El Nino Could Bring Severe Weather To Tennessee

Posted at 10:33 PM, Jan 06, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-07 06:13:30-05

El Nino Round Two packs a punch on the west coast through flooding, mudslides and three days of record rain.

Meanwhile in Tennessee the skies are beautiful and calm.

But unfortunately they may not stay that way.

"To say the worst is over, we can't do that, I think honestly were in a low point right now and we're ramping up to severe weather season come March, April, May," said National Weather Service Warning Coordination Meteorologist Krissy Hurley from her Nashville office.

That means it's not out of the question that a round three could happen in Middle Tennessee.

"I am betting that we will see an active late winter/early spring storm season," said NewsChannel 5 Chief Meteorologist Ron Howes.

El Nino years happen when Pacific Ocean waters and winter temperatures are warmer than usual.

"Some of these areas are 2-3 degrees, which translates to 4-6 degrees Fahrenheit, above normal," Hurley showed the deep red warming trends in the Pacific.

And this week it became official. This El Nino is tied with the strongest one on record, back in '97 and '98.

"We have been doing nothing but growing strong with El Nino," said Hurley, who also noted this trend hasn't shown signs of slowing down.

People in Nashville remember the year that set the record. Howes was tracking the storm.

"It was chaos," he remembered, "we're seeing this big storm cloud move across downtown Nashville and it clicks 'hey that's where we are.'"

Channel 5 took a direct hit from an EF-3 tornado.

"Did El Nino cause the Nashville tornado?" asked Howes, "no. But it probably increased the probability of the tornado."

And while no one knows what the future holds, all eyes are on the atmosphere. The NWS showed NewsChannel 5 their weather balloons that measure temperature, moisture, air pressure and wind. They help forecast the weather for up to 10 days out.

Just in case El Nino isn't done with us yet.

"We've got to be ready for whatever mother nature throws our way," Howes said.

He says a big problem for Middle Tennessee is that the area can go years without a major tornadic event, which means many people let their guards down. He advises all families have an emergency plan and place to go in case of a tornado warning in the future.

El Nino generally means warmer winters, but that doesn't mean cold snaps are impossible. Forecaster say get ready to bundle up as frigid air heads toward the Volunteer State.