FarmLife FIVE: Severe Weather Packs A Punch

Read on about storm stats and satellite senescence.

By Clair McLafferty | Photos By Mike Hollingshead

An amazing image by Mike Hollingshead, shot near Grand Island, Neb.

An amazing image by Mike Hollingshead, shot near Grand Island, Neb.

2.6 miles: the widest tornado ever officially recorded in the U.S. With winds gusting up to 296 miles per hour, the El Reno, Okla., tornado traveled 16.2 miles and killed 18 people before dissipating. During its 40 minutes on the ground on May 31, 2013, the EF-5 tornado caused more than $35 million in damage to homes and businesses. In Canada, the largest recorded tornado was an EF-5 that hit Elie, Man., on June 22, 2007. This twister traveled about 3.7 miles and caused more than $1 million in damage.

8 inches: the size of the largest hailstone ever recovered and officially recognized in the U.S. Almost as large as a bowling ball, the 1.9375-pound monster was discovered on July 23, 2010, after crashing through a deck in Vivian, SD. On average, it’s estimated hail causes half a billion dollars in crop losses each year.

Hail damage, ag:

17 months: the shortest projected gap in weather data collection caused by a delay in replacing aging satellites. According to a recent U.S. Government Accountability Office report, the loss of data could last as long as 53 months. While the U.S. gathers some info from satellites operated by other countries, as does Canada, any period without a complete U.S. satellite network could cause weather forecasts to be less “accurate and timely.”

10,000. That’s approximately how many thunderstorms develop every year in the U.S., about 10% of which will be classified as severe. If a storm produces a tornado, generates winds of 58 miles per hour or generates hail at least a half-inch in diameter, it is considered severe. On average, these storms are about 15 miles wide and last between 30 minutes to an hour.

25,000,000: the number of cloud-to-ground lightning strikes annually recorded within the U.S. Canadian officials estimate they get between 2 and 3 million strikes in an average year. Each bolt can carry 100 million volts of electricity and can strike up to 10 miles away from rainfall. In the event of lightning, minimize your risk of being hit by staying in an enclosed tractor cab and shutting off the engine. If out in the open or on an unenclosed tractor platform, squat down as close to the ground as possible on the balls of your feet.

Bonus Factoid:

6 inches: the amount of moving floodwater that can float a small car or knock over a man. Every year, flooding is one of the most common causes of weather-related deaths. Drivers drowning in their cars after being swept off the road accounted for 60% of these fatalities.