This week is Severe Weather Awareness Week in Nebraska. Buckle up. If history is any indicator, we could see snowstorms, freezing drizzle, hail, thunderstorms, thunder snow – maybe all in the same week.
In like a lion
If it seems like March snowstorms are worse than in other months, it’s because historically they are.
The majority of the Omaha metro area’s biggest two-day snowfalls were in the months of February and March. Nine of the 10 biggest snowfalls dating back to 1915 occurred in those two months with the largest coming on March 15, 1923 – 18.9 inches.
“March systems are exciting; they tend to be big events,” said Suzanne Fortin, meteorologist-in-charge at the National Weather Service (NWS) office in Valley. “The systems in these transitory months like March and April tend to be more dynamic. There is more transfer of energy going on because the atmosphere itself is trying to transition. That alone lends to more impactful weather.”
Even if the snow is in our rearview mirror, rest assured some other severe weather is coming to replace it. With spring’s arrival also comes the possibility for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes.
Thunderstorms and twisters
Cathy Zapotocny, a meteorologist at NWS, said it’s a given that we get significant spring and early summer storms. The question is where those storms will occur.
“It’s somewhere, but it’s not always the same place every year,” Zapotocny said. “We do have favored locations for tornadoes, and those do tend to come up through south central Nebraska. But then as it gets into eastern Nebraska, they tend to not be as prevalent.”
Zapotocny said many factors in the atmosphere determine if storm systems spawn tornadoes, and there are some general rules of thumb for tornadoes. The tornadoes in eastern Nebraska tend to be smaller and weather patterns affect the number and severity of tornadoes in our region.
In an average year, Nebraska gets 53 tornadoes, while Iowa gets 46, Last year, those numbers were flipped, as Nebraska had 33 tornadoes and Iowa had 55.
A pair of tornadoes that hit our area last year on June 16 caused widespread outages and damage to OPPD’s transmission system. That weather system was an embedded or hybrid supercell, which is different from the type of storm system that comes from the southwest and move northeast across the area. Think of the classic “Wizard of Oz”-style tornado.
To learn more, including the spring forecast for our area, go to The Wire.