Friday, January 19, 2024

19 Jan 2024: What a Classic String of Lake Effect Mesovortices!

 When I saw the flurry of social media posts showing radar data of an unusually coherent string of mesovortices, it brought back all sorts of memories to the day when Robert Sykes (the founder of SUNY Oswego's meteorology degree program) showed me examples of a temporal sequence of deep pressure drops in his lake effect field projects back in the late 1960's and 70's. Now come to this morning and the meteorological social media lights up with posts exclaiming about the amazingly coherent structure of the string of vortices traveling down the center of Lake Michigan, landing along Indiana/Michigan shoreline.

See these posts (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, the last one is a plea to understand what is causing these vortices)

On satellite, the day phase RGB revealed the same structures, partially hidden underneath a higher cloud deck.

and loops (1, 2) courtesy of Tim Schmidt CIMSS

The impacts were typical of a lake effect band, low visibilities and snow covered roads (brief whiteouts along I-94, and here).

This is another example of the spectrum of vortices found in the cool season Great Lakes arena. I wrote about a much larger versions of these vortices, caused or enhanced by, converging land breezes, and/or by a localized mesocyclogenesis courtesy of a locally warmed airmass from convection and sensible heating by the lakes. With that background of vorticity, other, smaller scale vortices formed, even including water spouts.

But this event isn't that. This is a sequence of vortices lined up at regular intervals along a convergence zone. The winds reported around the south end of Lake Michigan show the converging flow right up to either side of the band. But the reflectivity structures depict more detail.

Two studies looked at the details of mesocyclone chains with diameters of a few km, like this one by Mulholland and co-authors 2017 and Steiger and co-authors in 2013. The 2017 paper's case study focused on mesovortices that were spaced about 6 km apart and had smaller diameters, perhaps around 2 km from eyeballing their figure 7. Many of these vortices had updrafts with them (though 1-3 m/s is not something that excites tornado chasers but it does excite lake effect nuts). They attributed the vortices to horizontal shearing instability, or HSI; this happens when there's an inflection point in the rate of the rate of change in the band-parallel wind across the band. I don't have a calculation of that wind but the process seems comparable between the 2017 case and here. The 2013 paper described a variety of vortex behaviors and initially brought up HSI. The background vorticity field develops from the same mechanism that accompanies the inflection point in the band-parallel winds. Winds are stronger on the right side of the band (right side when facing downwind) courtesy of the thermal low that forms over the lake. Shear vorticity forms in the background up to a point when HSI is favorable for the formation of a chain of equally spaced circular vortices. What triggers the roll-up of vortices is something I'm not sure is adequately answered but I think it becomes more likely if the convergence/vorticity increases or perhaps the background flow decreases (I know that sounds counterintuitive).

Even more of a question is how HSI can influence creating vortices that expand in size to to these diameters of 10-15 km and the accompanying braided reflectivity structure. The vortex diameter issue hasn't been explained yet but the braided structure has been documented along dry lines courtesy of Marquis and co-authors in 2007. I relate to their explanation that if the vortex is large compared to the width of the convergence boundary, then watch out for the vortices to distort the convergence boundary so that they create a "staircase shape along the span of the boundary". See their figure 14 here. I believe a regularly spaced pattern of weakened (enhanced) convergence forms fore and aft of (left and right) of each vortex as the vortex flow superimposes on the general general convergence. Clouds and reflectivity diminish as the vortex flow accelerates away from the background flow in the fore and aft positions.

So how rare is this feature? Well, there's a report on an earlier event back in 2004 by Grim and co-authors. This isn't new but certainly it's rare enough that every time it happens we notice them.

What wasn't around in 2004 was the HRRR or other CAMS models. How did they do? I'll just show the HRRR. Amazingly the background analysis of the HRRR captured what was needed for the model to generate similar vortex behavior though maybe not to the degree you'd want. Check out the 3 hour forecast from this morning. There's the braided reflectivity pattern with the string of vortices to accompany them.

Sunday, December 31, 2023

My Weather Highlights of 2023

 Greetings again, I'm starting up again by looking at the weather highlights I've experienced since December of 2022.

Winter Scenes

22-24 December 2022:

On a trip to see family in Kaslo, BC, we knew we were getting into trouble more than a week before when we saw the arctic outbreak on all of the numerical guidance runs like the ECMWF from 10 days before.  BTW, Kaslo is located 100mi north of Idaho on the shores of Lake Kootenay.

We spent large sums of $$$ purchasing snow boots and other winter gear.  We didn't come up with an engine block heater solution for our rental out of Spokane.  But as it turned out Kaslo is in a relative oasis when it comes to truly bitter air.  The high resolution models showed that the coldest air would sink down the Frasier river valley to our west and in the next valley to our east. (Oddly enough there's another Kootenay river to the east).  

