Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Hazardous Weather Outlook -- Tues., Apr. 9

When the words "Hazardous Weather Outlook" appear on the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA's) National Weather Service it's time to keep a close eye on the weather. This is especially true when you live full-time in an RV. They're much less sturdy than a sticks and bricks house.

Today, our Hazardous Weather Outlook in South Texas is for 50% chance of severe thunderstorms tonight and tomorrow. The report mentions large hail.

We have not had the misfortune of being in a storm producing large hail. From reading the blogs of other RVers who have, we hope never to encounter quarter- to golf-ball-sized hail. Horror stories include cars and RVs with multiple dents, broken skylights and even broken windows. (The hail must have been driven in at an angle by the wind. I would call that a window wind-OW.)

In other parts of the country the Hazardous Weather Outlook could be for strong winds, heavy snow, flash flooding, nor'easters, tornadoes, hurricanes or ice storms.

Rainstorm, Tigard, Oregon, November 7, 2009.
My favorite hazardous weather is a dramatic thunderstorm with booming thunder and breathtaking lightning displays, followed by pouring rain. The rain may produce flooding in the short term, but the long-term benefits are great. In springtime, the rains water the earth causing grasses, trees and flowers to burst into healthy greenery and color. Lakes, reservoirs, rivers and streams get a much-needed infusion to water wildlife, livestock and birds as well as provide irrigation water. Aquifers recharge. Waterfalls become thundering torrents. The effects may not last long, especially if drought is an issue, but any rain that falls is welcome.

Downpour while gate guarding, Cotulla, Texas, May 2012. Yes,
that's a new river flowing past our RV. By the next day it was dry.
Two of the most interesting hazardous weather events I've seen occurred in Oregon (where we lived for over 30 years, and is our RV home base).
  1. The first, in Portland, was a "silver thaw." A "silver thaw," as it is called in western Oregon, occurs when rain falls through a warm layer and strikes a surface that is below freezing, causing the rain to freeze on contact. Severe ice storms result. Power lines and tree branches get very heavy with ice and can snap in medium to strong winds.

    On Sunday morning at 8:00 a.m., I went to work in northeast Portland. My drive had been routine until I exited the freeway a mile from work. Because the Columbia River Gorge acts as a funnel for freezing east winds to enter northeast Portland and the Vancouver, WA area, it was much colder than other parts of Portland.

    Upon exiting the freeway, the large boulevard was, surprisingly, a solid sheet of ice. The wicked cool part was the surrounding landscape: every blade of grass had frozen individually so the grass looked like upside down icicles, every limb and tiny branch on the trees were sheathed in ice, and power lines were encased in ice. A beautiful, treacherous, icy wonderland! Thankfully 8:00 a.m. on a cold, Sunday morning meant almost no traffic. I drove cautiously, enjoyed the gorgeous silver thaw, and made it to work. By the time I left in the evening, the ice had melted.
  2. Another time, we lived on the banks of the Willamette (pronounced will-LAM-it) River in the Willamette Valley. The forecast was for high winds, up to 80 mph. I was alone as Bob traveled a lot for his work. Many times the forecasters are wrong about windstorms, so I wasn't overly worried. I secured what I could on our deck, turned the picnic table and benches upside down and made sure the cats were inside.

    Then the wind hit. It came out of the west which was good because we had only one set of windows on that side of the house. However, those two windows were bowing inward. I thought they were going to shatter. At one point, I opened the window a crack to ease the pressure, but the wind was blowing too hard to leave it open. I put a big "X" of painter's tape on each of the windows and closed the curtains. That way, if the windows broke, the theory was the glass would be partially held together with the tape and the curtains would keep the glass from blowing far into the room. The winds howled around the house. When it was over, I went outside and surveyed around the house. The windows survived. Nothing was gone or broken. 
What hazardous weather have you encountered either on the road or in a sticks and bricks house? I'd love to hear your stories.

Travel Bug out.