It’s Monday, and our lead story is the tornado in southern Indiana. It’s heartbreaking on its own, but there’s a meteorological puzzle to it as well: an F-3 tornado (winds between 158 and 206 mph)… strong enough to jump over the Ohio River… at 2 o’clock in the morning… in November. That’s an unlikely combination, though it’s far from impossible.
Most tornadoes tend to form along fronts where warm, muggy air from the Gulf of Mexico meets cool, dry air from the north and west. They do better where the ground is flat, where there’s less to disturb their spin (that’s why the plains states from northern Texas to the Dakotas are the heart of “tornado alley”). The largest number comes in spring, as the weather warms. And they thrive at the same times that thunderstorms do — especially late afternoon, when there’s the most warmth to fuel them.
On Saturday night there was a strong front — with an unusually sharp clash of warmth in the south and cold to the north — and as a result, nothing else seemed to fit, and that made things all the worse. People were asleep; they missed what warnings there were. This was only the nineteenth time since 1950 that a single tornado has killed more than 18 people.
Alaska update: Thanks for some thoughtful responses to Friday’s posting. Tracy, you’re very kind.
Jim had an interesting idea about oil from the Arctic Refuge — leave it there unless we need it. From what I understand about oil prospecting, though, drilling takes time; I don’t think it’s something that can be started up quickly if international tensions cause an oil shock, and I doubt oil companies would be willing to lay a lot of pipelines without getting some return from then.
And Greg, you’re quite right: barring some technological sea change, we depend on oil. But why is ANWR, of all places, such a battleground? I’m not sure. I flew there because there are no roads — which allows people either to say 1) it’s a place where people simply don’t belong, so let’s leave it alone; or 2) it’s a place most people will never go, so what’s the harm in drilling?
New York City Marathon note: Penny, your point is well-taken; if we mention the winning men’s time, we ought to mention the women’s as well (though the men’s time was more of an issue yesterday). I’ll forward it to the folks who run our weekend news programs. In case you haven’t found the numbers in other places, here they are:
1. Jelena Prokopcuka (Latvia) 2:24:41
2. Susan Chepkemei (Kenya) 2:24:55
3. Derartu Tulu (Ethiopia) 2:25:21
1. Paul Tergat (Kenya) 2:09:30
2. Hendrick Ramaala (South Africa) 2:09:31
3. Meb Keflezighi (USA) 2:09:56
Women: Edith Hunkeler (Switzerland) 1:54:51
Men: Ernst Van Dyk (South Africa) 1:31:10