Certainly lake Kootenay had some influence on warming the lower air, and with it, some neat effects for which the East Shore Internet Society's webcams were ideally suited to capture.  I just have to share these time lapses from the 21st and 22nd to show what a 400' deep, 60 mi long lake, that never freezes, has on producing its own lake effect.

We had some neat views too.

This summer thunderstorm-appearing scene  on 22 Dec 1234 pm PST was courtesy of 0º F air flowing over Kootenay lake producing lake effect convection.  The following snow showers gave us a few inches of snow earlier in the day.

We had active convergence zones under the lake effect convection, and some produced outbreaks of vortices.    

2022-12-24  Tree Avalanches 

A few days later, i managed to capture these novel phenomena in my nephew's back yard in Kaslo.  We had close to 20" of snow with high snowfall rates continuing which led to large snow loads forming in the trees around the property.  With light winds, the loads kept building until the trees would unload them quickly, like an avalanche.  What would follow would be a cascade of snow and a downburst that would fan out.  At least these weren't dangerous like real avalanches but they were a nuisance when a particular pile of snow would decide to release over our heads while we were carrying groceries inside.  

Perhaps more appropriately, they were more like thunderstorm downbursts where excessive precipitation loading can initiate them.  The similarity ends there because these tree avalanches don't have the ability to cool the air anymore than it is to assist with negative buoyancy, and there certainly isn't any melting going on, like in their thunderstorm downburst counterparts.  The NWS has a great explanation of thunderstorm downbursts.

16-17 March:  Winter Storm in NM

This storm wasn't one for low elevations as much as a powder bonanza above 7000' MSL.  The first day we went into the Valley Caldera and into snow shower heaven.  These were heavy showers that would give us an alternating white-out to pure sunshine experience. 

16 March 1451 MT
16 March 1509 MT

We were located at the base of the arrow in this GOES-16 cloud phase RGB.  The image shows a complex assortment of clouds in liquid (blue), glaciated (green), and cold-topped (yellow).  I tried to find the particular cloud associated with this scene, and given that it's just about in top of us, I have to admit it's associated with the more bluish cast cloud under the arrow below (the image was taken at 1451 MT).  The photo shows mostly falling snow under the cloud and thus I cannot see the liquid portions of the cloud. But the clouds to the left part of the panorama above do appear to have that more clumpy appearance of active condensed liquid convection.  And there were liquid clouds following the shower as it passed to the east of us in the bottom picture.  But I suspect we're seeing showers on a scale that's hard for the GOES to pick out in the near IR bands. If you look at the animation, you may see that these showers were passing through wave clouds on the west side of the caldera and maybe scrubbing back and forth may reveal them more easily.

animation located here

16 March 1501 MT

The ABQ sounding a couple hours later pretty much reveals the cold instability prevalent around the area.  These showers were moving to the east as would be expected with the wind profile in the sounding.  There were even

The next day 17 March

More overnight snow left behind a magical scene in the high terrain.  Santa Fe ski area received something like 20" of powder overnight and a healthy deep snow cover.  It took a lot to get these at 12kft MSL, namely in the form of a challenging route uphill.

Severe Weather 2023

This year presented an odd season of severe weather to Oklahoma and the surrounding Plains states.  First of all, central OK was an epicenter of tornado activity that started early in the season but then continued into July.  The June to early July action was unusually high for places that should've seen the season decline.  And this was especially true for areas from Arkansas to southern Georgia!  

Let's start with 26 February and the Norman tornado.  It was a big day for so early and the first moderate risk of the year for OK.  The Norman NWS has a great summary page on this event.  Take a look at it before viewing this video.

Early on the emphasis of greatest risk was northwest of Norman.  We were only seeing a wavy line coming for us.  But looking upstairs revealed that a supercell was embedded in the line. See it below with the elevated scan as the storm was just passing east of Chickasha.  The tornado warning was covering a low-level circulation on the north side of a bow.  But looking aloft, the storm east of Chickasha was sporting a solid mesocyclone and a BWER.  Those features persisted for an hour before when the storm was north of Apache.  No wonder there was so much lightning with the storm to the northwest of my spot when the storm got closer.  

A little lesson:  The NWS Warning Decision Training Division covers all of these tornado predecessor signatures in its flagship Radar Applications Course, especially the lesson on identifying tornado hazards.   With this environment, the watch and and the environment that screams tornado, I can't have enough radars to evaluate this storm.  So for you spotters and chasers, watch out for not checking the latency of the data.  Also, the level-III data doesn't include the higher scans I show below.  It's encouraging that some radar providers are offering level-II but that data doesn't include dealiased velocity data.  Hopefully level-III will include all scans soon.   

