireland public transport foundered when Ulsterbus was forced to cancel services. Leeds Bradford airport closed briefly on Friday morning when 5 cm of snow had to be cleared from the runway. Northern Ireland and Wales have also been affected and there are warnings of snowfalls in Scotland.
Severe flooding has caused widespread disruption across parts of central England, with rail passengers stranded and many schools shut (9th). British Transport Police formed human barriers in front of the main concourse at London Euston after trains between Rugby and Milton Keynes were cancelled. Passengers were warned people could be killed as some had fallen from earlier trains on Wednesday. A total of 46 flood warnings are in place across England and Wales. Train operator London Midland said the severe flooding in several areas had caused problems with signaling and electrical equipment, leaving it unable to run trains between Rugby and Milton Keynes. A London Midland spokesman said: "Once the floodwater subsides we are still faced with trains and train crew out of place across the network." Network Rail said flooding on train lines around Daventry, Rugby and Wolverton had delayed services between Birmingham New Street and London Euston. Trains on the West Coast Mainline were also running at reduced speeds due to heavy flooding. Fourteen schools were closed in Warwickshire and and a number of people were rescued from trapped cars by firefighters due to rising floodwater. Firefighters rescued drivers from stranded vehicles in Great Alne, Wolston, Baginton and Princethorpe. There were also reports of cars stuck in Kenilworth Ford.
An avalanche struck high in the Italian Alps on Saturday (12th), killing six skiers and injuring another as a swath of snow hundreds of meters wide cascaded down. Helicopters ferried survivors and the bodies back to the valley floor from the avalanche site, located not far below Monte Nevoso's peak. The mountain is close to the Austrian border in Italy's Alto Adige region. According to Bolzano provinces avalanche report, the avalanche risk forecast for Saturday was moderate, a two on a 1-to-5 scale. Monte Nevoso, in the Aurina valley in the south Tyrol region in Italy's north-east, reaches a height of 3,358 meters. Conditions were sunny and windy after heavy snowfall in recent weeks, a local police official said. It is unknown what caused the avalanche.
A powerful storm unleashed wind, rain and snow across the United Kingdom from Sunday night into Monday (27-28th). Just west of London in Woodley, Berkshire, the strong winds caused scaffolding to collapse from a market rooftop. The Needles, along the extreme western edge of the Isle of Wright reported the strongest gusts from Katie with a peak gust of 105 mph. Gusts in excess of 60 mph were also reported in Bournemouth, Odiham, Southend and Lydd The strong winds across Southern England affected more than 100 flights from London-Gatwick and London-Heathrow airports on Monday. Katie also caused more than 80,000 power cuts throughout England with numerous reports of tree damage as thousands remain without power. Highways England reported the strong winds resulted in closure of the M48 Severn Bridge and the Dartford River Crossing. Heavy rain also caused flooding which resulted in several road closures, including the M6 northbound between junctions 13 and 14. While Southern England endured downpours and damaging winds, the higher terrain of the Midlands woke up to wintry weather. Rain mixed with snow fell from Stoke-on-Trent to Leeds with accumulating snow reported across the Peak District.
Melbourne sweltered through its hottest March night on record on Tuesday (9th), hovering around 30C after reaching a peak of 38.6C in the city at 5pm. The temperature dropped to an overnight minimum of 27.7C at 8.45am Wednesday, just before the 6am cut-off for overnight temperatures. It broke a previous record for the warmest overnight minimum of 26.5C, which was set on 13 March 2013. However the daytime maximum of 38.9C fell short of the March record of 41.5C, set in 1940. Sydney has also been unseasonably warm, with a record-breaking 31 days in a row above 26C. Canberra has had a daily maximum temperature of more than 30C for every day of March so far. Alain Baillie, forecaster with the Bureau of Meteorology in Melbourne, said the uncomfortable night was the result of a low-intensity heatwave, which has hovered over south-eastern Australia for the past week. Mildura has not had a daily maximum temperature below 36.7C since March began.
A storm system brought significant impacts to the southeastern Arabian Peninsula in the 9th). Thunderstorms erupted Wednesday causing travel chaos in U.A.E. and northern Oman. The Gulf News reported that flights out of Abu Dhabi International Airport were suspended for a time during the worst of the storms. The Abu Dhabi Air Expo was also disrupted for the second day of the event. Heavy rain and thunderstorms also lashed Oman on Wednesday causing flooding and closing schools. The Royal Oman Police have reported at least 40 distress calls from flooding along with numerous flooded roadways. At least one person was killed by lightning from the storms on Wednesday. According to the Times of Oman, the Ministry of Education has decided to close all schools in Oman on Thursday, except in Al Wusta and Dhofar regions.
