You'd think that the previously described storm would have cleared and stabilized the atmosphere. Nope. Another line of severe storms formed west of Abilene late on the 9th, and we watched them move steadily eastward for next 3+ hours into the Metroplex area, along with high winds, large hail, and various tornado warnings, including a long-lasting tornado vortex signature (TVS) in a cell that kept heading right at Arlington. Moving as fast as 60 mph, the line hit the western edge of the Metroplex about 3 a.m. The OEM has a new policy that delays activation of the EOC (don't you love all the acronyms?) for severe weather until the National Weather Service (NWS) has requested that RACES be activated. Then and only then will a staff member make the determination whether to formally open the EOC (Emergency Operations Center). Previoulsy, RACES radio volunteers had access to the Radio Room and just went to work without direct supervision, not that we have it now, but then some fo them could privately access the EOC and get started before a staff member arrived. New policy requires a staff member to physically open the EOC and be on duty throughout event. This particular occasion RACES wasn't activated until the storms almost to the western Tarrant County line. Moving up to 60 mph, that only gave Arlington a 10 to 15 minute window to activate. Then there was a slight delay in getting that done. I left within 90 seconds of receiving confirmation activation had been authorized, by which time the winds were hitting maybe 35 or 40 and rains were already approaching torrential. Thankfully, I was the only idiot out on the streets at 3:40 a.m. because with lights out along the 2-3/4 mile route I take, I first hit a stretch where water covered the street, hydroplaning for 100 feet or so (thankfully staying in my lane), then didn't realize I was at the major intersection where I needed to turn until I was in the middle of the pitch black intersection all but blinded by torrential rain, suddenly trying to figure out where the heck I was, and knowing it would have been far smarter for me to have stayed at home. Another 45 seconds, and I was safely at my destination. I had my radio with me and was monitoring RACES, but there wasn't a single spotter deployed in Arlington. I waited 10minutes for Dave to get there, then we both waited another 15 for a staff member to make it in, by which time the most serious portion of the storm had long since moved into Dallas County. We lucked out. The mid-cities area of Hurst/Euless/Bedford got hammered. That same cell continued northeast into Dallas and Collin County, dropping a small brief twister and doing major wind damage throughout those counties. Just before I left home, I called waking daughter and told her to get to a safe place immediately! Part of an apt complex roof was blown off only 2 or 3 blocks from her home, and among other wide-spread damage in Dallas & Collin Counties, significant major power line and some structural damage was done within 2 to 6 blocks of my sister's home in northwest Dallas County.OEM after regular business hours before the EOC can be activated in severe weather events just will not work. They know that. What they can do about it is another issue for them to resolve internally and with upper city management. I got 1.3 inches of rain and no other damage this time. The hail on the 8th, however battered all the unprotected cars and roofs, including mine. Not sure if I'll make a claim on my older model car and pocket the $$, or what. As for roof, it's not leaking and in any event, I'm waiting until AFTER the spring storms have abated to even think about it.
April 15th, I went to my first RACES Meet & Greet in Fort Worth and had my picture taken for my ID, assuming my application is okay. After rushing it to the PO on the 31st, the coordinator didn't even pick it up from the post office until the 19th.