About 57 seconds into the video, you see leaves blowing to the north and then abruptly turn about and blow to the south.  It looks like I came into the outer periphery of the tornado cyclone.  However this radar scan shows something different.  The vortex wasn't coming upon me, it was a forward flank boundary, or the outflow boundary that hit.  Clearly the boundary was amazingly sharp, and it may have shown remarkable shear.  After it passed, there was strong inflow into the back of the tornado and that's where the wind increased so much.


The days afterward, I was amazed at the massive recovery mobilization underway.  The Lloyd Noble parking lot (1/4 mi on a side) was half full of electrical bucket trucks from the entire state and outside.  They used our spot for their mobilization.  

I could say a lot more about the damage survey but I will leave that for another blog.

19 April Central OK tornadoes

Okay, another tornado, wait, 18 tornadoes, within 30 minutes of our home.  Of special note was this picture of the Cole, OK tornado just a couple miles west and yet obscured by rain.  From the south, there was a slot with a pretty good view as Sean Ernst demonstrated. 

The view was probably helped by being in a slot of no rain yet there is probably more to it.  The bottom line is that being in the path of the tornado, like we were, doesn't always afford the best view but does guarantee that we'd have to move out of the way.

However, there was a sweet spot at 7:45 pm where our rear view dash cam provided a remarkable view to the west as the tornado wedged out, briefly.  This was to be a theme when trying to get out of its way this year.

21 June: Matador, TX

This story occurred on the first day of summer!  And it was just four days after the town of Perryton, TX was devastated by another tornado.  Photographically, this was a tough storm to deal with.  First, it exploded as the final storm in a string that zippered south from east of Amarillo that made positioning hard.  It was also embedded in an airmass that was full of high end moisture but also far too hazy for good views beyond a couple miles.  Look at the axis of haze right into the storm in northwest TX.

Add a never-ending barrage of cloud-to-ground lightning, and there was no getting out of our vehicle.  
When the storm exploded and began to form a tornado, rain also wrapped around to compound visibility.  We got this view at 7:57 CDT as the tornado began.  Even enhanced a bit, the tornado was a suggestion, though enough of one to know.  We were 10 minutes prior to Matador getting hit.

A few minutes later, this was the view, again out our rearview dashcam while we were a mile north of Matador.  

In five minutes, the tornado plowed through west Matador while we were driving south to get out of its way, hence more rear views.  There was little in the way of visual cues; the storm wasn't visible beyond a mile away. And the sirens didn't blow until a couple minutes before the town was hit.  

Even the Lubbock WSR-88D radar had trouble pinning down the tornado location due to side lobe interference.  The blue dot was where we were at 8 pm (two pics up).  

The storm was well depicted once we were really close but by then the only way to get out of harms way was to be already in a vehicle driving away from it.  As the tornado narrowed and drifted off of south-bound rt 70, we could take a stop and view it.

Finally, here is a video of the sequence.  I'm not full of words on scene as I tended to be quiet while focusing on getting out of its way.  NWS Lubbock also has an excellent web page on this storm.

BTW, Matador was hit and there were fatalities.  It could've been worse as the main portion of the town escaped on its east side.

Storm Art

A supercell on 02 April south of Laguna Park, TX lasted quite awhile, starting out near Stephenville, TX as an HP but then evolved backward to this dry-end classic as it encountered a cap.  The storm performed enough to be photogenic  and the residents were happy the expected tornado potential for the day didn't pan out.  Here is the SPC events page for the day.

The supercell before striking Cole, OK on 19 April
This storm's updraft was much wider than the preceding supercell or the pics from Laguna, TX and it clearly became more tornado than expectations from earlier on.  

Cole again?  Yep.  This pic was taken on 11 May in a much more relaxed setting.  There was an abundance of research assets deployed on this storm with great datasets being studied.  The rest of my family saw this and I vicariously witnessed it driving back from KC. Here is the WFO Norman event page for today.  (photo by Daphne LaDue) 

An embedded supercell west of the National Weather Center on 15 June.  I was embedded in the Norman WFO warning ops but managed to get out and sneak in some lightning pics.  The aqua cast above the lowest plates seems to be a common feature with dense and wide precipitation cores whether daylight or embedded lightning is the light source.  This was a big event day for Norman's and Amarillo's county warning areas.  The damaging Perryton, TX occurred today, as well as a significant tornado supercell tracking through southwest Oklahoma.  See Norman's and Amarillo's events pages.

