Paul Douglas

Remembering MSP’s Worst Tornado Tragedy

With climate-tainted extreme weather, what keeps me up at night? A Category 5 hurricane broadsiding Miami or Houston. Wildfires moving into a city. Towns in the west running out of water. And deadly tornadoes plowing into heavily-populated areas. On this date in 1965 the Twin Cities experienced at least 6 tornadoes, four of them extreme F4s. 13 died, 683 were injured – 1700 Minnesotans left homeless. Fridley may have been hit by 3 different tornadoes, Wayzata was struck twice.

We suffer from tornado amnesia, “It-Can’t-Happen-Here-Syndrome”. Technology is radically better today than it was 57 years ago, but there’s no place for complacency.

Prepare for a stunning blue sky today and Saturday, the nicer day of the weekend. Your favorite mom may require thunder-wear Sunday with scattered T-storms in the area. A hot front arrives next week with a string of 80s, sticky humidity levels and a few strong to severe thunderstorms.

We’re due for a week of sweaty weather. After April’s torment I am so ready.

Fridley, Minnesota damage on May 6, 1965
Anoka County Historical Society

May 6, 1965 Tornadoes. The Minnesota DNR has a very good summary of a horrible evening in the Twin Cities metro. Fridley may have been hit by 3 separate tornadoes; Wayzata: 2 tornado strikes: “On Thursday, May 6, 1965 the worst tornado outbreak in Twin Cities history struck the western and northern metro area, where five tornadoes occurred, with another just to the west in Sibley and McLeod Counties. The barrage of tornadoes lasted nearly three hours, from the early evening until well after dark, but the severe thunderstorms that spawned them lasted many hours longer. Four of the evening’s tornadoes were rated F4 on the Fujita Scale (link is external), one was an F3 and another was an F2 (see the new “enhanced Fujita” scale here (link is external)). Minnesota has not seen a day since then with that many F4 or EF-4 tornadoes. Debates have continued since 1965 about the actual tornado tracks, their timelines, and about their true human toll, but the official record indicates that the tornadoes killed thirteen people and injured 683 more, with 600 homes destroyed and 1,700 people rendered homeless. Six fatalities occurred in Mounds View with the final tornado of the evening. Another tornado claimed three lives in the Island Park area of Mound, on the north and northwest side of Lake Minnetonka. Other deaths were reported in Fridley, Spring Lake Park, and in Sibley County, between Green Isle and Hamburg…”

Top row: Minnetonka tornado (left) and Glencoe tornado (right) Bottom row: Fridley tornado (left) and Hamburg tornado (right).

Tornado Super-Outbreak of May 6, 1965. Today is the anniversary of the Twin Cities worst tornado strike; 4 of the 6 reported tornadoes were EF-4 strength. Here’s an excerpt from The National Weather Service: “May 6, 1965 was one of the worst tornado outbreaks in Minnesota history. Six tornadoes affected six counties around the Twin Cities with 13 fatalities and over 500 injured. The tornado outbreak lasted three hours and caused $51 million in damage. There were four F-4s, one F-3, and one F-2. Two of the F-4s crossed paths, causing even more damage. These tornadoes developed due to low pressure in North Dakota/Canada and unstable air behind a warm front over the Twin Cities region.”

Friday Future Clouds/Rain

Risk of Summer Warmth Next Week. If the sun comes out for a few hours we may see 80s a few days next week. With the warmth and humidity and instability will come a chance of strong to severe thunderstorms next week. And have a Plan B for part of Mother’s Day with a chance of a few hours of showers and thunder. Saturday looks extraordinary though.

ECMWF Temperatures for

NOAA GFS Temperatures for MSP

Trending Warmer Than Average Into Third Week of May. Wouldn’t it be nice if May warmth made up for April chill? Models are hinting at a persistent omega block with storms stalling over New England and the Pacific Northwest much of this month, a warm ridge of high pressure for the central USA, including Minnesota. We’ll see if we can possibly be that lucky.