Storm April 17th. We knew this huge storm was headed our way as well. In fact, my daughter had a scheduled flight from Minneapolis at 5:15, and I advised her at 4:30 there might be a ground hold because of approaching bad weather that was going to hit about the time she was supposed to land. Unfortunately, her flight left on time. In the meantime, since the storms were approaching during business hours, this time the OEM stayed open. I had a CERT meeting at 6:30 and wondered if they were going to cancel it. Instead I showed up with HT (Handy-Talkie - my hand held radio) in hand and kept monitoring, knowing that RACES was sooner or later going to be activated. As it happened, the scheduled CERT program that evening was to introduce CERT members to severe weather events, radar images and how the EOC reacts. The room was full at the 6:30 start time, about the time the storms hit Parker County, just west of Tarrant County, with TVS, lowering wall clouds, rotating scud, ground-covering golf ball and baseball sized hail, high winds, etc. RACES activated about 7 and Ben, who was giving the CERT program, told me to go on to the EOC. I had to stop by home to get my ID. This time everyone was in place. What delayed Dave and I was that the lap top that I'd been given to use was missing and Dave had to take off 5 precious minutes to move the Go Kit (the portable radio set up) into another cubicle for my use. At first I tried to play catch up on missed radio calls in the Entry Log, but the weather got so bad and so many spotters were out that I gave that up and just summarized and typed in reports in real time. RACES activation means that only those with RACES membership and authorization can use the radios for so long as the RACES NET is activated = FCC rule. The RACES storm spotter is required to give the call sign, wait for the Coordinator to acknowledge their sign and give them permission to report. The report consists of location, then the conditions or even being reported. Example: This is ABC5QR (not a real call sign), Go ahead ABC5QR. I'm at 57L and am watching a wall cloud developing 5 miles to my SE, with rotating scud. Quarter-sized hail." After which the RACES Coordinator generally quickly summarizes an already very brief report. ABC5QR hopefully repeats his call sign (the vast majority of spotters are men). In this case the RACES coordinator will ask for immediate confirmation from anyone else who has a line of sight to confirm a developing wall cloud. At the height of the storm the reports were coming in NON-STOP, the next report starting immediately as the previous one ended. It became a task similar to straight dictation, but with a lot of keystrokes from column to column, and it was quite a challenge to keep up with them all. I got most, location and reported event taking precedent over some of the call signs. Also, from time to time it was necessary to get up and make a verbal report to OEM management. Initially they didn't have my Event Log on screen in the actual Command Center, and figuring out which extension someone would be at at any given moment was more difficult than just getting up and walking 25 feet to tell someone in person. When the Radio Room is completed, this won't be an issue. We'll be just off the main control room and can holler out the door if it comes to that.
Video of April 17 Hail Storms: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-5176892715338669042&q=april+17+storms+texas&ei=vsIISP-7NIvqrQK13a2QAQ&hl=en
No comment on the idiots driving around in the middle of it. Real storm chasers make every attempt to AVOID a hail core, if for no other reason than that it frequently preceeds the tornado now unseen behind it.
Arlington lucked out again. The TVS which was headed right down I-30 at us dissipated. Most cities sounded sirens this time because of observed brief tornadoes but primarily due to the large and very dangerous hail. I'm not aware of any large hail hitting Arlington this time. The winds stayed relatively calm and under 65, and the baseball sized hail hit elsewhere, though there were several minutes when it appeared to be headed right at southern Arlington. I got another 1.2 inches of rain. A secondary small storm was moving through as I was leaving the EOC. It was about 9:30 and after almost 3 hours of non-stop adrenalin rush, I really tired. As her 7:45 landing time approached I kept wondering where my daughter was. In fact, that's the last comment I made as I left the EOC. Her cell phone was off, so I knew they had taken off. I'd tried to reach her after the plane should have landed. I called and left a message for her to stay at the airport until the storms passed, and call me when she got in. Well, she did try but my cell phone didn't receive the calls. It so happened that the moment I sat in the car, my cell rang. She was in San Antonio where her flight had finally been diverted after a 2-1/2 hour flight had turned into almost 5 as the plane made repeated attempts to cut in through the storm cells to land at DFW. It was so turbulent, they eventually gave up. Then they had to wait for a new crew, still sitting in the plane in SA. The normally 50 minute flight back to Dallas was just as circuitous, having to fly west out of San Antonio actually into Mexican air space, before they could head back north behind a solid line of storms - which by the stretched from Mexico into and across the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, bisecting the country in half. Her flight, which originally left at 5:15 finally landed at 12:59 am. In the meantime, she asked me to go check on her dog and puppies, meaning an additional 40 minutes on the road, 1/2 of it in heavy rain.
Puppies in box unphased and just fine. Mama Dog under bed hiding. EMVolunteer hungry and exhausted. Daughter finally got home just before 2am.
Severe Weather 3 - EOC 1.
In the meantime, my dear sweet Andy, my bichon mix who has been being treated for lymphoma since last June, is nearing the end. Just not a fair juxtaposition with new puppies in the family as well. Or perhaps, very appropriate - Circle of Life and that sort of thing. Just don't expect me to deal rationally nor prosaically with the circumstance of such.