Severe Thunderstorm, My Radar App, and a Weather Alert Radio

Wall Cloud

Wall Cloud

So, late yesterday afternoon we got clobbered with a severe thunderstorm. The kind with frequent lightning, torrential rain, and very strong wind.

I’m writing about it because it taught me a new lesson (something I already knew, but didn’t take action due to normalcy bias).

Here’s the short story…

I’m a bit of a weather nerd and do enjoy observing the extremes that nature can throw at us. It’s exhilarating in a way. It’s also humbling to witness its power.

Okay, so every morning my routine includes checking the weather forecast for the upcoming day and days ahead. I have tons of browser bookmarks just for weather.

That morning I already knew there was a chance for severe weather based on NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center forecast for our region. I checked the local dew-point and it was already 72 (oppressive!) so I knew there was plenty of ‘juice’ in the atmosphere.

As the day went on, temperatures climbed up near 90 while dew-points remained oppressive. All the atmosphere needed was a spark, so to speak, a ripple or disturbance in the atmosphere.

Sure enough, GOES-16 high resolution visible satellite imagery revealed massive meso-scale clouds building to our west. I said to myself, things are going to get interesting real soon…

Checked my Radar app (high-rez raw data feeds from Nexrad) and I could see it beginning to our west. Upon putting it in motion I could see that we were not going to escape.

Next, helped Mrs.J get the clothes off the line.

Next, dropped the umbrellas on the porch so they wouldn’t become kites.

Then went about my business of continuing my day with an eye to the sky.

I began to hear the distant rumbles of thunder.

The weather alert radio in the bedroom began blaring its alert – sure enough a severe thunderstorm warning.

Not long afterwards I could see the approaching wall cloud (shown above). Winds strengthened as surface air was being sucked up into the towering storm. I checked my Radar app again for cloud height (indicative of storm strength) – which topped 50,000 feet. Yikes.

I grabbed my camera and took some pictures just for fun.

While standing inside the sliders to the deck, I began to video the event (just for fun).

The entire event only lasted about 30 minutes. But it was violent to say the least.

As many of you have experienced, there is a difference between “ordinary” thunderstorms and severe thunderstorms. Namely, very strong winds, torrential deluging rain (often with hail), and frequent lightning – the kind that’s right on top of you with near instantaneous crashes of thunder.

Well we got all that (except for the hail).

As I was capturing video, during and just after the core was passing overhead, the lighting and thunder was intense. The power had gone out and on/off again several times as lightning bolts were obviously tripping grid substation circuit breakers.

Suddenly I heard Very Loud “SNAP – SNAP” which sounded like it was actually coming from inside the house and then immediate KABOOM as the air exploded all around. It was as close as lightning can be.

Well, as it turns out, the lightning blew out my internet modem as well as the landline phone. Whoops…

After it passed I checked around for strike damage or the house on fire ;) (didn’t notice anything).

I checked my various electronic devices for damage. Thankfully I have all that stuff plugged into quality surge protectors (I wrote an article about it awhile back).

Evidently it was the phone line that got juiced. I have two DSL lines and a landline to the property which evidently transfered the electromagnetic field of the strike into the lines and into the devices.

Lesson Learned: Unplug all the phone lines when a severe storm is approaching!

Why didn’t I do that? Normalcy bias had me believing that it wouldn’t be ‘that bad’. We get our share of T-storms here, however it’s not all that often when we get a ‘direct strike’ from one that has gone severe. Odds are that one might scoot by a few miles this way or that – but right overhead? This day it was right overhead.

Once the internet went down, I was ‘blind’ with my radar app. I knew there was more behind the one that just hit us, but wasn’t sure if we would be impacted by it.

Having the weather alert radio however was some reassurance that we would be warned. And guess what… sure enough about 30 minutes later it warned of another severe T-storm for our county.

This time I went so far as to unplug all of my electronic devices (including my solar system) and wait it out .

Fortunately though the next one did what often happens – got close enough for lots of lightning and thunder, but not directly overhead!

I had a spare landline phone (problem solved).
I called our internet provider and got another modem shipped.

Today I drove over to the next town which has a Dunkin Donuts (and free WiFi) so I could get this post up.

At least no storms forecast today ;)

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