Recent storms bring rainfall back to normal

rpulley@lsjournal.comApril 30, 2014 

Weekend thunderstorms locally caused only a small fire and drenched residents who were outdoors, while tornadoes smashed other regions.

The Parks and Recreation department held its Spring Spin bicycle ride April 26, which is rain or shine. It rained a frog-choker that soaked riders. That storm also caused the annual parks clean-up “Sweep the Summit” to be cancelled and sporting events as well.

Assistant Fire Chief Jim Eden said a lightning strike early in the afternoon of April 27 caused a fire in the 300 block of SE Brownfield Drive, with damage isolated to a small area of combustible siding on the exterior of the house. That was the only damage reported locally, he said.

Seven tornadoes hit Arkansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Alabama, resulting in a reported total of 28 deaths in a series of storms which started late last week.

That comes after a slow start to the severe storm season.

According to records kept by the federal Storm Prediction Center, only 109 tornadoes have been reported in U.S. until April 24, when the yearly average is 451 for the period

Jenni Laflin, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service station in Pleasant Hill, said the U.S. hadn’t yet reached what’s normally the peak tornado season. She said forecasters don’t have a method for predicting how many tornadoes will happen this year.

“Because we had a slow start unfortunately doesn’t mean we’re going to have a slow season,” Laflin said.

In 2012 the Pleasant Hill office issued three tornado warnings in this area and four in 2013. Already there have been eight in 2014, she said.

April 27 there was a tornado in Linn County, Kan. and one in Bates County, Mo. north of Odessa. Damage assessments weren’t available. The Pleasant Hill office provides warnings for northern and western Missouri and extreme northeast Kansas.

On March 27, there were three separate tornadoes north of the metropolitan area, but in the region, she said, just a few homes reported any damage.

The Lee’s Summit rains helped the area bring its rainfall closer to average, although it is still lagging this spring.

“The last week or so has helped out, but we’re still behind,” Laflin said. The normal rainfall by this date is about 8.3 inches (measured at Kansas City International Airport) and the area is still about one-inch below that average, she in an interview April 28.

She said meteorologists don’t see a “strong signal” they could use to predict whether there will be normal rainfall this summer. The weather service sometimes can use strong trends in the Arctic or Pacific Oceans to forecast how the weather will be influenced inland, she said.

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