No. 10: Late Fall Storms

As the year draws to a close, extreme weather events have somewhat calmed in comparison to earlier months, but have not settled down completely. In early November, mother nature hit Oklahoma with a one-two punch, delivering an earthquake and tornado within six hours. Just days later, an epic storm was brewing in the Bering Sea, heading for Alaska.

On November 5, Oklahoma was hit with a damaging 5.6 earthquake, significant aftershocks, and a tornado — all in one day. The state, while used to tornadoes, was blindsided by the earthquake, which was the biggest on state records. Fortunately, there were minimal injuries, as well as damages to homes and roads.  At the time of the earthquake, The National Weather Service recorded a radar image of birds and insects fleeing the area.  Later that day, an EF-4 tornado touched down in Tipton, Oklahoma — the largest November tornado for the area on record. It added to an already busy year of record-breaking extremes in the state, including hailstones, high and low temperatures, snowfall, and drought.

Farther north and heading inland was Alaska’s biggest storm in four decades.

The epic storm hit the western shores of Alaska on November 9 with snow, 90-mph winds, and icy waves of up to 20 feet. The severe weather caused flooding, power outages, and building damage along the coast, mostly in remote areas. Local emergency shelters were set up, and in the northwest village of Point Hope, 20 vehicle headlights were cleverly used to line an airstrip for an incoming plane carrying repair workers.

These end-of-the-year storms, while less extreme than the storms earlier in the year, hint at the possibility of more extreme weather to come. On November 18, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a summary of its report on climate change in relation to extreme weather. The Nobel Prize-winning group, made up of 220 scientists from 62 nations, worked on the report for over two years, and its conclusions are not sunny. The report summary concludes that extreme weather events can be linked to the changing climate, can be expected to continue, and can possibly worsen in the future. The findings highlight the greater consequences of extreme weather in the developing world, and focus on the importance of storm preparation worldwide.

Becky Uline is an editor and musician living in San Francisco, where she enjoys digging into Yahoo! data as a sidekick to trend-finding sleuth Vera H-C Chan. Most of her writing is of the musical variety for her band, the Northerlies.