A supercell east of Plains, TX on 27 May.  This storm didn't have the aqua color, perhaps the core wasn't thick enough to attenuate the longer wavelengths.  But it did have this yellowish green color suggesting some of the sunset colors were being attenuated but not all.  This storm did produce a tornado on the TX/NM border and I was there with my partner, Harald Richter, but the tornado was not obvious unless with a closer view.  SPC has an events page here, and Jeff Piotrowski has a post about this.

A nasty hybrid supercell/bow west of Fort Supply, OK on 17 June.  This storm blew through Laverne with one tornado reported in the vicinity.  But the big story was the hurricane force winds and then the continuing swath of wind reports all the way into eastern OK where other tornadoes were reported.  SPC has an events page on this storm.

Lightning flashes over downtown Florence, IT on 27 August.  I had a lucky hotel room with a view for this event which occurred around 0200 LT.  I set up the camera so that I didn't have to think when the expected storms rolled through.

Rapidly developing storm north of Bristow, OK on 23 September.  This became a supercell briefly but was embedded in too many other storms for it to complete its transition.  The storm of the day was southeast of Ada which I'm happy to see made Alex Spahn's year highlights.

A fall storm west of Weistheimer Airport, Norman on 04 October briefly gets that look.  It was quickly consumed by other storms but a brief unexpected photogenic structure is a bonus on Daphne's birthday.  Here is SPC's events page.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

In memory of Leslie Lemon, Severe Storms researcher

OMG. I’m saddened to hear my colleague and friend passed away yesterday. I worked with Leslie (Les) Lemon for several years while he was part of WDTD’s family. He was the consummate meteorological observationalist, always enthusiastic, ever happy to share his insight, yet humble in ways. He loved our new NWS students as they came through our doors. His talks to them about tornadic thunderstorms reminded me of a comfortable easygoing fireside chat where the students were transfixed by his gift of storytelling and teaching at the same time. He routinely received the highest score of any of our workshop talks.
He was so excited to chat with me looking at this or that storm live on radar or perhaps after the fact. I remember more than one time where the excitement he was feeling began to spill over to us. If I felt like needing a break from the bureaucracy I’d just go over to his office and talk about the weather. Perhaps the most amazing one of these times was when we had one screen the live feed of James Spann on while a large tornado was going through Tuscaloosa. The other screen was the GRLEVEL2 display of the Birmingham, AL radar data. We were both simultaneously in awe of seeing the high-end tornadic radar signature and of course horrified at the visual of the tornado hitting the city. The Greensburg, KS storm was another. I know that Mike Umscheid and he wrote a wonderful conference paper on that one.
I can’t put down the impact Les had on the operational weather community. In many ways, he was like Ted Fujita except with Doppler Radar data. He has the Lemon technique of diagnosing severe thunderstorm structure on the radar. This is what every NWS meteorologist and most other operational meteorologists learn in radar interpretation courses. Much of his technique he wrote about in publications. One of those is the infamous Lemon and Doswell (1979) paper. His technique still forms the backbone of severe storms warnings decision making today, even with Dual-pol radar data. I worked with him to modify the technique with dual-pol but it remains his. So instead of the enhanced Lemon technique, it’s the modified Lemon technique but always with his attribution, just like with the enhanced Fujita Scale.
Les always seemed underemployed. He never held a position commensurate with his skills and perhaps the closest he came was either with the lab way back or with WDTD. That he seemed underemployed was our problem. As with many truly smart people, sometimes society just hasn’t figured out to tap their full potential. Les’s intelligence was in his ability to observe relationships and note trends then convert them to something actionable. He also had the ability to teach in ways that made concepts stick. He wasn’t a programmer, a statistician, or a production engine of content that yielded obviously high marks in ROI. The benefits he brought could not be easily measured but I think it’s safe to say we know it now when we see it. Isn’t this so similar to some of the invaluable weather data we use and can’t live without, like visible satellite data?
I’ll think of more to say and look for pics later. Clearly, my mind is recalling other memories, of which there are many. Of this I can say, he’s right up there with Liz Quoetone and others when it comes to impact on me in the realm of operational meteorology. I foresee that the severe storms conference coming up should be an excellent time to remember his achievements.]

I'm going to add to this post a few more memories.

First, here's a picture of him back in the Techniques Development Unit of SELS. This is in a paper on the history of severe storms research in the EJSSM:

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Racial injustice is adversely impacting me, a white guy

A respected member of the American Society for Civil Engineers (ASCE), a professor of engineering at an R1 institution, and a member of a standards committee I chair, wrote this to me just yesterday.  His message below is directed at the leadership of ASCE, a professional organization of which he's a member.  He's anonymous in this post.  His letter clearly points to the personal threat he feels from our society and a feeling of near despair.  He wonders why he's focusing on engineering solutions to improving community resiliency when our social fabric is pulling apart.  Is the real threat from society from tornadoes and hurricanes, or is it from our huge social inequality and racism?  I think all professional societies need to speak out their positions.  This personal threat is affecting careers, work productivity, more stress, less productivity, and a threat of a continued downward cycle.  