File image
Mark Anderson

Tornado Victims Sue Amazon for Prioritizing Profit Over Safety. A post at caught my eye; here’s an excerpt: “…They criticized Amazon’s actions before the tornado and since. “People died because you put profit over safety,” said Crump of Tallahassee, Florida. As a companion to the wrongful-death lawsuit, an emotional distress lawsuit has been filed on behalf of four drivers who survived the tornado against Amazon and the companies that oversaw the construction of the warehouse. Other plaintiffs are expected to be added to the lawsuit, according to Jennifer Hightower, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs. Morrow and five others died when the warehouse walls and roof collapsed in an EF3 tornado packing winds of up to 150 mph at about 8:27 p.m. on Dec. 10. The 1.1 million-square-foot building was on Gateway Commerce Drive near the intersection of Interstate 255 and Interstate 270...”

New Mexico Governor Seeking US Disaster Status for Wildfire. AP News has the latest: “New Mexico’s governor on Tuesday asked President Joe Biden to declare a disaster as firefighters scrambled to clear brush, build fire lines and spray water to keep the largest blaze burning in the U.S. from destroying more homes in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. During a briefing on the fire burning across the state’s northeast, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a request for a presidential disaster declaration that will be sent to the White House in hopes of freeing up financial assistance for recovery efforts. She said it was important that the declaration be made on the front end rather than waiting until the fire is out…”

Feds To Hold Water In Lake Powell To Preserve Hydroelectric Generation: Climate Nexus has headlines and links: “The list of dramatic, unprecedented steps necessitated by the megadrought parching the western U.S. is growing. In addition to the discovery of the first — though likely not the last — human remains, revealed as water levels fall to historic lows, the federal government is taking drastic measures to prevent the loss of electricity generation at the Glen Canyon Dam below Lake Powell. The reservoir is also being inundated by unprecedented amounts of sediment. The Bureau of Reclamation will hold back 480,000 acre-feet of water and will release an additional half-a-million acre-feet from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir, up the Colorado River in Wyoming, to bolster water levels. The extraordinary action “reflects the truly unprecedented challenges facing the Colorado River Basin and will provide operational certainty for the next year,” said Tanya Trujillo, the federal Interior Department’s assistant secretary for water and science, in a statement announcing the measures. Climate change, mainly caused by the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels, makes droughts worse and more frequent.” (Lake Powell: (New York Times $, AP, LA Times $, KNAU, E&E News, CNN, Reuters, The Hill, CNBC, Deseret News; Sediment: Casper Star-Tribune; Human remains: 8NewsNow, New York Times $, Gizmodo, Washington Post $; Climate Signals background: Western US megadrought).

The track of the La Plata tornado can be seen from satellite on May 1, 2002.

20 Years After La Plata Disaster, Washington DC Area’s Tornado Risk Has Grown. Capital Weather Gang has details: “Two decades ago, the La Plata tornado gouged a long and highly destructive track across southern Maryland. It was rated Level 4 on a 0 to 5 scale and became the second-strongest twister to strike a state along the East Coast. The rotating thunderstorm that produced the twister on April 28, 2002, originated on the Kentucky-West Virginia border and tracked nearly to the Atlantic Ocean. Three people died, making it Maryland’s deadliest tornado in the modern record, and 122 were injured. While it has been 20 years since the La Plata disaster, its occurrence is a reminder that the D.C. region is vulnerable to devastating whirlwinds on par with those of famed tornado alleys in the Great Plains and Deep South. The D.C. region also sees much more frequent tornadoes of lesser strength…”

Skydweller Aero aims to produce the world’s first commercially viable “pseudo-satellite” — a solar-powered airplane capable of staying in the sky for months at a time. Skydweller is pictured landing after its first flight, in December 2020. The men on bikes are there to stabilize the aircraft by catching the poles protruding from the wing, a necessary step because of its tremendous wingspan.
Skydweller Aero Inc.

