By Bob Henson
After the least-deadly year for U.S. tornadoes in three decades, 2017 is off to a troublesome start. At least 19 people died over the weekend in two consecutive nights of tornadoes across the Deep South, compared to the total of 17 fatalities recorded for the entire year of 2016. Although midwinter outbreaks don't happen every year in the U.S., they're most likely to be across the South when they do occur. Many of the deadliest tornadoes in these outbreaks happen overnight, when residents may be caught asleep or otherwise unaware and when getting to shelter can be difficult. The high proportion of manufactured/mobile homes across the South adds to the vulnerability of residents.
Winds at jet-stream level (250 mb or about 34,000 feet) show a strong upper-level trough over the lower Mississippi Valley at 7:00 p.m. EST Sunday, Jan. 22 (00Z Monday). An unusually strong surface low of 989 mb was located over far north Georgia.Tropicaltidbits.com
This past weekend's activity was fed by a powerful disturbance rolling through the polar jet stream atop very sultry air for midwinter at ground level. Jacksonville, Florida, set a record high of 84 F on Saturday and air with dew points well above 70 F streamed onshore through the weekend.
The severe weather occurred in three distinct rounds, as shown in the satellite loop embedded at bottom.
6 Weather Predictions for 2017 https://t.co/zGW4s21KcT @BraveNewClimate @WarmingGlobeHub— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1483319706.0
A pre-dawn supercell tore across southeast Mississippi and southwest Alabama early Saturday. Five tornadoes were reported. The most extensive damage occurred in and near Hattiesburg, Mississippi, around 4:00 a.m. CST by a long-track tornado (31 miles), a half-mile wide at its peak, that was rated EF3 on the enhanced Fujita intensity scale. This tornado produced 4 deaths and 56 injuries, according to the National Weather Service office in Jackson, Mississippi. Insured damages are likely to top $200 million in Hattiesburg alone, Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney said. Just four years ago, on Feb. 10, 2013, Hattiesburg was extensively damaged by an EF4 twister that caused more than 80 injuries in two counties.
A wide shot of all the homes damaged looking towards Edwards Street in downtown Hattiesburg. https://t.co/elmJ2hA10c— Ryan Moore (@Ryan Moore)1485017808.0
A more extended, widespread round of 31 tornadoes occurred from midday Saturday into Sunday morning. The main culprits were two long-lived supercell storms, the first of which rolled from extreme eastern Alabama across central Georgia to extreme western South Carolina from about 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. EST. The second supercell tore across southern Georgia after midnight. Eight people were killed when a tornado ripped through a mobile home park southeast of Adel, Georgia, around 3:45 a.m. EST Sunday. Two others died in the same storm a few minutes later.
Conditions became increasingly volatile by midday Sunday, leading the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Storm Prediction Center to issue a rare "high risk" outlook (its first anywhere since 2014) for parts of southeast Georgia and northern Florida. Instability was more than adequate for severe weather and wind shear was at extreme levels, with very high storm helicity (the amount of rotation imparted to a storm by winds at various levels). By early afternoon, thunderstorms were sweeping from the Gulf of Mexico into the Florida Panhandle with well-developed rotation evident on radar, a rare occurrence along this coast. The worst storm of the day produced a tornado that ravaged a mobile home park in Albany, Georgia, killing at least 4 people.
The afternoon's other thunderstorms developed so quickly and vigorously that they competed with each other, reducing the odds that another long-lived tornadic supercell would emerge. Four other tornadoes were reported on Sunday afternoon and evening, but none of them produced widespread destruction.
WU radar depiction from 6:35 p.m. EST Sunday, Jan. 22, shows a broken line of intense thunderstorms extending from coastal South Carolina and Georgia well into the eastern Gulf of Mexico.
A Noteworthy January for Tornadoes
All told, NOAA/SPC logged more than 40 tornado reports from early Saturday through early Monday, scattered from western Louisiana to far southeast Georgia. Loosely speaking, this whole event might be considered a single outbreak, since it emerged from the same overall weather pattern. However, experts often define an outbreak as a string of tornadoes with no more than six hours of tornado-free conditions. By that standard, we could label the early-Sunday tornadoes (round #2 above) as an "outbreak" and all three periods above as a "sequence."
