A power flash during a thunderstorm...
After the latest round of thunderstorm and early season tornadoes in Alabama, a lot of people on Facebook are freaking out about someone in the media that read a script on a prompter saying "Tornadoes Hit Without Warning". Really, you freak out on a talking head in front of a camera that reads a news script like Obama reads a speech but you don't stop and look at a some of the chasers blowing it calling it a tornado without seeing a tornado. What I'm talking about is the power flashes.
For the non weather geek readers of my blog, a power flash is simply a electrical line, transformer on a power pole or the fuse on the power line to the transformer shorting out. Think of when you hook up jumper cables to your cars battery and you touch the two ends together and it sparks. Same concept on a much larger scale.
The first video below is footage I shot during hurricane Rita back in 2005. If you fast forward to the 1:30 mark in the video you will see prime examples of a power flash that are up close and personal. This footage is some of the best power flashes ever caught on camera. There were lots of power flashes but I was not in a tornado.
Now back to what my point is. One thing that has kind of annoyed me with watching several video's of the latest severe weather event is the linking of a power flash to equal that a tornado is on the ground and doing damage. If you can not see the tornado back lit by lightning or city lights on a storm that is moving at 50 to 60+ miles per hour that the storm motion alone is guarantied straight line winds, can you really say it's a tornado?
If there is a power flash, is there a tornado? In the video below, fast forward and watch the footage from the two minute mark to about the two minute and twenty seconds and look for the power flashes.
Did you see the power flashes? Was that a tornado on the ground? No and most power flashes during a storm are caused by lightning hitting the power lines and blowing fuses at the transformers and straight line winds knocking down tree branches. If I said every power flash was a tornado, I could add a few dozen more tornadoes to my count. Oh wait, I don't keep a tornado count. Now I'm not going to call anyone out directly and name people but keep in mind next time you see a power flash, its not a tornado but the storm is doing damage. It could be a tornado, it could be lightning, it could be lightning hitting a tree and a branch falling on power lines, it could be a branch or other debris tossed into powerlines, unless you see the tornado can you say its a tornado with the speed those storms were moving?
Of course there are a exceptions to this and that is if you are in the clear under a storm but you have good city lights at night to light up the rain free cloud base and you see a black wall of rain wrapped meso moving at you with major rotation under the rain free area, yes there might be a tornado in there if the storm is moving at 20 to 30 miles per hour. If the system is moving at speeds that are already considered above severe thunderstorm wind speeds, the power flashes could be from straight line debris or lightning.