The Solar-Powered Plane Could Stay in the Air for Months. CNN Travel reports: “In 2016, a bizarre-looking plane, covered with more than 17,000 solar panels, showed the world a glimpse of the future of flight. With the wingspan of a Boeing 747, but weighing only as much as an SUV, it circumnavigated the Earth without using a drop of fuel. Called Solar Impulse 2, it was the brainchild of Swiss explorer Bertrand Piccard and Swiss engineer Bertrand Borschberg, built to showcase the potential of renewable energy. After its record-breaking flight, it had accomplished its goal — but now it’s getting a new lease of life. In 2019 it was bought by Skydweller Aero, a US-Spanish startup which aims to turn the plane into the world’s first commercially viable “pseudo-satellite,” capable of doing the work of an orbiting satellite, but with more flexibility and less environmental impact…”

65 F. Twin Cities high on Thursday.

65 F. average MSP high on May 5.

55 F. MSP high on May 5, 2021.

May 6, 1965: 6 strong tornadoes, 4 of which were rated F4 on the Fujita Scale, devastate parts of east central Minnesota, including parts of the Twin Cities metro area. 14 people are killed, and 683 are injured. 2 of the F4 tornadoes hit Fridley.

FRIDAY: Lukewarm sunshine. Wind: SE 7-12. High: 69

SATURDAY: Sunny, breezy and mild. Wake-up: 48. High: near 70

SUNDAY: Few showers and T-storms. Winds: SE 10-20. Wake-up: 55. High: 66

MONDAY: Feels like July. T-storm risk. Winds: SE 15-30. Wake-up: 57. High: 82

TUESDAY: Sticky and warm, few T-storms. Winds: W 10-15. Wake-up: 58. High: 80

WEDNESDAY: Muggy and warm with T-storms. Winds: SE 10-15. Wake-up: 60. High: 83

THURSDAY: Unsettled, few strong T-storms. Winds: SE 10-20. Wake-up: 65. High: 86

Climate Stories…

1 in 4 Minnesota Communities Have No Plans to Deal With Extreme Weather Made Worse by Climate Change. in Duluth has the post: “One in four communities across Minnesota have no plans to address extreme weather events caused by climate change. That’s according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). A new survey conducted by the MPCA and numerous community leaders including Biwabik City Administrator Jeff Jacobson showed the number of communities combating climate change across Minnesota. Nearly 400 communities across the state participated in the survey and more than 80% said they have endured more extreme weather. Some of the extreme weather included excessive rainfall, drought, and flooding. Jacobson said climate change goes beyond just environmental issues, it hurts small town economies…”

Record Heat in India and Pakistan is a Wake-Up Call. Grist reports; here’s an excerpt: “…For decades, experts have warned that climate change would make heat waves like this more frequent and more intense — a prediction now playing out in real time. Last month, northwest and central India experienced the hottest April since record-keeping began 122 years ago. On May 1, the temperature in Nawabshah, Pakistan, climbed to 121.1 degrees Fahrenheit, likely the hottest temperature recorded so far this year in the northern hemisphere. Other cities and towns across the region also suffered through record-breaking temperatures. “This heatwave is definitely unprecedented,” Chandni Singh, a lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, and a senior researcher at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements, told CNN. “We have seen a change in its intensity, its arrival time, and duration. This is what climate experts predicted and it will have cascading impacts on health...”

Paul Douglas

Report: Forests Need Far More Funding to Help Climate. A post at Inside Climate News caught my eye: “As government leaders and forestry experts gathered in South Korea this week to discuss the state of the world’s forests, new research suggests that ambitious international efforts to curb deforestation are making insufficient progress and the planet’s trees continue to disappear. On Wednesday, an international consortium of researchers released an assessment of the sweeping United Nations-sponsored program, known as REDD+, that was launched 15 years ago to compensate developing countries—home to most of the planet’s climate-critical tropical forests—for conserving and protecting their trees. But the report, from the International Union of Forest Research Organizations, acknowledges that REDD+ has been riddled with problems, and its authors say that efforts to stop deforestation are being overwhelmed, in large part by giant agricultural corporations that are the driving force behind much of the forest loss...”