Only a few Januarys since 1950 have produced outbreaks or sequences topping this one, according to a compilation from ustornadoes.com. The reigning champion is the outbreak of Jan. 21-23, 1999, which led to nine deaths and produced 129 tornadoes from east Texas to southern Illinois. There was one F4 tornado in that event in far northeast Arkansas and 11 other tornadoes were given F3 ratings on the original Fujita tornado intensity scale that was in use at the time.
The nation's deadliest individual tornadoes on record in January, as noted by weather.com, were two Arkansas twisters that each led to 55 fatalities: one in Fort Smith on Jan. 11, 1898 and the other in Warren on Jan. 3, 1949.
Echoes of Another El-Niño-to-La-Niña Winter
Through early Monday, the Storm Prediction Center had logged a total of 91 preliminary tornado reports for the month so far. The upcoming pattern will be much less conducive to severe weather throughout the week and perhaps all the way to the end of the month. Even so, if all or most of these reports are confirmed, this could end up as the second most active January for tornadoes since comprehensive records began in 1950, according to ustornadoes.com. The clear record-holder is January 1999, when a total of 212 tornadoes were notched.
Interestingly, the twister-packed January of 1999 occurred during a moderately strong La Niña event that was in place one year after the record-setting 1997-98 El Niño event. Similarly, we're now one year past the comparably strong 2015-16 El Niño event and again experiencing La Niña, albeit a weak one. The only other "super El Niño" on par with these was in 1982-83; the following January of 1984 was very quiet tornado-wise, with only one confirmed twister. That year as a whole was quite active, though, with a devastating tornado outbreak in the Carolinas on March 28, 1984, killing 57 people and injuring more than 1000. In general, La Niña years appear to be a bit more favorable than El Niño years for early-spring tornado outbreaks, but this applies mainly to La Niña events that are at least moderately strong, which the current one isn't. Recent work led by John Allen (now at Central Michigan University) has bolstered the idea that La Niña is more favorable than El Niño for springtime hailstorms and tornadoes.
2-day GOES IR loop of severe thunderstorm evolution across southeast US. #alwx #gawx #flwx https://t.co/SODXiGe2kh— Bill Line (@Bill Line)1485130559.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate Weather Underground.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Bringing your own reusable grocery bags when you go shopping is one of the easiest ways to cut down on your plastic consumption — according to the UN Environment Program, up to 5 trillion single-use plastic bags are used globally each year.The most sustainable option is to use a bag you already have, whether it's an old tote or a laundry basket (thank TikTok for that idea). You can also make your own reusable grocery bags out of T-shirts. But if you'd rather purchase designated reusable grocery bags, here are our recommendations.
ChicoBag<p>Standard reusable grocery bags — foldable cloth "green bags" that typically have company logos on them — are bulky, can't be machine washed, and tend to break down after a number of uses. <a href="https://www.amazon.com/ChicoBag-Original-Reusable-Shopping-Grocery/dp/B006WA9LRA" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ChicoBag reusable grocery bags</a> solve these problems and more. They hold up to 25 pounds each, can be tossed in the wash, and stuff down into a tiny attached pouch that you can easily keep in your purse or the center console of your car until you need them.</p><p><strong>Customer rating:</strong> 4.8 out of 5 stars with over 1,000 Amazon reviews</p><strong>Why buy: </strong>Machine washable; Certified B Corp; Climate Neutral Certified; Supports 1% For the Planet; Fair Labor Association member
Lotus Sustainables<p>If you prefer bigger reusable grocery bags that add convenience to your shopping experience, <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Trolley-COOLER-Reusable-Grocery-Eco-friendly/dp/B07WTLWF4Z?th=1" target="_blank">Lotus Trolley Bags</a> may be perfect for you. These bags fold flat and nestle in your cart so that you can sort items while you shop. There's a large insulated cooler bag, as well as two standard reusable shopping bags and a bag with pockets for wine bottles and <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/brown-eggs-healthier-than-white-eggs-2314254330.html" target="_self">egg cartons</a>. Each can hold up to 50 pounds and has double-stitched seams for added durability.</p><p><strong>Customer rating: </strong>4.6 out of 5 stars with over 3,000 Amazon reviews</p><strong>Why buy:</strong> Machine washable; Removable rod for non-cart use; Supports 1% for the Planet
