TIME weather

Tornadoes Touch Down in Oklahoma and Nebraska

A tornado seen from Norman, Okla. on May, 6 2015.
Clint Goldschmidt (@jaruseleh) via Instagram A tornado seen from Norman, Okla. on May, 6 2015.

Wednesday's storm was not as strong as the storm two years ago

(OKLAHOMA CITY) — A storm that produced tornadoes across parts of southwestern Oklahoma bore down on suburban Oklahoma City during the evening rush hour Wednesday, and forecasters declared a tornado emergency for Moore, which was hit hard two years ago.

Forecasters had warned that severe storms could strike through much of Tornado Alley. Twisters were also reported in Kansas and Nebraska.

No injuries were reported in Wednesday’s weather. Local television stations reported that some storm spotters had seen signs of damage southwest of the Oklahoma capital.

National Weather Service meteorologist Angela Pfannkuch said the rural town of Roseland, Nebraska, near Grand Island, was hit at 4:22 p.m. Wednesday. No injuries were immediately reported to emergency management personnel and it wasn’t yet known whether homes and buildings were damaged.

A weak storm formed in southeastern Oklahoma shortly after 3 p.m., according to weather service meteorologist Michael Scotten, and the supercell thunderstorm that created it held together until it reached Oklahoma City.

School districts in the path of the storm held their pupils in safe places. Among the communities in the path of the storm was Moore, where 24 died in an EF-5 twister May 20, 2013. Seven schoolchildren were among the dead.

Wednesday’s storm was not as strong as the storm two years ago, though appeared ominous nonetheless. Live television and accompanying commentary raised the alarm, along with tornado sirens in dozens of towns.

The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management opened its operations center but at early evening no county had requested aid.

“We haven’t gotten any reports of damage from any of our local emergency managers yet,” spokeswoman Keli Cain said. Highway officials closed Interstate 44; radar images showed the storm hugging the highway as it approached central Oklahoma.

Patrons at the Newcastle Casino were directed to a safe room at the facility, said Kym Koch, a spokeswoman for the casino. “They’re sheltering in place,” Koch said.

Richard Thompson of the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma — which was also in the path of the Oklahoma City storm — said bad weather was possible anywhere from Nebraska to west Texas.

“This is the first of potentially several days of a severe weather risk,” Thompson said. “There could be some pretty heavy rain overnight and eventually flooding could be a concern.”

Areas of central Oklahoma saw heavy rainfall and some flooding overnight and early Wednesday, National Weather Service meteorologist Jonathan Kurtz said. Nearly 4 inches of rain fell in Norman, where the Oklahoma Department of Transportation shut down several on-ramps to Interstate 35. The ramps re-opened early Wednesday afternoon.

“People just really need to stay weather aware, have a plan and understand that severe storms are possible across portions of the southern plains almost daily through Saturday,” Kurtz said.

In south-central Nebraska, about 110 miles southwest of Omaha, the Nuckolls County Sheriff’s Office said a tornado hit near the Kansas border, between Hardy and Ruskin. Deputies were checking houses to ensure everyone was safe.

TIME weather

Small Earthquake Shakes Michigan

Earthquakes are rare in the state

A small earthquake hit Michigan on Saturday.

The U.S. Geological Service reported the quake on its website at a magnitude of 4.2, centered in Galesburg in the southwestern part of the state.

“While on the low end of the scale, it is still quite rare for Michigan,” Rob Dale, from the Ingham County Sheriff’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, told the Detroit Free Press.

No injuries were immediately reported, but the effects of the small quake were felt miles away, including as far as Chicago.

TIME viral

Watch an Unbelievable Dust Storm Turn Belarus Into Tatooine

This is terrifying

An incredible video has surfaced of a bizarre weather phenomenon that, within a matter of minutes, transformed day into night in the Belarus city of Soligorsk on Monday.

Thankfully, while property damage was reported in the region, nobody was injured during the storm, says the Russian news outlet RT.

A cold front near the border with Ukraine created the epic dust storm called a “haboob,” which is rare in the region at this time of year. What’s more, the storm also included heavy rain.

It appears Mother Nature reminded us that science fiction may not be so outlandish after all.

