October 31, 2019

Dangerous T'storms Will Roll Through The Mid-Atlantic Just In Time For Trick-Or-Treating

A round of severe thunderstorms will move across the southeast and Mid-Atlantic states through the afternoon and evening hours on Thursday, bringing the potential for widespread damaging wind gusts and possibly even some tornadoes. The greatest threat for storms along and east of the Appalachians will coincide with kids trick-or-treating for Halloween in some populated areas. Please stay mindful of approaching storms and avoid going out tonight if you're under a risk for severe weather.

Broken lines of thunderstorms are already developing along the Appalachian Mountains as a strong cold front pushes into a warm, muggy airmass parked over the eastern United States. Conditions are downright tropical right now east of the front. Dew points were all the way up in the 70s as far north as Washington D.C. by 2:00 PM, which is a level of tropical humidity more common in August than the last day of October.

The thunderstorms will coalesce and strengthen as they move over the Appalachians and start ingesting all that unstable air. Severe thunderstorms are possible from central Alabama to southern Quebec, but the greatest risk for severe thunderstorms today exists across the Mid-Atlantic states. The Storm Prediction Center has issued an enhanced risk for severe weather, or a 3 out of 5 on the scale used to measure the threat for severe thunderstorm, from Greensboro/Raleigh in North Carolina up to the Scranton area in northeastern Pennsylvania. 

The main threat will be damaging winds and tornadoes. Winds are ripping just a few thousand feet above the ground. Winds at the surface are pretty strong as well—I can hear the gusts thunking against the window as I write this near Greensboro. It won't take much of a thunderstorm to shove those winds down to the surface and produce wind gusts of 60+ MPH.

The strong southerly winds giving us those warm, muggy conditions will also provide the low-level shear necessary for some storms to produce tornadoes. The greatest risk for tornadoes will exist in and around the area under the enhanced risk. The threat appears maximized up around the D.C. area, but the threat will exist anywhere along the squall lines that form today.

Tornadoes in squall lines can happen quickly—often with reduced tornado warning lead time—but duration doesn't relate to intensity. Any tornado is dangerous if it hits you...I know it sounds simplistic to say that, but even an EF-0 can send debris flying around at lethal speeds.

Please reconsider taking kids out trick-or-treating tonight if you're under a risk for severe weather. These storms will move fast and you may not have enough time to get to safety if the storms approach while you're out walking the neighborhood.

I look at it this way: if parents are willing to sit there and check each individual piece of candy to make sure nobody tampered with it, then they should be willing to say "no go" when there's the threat of dangerous thunderstorms on the evening of Halloween. You're much more likely to get hurt by lightning/falling trees than you are to get a piece of candy with a pin or poison in it. Kids will get over the disappointment, and many communities may even push back trick-or-treating to this weekend.

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I graduated from the University of South Alabama in 2014 with a degree in political science and a minor in meteorology. I contribute to The Weather Network as a digital writer, and I've written for Forbes, the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang, Popular Science, Mental Floss, and Gawker's The Vane. My latest book, The Skies Above, is now available. My first book, The Extreme Weather Survival Manual, arrived in October 2015.