BAGGU<p>For another versatile option, try the <a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07N4D829J?tag=ecowatch-20&linkCode=ogi&th=1&psc=1" target="_blank">Baggu Standard Reusable Shopping Bag</a>. This product is modeled after a conventional <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/thailand-plastic-bag-ban-2643538829.html" target="_self">plastic grocery bag</a> but is made with 40% recycled ripstop fabric. Baggu reusable bags can carry up to 50 pounds but stuff down into a five-inch internal pocket for carrying.</p><p><strong>Customer rating:</strong> 4.7 out of 5 stars with over 50 Amazon reviews</p><strong>Why buy:</strong> Machine washable; Made with 40% recycled materials; Ethically manufactured; Packaging made from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified material
Ecodunia<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Ecodunia-Canvas-Tote-Women-Eco-Conscious/dp/B08LY82NYW/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Ecodunia&qid=1613051665&sr=8-1" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ecodunia's reusable bags</a> have a sturdier feel than most products on this list. The canvas used to make each bag is produced from 100% renewable resources and natural cotton, plus they have long handles for comfortable carrying over your shoulder. Ecodunia's fun prints will likely make you want to use these bags for more than carting groceries, but they're great for a weekend trip to the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/farmers-markets-coronavirus-safety-2645581711.html" target="_self">farmers market</a>.</p><p><strong>Customer rating:</strong> 5 out of 5 stars with under 5 Amazon reviews</p><p><strong>Why buy: </strong>Made from natural cotton; Machine washable; Handmade; Provides dignified work for communities in Kenya </p>
Simple Ecology<p>Another canvas bag option comes from <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Simple-Ecology-Reusable-Shopping-Certified/dp/B086Z7XQ79?ref_=ast_sto_dp" target="_blank">Simple Ecology</a>. This brand's eco-friendly grocery bags are made with Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified cotton and feature pop-out sleeves for more fragile goods and double-stitched seams for extra reinforcement. The large size has about the same capacity as a grocer's paper bag. Simple Ecology also has a reusable bag <a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N6AUMBG/ref=sspa_dk_detail_2?psc=1&pd_rd_i=B01N6AUMBG&pd_rd_w=MA3ZS&pf_rd_p=cbc856ed-1371-4f23-b89d-d3fb30edf66d&pd_rd_wg=hVunQ&pf_rd_r=G6RTQ1Z5DKEY325MAJZ9&pd_rd_r=5d298b3a-1be7-4ebd-a9e1-d5d672a40497&spLa=ZW5jcnlwdGVkUXVhbGlmaWVyPUExMzc4RVAxWjNLOTdCJmVuY3J5cHRlZElkPUEwNTc0NTAwMzBDMjFYOVJPTUpWSCZlbmNyeXB0ZWRBZElkPUEwNjYyOTM4M0s4Vk81SVBPS1NFSyZ3aWRnZXROYW1lPXNwX2RldGFpbF90aGVtYXRpYyZhY3Rpb249Y2xpY2tSZWRpcmVjdCZkb05vdExvZ0NsaWNrPXRydWU=" target="_blank">starter kit</a> that comes with a tote and several reusable produce bags.</p> <p><strong>Customer Rating: </strong>4.6 out of 5 stars with over 900 Amazon reviews</p><strong>Why Buy:</strong> GOTS certified; Machine washable; Biodegradable; Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) certified packaging when purchased from manufacturer
BagPodz<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/BagPodz-Reusable-Bag-Storage-System/dp/B00QJ9PBBY" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">BagPodz Reusable Shopping Bags</a> are all about convenience. You can get a pack of five or 10 bags, all of which fit in a low-profile "pod" that can be stored for use on the go. When at the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/vancouvers-grocery-store-plastic-bags-2638807121.html" target="_self">grocery store</a>, the pod clips to your cart and has an easy-dispense pocket for when it's time to check out. After use, just stuff them back into the pod. BagPodz reusable bags are made with Bluesign® certified materials, which means they're manufactured sustainably.</p> <p><strong>Customer Rating:</strong> 4.8 out of 5 stars with over 2,000 Amazon reviews</p><strong>Why Buy: </strong>Machine washable; Made with Bluesign certified material