Read next: How a Dust Storm Inspired a Mass Exodus and a Great Novel

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME natural disaster

How a Dust Storm Inspired a Mass Exodus and a Great Novel

Dust Storm
Arthur Rothstein—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images Father & sons walking towards shack, pace slowed by dust storm, in the Great Plains in the 1930s

April 14, 1935: The worst dust storm in history descends on the Great Plains—exactly four years before 'The Grapes of Wrath' is published

The dust fell so thickly on this day, April 14, 80 years ago, that even Okies and Texans inured to dust storms thought the end of the world was upon them. The fast-moving, low-hanging black cloud caught them unprepared, trapping motorists in their cars and forcing those who were caught out in the open to drop to their knees and crawl blindly toward shelter, according to an account by the Oklahoma Climatological Survey. “Afternoon brightness [plunged] immediately into midnight darkness,” noted one National Weather Service observer.

It became known as the Black Sunday storm — the worst on record in the drought-stricken Great Plains. An Associated Press reporter and photographer who had tried to outrun the storm in a car were trapped for hours in the suffocating blackness. The next day, the reporter used the term “Dust Bowl” for the first time in print to describe the devastated region: “Three little words — achingly familiar on a western farmer’s tongue — rule life today in the dust bowl of the continent … ‘if it rains,’ ” he wrote.

Four years after Black Sunday, John Steinbeck marked the storm’s anniversary by publishing The Grapes of Wrath, the iconic tale of Oklahoma tenant farmers driven off their land and pushed into California in search of a new life. The fictional Joad family joined the real-life exodus of migrant farmers — roughly a quarter of a million of them, per TIME — who followed the same path out of desperation after the farms of the Great Plains were ruined by drought, overgrazing and unsustainable farming practices.

But in the promised land where Ma Joad dreamed of “a white house with oranges growin’ around,” they encountered hostility and living conditions not much better than in the dusty wasteland they’d left behind.

“Some of them camp in packing-box jungles and drink ditchwater; others are lucky enough to lodge in new government camps with modern plumbing and electric washing machines,” TIME observed in a 1940 article that compared the real-life migrant farmers to Steinbeck’s fictional ones. (Reviled as the penniless Okies were in California, TIME offered an ambivalent defense: “Strangely enough the incidence of venereal disease among the migrants is lower than among native Californians, and they have relatively little tuberculosis. Greatest plague: dietary diseases (scurvy and pellagra), resulting from lack of fresh meat and vegetables.”)

And while The Grapes of Wrath climbed to the top of the bestseller list, won the Pulitzer Prize, and became a “cornerstone of [Steinbeck’s] 1962 Nobel Prize,” according to the introduction to the Penguin Classics edition, TIME was similarly ambivalent about the merits of the book. In its review, TIME concludes:

The publishers believe it is “perhaps the greatest modern American novel, perhaps the greatest single creative work this country has ever produced.” It is not. But it is Steinbeck’s best novel… It is “great” in the way that Uncle Tom’s Cabin was great — because it is inspired propaganda, half tract, half human-interest story, emotionalizing a great theme.

Read the full review of The Grapes of Wrath, here in the TIME archives: Oakies

TIME weather

Tornado Rips Through Illinois as Severe Weather Hits Midwest

Chicago was placed under a tornado watch for much of Thursday evening

A tornado damaged numerous homes Thursday night in northern Illinois, police told NBC News, as part of a storm system that was moving toward Chicago, which was under a tornado watch.

Police in Rochelle confirmed that the tornado left significant damage in Rochelle, Kings and Hillcrest. There was no immediate word on injuries.

The tornado crossed Interstate 39 several miles north of Rochelle, shortly after 7 p.m. (8 p.m. ET), according to The Weather Channel, which aired the incident live. It also hit Fairdale and damaged an undetermined number of structures northwest of Ashton…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC news

TIME weather

‘Extremely Dangerous’ Tornado Hits Iowa as Severe Weather Moves Across Midwest

Chicago is under tornado watch for much of the night

A “large and extremely dangerous tornado” touched down in eastern Iowa on Thursday evening, the National Weather Service reports, calling for Midwest communities to take caution as severe weather moved across the region.

The agency said the tornado was seen near Camanche at 6:45 p.m. ET and moving northeast at 40 mph. CNN reports the twister is one part of a severe weather system that could effect up to 95 million people on Thursday, notably in cities like St. Louis and Chicago.

The National Weather Service said Thursday that Chicago and much of central and northeastern Illinois would be under a tornado watch until 11 p.m. CT (midnight ET). A tornado was spotted earlier in the day in Illinois, and tornado watches are in effect for parts of nine other states, Weather.com reports.

TIME weather

Supercell Storms Rip Through Midwest as They Head East

Severe storm shown on radar at 7:45pm moving into west central Oklahoma on April 8, 2015.
National Weather Service Severe storm shown on radar at 7:45pm moving into west central Oklahoma on April 8, 2015.

