Ask Joe | Region not immune to mass weather damage

July 21, 2013 

Q: My father once told me that 1 inch of rain on 1 acre of ground would equal 28,000 gallon of water. Is this figure close to being correct?

— Bill  

A: Your father was pretty good with his math. I calculated that an inch of rain over the acre of ground would equal 27,154 gallons. For fun, I went ahead and figured that the weight of the water would be 226,613 pounds or about 113 tons. It’s amazing to think that all of this water was being held up in the clouds.

Q: Does this area ever get damage from a tropical cyclone?

A: Absolutely. In fact, one of the largest disasters in the region was from the remnants of what was once Hurricane Agnes in 1972. Agnes first came onshore as a hurricane over the Florida panhandle, but then weakened as it moved across land before departing off of the Carolina coastline.

The storm re-intensified into a tropical storm briefly again before making another landfall close to New York City. The storm was then quickly classified as an extra-tropical storm before recurving and looping, and then eventually dissipating across northern Pennsylvania.

The end result was extreme rainfall across the state with record flooding spawned by 8-10 inches of rain in some locations in a matter of four days.

Actually, the largest cause of damage from tropical cyclones is from inland flooding, and that can affect most everyone. Often this far inland, to get extreme rainfall, the storm has to stall or there is another factor to enhance the rain. If the tropical moisture of the storm mixes with a front, the rainfall can be enhanced. That is what happened with the flooding in our region in 2004.

Occasionally, we can also get some strong winds from the remnants of a tropical cyclone, like was the case of Sandy and from severe thunderstorms or tornadoes spawned by the system but that isn’t as likely as the rain.

Q: Once I saw on the weather that there was 1049 lightning strikes in a 15 minute period. How do they count that many lightning strikes in that amount of time?

— Tim

A: The National Lightning Detection Network is owned and operated by Vaisala and has more than 100 sensors across the nation.

These sensors are used to triangulate the lightning strikes with high accuracy. They send data to weather providers like what we use for our broadcast. Our computers can plot these strikes on a map and keep a tally the strikes within a certain area.

If you have a question about the weather, you can write to Joe Murgo at 5000 6th Ave., Altoona, PA 16602 or email him at Murgo@wtajtv.com. Some questions will be answered here and all of the questions will be entered in a contest to be shown on WTAJ News at 5pm.

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