From my colleague directed at the ASCE

Dear Glenn:
Today’s my birthday and I should be celebrating in whatever way the COVID-inspired lockdown will allow. I’m not feeling very celebratory at the moment.

I feel very much under a PTSD cloud as I saw the headline I Cannot Breathe, wondering whether this was the anniversary of Eric Garner’s murder in NYC years ago. Alas, this was a new murder, a lynching by members of the Justice System, who replaced the swinging ropes in the live oak trees of a hundred years ago with the Knee on Neck Asphyxiation Technique to end the life of Mr. George Floyd with his face flattened into the asphalt.

We continue to witness these overt racists acts of a society in decline, where this perpetrator, this police officer, who we now know from his social media accounts can meet the President of our country at a rally and receive accolades, then to proceed with that calm, smug look, to kill another person on the street in broad daylight. And yet, as we watch the demise of our politics, and the loss of any conscience and empathy from our leaders, we the public are all silent, as individuals and as institutions. Crickets can be heard over the protests from our media or from our other institutions and businesses.

After the rancor of this news cycle, all that will remain will be comments about who looked better wearing their mask or not, and how much points the stock exchange had gained. No one will remember George Floyd, the man who was killed on 26 May 2020. Because our society continues to turn away from accusing white people of their racism, or confronting our past inhumane acts or addressing the pernicious hatred for the black skin that goes unchecked. Yet we are comfortable maintaining different standards for the value of life, for blacks versus whites. If the politics fail us what then? If our societal norms are fading away why worry? What is the point of striving for the best engineering solutions if the society itself is being torn apart at its seams? Can we blissfully go on, wearing blinkers ignoring these atrocities because “they weren’t attacking engineers”? Surely our ethical and moral duties as engineers extend beyond the bricks and mortar of our daily production.
Our institutions are becoming more and more irrelevant as we ignore the inequities in our society and the daily abuses of our human rights. Imagine the black engineers in SGH who carry this millstone every day. Consider that for them every site visit into a client’s home could end badly. They wear this badge that they could be accused, attacked or killed for being black and in the wrong place. The silence of ASCE, its members and all engineering companies is deafening in the face of this outrage. ASCE is not alone of course, we all are to blame, but why are we so afraid to do what is right? Or have we all accepted two standards in fact exist, one white, one black?

Until the outrage at the murder of another black man at the hands of a police officer is universally felt and loudly expressed, these lynchings will continue. They are used for racial intimidation, and they are sanctioned by our society. Black men and women will continue to keep a wary eye on our white counterparts who may speak fondly about equality from a safe liberal enclave but when the time comes to stand up and defend our rights, they slink away. Somebody else’s problem. As I proudly wear my ASCE Fellows badge, I know it will not protect me. I know my PhD, or my years of experience, and academic research will be of no value when I am confronted by a police officer who wants to kill a black man on that day. At such time, that’s all I will become just another black man to be made an example of.

When the story of our times are written, do consider which side of this divide should ASCE be? Should we simply ignore the politics and continue our production until the American kristallnacht? Or is it time for us to take a meaningful stand? One person can change the world. One company must make a start. One profession can decide enough is enough. Let us be that profession, Glenn. I hope you and your ASCE/SEI Board will have the courage and determination to start this movement among civil engineers as we seek to make our society a livable place for all.


To say that we still continue to see great injustice in the US is an understatement. We’re seeing COVID attack disadvantaged communities more than others. Black, Hispanic, and Native American communities are disproportionately hit because their members often have to risk exposure to make ends meet. Now we continue to see black people suffer violence by police and vigilantes at a much greater rate than others.  

He's not the only one.  Every person of color (POC) I know of feels personally threatened.  I heard comments from one that worries every time his son leaves the house.  Another woman worries about her father's safety every time he's on the road. These are people that are also well respected in meteorological circles.  To paraphrase my colleague below, the unfortunate thing is that their well-deserved degrees, titles, and reputations do nothing to them when they're in a community filled with people that may not know them.  

Personally, I'm not immune to my own biases.  They're so situational.  I'm easily imagining my POC colleagues in a conference, all of whom I'm in awe of their accomplishments and productivity.  But put them on a street and in a hoodie and I'm embarrassed to say I might have a different impression.  The only thing I can do is to use the part of my intellectual brain to overcome such ill-conceived notions and reset my judgment.   I will not be that person who calls the police on a black man filling up his car.  And if I see such injustice, I hope to be that other person that can defend someone being wrongly charged.  My wife, Daphne, sent these links that point to our rights when stopped by police or to document and report any injustices we see.  

