MAY 2015





Five people are dead after excessive rainfall inundated southeastern Queensland, causing Brisbane to shatter its May daily rainfall record on the 1st. All five people died when the cars they were riding in were swept away by flood waters. Data obtained by Australia's Bureau of Meteorology indicates that one weather reporting station in Caboolture received 333 mm of rain from Friday morning to Friday evening. The nearby town of Beerburrum was inundated with 233 mm on Friday from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. local time. Out of that total, 148.6 mm fell in just three hours. Queensland's capital of Brisbane recorded 183 mm on Friday from 9 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. That was preceded by 56.2 mm in the previous 24 hours. Friday is now the wettest May day on record at the Brisbane Regional Office. The previous record was 149 mm from May 9, 1980. Brisbane averages nearly 74 mm during the entire month of May. The excessive rainfall in Queensland was the result of a non-tropical storm system that slowly dropped southward through the area and tapped into deep moisture.


Fog season has officially hit south-east Queensland, with the region waking up to a thick blanket of white that affected flights at several airports on the (20th). Brisbane was affected the most by the fog while parts of the Gold Coast were also blanketed. Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Michael Knepp said it was the start of fog season for the state, ahead of winter. "Typically, we do have a fog season in Brisbane and it runs between April and October," he said. "We have a storm season, a tropical cyclone season and now we're in fog season seeing some of the thickest fog of the year. "There is about eight fogs days each year and this is the first one." Visibility at Brisbane Airport was down to about 50 meters at the domestic and international terminals earlier this morning, with Archerfield airport in Brisbane and Amberley airbase, near Ipswich, also experiencing thick cover.




Eastern Texas was struck by severe storms, which continued into early Monday morning on the 2rd. Softball-sized hail, damaging winds and tornadoes pummeled the region. A tornado struck Rio Vista, Texas, about 40 miles south of Fort Worth, late Sunday night. Local emergency management reported about overturned trucks and various building damage, including to the local high school.


A series of tornadoes, including a major twister, touched down southwest of Oklahoma City, flipping cars and causing the escape of tigers and other animals from an exotic wildlife park, officials said on the 6th. There were no immediate reports of injuries but some structures were damaged as a storm system brought severe weather to several Great Plains states. Tigers and other animals were able to briefly escape from the Tiger Safari park after a tornado struck the city of Tuttle, about 48 km south-west of Oklahoma City, though they were recaptured without further incident, the Grady County Sheriff's Office said. Residents of Tuttle had been warned to stay indoors by authorities after the escape. Meanwhile passengers, visitors and employees at the Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City were evacuated to a pedestrian tunnel for about 30 minutes as the storms moved through the area, the airport said on its Twitter feed. The tornadoes flipped cars, downed power lines and snapped trees. Several roads were closed because of debris, the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management said.


More than 100 award-ceremony attendees at a high school in Lake City, Iowa, were caught in the midst of a severe storm outbreak on Sunday evening (the 10th) as a possible tornado tore the roof apart right over their heads. Fortunately, the 150 people inside South Central Calhoun High School were moved to the basement and locker room area two minutes before the potential tornado struck. The storms that slammed Iowa were part of a multiple-day storm outbreak across the Plains. On Saturday, one person was killed after a tornado hit Cisco, Texas. Five fatalities were reported on Sunday as storms swept from Texas to South Dakota. One person died due to flooding in Corsicana, Texas. The area received 9 inches of rain in six hours. Secondary roadways in the area remained closed into Monday morning. Two were killed in Nashville, Arkansas, after a possible tornado swept through a trailer park Sunday night. Two people were also killed in Van, Texas, the Associated Press reported, after an EF-3 tornado ripped through a trailer park. Thousands were without power Sunday into Monday morning in Texas and Arkansas as winds up to 60 mph continued to lash the region. Tornadoes also reportedly touched down in Colorado, Oklahoma and Kansas on Sunday.


