Last week, I sent the local National Weather Service office a link to my Michigan City wind damage photos, which I described as a possible “smoking gun” proving that a tornado hit the area. I just got a reply from an NWS forecaster, who thanked me for the photos but begged to differ with my conclusion, basically concluding that lexicon was right. I quote from the forecaster’s e-mail:
Thanks for your time and energy in bringing this to our attention. We are always looking for photos and video of weather related damage and anything else weather related.
As a matter of fact, while we were on our damage survey, we did see the bleachers. They were rolled several times.
In other surveys I have done over the last dozen years in Indiana, Michigan and Ohio…I have seen many rolled into pretzels just like this set. The funny thing is, these type bleachers tend to get airborne in 90 to 100 mph winds…whether they are associated with a tornado or with damaging straight line winds.
One thing is for sure…the Michigan City to Westville areas experienced a horrific wind storm. This storm is a rarity. One the area will likely not see again in a lifetime (I hope!). Our job, at the NWS, now is to decide what caused the damage as best as humanly possible. You know, we had a Tornado Warning out for the storm…so us classifying it as wind damage gives us a miss on our statistics. This negatively effects our funding and reputation. Frankly, as a scientist, I don’t care about the verification statistics when we are doing damage surveys…we are trying to determine what caused the damage based on the facts and our knowledge.
When determining what caused wind damage we look at many things. We are looking for damage that converges (is a result of suction) or that which occurred with outflow (winds blowing out of the thunderstorm). To determine this we interview eye witnesses, meticulously examine surface at the damage, look at the damage from aircraft, also we review the radar signatures and examine the atmosphere at the time. We attempt to put all the clues together, like a crime scene, and figure out what happened.
All the clues continue to point to a widespread “straight line” wind event. This event was extremely uncommon and best relate it to a hurricane. There was 30 miles by 30 miles damage. The biggest tornado on record is near a mile wide…therefore all the damage that occurred could not have been caused by “a” tornado. There could have been small tornadoes embedded in the hurricane type winds, but we could not find sufficient evidence to substantiate them. By the way, we are still looking for any other damage information we can get, including still pictures and movies of the storm. (I would love to be able to give us a hit on the Tornado Warning!)
Interesting, very interesting.
The National Weather Service has declared that the damage in Michigan City and environs yesterday was caused by straight-line winds, not tornadoes. But I wonder, did they see these bleachers? I don’t see how straight-line winds could possibly have caused this. Watch the whole video to understand why I say that:
It’s those wooden posts that seem like the “smoking gun” to me. Here are some photos that make the same point:
I could be wrong, of course. The NWS certainly knows more about this stuff than I do. But I wonder if their inspectors even saw these particular bleachers. I’d love to know how straight-line winds could blow large, heavy metal bleachers into a set of wooden spikes — at an impact velocity of 100 mph or whatever it was, and with 50 yards’ worth of forward momentum — without bending the spikes.
Looking at the damage, it seemed clear to me that the bleachers had landed on the spikes from above, coming from a vertical, not horizontal, direction. I’m not convinced by the NWS’s statement that my interpretation was incorrect.
Via Google Maps, here’s a satellite view of the location of the bleachers in question. The red line indicates the path they took:
More photos of the bleachers after the jump.
Here's a picture from Michigan City earlier of Brendan standing on an uprooted tree, taking pictures.
Power's still out in Westville. Methinks the power company prioritized Michigan City.
Get this m*****f***ing branch off my m*****f***ing car! :)
This gazebo in Michigan City's Washington Street Park has definitely seen better days.
Or leaning tree, rather.
Another shot of the big uprooted tree.
[NOTE: The first photo of the big uprooted tree, titled “Storm damage #2,” never posted, for some reason. -ed.]
Lots of downed trees in Michigan City's Washington Park, and the hum of equipment cleaning up the mess.
Meanwhile, more details are emerging about yesterday’s severe, possibly tornadic storms:
A one-two punch of powerful storms, accompanied by tornado reports, battered northeastern Porter County, much of LaPorte County and parts of Lake County on Wednesday evening.
Emergency management crews worked late into the night, clearing roadways, marking downed power lines and checking for injured residents.
The hardest hit areas in Porter County included Dune Acres, Beverly Shores and Pines. Washington Park in Michigan City was wracked by tornado-like winds that whipped boats around at the in-water Boat Show set to begin today for a three-day run. Winds of 106 mph were reported by WGN-TV meteorologist Tom Skilling.
At least one tractor-trailer was toppled by winds on Interstate 94 near Westville.
The Porter County SheriffÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Department received several unconfirmed reports of funnel clouds that touched down, including a report about 7:30 p.m. of a funnel cloud near U.S. 231 south of Hebron near the Porter-Lake county line.
The tornadoes haven’t actually been confirmed by the NWS yet, but WNDU is reporting that experts say all the signs point in that direction, and lots of witnesses report seeing funnel clouds.
Here’s the latest on today’s tornado(es) in northwestern Indiana about 40 miles west of South Bend:
A severe thunderstorm and a possible tornado swept off Lake Michigan Wednesday evening, downing trees and power lines and causing some injuries.
Heavy damage was also reported at a boat show scheduled to begin Thursday at the Washington Park Marina on Lake Michigan, police said.
LaPorte County 911 Assistant Director Beth West said some injuries were reported in the county, but she did not have any details.
Sightings of funnel clouds in the area midway between South Bend and Gary were reported to the National Weather Service, but no touchdowns were immediately confirmed.
Additional police officers were called in to work in Michigan City because of the troubles from the storm.
NIPSCO spokesman Mike Charbonneau said about 3,800 homes and businesses were without power in the Michigan City and LaPorte areas immediately after the storm moved through.
“The storm hit pretty hard in those areas,” he said.
West said the storm hit especially hard in Westville, where the wind scattered a lumber company’s entire stack of lumber across the railroad tracks.
Here is a very, very, very rough — and entirely unofficial, and probably quite wrong in terms of the details — map of where the tornadoes or cells that seemed to do the most damage went, based on the radar loops and the various initial reports of damage:
UPDATE: In other news, because my aborted attempt at “post-storm chasing” tonight proved utterly futile, and because its futility is currently dominating the homepage, I’m going to delete those posts and put them in sequential order after the jump, so the historical record is preserved while more important posts are bumped back up to the top of my blog for now: