The main purpose of this ongoing blog will be to track planetary extreme or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ETs will be listed below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials)😉
Main Topic: What Can Scrambling Media Do To Better Cover Simultaneous Major Flooding Events
Dear Diary. Over the weekend we had Tropical Storm Henri moving into the Northeast, which obviously seemed like it needed to garner the most attention as a potential killer meteorological event. The entire eastern third of the nation was supersaturated with moisture, so any relatively small complex of storms could have put down a lot of water. It seemed logical, though, to throw all media resources to cover Henri and nearly ignore the rest of the nation not affected by that tropical system. Playing the old Monday quarterback shoulda coulda done better game, what could an entity like The Weather Channel have done better to warn residents of Tennessee that a horrific flood was on the way?
The Tennessee flood turned out to be a worse killer, by far, than Henri. I’m quite sure that just about all meteorologists not living in Tennessee, including yours truly, were busy concentrating on Henri. Kudos go to Weather Channel meteorologists who did pick up on the train echo wave pattern in Tennessee that produced horrific localized flooding Saturday night. I might add that there may have been no live coverage on TWC at all on the situation in Tennessee had Henri not been present. Typically the channel airs canned programming during off hours, especially on weekends.
Certainly the National Weather Service wanted to get out the message that catastrophe was about to occur via T.V. media. Back in the 1980s and 1990s TWC was a round the clock live operation, even on holidays such as Christmas and New Years, so there were no real “weather surprises.” The network was free to verbalize anything that the NWS picked up on, such as overnight mesoscale convective complexes, which can dump buckets full of rain. Now I believe that TWC does retain one person during an overnight shift just in case live coverage is warranted. Such coverage probably won’t be seen by the public, which is typically sleeping between midnight and 6 AM, though. People really need to keep weather radios with warning systems handy for emergencies.
During this day and age of the climate crisis there can be several simultaneous natural disasters occurring. Let’s not forget that the West has been battling wildfires that in prior decades would have garnered twenty four hour live coverage, and this was ongoing while both big flooding events were occurring in the East. Perhaps we are becoming numb to so much horror produced by Mother Nature as the 2020s unfold.
Actually, just about all media dealing with weather have covered the Tennessee flooding well after the fact. Before the fact it would have taken very skilled professional meteorologists constantly analyzing the atmosphere to produce adequate warnings for Tennessee. At least after the fact media has at least implied that climate change was involved with flooding, both in Tennessee and from Henri. Certainly an event that suddenly kills more than 20 warrants national media attention regardless of whether or not it stems from weather or climate change.
So in summary, what could media have done better Saturday night into Sunday? This Monday morning quarterback doesn’t have too much to add except to stay on message, driving home the point that severe flooding is becoming more likely as the world’s atmosphere warms and can hold more moisture. Given limited resources, it would have been extremely tough to cover both the record New York City and Tennessee flooding live on the ground and on air as they occurred during real time. Even if both events were adequately covered there is the problem of air time. I suppose that commercials could have been cut out Saturday night to better cover both events if people were available to shoot video on the ground. In the future it will be interesting to see how media evolves to better handle such horrific simultaneous events.
Here is the latest Washington Post article describing the events of the horrific Tennessee flood:
22 dead, many missing after 17 inches of rain in Tennessee
A truck and a car sit in a creek Sunday, Aug. 22, 2021, after they were washed away the day before in McEwen, Tenn. Heavy rains caused flooding in Middle Tennessee and have resulted in multiple deaths as homes and rural roads were washed away. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)By Jonathan Mattise and Jeffrey Collins | APYesterday at 11:57 p.m. EDT3
WAVERLY, Tenn. — At least 22 people were killed and rescue crews searched desperately Sunday amid shattered homes and tangled debris for dozens of people still missing after record-breaking rain sent floodwaters surging through Middle Tennessee.
Saturday’s flooding in rural areas took out roads, cellphone towers and telephone lines, leaving families uncertain about whether their loved ones survived the unprecedented deluge. Emergency workers were searching door to door, said Kristi Brown, a coordinator for health and safety supervisor with Humphreys County Schools.
Many of the missing live in the neighborhoods where the water rose the fastest, said Humphreys County Sheriff Chris Davis, who confirmed the 22 fatalities in his county. The names of the missing were on a board in the county’s emergency center and listed on a city department’s Facebook page.
“I would expect, given the number of fatalities, that we’re going to see mostly recovery efforts at this point rather than rescue efforts,” Tennessee Emergency Management Director Patrick Sheehan said.
The dead included twin babies who were swept from their father’s arms, according to surviving family members, and a foreman at county music star Loretta Lynn’s ranch. The sheriff of the county of about 18,000 people some 60 miles (96 kilometers) west of Nashville said he lost one of his best friends.