"There'll be a lot of supercells"

As many as 30 million people were in the path of the spring’s biggest storm yet — a monster stretching Wednesday from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada and east to the Atlantic Ocean, which was already dropping giant hail on parts of the Midwest and threatened the greatest likelihood of tornadoes anywhere in the country.

Brief tornado warnings dotted Missouri and Indiana as the system began coalescing into what meteorologists call “supercells” — intense thunderstorms buoyed by cyclone-like rising winds. They’re the least common but most dangerous kind of thunderstorm, the National Weather Service said.

“There’ll be a lot of supercells,” said Ari Sarsalari, a meteorologist for The Weather Channel.

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Environment

Here’s Why Allergy Season Might Be Especially Unpleasant This Spring

Pollen levels are going to be intense this month, experts warn

There’s one more downside to winters that seems to drag on: allergy season is intensified.

Tree pollen levels may reach unusually high levels in the coming weeks because persistent colder temperatures delayed some trees from pollinating last month, according to allergy experts. Since not all trees pollinate at the same time — maple, cedar and elm trees, for example, pollinate early — the delays result in a large amount of trees pollinating at once.

“You may even see clouds of pollen being released over the next several weeks, where there will be almost a green mist,” Dr. Leonard Bielory, an allergy specialist at the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, N.J., told CBS New York last week.

Experts say those living in the New England region — which saw its “last hurrah” winter storm in March — might want to pay particular attention to pollen levels, though any region that’s been slow to warm up this year may be affected.

“The general principle is the same: in the spring, wherever you are, whenever it becomes temperate, trees start to emit their pollen,” Dr. Rachel Miller, chief of pediatric allergy, immunology and rheumatology at Columbia University Medical Center, told TIME.

So what can you do to avoid the runny noses, itchy eyes and headaches? There are the classic over-the-counter allergy pills like Zyrtec and Claritin, but for those that suffer from more severe allergies, this spring might be the perfect time to finally get checked out.

“Certainly people can visit their allergists,” said Dr. Miller, “who can help make sure that they’re doing certain behaviors to try to minimize exposure when, say, they’re exercising or jogging in the park — as well as medical management, or possibly immunotherapy.”

 

TIME Environment

California’s Water Crisis By the Numbers

California Drought Rice Harvest
Rich Pedroncelli—AP Rice harvested by Mike DeWitt is loaded into trucks near Davis, Calif., Oct. 10, 2014. DeWitt is among the Sacramento Valley farmers who planted 25 percent less rice than normal because of water cutbacks.

Almost two-thirds of water is used for agriculture — but Gov. Jerry Brown's measures apply mainly to urban areas

California Governor Jerry Brown on Wednesday imposed historic water controls on the drought-stricken state. But who will the burden of conserving water fall upon? Here, nine numbers that explain the new measures:

25%
The amount by which cities and towns across the state must reduce water use under Brown’s new regulations. That would total about 487.5 billion gallons of water over the next nine months.

50 million square feet
The area of lawns throughout the state to be replaced by “drought tolerant landscaping,” in partnership with local governments. The plan will also require university campuses, golf courses and cemeteries to make “significant cuts” in water use, Brown said.

38 billion gallons
The amount of water used every day throughout California according to 2010 estimates, more than any other state in the country.

16.6%
The average share of water consumption in the U.S. that goes toward domestic purposes, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, such as washing dishes or drinking water.

80-100 gallons
The amount of water the average American goes through a day, much of it in the bathroom, according to the USGS. Showers use on average two to two-and-a-half gallons per minute. A full tub holds an estimated 36 gallons. Washing your hands and face take a gallon, while toilet flushes in older models use three gallons. (Newer ones use closer to one and a half.) Washers also go through a significant amount of water: about 25 gallons a load in newer models.

70 gallons
The amount of water used by San Francisco Bay Area residents after Brown asked Californians to voluntarily reduce water use by 20%. Some in Southern California continued to use some 300 gallons a day on amenities such as lawns and swimming pools.

$10,000
The possible daily fine for those of California’s 400 local water agencies who fail to meet the governor’s 25% target.

61%
The average share of the nation’s water that is used for agricultural purposes, including irrigation and livestock (Another 17.4% goes to thermoelectric power plants). In California that share is about 80%.

76,400
Number of California farms and ranches, which produced $21 billion in agricultural exports in 2013, according to the California Department of Food & Agriculture, including $7.6 billion in milk and $5.8 billion in almonds. More than 400 different crops and commodities are grown in the state, accounting for 14.7% total U.S. agricultural exports. The measures announced by Governor Brown on Wednesday do not apply to the agriculture industry.

 

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