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Wild weather rocked the planet

| August 17, 2020 1:07 AM

We’ve had some interesting and unusual weather events across the globe over the last week. There have been floods, wild thunderstorms and a derecho. Here in North Idaho, it’s been extremely dry since early July, but we’ve also been in a temperature pattern from summer to fall-like, and then back to summer again this week.

About two months ago, I featured an article about derechos. They are known as a widespread and long-lived wind storm and are associated with a fast-moving group of heavy thunderstorms. According to the Storm Prediction Center, to be classified as a derecho, winds are at least 58 mph with occasional gusts topping 75 mph. The damage often occurs in one direction along a straight path of at least 250 miles.

Destruction associated with a derecho is similar to a tornado. The event usually produces hurricane-force winds, heavy rainfall and flash flooding. Officially, a tornado is a rotating column of air that comes in contact with the ground.

Early last week, a derecho formed in the central U.S. and was referred to as a rare “inland hurricane” with winds as high as 112 mph near Iowa City. This event caused huge amounts of damage to corn and soybeans in the heart of the Midwest on Aug. 10. Many areas reported that corn was flattened by the powerful derecho that extended from Nebraska northward to Wisconsin and eastward all the way into Ohio.

Cliff mentioned that according to observers in the Midwest, the damage totals will “exceed $100 million.” Corn losses alone may exceed the drought damage of 2012. The heavy damage could lead to higher food prices later this year.

In the central U.S., there is an average of one derecho every one to two years. For this year, the derecho observed last Monday was the eighth one, an all-time record. In 2018, there were seven derechos reported in the United States. The first one of 2020 occurred on April 28-29 and produced more than 450 reports of severe weather. The system traveled more than 500 miles and produced hail the size of tennis balls in some areas.

In the United Kingdom, a record-breaking heat wave has been gripping this part of the world. Temperatures have soared into the upper 90s, the hottest weather in 17 years. In addition to the heat, strong and wild thunderstorms were reported. On Aug. 11, a Birmingham news source stated that residents saw many and incredible flashes of lightning, but did not hear any thunder.

In parts of England, there were over 50,000 lightning flashes, but this particular city experienced an odd weather phenomenon known as “silent lightning,” or “heat lightning.” This often occurs in the summer months and when one is too far away from the storm to only see the lightning and not hear the thunder. It’s impossible not to have thunder with lightning, but one can see a flash of lightning up to 100 miles away. One can only hear thunder when within 10 miles of the storm.

Florida certainly has its share of lightning. Last week, Disney World had to temporarily close its Star Wars ride after there was a dramatic lightning strike. A sheriff’s deputy saw a bolt of lightning hit next to his truck, causing the “asphalt to bubble” and burning his tires.

In the Southern Hemisphere, currently their winter season, southeastern Australia has been hit with torrential rains resulting in widespread flooding. Late last year and early 2020, this same area had to deal with some of the worst brushfires in the country’s history due in part to prolonged drought.

In terms of our local weather, only .04 inches of rain has fallen at Cliff’s station since July 7. Much of the Far West continues to be dominated by a very strong ridge of high pressure. Thanks to the big ridge, temperatures through Tuesday will be well into the 90s in Coeur d’Alene and most surrounding areas. It’s also possible we could challenge the 100-degree mark today. With the big heat early this week, it’s almost hard to believe that last Wednesday, our high was only 70 degrees. Spirit Lake, Athol and Kellogg were even cooler with readings in the upper 60s.

Conditions are looking drier than normal over the next week to 10 days in the Inland Northwest. However, we do see this big high pressure system weakening toward the middle to the end of next week. This should open things up to allow some moisture into the region. The normal precipitation for August is 1.23 inches, and, once again, we’re expecting another summer month with below-normal rainfall.

With sea-surface temperatures cooling in the Pacific waters, there’s an increasing chance of a new La Nina being declared over the next few months. Therefore, it looks like the upcoming fall of 2020 will be wetter and cooler than normal. Stay tuned.

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Contact Randy Mann at randy@longrangeweather.com

photo

JAKE PARRISH/Press

Randy Mann.