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Weather in the Ozarks: February 7, 2019

Author resided in Joplin during the 2011 F-5 tornado which killed over 160 people and currently lives within sight of the Duck Boat tragedy.

Take a step left or right, up or down to experience something different.

Take a step left or right, up or down to experience something different.

What is going on?

Look at that image: see the various counties in pretty colors? Purple stands for an Ice Storm Warning; Blue is Winter Weather Advisory; Yellow is our Severe Thunderstorm Warning while Pink stands for Severe Thunderstorm Watch. And the Green? Oh, that's just a Flash Flood Warning.

And these are only the current most severe watches and warnings for these counties; almost every county has multiple watches and warning underlying those most prominent.

Stick around, it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Finally, the radar is calming down a bit.

Finally, the radar is calming down a bit.

Last night was a wild ride

How do I even begin? Our weather forecaster's have been advising that weather for yesterday and last night was going to be...complicated. A Low Pressure System combining with a High Pressure one were going to meet over Southern Missouri and supply the area with weather that has to be experienced to be believed. Part of the area was to have severe icing with amounts approaching an inch in places while the county next door might have tornados. Hail would be followed by sleet and freezing rain. Temperatures of the upper 50's would drop in mere moments to wind chills approaching zero.

What in the hell is going on?

Welcome to the Ozarks!

The Ozarks and the surrounding area feature some of the most potent and drastic weather changes imaginable. We have had snow in May, temperatures in the low 80's in February. Tornados are almost an accepted fact of life every month of the year. Literally, we can have one any time. Last night, we had the sirens going off before midnight due to radar indicated tornados within a few miles of where we live even as less than 40 miles away the skies were dumping heavy rainfall on one block and freezing rain and sleet two or three blocks away.

I stood out on our balcony which overlooks Table Rock Lake at 11:45 PM and watched as clouds flew by seemingly mere feet overhead, dropping tendrils down to the lake's surface and listened to the wind blowing through the trees beside our condo. It raised the hair on the back of my neck like nothing I'd ever heard before. I have watched Ken Burn's wonderful documentary "Dust Bowl" which details the dust storms of the '30's; I listened to the people interviewed who said it was the wind that drove many people insane, the endless moaning of it as it blew on and on. Last night, I understood for the first time what that must have sounded like. Darkness all around but for the lights of Branson reflected off the underside of the low hanging clouds and the wind, oh the wind! Moaning and sounding like a haunted spirit in purgatory, a banshee wail that sent shivers down my spine, blowing through the trees beside the building. I had never heard anything like it.

Back inside...

I went back inside and watched the weather on television until the first wave had passed around 1:00 AM. Watched as several separate warnings of tornados came in within minutes of where we live, with multiple warnings of high winds and heavy rain were listed along with hail the size of golf balls pounding the area between Branson and Springfield. Watched as reports came in detailing no tornados touching down as of yet but numerous reports of damage due to high winds toppling trees, knocking out power to Springfield and the surrounding area. On the south side the severe thunderstorm raged west to east and beyond as it blew through at up to 80 mph while on the north side freezing rain and sleet began to cover portions of neighborhoods.

I can honestly tell you there was something about this storm that made me more uneasy than any I had experienced in my six decades of life. It felt...different somehow and I cannot put my finger on it.

And there was a second wave yet to come, one setting between Tulsa and Oklahoma City that was heading straight for us in the predawn hours.

The dawn breaks...

I went to bed around 1:30 AM and fell into a troubled sleep. No sirens went off as the second storm came through but the temperatures remained anything but steady, sliding up and down as the front moved through and the two pressure systems alternately moved north and south across our area, waving up and down like a hand out a car window at high speed. As the dawn broke the rain began to drop off here but still pounded areas east and south of us while school closings came in one after the other. Some were due to the severe storms, the high winds knocking power out and trees down across roads, trees which drivers ran into because they were unable to see them in the heavy rain and dark roads; other schools closed due to the ice covered roads being treacherous to travel on.

Some areas are closed due to flash flooding on low water bridges in our area. This is a serious concern here, for as recently as December a moderately heavy rain caused a flash flood in Harrison, Arkansas (about a half an hour from here) pushing a car off a road in town and the search for the couple in it continues. Only in the last few days has one of their bodies been found. The husband has been found some 20 miles downstream from where they thought the bodies might be. Found caught in a tangle of trees his body can finally be laid to rest and his family begin the difficult time of acceptance. Unfortunately, his wife has yet to be found. There is a chance she might never be as the waterway they disappeared in flows unchecked to the Mississippi River and into the Gulf of Mexico.

Last spring another vehicle was driven off a low water bridge during a flash flood in Branson and several people lost their lives after they were pushed into Lake Taneycomo. Several days later I went fishing in Taneycomo and watched as a Highway Patrol boat crisscrossed the lake just downstream of where I had come to fish. Asking another fisherman what was going on he replied they were trying to find one of the bodies.

I left.

It appears that for our immediate area, we escaped the worst Mother Nature could throw at us during this storm. No tornados touched down, no icing on the roads in our hamlet. Winds blew hard but no severe damage occurred and no flooding, yet. We are downstream from areas which received heavy rainfall and within a day or so our streams will rise up out of their banks, causing flooding to roads and fields but nothing too severe, I pray. School is in session and the buses running, Life goes on for our community. But in others, not so much.

Life here in the Ozarks may seem idyllic, with our Hillbilly reputation of lazing around and taking life slow and simple and our smiling faces greeting tourists from across the world but the reality often is otherwise when the weather is involved. Last summer's Duck Boat tragedy which took place on Table Rock Lake cost almost an entire family their members. This storm, while forecast, still arrived much faster than expected and took two of the Duck Boats by surprise, one which made it out and one that did not. Tornados arrive in virtually every month out of the year and can be severe in seasons which you might not associate with such weather. This storm, last night and this morning, was one such storm. Combining the warm Gulf moisture with the harsh north winds over such a compact and finite area left the counties of southwest and southern Missouri reeling overnight, carrying on into the morning hours of the area.

However, no one seems to have been severely injured, no buildings damaged beyond repair and the worst that seems to have taken place is area school children have to take a snow day.

Poor kids!

The bridge in this video is normally about 40 feet above the river.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Mr Archer

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