Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Helicopter Crash Near Tucson Yesterday

Yesterday around 11:30 am a Sheriff's Dept. helicopter crashed at the north end of the Tucson mountains. Three were injured and, sadly, the pilot was killed. The storms that I reported in preceeding post had developed over the Tucson Mountains, apparently just before the copter went down. The top image shows NWS Tucson radar, base reflectivity, right before 11 am local time - the strong cell of 50+ dBZ produced abundant graupel, and perhaps hail, and was the storm that produced strong outflow winds that came all the way east past the house.
As today's blizzard batters the Midwest, an intense arctic front has rapidly moved south down the Front Range of the Rockies. The U of A WRF model forecasts very COLD temperatures with this front tomorrow and especially Thursday morning. The WRF forecasted surface winds and temperatures valid at 7 am Thursday are shown in the middle figure. The temperatures are all the more remarkable given the strong downslope winds forecasted. See Mike Leuthold's special WRF discussion from this morning:

The surface data plot from an hour ago, bottom, indicates a battle between a Pacific front and the arctic front, centered over western New Mexico. Note the 10F temperature at Guadalupe Pass, Texas, with 43 mph wind gusts from the east-northeast and ice needles. To the west, Deming, New Mexico, was holding at 50F with west winds gusting to 30 mph - an amazing convergence zone. Will be interesting to see how long it takes before the arctic air dominates and comes west across the Continental Divide.

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