Up to 17 inches (43 centimeters) of rain fell in Humphreys County in less than 24 hours Saturday, shattering the Tennessee record for one-day rainfall by more than 3 inches (8 centimeters), the National Weather Service said.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee toured the area, calling it a “devastating picture of loss and heartache.” He stopped on Main Street in Waverly where some homes were washed off their foundations and people were sifting though their water-logged possessions. All around the county were debris from wrecked cars, demolished businesses and homes and a chaotic, tangled mix of the things inside.
Shirley Foster cried as the governor walked up. She said she just learned a friend from her church was dead.
“I thought I was over the shock of all this. I’m just tore up over my friend. My house is nothing, but my friend is gone,” Foster told the governor.
The hardest-hit areas saw double the rain that area of Middle Tennessee had in the previous worst-case scenario for flooding, meteorologists said. Lines of storms moved over the area for hours, wringing out a record amount of moisture — a scenario scientists have warned may be more common because of global warming.
The downpours rapidly turned the creeks that run behind backyards and through downtown Waverly into raging rapids. Business owner Kansas Klein stood on a bridge Saturday in the town of 4,500 people and saw two girls who were holding on to a puppy and clinging to a wooden board sweep past, the current too fast for anyone to grab them. He hadn’t found out what happened to them.
Not far from the bridge, Klein told The Associated Press by phone that dozens of buildings in a low-income housing area known as Brookside appeared to have borne the brunt of the flash flood from Trace Creek.
“It was devastating: buildings were knocked down, half of them were destroyed,” Klein said. “People were pulling out bodies of people who had drowned and didn’t make it out.”
The Humphreys County Sheriff Office Facebook page filled with people looking fo r missing friends and family. GoFundMe pages were made asking for help for funeral expenses for the dead, including 7-month-old twins yanked from their father’s arms as they tried to escape.
The foreman at Lynn’s ranch, Wayne Spears, also was killed.
“He’s out at his barn and next thing you know, he goes from checking animals in the barn to hanging on in the barn to people seeing him floating down the creek. And that’s how fast it had come up,” the sheriff said.
A photo taken by someone at the ranch showed Spears in a cowboy hat clinging to a pillar in brown, churning water up to his chest.
“Wayne’s just one of those guys, he just does everything for everybody, if there’s a job to do,” said his friend Michael Pate, who met Spears at the ranch 15 years ago.
At the Cash Saver grocery in in Waverly, employees stood on desks, registers and a flower rack as the waters from the creek that’s usually 400 feet (120 meters) from the store rushed in after devastating the low income housing next door. At one point, they tried to break through the celling into the attic and couldn’t, store co-owner David Hensley said.
The flood waters stopped rising as fast just as the situation was getting dire and a rescue boat came by. “We told him that if there’s somebody else out there you can get, go get them, we think we’re OK,” Hensley said.
At the beginning of a news conference on Tropical Storm Henri’s impact on New England, President Joe Biden offered condolences to the people of Tennessee and directed federal disaster officials to talk with the governor and offer assistance.
Just to the east of Waverly, the town of McEwen was pummeled Saturday with 17.02 inches (43.2 centimeters) of rain, smashing the state’s 24-hour record of 13.6 inches (34.5 centimeters) from 1982, according to the National Weather Service in Nashville, though Saturday’s numbers would have to be confirmed.
A flash flood watch was issued for the area before the rain started, with forecasters saying 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 centimeters) of rain was possible. The worst storm recorded in this area of Middle Tennessee only dropped 9 inches (23 centimeters) of rain, said Krissy Hurley, a weather service meteorologist in Nashville.
“Forecasting almost a record is something we don’t do very often,” Hurley said. “Double the amount we’ve ever seen was almost unfathomable.”
Recent scientific research has determined that extreme rain events will become more frequent because of man-made climate change. Hurley said it is impossible to know its exact role in Saturday’s flood, but noted in the past year her office dealt with floods that used to be expected maybe once every 100 years in September south of Nashville and in March closer to the city.
“We had an incredible amount of water in the atmosphere,” Hurley said of Saturday’s flooding. “Thunderstorms developed and moved across the same area over and over and over.”
The problem isn’t limited to Tennessee. A federal study found man-made climate change doubles the chances of the types of heavy downpours that in August 2016 dumped 26 inches (66 centimeters) of rain around Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Those floods killed at least 13 people and damaged 150,000 homes.
Here is more climate and weather news from Monday:
(As usual, this will be a fluid post in which more information gets added during the day as it crosses my radar, crediting all who have put it on-line. Items will be archived on this site for posterity. In most instances click on the pictures of each tweet to see each article. The most noteworthy items will be listed first.)
Now here are some of today’s articles and notes on the horrid COVID-19 pandemic:
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Guy Walton “The Climate Guy”