NOAA: ‘Bermuda high’ that led to Miami Valley tornado outbreak could be coming back

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House near the Bruns Addition in Celina has warnings for potential looters spray painted on walls. Staff photo/B.J. Bethel

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Dr. Patrick Marsh of the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Ok., was doing what many in Dayton and across the world were doing the night of the Memorial Day tornado outbreak.

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He was listening to scanner traffic, except he had the advantage of being a meteorologist with access to all the National Weather Service and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration had to offer.

“I thought it was going to be another Xenia,” Marsh said. “An EF-4 tornado, then another storm comes through with an EF-3 right behind it – I don’t care where you are, that’s rare. I remember seeing there was another tornado coming, hearing all the scanner traffic and I was yelling to myself in the room for people to take shelter.”

NOAA: 2019 Severe Weather Report Summary

The Memorial Day tornado outbreak resulted in 16 confirmed tornados in the Miami Valley. The evening was a crescendo of severe and rainy weather caused by a “Bermuda high.”

“In May, there was high pressure in the Southeast,” Marsh said. “It’s called a Bermuda high, it’s kind of a big block that sits there and it takes a lot in the atmosphere to move it.

This is the weather pattern a week before the Memorial Day tornado outbreak. The map shows the moisture and warm temperatures brought by the “Bermuda High” pressure system in the Southeast. The pattern lasted 20 days in May and brought heavy rain and storms.
Staff graphic/Carly Smith

“Normally a cold front would bring in nice weather and end it, but the cold front could not push into that big block.”

The result was instead of the patterns shifting, high heat hit Georgia and moisture was pushed into the Central United States. Storms and rain would hit the plains, and come back the next day overnight and hit Ohio, Illinois and Indiana.

I thought it was going to be another Xenia. An EF-4 tornado, then another storm comes through with an EF-3 right behind it – I don’t care where you are, that’s rare.

Dr. Patrick Marsh, Meteorologist NOAA Storm Prediction Center

“The thunderstorms on the northern sides of the front kept moving north, and it would lead to the Bermuda high only moving a limited area each day, maybe the size of Ohio,” Mars said. “If the front is only pushing from Central Kentucky and lifting north to the Great Lakes, that’s not a lot of range to move out from those train tracks.”

These were the weather conditions for 20 days in May, and what led to the storms that left widespread damage over Tipp City, heavy rains and the Memorial Day tornado outbreak.

Outbreak conditions returning this month

Eventually the Bermuda high was pushed out to sea – to Bermuda, where it gets its name. But Marsh said the conditions could return, based on forecasts from NOAA and the National Weather service.

“There are some indications the Bermuda high will force its way back in later this month,” Marsh said. “We might see warm conditions in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic, with a big trough in the west, so there could be rounds of thunderstorms (in Ohio). Right now, we’re closer to the conditions you would regularly see in June.”

While the Bermuda high butting back in could lead to more thunderstorms, Marsh said the return of an outbreak like the Miami Valley experienced on Memorial Day would be unlikely.

“The atmosphere would have to do a lot of amazing tings for another day like that,” Marsh said. “I would expect more thunderstorms later this month.

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