Saturday, April 30, 2011

Bright flash in Friday night sky confirmed as a bolide or fire ball!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Here is what it looked like last night in our sky at about 10:15 p.m. The nice festive weather is not the only talk of the town this weekend, that is for sure! The bluish-white streak of light with a green tail and red fragments was a fireball or bolide which raced east in about 8 seconds. Here is a file picture of what a bolide actually looks like. It lit the sky up and was much brighter than last month's super moon. It was a simply stunning sight. We had several e-mails in from Camden County Georgia last night of folks saying they have never seen a meteor that bright and it was so intense that a sonic boom was heard about 2 minutes after it passed near the horizon. It did look like it may have made it to the ground but there is no confirmation on this as of yet. It was seen as far west as Alabama and as far north as South Carolina!This is a rare type of meteoroid or shooting star that happens when a much larger space rock that meets our atmosphere. Usually meteoroids are the size of grains of sand this one was likely larger and maybe the size of one or two of my weather clickers which I showed on Good Morning Jacksonville to give you some more perspective. The trailing reddish tail that seemed to be burning up was caused by this space rock burning up as it met the earth's atmosphere traveling at close to 100,000 mph! The blue and green colors tell us its chemical composition was made of copper. The reddish color was a sign that it was also made of silicate. I did not see this last night but loved reading all the incredible e-mails. If you have any actual pictures of this phenomenon by all means send them in so I can share. I will have a fire ball update tonight at 6:00, 6:30, and 11:00 p.m.

The big weather story of course continues to be trying to clean-up a massive tornado outbreak that hit this week. The National Severe Storms Laboratory gives us an idea of where the strongest areas of rotation and tornado tracks were this week. The darker yellow and red show were the stronger tornadoes were. Now the old record for the most tornadoes in April is 267. So far we have had a mind-boggling 1,015 tornado reports or what we receive for an entire season. I think of this number at least 500 tornadoes should be confirmed which would more than double the old record. There were also 3,056 damaging wind reports and 1,472 hail reports.

This month was so stormy that if you add up all the damage it comes out to the US being hit with the equivalent of two Hurricane Katrinas. The deadly Tuscaloosa tornado tracked to Birmingham and had a path of 80 miles. But that same super cell that brought that tornado traveled 380 miles and put down several tornadoes from Mississippi to North Carolina! The National Weather Service did confirm it was not a continuous tornado on the ground but it was one of the most impressive paths of damage ever observed, record or no record.

The record that still stands for the longest tornado track was 219 miles in 1925 with the Tri-State tornado that started in Missouri and ended up in Indiana. That tornado was part of the deadliest tornado outbreak that killed over 700 people. The second deadliest tornado outbreak was this past week with over 300 fatalities and counting. These are statistics that do not lie. This will go down as the most violent weather month in US history bar none.

Here on the First Coast we really have nothing to complain about and the one lone tornado report we had on Thursday just west of Brunswick was so brief and weak that it did no damage. We had a few frisky storms with only isolated pockets of 50-60 mph wind gusts despite there being 7 tornado warnings. Yes, we are counting our blessings. The mammatus cloud canopy helped stabilize our atmosphere just enough to keep us out of harm's way. The good news is our pattern is changing and relaxing as we head into May. If you walk outside today you notice the difference. We have a different kind of high pressure taking over our pattern coming from Canada! Yes, Spring is finally here, better late than never after a record 9 days of 90 or above and 5 record highs. We may have dodged the storms but not the heat this month which makes today feel even better!

The old pattern  featured a summer pattern with a Bermuda high set up over the southeast with the strength and intensity we normally see during the summer. You then combine this clockwise flow in the atmosphere that went over the tropical, above average Gulf of Mexico and it provided ample high octane fuel or moisture to developing thunderstorms. This warm, moist air then collided with a jet stream we normally see in January. This added the twist and lift to the storms. The final volatile ingredient was the dry punch of desert air coming in from Mexico and Texas. This made the atmosphere like a pressure cooker ready to explode. The final straw was the daytime heating and upper-level disturbances that tipped nature over the edge. This is why this April 2011 will go down as the most violent weather month on record.

There have been a lot of folks saying May will only get worse. I am thinking we will see an active month but nothing close to what we just experienced in April. Not even close. I will have more on this here on the blog tomorrow along with your May Outlook and what it means to us here at home! See you soon! Thanks for reading.

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