Record rainfall and flash floods wreaked havoc across a swath of the US Midwest on Sunday (the 24th), killing three people, spawning tornadoes and forcing at least 2,000 people to flee. About 350 homes in the town of Wimberley were washed away by flash floods along the Blanco River, which rose 26ft in just one hour and left piles of wreckage 20ft high. Tornados struck, severely damaging an apartment complex in Houston, Texas, with warnings across the Midwest from Illinois to Kansas. Dallas faced severe flooding, with the Trinity River expected to crest near 40ft on Monday and lap at the foundations of an industrial park. The Red and Wichita rivers also rose far above flood stage. This May is already the wettest on record for several cities in the southern plains states, with days still to go and more rain on the way. The widespread heavy rains are being caused by a prolonged warming of Pacific Ocean sea surface temperatures that generally results in cooler air, coupled with an active southern jet stream and plentiful moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, said meteorologist Forrest Mitchell at National Weather Service (NWS) office in Norman, Oklahoma. So far this year, Oklahoma City has recorded 27.37in of rain. Last year at this time, only 4.29in had been recorded. Such sustained rainfall may end the prolonged drought that has gripped the region for years, since moisture now reaches about 2ft below the surface of the soil and many of Oklahoma's lakes and reservoirs are full. Wichita Falls was so dry at one point that that it had to get Texas regulatory approval to recycle and treat its wastewater as drinking water dried up. By Sunday, the city reached a rainfall record, nearly 14 inches in May.


At least 19 people have died since the weekend during torrential downpours in Texas and Oklahoma as parts of the deluged region brace for another dangerous turn, with forecasters warning of the potential for flash flooding from storms that could bring as much as 3 more inches of rain on the 27th. Numerous people remain missing in Texas after storms swept away homes, submerged roadways and stranded drivers during the Memorial Day weekend. Houston residents are being asked to avoid unnecessary travel in areas of high water, and areas impacted by the storms. More than 200 flights had been cancelled by early Tuesday evening at airports in Houston and Dallas, some of the nation's busiest, as blocked roads made it difficult for workers to get to their jobs. A sinkhole closed a runway at Dallas/Fort Worth international airport. Roughly 100,000 customers lost power throughout the state after the storm due to high winds and rising waters that snapped power poles. In Houston about 280 mm of rain fell on Monday, while parts of Austin were hit by as much as 180 mm. Helicopter crews in both cities plucked to safety people who had been stranded in cars and on top of buildings.




The German town of Buetzow has been left extensively damaged by what residents described as a tornado that tore off roofs, overturned cars and ripped up trees, with more destruction reported in other parts of Germany on the 5th. Roof tiles and debris were strewn across the streets and buildings left severely damaged when the storm struck. Dozens of cars were destroyed and people injured as trees were upturned and buildings damaged by the winds. One person in the city of Hamburg was killed by falling debris. Eyewitness’s spoke of a track of devastation across the area caused by a tornado but the German weather service Wetter Online said the winds did not meet the exact definition of a twister.


Temperatures have risen to record breaking levels in the north eastern region of Catalonia, while elsewhere the searing heat has claimed its first victim on the 14th. It has been the hottest May on record in Catalonia, with the region basking under unseasonably sizzling temperatures. Temperatures of 36.6C were registered in Sant RomĂ  d'Abella in Lleida and 36.1C in Tarragona while Barcelona recorded temperatures as high as 36C. The previous highest May temperature recorded in Barcelona, since records began over 100 years ago, was 34.9C, recorded on 9 May 1912. That record has been shattered this week as a heatwave has swept across the country which saw a construction worker die from heat stroke in Badajoz, near the Portuguese border. The heatwave currently baking Spain is due to a mass of hot air from North Africa. While Catalonia's coastal areas have enjoyed a cool sea breeze, inland towns have felt the heat rise to record breaking temperatures. The hottest spot in Spain so far this year was Lanzarote where a temperature of 42.4C was recorded at the airport on Wednesday. Authorities have placed 33 provinces across Spain on alert, while Valencia is on "red alert" with temperatures expected to reach 42C. Alicante is on "orange alert" with the thermometer predicted to top 39C.


