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Mountain data test results; chasecam timelapse; future outlook
I was pleasantly surprised to see that the Alltel aircard had a data connection all the way through the mountains from Winston-Salem to Charleston, with only a half dozen drops of about 10 seconds each! Two of those were of course in Big Walker Mountain and East River Mountain tunnels. The other brief connection drops were between Cabin Creek and Sharon, WV on I-77 - but there was otherwise still a good signal in this area. Sprint has always had a major dead zone between Cabin Creek and Pax, with not even a roaming signal on the phone. Alltel stayed strong all the way through that zone, except for those last few miles before the Cabin Creek tollbooth.
VIDEO: ChaseCam timelapse of trip from Winston-Salem to Charleston
Looking ahead into the prime observing month of May which begins tomorrow... Glancing at the models doesn't reveal any evident upper air patterns conducive to a big tornado outbreak in the Plains in the next week or two. What the long-range models do want to show is the hint of a major Hudson Bay Vortex (a big low pressure center over the northeast US/southeastern Canada) taking shape in about 2 weeks. This pattern is one of the worst that storm observers dread for peak season, spreading northwesterly flow aloft over the Plains for usually a long time. Such a pattern struck our expedition in May of 2005. The good news is that all weather patterns eventually move on, and June of 2005 turned out to be quite the tornadofest for us from Kansas to Texas.
Again - I'll say my disclaimer for the 1,000th time that long range models are flaky and can't be trusted very well - so that eastern trough may not come to pass. Even in the absence of a major western trough and widespread tornado event, smaller, more subtle setups may pop up in the next two weeks under 'ripples' in the upper air pattern. These types of events are harder to forecast in advance, but sometimes can result in great tornado days if just one storm can get going in the right spot.