"One of the things we can do as his colleagues are to read up on our rights:

And as the white person we could find ourselves in a position to take photographs or video of the police:

'Taking photographs and video of things that are plainly visible in public spaces is a constitutional right—and that includes police and other government officials carrying out their duties. … The right of citizens to record the police is a critical check and balance. It creates an independent record of what took place in a particular incident, free from accusations of bias, lying, or faulty memory. It is no accident that some of the most high-profile cases of police misconduct have involved video and audio records.'"

I wish I could do more but perhaps it's best that we (as whites) just shut up and put ourselves in their shoes.  Put ourselves in the twilight zone and see what would happen if our places in society were flipped.  Maybe practice a few ideas in this article:

But at least I can advocate our professional societies to express their intolerance to intolerance.  Thus I support my colleague's letter to ASCE below and to my other friend who wrote a similar letter to the American Meteorological Society.  I also write this entry to express my solidarity with my friends and colleagues that feel the threat of racial intolerance. 

Monday, April 6, 2020

Timeline of COVID March-April 8


Now we're into the stock market rising as investors are becoming optimistic that we're seeing a global flattening of the curve.  Perhaps it's time to take advantage of some relatively discounted stocks.  But as the future may look brighter to them, the death rates are peaking and will likely be at a plateau for the next week or two.  It's buckle-down time.

I did go out to Braums yesterday morning–the first that I donned one of the n95 masks I've got around.  Braums is a small convenience store attached to a fast food joint.  They make their own milk and I figured in the morning it would be relatively uncrowded.  I was right.  There were only two other shoppers and a cashier.  One of them was wearing a mask and that eased my awkward feeling of being the other one with a mask on.  After I left, I quickly doffed my mask; doffing means I removed it by the straps only making sure I didn't touch the filter.  I think I did okay though the mask did some pirouettes as I took it off.  Later I learned that I should've removed one strap at a time starting with the top.  Damn, I felt like one wrong move and that's it, I'm hosed.  At least I had my wash station in the RAV.  It was the third time I used the station.  The two other times were 2 weeks before yesterday.   My station consists of a flexible 5 gallon plastic container with a faucet that we use for camping and a liquid soap dispenser in the door pocket.  It's quite handy and I use it anytime after I touch anything public, or merchandise.

Upon coming back home, I took the products out of the bag, one at a time, to disinfect on our mobile cutting board in the garage.  Then each one goes into another bag to be brought inside.  I also took the vegetables and fruit inside to be rinsed.  The first time I did this I washed the fruits and veggies with soap but I've heard that's not advisable as soap could be absorbed.  As I'm doing this I wonder how long this will go on.  No longer do we go out on weekends and I'm the only one going out.  Also, I go in the mornings and to smaller stores.  Will this go on even after everything opens up?  I suspect I may for quite some time.

Now the latest thoughts.   I'm seeing some good news
This story shows promising research in developing an all-encompassing anti-viral medication that can be taken orally.  Called EIDD-2801(named after Emory Institute for Drug Development) has been successfully used on mice and is now going to clinical trials.  Another anti-viral called Remdesivir is another in trials.  Either one can be subject to resistant viruses but the combination can be much more powerful.  Here's to successful clinical trials.

Another good news item:  There are several stories of centenarians surviving this virus.  I see an article somewhere in the news every time another one survives.  One of them survived the 1918 flu pandemic.  How encouraging!

How about decreasing air pollution as good news?  Well, I have chosen to call this good news.  As shutdowns spread globally, air pollution has remarkably decreased.  The most noticeable areas were the most polluted areas.  This picture from northern India where residents could see the Himalayas for the first time in 30 years is so poignant to me.  How is it that 30 years could go by without people in Pathankot being able to view the mountains?  Imagine residents living there from birth to adulthood seeing the mountains for the first time?  It's analogous to residents of cities traveling out into the countryside and seeing the Milkyway for the first time.  I cannot imagine what that's like.

These stories have been coming out since early March when China's pollution decreased.

Then in mid-March, it was Italy's turn to be in the news about decreasing pollution.
Imagine how many lives were saved just on the account of having a couple months of clean air.  Would there be thousands living by the end of the year that might otherwise not be?  It's quite conceivable.

Other good news comes from Germany where they have been quite successful in their testing. I think only Iceland has exceeded Germany's testing rate.  The result is a much better idea of fatality rates as well as helping to flatten the growth curve.