At least nine people have been injured and dozens of homes damaged in a hailstorm in southern Germany on the 13th. There were reports of hailstones the size of golf balls in the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg. Winds of up to 120 km/h were reported on Wednesday night and residents near the Bavarian city of Augsburg spoke of seeing a tornado. Roofs were badly damaged, blocks of flats had to be evacuated and a local school had to be closed on Thursday. Two people were taken to hospital with severe injuries caused by lightning strikes. Seven more were hurt in Bavaria, where several houses in villages near Augsburg were no longer habitable. Authorities appealed for help from construction workers to repair the damage. "First it rained, then very briefly hail, then there was a whoosh and everything flew through the whole area!," one resident told Bavarian media.




The Atlantic hurricane season doesn't start officially until June 1, but this year has already seen the first named storm. Tropical storm Ana spent this weekend off the southeast coast, transitioning from a cluster of thunderstorms into a tropical system late on Friday night. Ana moved onshore just northeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, at 6 a.m. Sunday, with 45 mph sustained winds. She dropped 2 to 7 inches of rainfall near the South Carolina - North Carolina border, and created some coastal erosion. Overall, an unremarkable storm, except for how early in the year she developed. NASA scientists estimate that a tropical system, strong enough to get a name, occurs this early in the year only once or twice every 100 years. Ana was the second-earliest tropical storm or hurricane to make landfall in the U.S., behind an unnamed storm in February of 1952.




The twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi and parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) and Azad Kashmir received heavy rain on Sunday (the 17th) and at least eight persons were killed in rain-related incidents. In Chitral, five members of a family were killed when a mudslide triggered by rain and lightning struck a house in the Shishi Koh Valley. Standing crops were also destroyed in the hail and windstorm. In Parachinar, four electricity pylons fell down after heavy rain.


A deadly dust storm developed over northwestern India resulting in at least 17 deaths and more than 60 injuries on the 19th. The storm which was focused primarily over Rajasthan, also brought low visibility to Delhi for a time. The strong winds associated with the dust storm damaged homes and knocked down power lines. Travel was disrupted as visibility dropped to near zero for a time. A positive consequence of the dust storm was that temperatures were lowered briefly before another scorching day on Wednesday.


A slow-moving, upper-level low has sparked rounds of flooding and severe thunderstorms from Greece into Turkey this week (1th-20th).  The low brought hail and flooding to Greece on Tuesday before moving farther east on Wednesday. On Wednesday, flooding and hail was reported around Izmir, Turkey, bringing travel in the city of more than 4 million people to a standstill. In fact, some parts of the city were inundated by so much water that a raging river was seen pulling automobiles and anything else in its path down a narrow street.



Roads disintegrated as temperatures rise to almost 48C in India's capital Delhi on the 29th. Some 1,700 people have died in one week, as reports suggest the heatwave could continue for another 48 hours. Hospitals are struggling with the highest number of casualties the country has experienced in more than 20 years.




An avalanche of mud and debris roared over an alpine town in western Colombia before dawn on Monday (the 18th), killing at least 58 people in a flash flood and mudslide triggered by heavy rains. The disaster hit around 3am local time (0800 GMT) in the town of Salgar, about 100 km south-west of Medellin. Dozens of rescuers supported by Black Hawk helicopters evacuated residents near the ravine for fear of another mudslide.


Central America  


A tornado raged through a city on the US-Mexico border on Monday (the 25th), destroying homes, flinging cars and ripping an infant from its mother's arms. At least 13 people were killed, authorities said. The twister hit Ciudad Acuna, a city of 125,000 people. The twister hit a seven-block area, which Victor Zamora, interior secretary of the northern state of Coahuila, described as 'devastated'. Mayor Evaristo Perez Rivera said 300 people were being treated at local hospitals, and up to 200 homes had been completely destroyed. Three people were unaccounted for.


A heat wave across parts of northern and central India has already claimed more than 1,400 lives this month. The temperature has reached or passed 43C in New Delhi for seven straight days, with little relief at night. While much of India suffers through dry and hot weather in the weeks leading up to the arrival of monsoonal rain each year, the magnitude and duration of the heat this year has resulted in life-threatening conditions for millions of people.


Jim G. Munley, jr.

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