*All of Custer County is in a tornado watch until 10 p.m. (Wednesday)
With many area residents heading out to enjoy the great outdoors over the first official weekend of summer, Memorial Day weekend brought the potential for severe weather - reminding us all that this isn’t just camping and picnicking season. It’s also thunderstorm and tornado season - and the threat for more severe weather remains a possibility again tonight.
The possibility of severe storms remained a threat nearly each night of the weekend, but it was Sunday night that the storm clouds were brewing. In fact, such a nasty looking super-cell built up over the region that it made number one on the Weather Channel’s list of top storm videos for the weekend!
With the factors lining up perfectly for devastating storms, trained spotters were keeping their eyes to the sky. One of those spotters reported seeing a tornado on the crowd just a few miles east of Dunning around 9 p.m., but that sighting has not yet been officially confirmed by the National Weather Service.
The NWS in North Platte did report a funnel cloud near Westerville Sunday evening around 8:30, but did not receive any reports of a tornado touching down or any damage.
According to Custer County Emergency Management Director Shawn Owens, there were some reports of rather large hail stones in the area. One resident southeast of Comstock reported 2 1/2-inch hail, while 2-inch hail was reported in the Westerville area and northeast of Oconto.
Owens says there were numerous reports of golf ball sized hail in the area, but he has not received any reports of damage due to the storm.
The Nebraska government website NeRain reports most communities in the coverage area received anywhere from around a half inch to inch of rain Sunday night. However, some areas north and west of Loup City reported as much as 4.36 inches of rain.
Anselmo picked up nearly 3.5 inches, Litchfield 2.35 inches, both Arcadia and Merna around 1.2 inches, and both Callaway and Comstock around a half inch of needed moisture.
The Climate Prediction Center released new data last week with predictions for Nebraska's summer weather, and it looks like the cooler-than-normal temperatures of April and May are behind us. Above normal temperatures are predicted for June in the 30-day forecast.
Below normal precipitation is predicted for the western two-thirds of the state, with the highest probability being in the southeastern Panhandle, the southwestern Sandhills and the southwestern corner of the state.
The cooler spring temperatures have impacted corn farmers, said Al Dutcher, state climatologist, School of Natural Resources.
"Farmers are 10-15 days behind planting corn," Dutcher said. "Under normal temperatures, this crop would be projected to come into pollination during the statistical peak of the summer heat, the second and third week in July."
Crops exposed to higher temperatures have a risk of lower yields.
"That's when we can really take a big bite out of our crop," Dutcher said.
But there has been some benefit to the cooler spring temperatures.
"The benefit of these cold and wet conditions has been a significant increase in soil moisture conditions across eastern Nebraska," Dutcher said. "They have contributed to a limited recovery but are insufficient to alleviate concerns."
Dutcher said that it is unclear whether this summer will be a stormy one.
"So far this season we have had a very weak storm season," Dutcher said.
This in part was due to snow pack across Canada and the Northern Plains, Dutcher said. Now that the snow pack has melted, there is a higher chance of stormy weather.
Custer County EMD Shawn Owens reminds citizens that now is a good time to get signed up for the Code Red weather alert system if you have not already done so. There are a number of ways to do that, including the Chief website at custercountychief.com. Just scroll down to the “sign up now for Code Red” button on the left side of the home page and enter your information to receive messages of weather watches and warning on your home and/or cell phones.
For more information on the Code Red system, or information regarding severe weather in central Nebraska, contact Shawn Owens at 308-872-3349.
*Information on the climate predictions was provided by Heather Haskins, student writer, IANR News Service.