Mother Nature gave us an early wake up call in a big way Tuesday morning with a spectacular light show accompanied by ear piercing thunder and torrential downpours and even pea-sized hail to make things real interesting.
This is our second such event of this kind in the past three weeks. Thunder is a pretty rare commodity around these parts, yet we have had five thunderstorm days in the span of only 20 days with more on the way.
When is the last time we saw the beautiful hills above our town so green this early in the season? And it’s not even the rainy season yet! Some years we have to wait until late December to see any hint of green. Normally the month of October averages only four tenths of an inch of rain; heck, we got that much in a half hour early this morning!
What’s causing all this craziness? Another cut off low just like the one we had about three weeks ago and just like it’s predecessor this low isn’t going to move away anytime real soon because this low has separated itself from the normal west to east moving storm track where it would typically be a blow and go situation, out of here in a day or less. The cut off low just kind of meanders around for up to a week at a time on some occasions. Remember the last really wet season we had back in 2004-2005 when we got soaked with nearly 30 inches of rain? Most of that rain that season originated from a series of these same cut off systems between October 2004 and March 2005. It all started exactly on this date in 2004 with another event of the same kind resulting in the wettest October on record totaling nearly six inches!
Most of our winter storms ride on the storm track, which is a component of the west to east jet stream, so cut off lows of this nature are a pretty rare deal. With these upper level
disturbances, the air is cold and unstable and sinking. Eventually the cold air collides with the warm air at or near the earth surface, causing extreme turbulence and allowing numerous clusters of strong thunderstorms to form and spin counter clockwise around the low’s central core.
Late today, Laguna is really getting it on the chin with intense lightning and thunder and rain with frog strangler proportions. McWeather just now observed a super bright cloud to ground lightning bolt looking like it hit right about Emerald Bay. Only two seconds elapsed between the lightning and thunder. We’ve now had nearly 12 hours of almost continuous lightning, thunder and drenching rain with totals of one and a quarter inches in 12 hours with possibly two or more inches to come before all is said and done. There have been nearly 1800 cloud to ground lightning strikes in Orange County alone since 4 .m. this morning. This is the kind of action McWeather lives for. Can you tell? Just keep bringing it on!
Dennis McTighe served as a Hickam Air Force Base Meteorlogist and a NOAA forecaster.
He has been keeping daily weather records since 1958.