Wild weather

We have had more than a bit of that in the past few days. Partly it is the effect, most likely, of the La Nina phase we have now entered. US meteorologist Dan Satterfield posted a link to a Washington Post account of that: La Niña is back. Here’s what that means.

It’s one of many drivers in our atmosphere, but it is often among the most important given the extent to which it shuffles other atmospheric features key in determining how weather evolves over the Lower 48.

In brief, here are some of the key impacts La Niña could have in the coming months:

— Extending favorable conditions for Atlantic hurricane activity this fall.
— Worsening drought conditions in the Southwest through the winter and potentially elevating the fire risk through the fall.
— Raising the odds of a cold, stormy winter across the northern tier of the United States and a mild, dry winter across the South.
— Increasing tornado activity in the Plains and South during the spring.

La Niña is the opposite of El Niño, which often makes headlines for spurring powerful southern storms that can generate beneficial rains in California and track across the entire nation.

In Australia:

La Niña is characterized by increased rainfall and cloud cover, especially across the east and north; snow cover is increased. There are also cooler daytime temperatures south of the tropics and fewer extreme highs, and warmer overnight temperatures in the tropics. There is less risk of frost, but increased risk of widespread flooding, tropical cyclones, and the monsoon season starts earlier.

Recent Wollongong weather forecasts

And we have been getting a lot of these warnings, this one from Thursday afternoon.

Wollongong actually has been spared. Not so some other parts of the state, and I especially noted Armidale where Jim Belshaw now lives. There was a tornado there on Thursday night!

Jim himself says he is OK. When I asked he said: “Hi Neil. It was wild while it lasted, very noisy and the car has some hail marks, but the main storm was just to the north of us running along a west-east line. The closed UNE campus which suffered damage starts about 800 metres, away, but is a very big campus.”

I remembered one of my mother’s favourite stories from her childhood in Braefield — my mother and the 1921 tornado! My God, that’s 100 years ago! And note she calls Australia Day “Anniversary Day”, as people did back then.

More tales from my mother 3 — Braefield NSW 1916-1923

Braefield was a small place: three railway night officers’ cottages, a Post Office Store of sorts, and a brand new school building. The old one became the local hall where church services — every denomination — were held once a month, and it was also the scene of all local social activity. It was War time and a very energetic committee made up of farmers’ wives and families knitted for soldiers and every lad that left Braefield was farewelled in the old school hall and presented with a watch, and welcomed home — those that came home — being then given a medal by a now saddened committee….

In December 1920 we went to Sydney for the Christmas vacation, returning on Chaffey’s Mail, which left Central about 2 pm on Saturday and stopped all stations from Murrurundi to Tamworth where it terminated. We arrived home about 2.30 am.

The tornado

The following day, Monday, was Anniversary Day. Dad drove into Quirindi to get supplies; there were Chinese shops always open. Before his return we children had been watching the sky. At first we thought a dust storm was approaching across the Breeza Plains. The sky went from red to purple and then to deep indigo. Thank goodness Dad arrived home, and he said to Mother who was ironing in the kitchen, “There is a storm going to hit the back of the house, and we had better go into the bedrooms.” She refused as she wanted to finish her ironing. Within moments the verandah had gone and dad hustled us all into the dining room and under a heavy oak table. It became pitch dark. The storm only lasted for twenty minutes, but the dining room was all that was left of our home! If it had not been for a 10,000 gallon water tank which was luckily full and sheltered that room only, I would not be here today.

Kind neighbours took us in. The path of the storm could be traced back along the plains as large trees were chopped to match wood, and our place and the railway siding were in its direct path. Both were shattered. A kindly farmer lent us an unoccupied dwelling, scarcely a house, but shelter, and we were given bedding and necessary equipment so that we could survive. The iron roof of our place was found over a mile from the house! The other farmer had our home rebuilt as quickly as possible.

Poor Mother was pregnant again and a still-born child was born in June. Again it nearly cost our Mother’s life, and again, thank God for Dad’s wonderful mother who came and stayed through these very troublesome times.