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APRIL 2012


Tornadoes raked the Dallas area Tuesday, crumbling a wing of a nursing home, peeling roofs from dozens of homes and spiraling big-rig trailers into the air like footballs. More than a dozen injuries were reported.

Overturned cars left streets unnavigable and flattened trucks clogged highway shoulders. Preliminary estimates were that six to 12 twisters had touched down in North Texas, senior National Weather Service meteorologist Eric Martello said. But firm numbers would only come after survey teams checked damage Wednesday, he said. In suburban Dallas, Lancaster police officer Paul Beck said 10 people were injured, two of them severely. Three people were injured in Arlington, including two residents of a nursing home who were taken to a hospital with minor injuries after swirling winds clipped the building, city assistant fire chief Jim Self said. "Of course the windows were flying out, and my sister is paralyzed, so I had to get someone to help me get her in a wheelchair to get her out of the room," said Joy Johnston, who was visiting her 79-year-old sister at the Green Oaks Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. "It was terribly loud." Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport canceled hundreds of flights and diverted others heading its way. Among the most stunning video was an industrial section of Dallas, where rows of empty tractor-trailers crumpled like soda cans littered a parking lot. "The officers were watching the tornadoes form and drop," Kennedale police Chief Tommy Williams said. "It was pretty active for a while." The confirmed tornadoes touched down near Royce City and Silver Springs, said National Weather Service meteorologist Matt Bishop. April is the peak of the tornado season that runs from March until June. Bishop said Tuesday's storms suggest that "we're on pace to be above normal." Johnston said her sister was taken to the hospital because of her delicate health. Another resident at the nursing home, Louella Curtis, 92, said workers roused her out of bed and put her in the hall. "The hallways were all jammed," Johnston said. "Everyone was trying to help each other to make a path for others. I'd say everybody was out of their rooms within 20 minutes." Most of Dallas was spared the full wrath of the storm. Yet in Lancaster, television helicopters panned over exposed homes without roofs and flattened buildings. Broken sheets of plywood blanketed lawns and covered rooftops. A pastor at one Lancaster church saw debris swirling in the wind, then herded more than 30 children, some as young as newborns, into a windowless room to ride out the storm. Nearby at the church's school, about 60 more children hid in another windowless room near the women's bathroom. An entire wall of Cedar Valley Christian Academy wound up being taken out in the storm. Pastor Glenn Young said he didn't know when the school might re-open.

"I'm a little concerned," Young said. "This is our livelihood." Residents could be seen walking down the street with firefighters and peering into homes, looking at the damage after the storm passed. Devlin Norwood said he was at his Lancaster home when he heard the storm sirens. He said he made a quick trip to a nearby storm when he saw the funnel-shaped tornado lower, kick up debris and head toward his neighborhood.

 "I didn't see any damage until I got back home. We had trees destroyed, fences down, boards down, boards penetrating the roof and the house, shingles damaged," said Norwood, 50, an accountant and graduate student.

The storm pushed cars into fences and toppled trees. Branches and limbs scattered across lawns and residential streets, and in one driveway, a tow-behind RV was left torn apart and crumpled. "Obviously we're going to have a lot of assessments to make when this is done," Dallas County spokeswoman Maria Arita said. American Airlines canceled more than 450 arriving and departing flights at its hub airport by late Tuesday afternoon, and 37 other incoming flights had been diverted to different airports. DFW Airport spokesman David Magana said more than 110 planes were damaged by hail. It wasn't clear how many belonged to American Airlines, but American and American Eagle had pulled 101 planes out of service for hail-damage inspections.  Flights also were canceled at Dallas Love Field, which is a big base for Southwest Airlines. That airline canceled more than 45 flights in and out of the airport by Tuesday evening. Meteorologists said the storms were the result of a slow-moving storm system centered over northern New Mexico.


8th-14thWet and snowy conditions persisted over the West and thunderstorms developed in the Plains on Friday. A low pressure system moved off the Rocky Mountains and into the Northern Plains. Flow around this system pulled warm and moist air in from the Gulf of Mexico, which pushed a warm front over the Mid-Mississippi River Valley and into the Upper Midwest. This allowed for heavy showers and strong thunderstorms to develop from Missouri through the Dakotas. Severe weather has not yet been reported in association with these storms, but heavy rainfall and strong winds have developed. O\'Neill, Nebraska saw 2.01 inches of rain, while Atlantic, Iowa saw wind gusts up to 47 mph. At the same time, a cold front extended south from this system, and stretched over the Southern Plains. Warm and moist conditions in between these two frontal boundaries created a favorable environment for severe thunderstorm activity, but storms have not yet developed. Cold air behind this system allowed for a few scattered snow showers to persist over the Northern and Central Rockies with snowfall accumulation from 1 to 3 inches. Further west, a low pressure system moved over northern California which pushed a strong cold front over the state. This kicked up early morning showers and thunderstorms, with snow in the Sierras. Snowfall accumulations ranged from 3 to 7 inches across the Northern Sierras, while the Southern Sierras saw 11 to 16 inches of new snow.

More than 100 tornadoes were reported across the Midwest and Plains states, leaving at least five dead in Oklahoma and hundreds of thousands of families without electricity on Saturday. Residents searched Sunday through damaged homes for anything they could salvage. Emergency crews, meanwhile, were trying to repair downed power lines. Five people were killed and more than two dozen were injured when a suspected tornado ripped through a mobile home park in Woodward, Oklahoma, about 140 miles northwest of Oklahoma City. Streets in the 12,000-resident town were left dotted with mangled vehicles, toppled power lines and leveled buildings.