Now for troubling news.  This virus is tremendously infectious. And it's only because it takes advantage of our proclivity to spread droplets and aerosols far and wide  This story of a Belgian-Dutch study shows that I've got to be 10 m or more away from other runners and bikers because of the wakes we leave behind.  My take on this is 'know the wind direction' and stay out of people's wakes.  The youtube link below is even more distressing.  Using laser beams, Japanese researchers filmed the spray of particles emanating people's sneezes, coughs and even just talking.  They modeled the dispersion of these particles and showed how far and wide they travel in a closed room.  This makes me not want to ever show up to a conference again.

Perhaps even more disturbing is that blacks in the US are so worried about wearing masks that they would choose to risk being infected than to be mislabeled as a threat.  So here's yet another consequence of racism and fear.  Black people are more likely to suffer from infection and also die from COVID-19.  Blacks and Hispanics are more likely than others to not be able to telework or have health insurance.  Add that to the fear of facial protection and we're starting to see how this disease disproportionately exacts a toll on the same people like with so many other threats.

Finally, Modley resigned a day after he spent $244k to fly down to Guam to berate the crew for their loyalty to a Captain that may have saved many lives.  Yay!  Now reinstate Capt Crozier after he hopefully recovers well!


Villains in the news regarding COVID:
Our Secretary of the NAVY Thomas Modley berates Aircraft Carrier, Capt Brett Crozier, for appealing for help to unload his ship when his crew became sick.  True, Capt Crozier didn't follow through chain of command.  But I can't imagine anybody reaching his rank not knowing that.  Something forced him to e-mail 30 NAVY officers outside classified channels.  In so doing, he was removed from his post while contracting the disease himself.  Thomas Modley's erratic, expletive-laden rebuke in front of the Aircraft Carrier's crew did nothing but further alienate the crew from the NAVY's leadership.  I put Modley in the list of villains – shameful.

Another villain, or ill-advised, Dr. Drew, who spread disinformation about the virus, claiming that it was nothing to worry about, now admits his mistake.  How much damage have these people caused (45 included)?
He learned what it's like to be on the wrong side of the asymmetric penalty function of a warning.

COVID timeline:
Business Insider has an excellent timeline of this pandemic.  It starts December 31 with the Chinese notification to the WHO of a new disease.

But now there are stories that COVID-19 may have been in the US in December.  I've heard of people suffering from weeks of severe coughs and fever.  It certainly was spreading in Wuhan province since late November.

Heroes:  Grocery Store employees.
I didn't want to hear about this but it was inevitable.  Store employees are becoming sick and some are dying.  I have an amazing new outlook on the danger they face when dealing with a broad spectrum of shoppers, some adhering to social distancing while others literally sneeze in cashier's faces with perceived impunity.  Many employees demanded stores add various measures to mitigate transmission.

Two weeks ago was the last time I shopped at Sprouts in Norman.  At the time, I only saw two shoppers with masks.  One store employee greeted me at the entrance with a cart and a wipe.  I thanked him much.  I went in the morning and so the store was quiet. What shoppers there were kept distances from each other.  One shopper had to get by me in a narrow aisle.  I turned to face the merchandise and heard her speed up to get by me, much like a cat does when trying to run through a constriction.   I bought my groceries and proceeded to the checkout.   I talked with the cashier and thanked her for wiping down the conveyor belt.  She wore a mask, to which I was grateful.  At the time I didn't have one for I followed the advice of professionals that I didn't need one in a store.  Case counts weren't as high as they are today.  Anyway, I asked the cashier how shoppers were.  Her main complaint was that shoppers tended to violate the six-foot rule at checkout; markers were taped on the floor at six-foot intervals.  But she didn't mention any more severe violations of social distancing.

When I go shopping soon, I will be masked and I heard a majority of others are doing the same.

Mitigation measures:
For weeks we've been reducing our exposure to public spaces.  Even since March 16, after we got over our flu-A (yes we had the vaccine), I decided not to fly to my mother's 90th birthday family reunion; Daphne asked that I quarantine myself for five days upon coming back.  Daphne hasn't left the house in over two weeks while my outings were limited to a grocery store, the Lowes outside garden center, and Marcum's nursery.  Even there, I waited till the checkout cleared out before checking out myself.

Next time I go out I'll be wearing a mask.  But now I see that virus particles linger for quite some time on them.  But how many that are left after a day are not viable?  Who knows.

20200404 -
Popular culture-
Somebody just showed us that all of our new cultural behavioral changes have been summed up in various MASH episodes.  We've known all along.

The mask hunt
A shortage of masks has resulted in an international hunt for them, sometimes using less than honorable methods.  I just heard Canada may retaliate after Trump redirected 3M to keep all masks within the US.  So instead of helping each other, we turn into packs of wolves.

Crazy conspiracists:
Now, 5G cellphone towers are being attacked because of a certain claim that millimeter-wave radiation is dangerous for the immune system.  This article sets the record straight.  However I've not known conspiracists to be convinced they're wrong based on one article.  Hopefully, anybody wavering on the fence will lean toward rationality.