EU To Ban Russian Oil By Year’s End: Climate Nexus has headlines and links: “The European Union will implement a phased ban on Russian oil imports by the end of the year, the European Commission said Wednesday. Europe relies heavily on Russian fossil fuels and the ban will not apply to methane gas or coal. The move is consistent with increasing efforts in the West to punish Russian president Vladimir Putin for the February invasion of, and continuing atrocities in, Ukraine — the EU declined to join the U.S. in banning Russian oil imports in early March. (Russia’s war on Ukraine has been great for oil and gas companies and executives.) The phased prohibition is intended to give time to ensure member states and their partners can secure alternative supplies, with some countries being given extra time due to their especially high dependency on Russian oil. Earlier this week, Standard Charter said the EU has paid Russia about $50 billion for oil, gas, and coal since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.” (Import ban: (Washington Post $, Axios, New York Times $, AP, CNBC, The Hill, Climate Home, Politico Pro $, Energy Monitor; $50 billion: OilPrice).

Climate Central

Peak CO2 and Heat-Trapping Emissions. Climate Matters has an update on rising greenhouse gas levels: “Yearly peak carbon dioxide levels will likely break a new record in early May and methane concentrations had their largest annual increase in 2021. The continued rise of global greenhouse gas emissions is mainly from human activities in five sectors: energy, industry, agriculture, transportation, and buildings. In the U.S., transportation is the largest emitter contributing to 27% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. We need “rapid and deep” emission cuts across all sectors, globally, if we want a chance at limiting future warming to 1.5°C or below 2°C. If we want a world with the least amount of climate change impacts, we have to take action within this decade. For March 2022, the latest monthly data available, average monthly carbon dioxide (CO2) levels reached 418 ppm (parts per million) compared to 417 ppm in March 2021. CO2 levels peak annually in early May. In May, we anticipate that average monthly CO2 concentrations will break last year’s record of 419 ppm…”

Climate Central
Climate Central

Miami Designates “Heat Season” to Warn About Rising Temperatures. Bloomberg reports: “Miami-Dade County is drawing awareness to the dangers of rising temperatures by declaring an annual “heat season” that will run from May 1 through Oct. 31 each year. The county, where residents face an average of 154 days with a heat index of at least 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32.22 degrees Celsius), plans to give the campaign the same level of importance that it places on hurricane preparedness, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Monday at the inaugural Forum on Global Resilience hosted by the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center and the Atlantic Council...”

Reuters graphic

As California Burns, Environmentalists Find New Tactic to Halt Development. Reuters explains: “…A local subsidiary of New York investment bank Jefferies Financial Group (JEF.N) wants to build nearly 3,000 homes on Fanita Ranch, increasing Santee’s population of 60,000 by perhaps another 10,000 people. But Jefferies faces a new legal tactic based on fire safety that has stopped the development and others like it up and down California. The nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity successfully sued to stop Fanita Ranch, largely on grounds that evacuation plans were inadequate. As part of her April 6 ruling, the judge found one of the project’s purported escape routes toward a state highway was a dead-end street. Collinsworth is part of the group Preserve Wild Santee that was among the plaintiffs…”


In Harm’s Way: Hurricane Ida’s Impact on Socially Vulnerable Communities. NOAA has the story; here’s an excerpt: “…In the past, storms like Hurricane Ida could have simply been seen as a natural disaster, affecting both economically advantaged and disadvantaged alike. But it’s becoming readily apparent that low-income communities suffer more damage and are at greater risk from extreme events. Research shows they are less prepared for the effects of extreme weather events. Often, residents of low-income communities don’t have the resources to evacuate, recover, or adapt in the face of extreme events. Additionally, the effects of climate change on vulnerable populations are frequently compounded—such as the COVID-19 pandemic, inland flooding, and rising global temperatures, in Hurricane Ida’s case. With every climate-related disaster in the nation, economic damages are measured and addressed, while the human toll is less readily assessed. Residents of the most-at-risk communities are increasingly pushed into permanent displacement, homelessness, or deeper into poverty. As disasters become more frequent in a changing climate, vulnerable communities find it more challenging to recover and too costly to try to rebuild or retreat…”