Retired firefighter Marty Logan said he spotted the tornado when it knocked down power lines, causing flashes of light, and saw a radio tower's blinking lights go black shortly after midnight. He later saw a man emerge from a twisted, wrecked sport utility vehicle that had been tossed along the side of the road. In the tiny western Iowa town of Thurman, piles of toppled trees lined the streets in front of homes where missing walls and roofs exposed soaked living rooms. Longtime resident Ted Stafford recalled feeling his home shake, then hearing three windows shatter as the storm hit. He said he was amazed that no one in town was seriously injured. The storms were part of an exceptionally strong system that the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, which specializes in tornado forecasting, had warned about for days.   The center took the unusual step of warning people more than 24 hours in advance of a possible "high-end, life-threatening event." Forecasters had worried the storms would hit overnight, when people are less likely to hear warning sirens and pay attention to weather reports. At the storm's height, tornadoes popped up faster than they could be tallied. The center's spokesman, Chris Vaccaro, said the weather service had received at least 120 reports of tornadoes by dawn Sunday. He warned the threat wasn't over for those across several states in the nation's interior. Forecasters predicted the possibility for storms Sunday in a swath that stretched from southern Texas to northern Michigan. The American Red Cross summoned volunteers to drive relief trucks from Oklahoma City to aid the rescue crews in and around Woodward he said were pressed to the limit by the immediate disaster response. Numerous tornadoes were reported in Kansas, though mostly in rural parts of the western and central sections of the state. A reported tornado in Wichita that struck late Saturday night caused damage at McConnell Air Force Base and the Spirit AeroSystems and Boeing plants. A mobile home park was heavily damaged in the city, although no injuries or deaths were reported. The county where Wichita is located was declared a state of disaster and said preliminary estimates suggest damages could be as high as $283 million.   A hospital in Creston, about 75 miles southwest of Des Moines, suffered roof damage and had some of its windows blown out by the storm, but patients and staff were not hurt. Medical center officials were calling other area hospitals to determine how many beds they had available in case they needed to move patients.   In Nebraska, large hail shattered windows and tore siding from houses in and around Petersburg, about 140 miles northwest of Omaha. In southeast Nebraska, an apparent tornado took down barns, large trees and some small rural structures.


15th-21stA major storm continued moving through the Upper Midwest and into the Great Lakes on Monday. This was the same storm that brought very strong tornadoes to the Plains over the weekend. Most of the moisture associated with the storm's cold front gradually left as the day progressed, thus the rain and thunderstorms that were widespread from eastern Texas through Michigan in the morning diminished by the afternoon. By late afternoon, the last remaining thunderstorms were along the Texas coast and into the Southeast. At least one of these thunderstorms was severe near Corpus Christi and dumped a couple inches of rain south of the city. Closer to the middle of the storm, wind gusts over 50 mph were noted throughout the Upper Midwest. The strongest wind gust was reported in Robinson, IL at 61 mph.


22nd-30thA spring storm struck the U.S. Northeast on Monday, dumping wet snow in western Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia and western New York and bringing heavy rains to the Eastern Seaboard. The National Weather Service issued winter storm warnings from West Virginia northward into western New York, a flood watch for central New Hampshire and eastern Maine and flood advisories for eastern Massachusetts. As much as 12 to 18 inches (30 to 45 cm) of snow could fall in the mountains of West Virginia and western Pennsylvania, the service said. A foot of snow was reported in Laurel Summit in southwestern Pennsylvania, it said. The storm caused scattered power outages in several states, as trees and power lines fell, particularly in New York and Pennsylvania. About

57,000 power outages were reported from Kentucky to Maine. "The wet, heavy snow could bring down tree limbs and cause power outages, given the early leafing of trees this season," the weather service said on its website.  After a milder-than-normal winter in most of the country, the snow began falling late Sunday from the mountains of West Virginia to the southern shores of Lake Erie in Pennsylvania and New York. Near Buffalo, New York, predicted snowfall amounts ranged from 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.5 cm) along Lake Erie to a foot (30 cm) or more in the hills south and west of the city, the weather service said. Authorities reported tree limbs and power lines down along the southern Lake Erie shoreline, where another six to eight inches (15 to 20 cm) was expected by nightfall as part of the rare spring storm expected to last until Tuesday morning. 

"Once you get to the four-inch (10 cm) mark you start to see power outages," said Tony Ansuini of the National Weather Service in Buffalo. New York State Police said reports of cars off the road and downed trees and branches were coming in from counties south of Buffalo. "It's been non-stop," State Police Trooper John Dycha said of the snow, although he said only property damage had been reported. The weather and a low cloud ceiling caused delayed departures at Newark International Airport and Philadelphia International Airport, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Winds were gale-force in Atlantic waters off New England and gusting as much as 50 miles (80 km) per hour along the coastal Northeast, according to the weather service, which issued a wind advisory for Cape Cod and other parts of eastern Massachusetts. "Snow will continue to fall across areas from West Virginia to western New York today and into tonight before beginning to slowly taper off by

Tuesday morning," the weather service said. "In New England, widespread moderate to heavy rain will continue to fall before tapering off from south to north tonight." Colder temperatures and moisture will likely bring more snow accumulation in parts of northwestern Pennsylvania and upstate New York, said AccuWeather meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.

"The snow will tend to retreat northward out of West Virginia, northwestern Virginia, western Maryland and southwestern Pennsylvania this afternoon and tonight," he said.


Jim G. Munley, jr.

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