The National Disaster Management Authority said the preliminary death toll due to flooding throughout Pakistan is 49 with at least 80 other people needing medical attention (11th-15th). Nine people were killed and over 100 houses were damaged in Baluchistan province. The flooding also caused a coal mine collapse in northwestern Pakistan over the weekend. As of Monday, the National Disaster Management Authority of Pakistan confirmed that 10 workers had been killed. Islamabad received around 135 mm of rain from Friday to Tuesday. Normal rainfall for the entire month of March is less than 75 mm. Murree, a mountainous area just north of Islamabad, has recorded about 200 mm. Banhial, in the Indian state of Kashmir and Jammu, reported around 300 mm of rain through to Tuesday.
Residents in Louisiana and Mississippi were taking stock of damage on Saturday after a massive deluge of rain submerged roads and cars, washed out bridges and forced residents to flee homes (10th-12th). The rain and flooding is part of a weather system that has affected Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee and Alabama. At least three people have died in Louisiana alone. In Mississippi, officials said as many as 1,000 residents could see their homes flooded by the rising Leaf River in Hattiesburg, Petal and surrounding areas. Nearly 61 cm of rain falling in some spots. At least four deaths have been attributed to the flooding, with nearly 5,000 homes damaged in Louisiana alone. The Sabine River, which runs along part of the Texas-Louisiana border, reached a record flood level of 10.7 m. This smashed the previous record by more than a metre. Over 275 mm of rainfall was reported in Shreveport, Louisiana, between Tuesday and Thursday. A normal rainfall total for the entire month of March for the city is 105 mm.
The severe storm season in the US has started to build up with some southern states being hit by strong winds, hail and tornadoes on Sunday (13th). Arkansas was one of the worst-affected states, with hailstones the size of baseballs being reported in Montgomery County in the south-west. The hail caused damage to two prisons in the state, with more than 100 windows and skylights broken. Numerous funnel clouds and tornadoes were reported, with three confirmed by the National Weather Service, all bringing winds of up to 110 mph.
A major winter storm tracking from the Intermountain West to the Great Lakes caused widespread travel concerns from Tuesday into Thursday (23rd). Blizzard conditions shut down travel around the Denver metro area on Wednesday and left over 100,000 people without power. Denver International Airport was shut down for several hours, and over 1,300 flights were cancelled. It was the first time in 10 years that the airport was forced to close. A storm total of just over 13 inches of snow was measured at the airport. Much of eastern Colorado received 12-18 inches of snow although there were some locally higher reports. One location near Boulder measured over 25 inches, while over 31 inches fell near Pinecliffe.
A blinding duststorm triggered a large traffic pileup in Southern California in the evening (28th). At least 30 people were injured as a result of the incident, which occurred on Highway 247 in Lucerne Valley. One person was taken to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center for major injuries, according to the San Bernardino County Fire District. The dust storm brought visibility in the area down to zero, the fire district said, and at least 15 vehicles were involved in the crash.
A multi-day severe weather outbreak targeted portions of the central and southern United States (30-31). On Wednesday, two EF2 tornadoes struck northeastern Oklahoma. One of the tornadoes touched down near Tulsa, causing at least seven injuries and damaging multiple homes, according to the Tulsa World. Dangerous flash flooding was reported around parts of central Arkansas on Wednesday night. In the town of Jonesboro, a flash flood emergency was declared after over 75 mm of rain fell in the city. Local police warned people to avoid travel following reports of washed-out roads and stalled vehicles in floodwaters. In Dermott, Arkansas, local emergency management stated that one person was injured after a reported tornado occurred near the town. Several homes were damaged as well as a nursing home. The National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center listed four tornado reports on Wednesday. In addition to Oklahoma and Arkansas, two weak tornadoes caused minor damage in Louisiana. The severe thunderstorms shifted farther east on Thursday, with additional damaging tornadoes touching down. A tornado tore the roof off of a house and snapped trees near Columbus, Mississippi, while other tornadoes downed power lines and threw debris around in Morgan County, Alabama, and Grady County, Georgia.
Palau (located east of the Philippines) has joined the Marshall Islands and Federated States of Micronesia by declaring a state of emergency amid one of the worst droughts in recorded history (23rd). President Tommy Remengesau stated that rainfall recorded in the capital of Koror over the past four months was the lowest in 65 years. He added that the dam supplying water to the city has dried up, and the Ngerikiil River was now at only 19 percent of its capacity. Water rationing has begun on Koror and Airai with access to water for 10 hours of each day. This extreme drought is being fueled by the strongest El Nino conditions on record which have prevailed since last year. Unfortunately, even though the current El Nino is now weakening, below-normal rainfall is expected over the next several months across the islands of the Western Pacific.
Jim G. Munley, jr.
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