The aftermath
What about all the PTSD from going through this crisis?  Some stories come from patients in ICU that they're not the same coming out the other end.

Today's report from Jason Persoff
COVID Update 4/3

So the CDC wants people to wear masks now?  I'm uncertain about this switch in position when considering the evidence.

First off, if you're sick, YOU wearing a mask makes a HUGE difference.  Masks of any kind reduce the amount of viral particles shed into the air via droplets (main mode of transmission), but does nothing to stop aerosolized particles.  This study: Rengasamy S, Eimer B, Shaffer RE. Simple respiratory protection—evaluation of the filtration performance of cloth masks and common fabric materials against 20-1000 nm size particles.Ann Occup Hyg 2010 Jun 28;54(7):789-98, looked at the issue and concluded the following:

"The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conducted a study of the filter performance on clothing materials and articles, including commercial cloth masks marketed for air pollution and allergens, sweatshirts, t-shirts, and scarfs.

Filter efficiency was measured across a wide range of small particle sizes (0.02 to 1 µm) at 33 and 99 L/min. N95 respirators had efficiencies greater than 95% (as expected). For the entire range of particles tested, t-shirts had 10% efficiency, scarves 10% to 20%, cloth masks 10% to 30%, sweatshirts 20% to 40%, and towels 40%. All of the cloth masks and materials had near zero efficiency at 0.3 µm, a particle size that easily penetrates into the lungs."

But if you're sick, wearing a mask does reduce the particle counts, just not outstandingly.  Every bit helps.  But do aerosolized particles that are <0.3 microns matter in COVID?  This appears to be answered by an excellent study in Nature Medicine.

This study by Leung NH, et al, (h/t Alan Schenkel) found some pretty big news.  Here is the quote and I'll follow that with a summary:

"Our findings indicate that surgical masks can efficaciously reduce the emission of influenza virus particles into the environment in respiratory droplets, but not in aerosols...This has important implications for control of COVID-19, suggesting that surgical face masks could be used by ill people to reduce onward transmission.  Among the samples collected without a face mask, we found that the majority of participants with influenza virus and coronavirus infection did not shed detectable virus in respiratory droplets or aerosols...For those who did shed virus in respiratory droplets and aerosols, viral load in both tended to be low... Given the high collection efficiency of the G-II and given that each exhaled breath collection was conducted for 30min, this might imply that prolonged close contact would be required for transmission to occur, even if transmission was primarily via aerosols, as has been described for rhinovirus colds...Our results also indicate that there could be considerable heterogeneity in contagiousness of individuals with coronavirus...."

What this study shows is that by ill people wearing masks, they do reduce the risk of disease transmission.  But, just talking to someone in a room masked or not, appears not to be a big risk for others to catch the virus since the viral loads in these droplets and aerosols are pretty low.  This does *not* account for people coughing or sneezing where viral loads are very high.

So how should this apply to the issue of masks. I offer this:

#) If everyone wears some kind of mask, it WILL decrease the frequency of spreading the disease by keeping asymptomatic infected people from having a way to easily transmit it.

#) Wearing a mask to protect yourself from the disease offers very little protection unless it's a surgical or N95 (or higher grade) mask.  BUT, it does still offer SOME protection, even if it's made out of cloth.  

#) Masks may give people a FALSE SENSE of security, but they must be used properly to work at all.  You still need to socially distance.  Period.  Second, removing a mask properly requires you to know how to doff a mask.  In short--you never ever touch the front of the mask, only remove the mask with the ties in the back or elastics.  Never let your hand or any part of your body come in contact with the front of the mask.  That front side of the mask should always be treated as if it is teaming with germs.  Wash your hands thoroughly after any contact with your mask--do not doff your mask someplace you can't immediately disinfect.

#) YOU should not be using a surgical mask or N95 mask if possible--right now tons of healthcare providers NEED these.  If you wish to donate yours (which is the correct answer right now), our hospital will take those donations at  Any amount helps preserve our PPE supplies and helps us fight the disease while you stay home.

#) The fear that there is tons of coronavirus in the air is FALSE.  The study from the NEJM (which I've previously nitpicked about its artificiality in a room with no air turnover) does not fly in real life.  Studies done on real patients with COVID show very low infectivity with simple talking in the same room.  This should mean that you're safe walking about a store for short periods of time, and there's NOT a ton of virus to be found in the air in real life.  But run from anyone who sneezes or coughs ;). 

#) If you are ill with anything these days, start wearing a mask if you can tolerate it to decrease your spread to others, and STAY AT HOME.  Ideally 10 days following your last fever without the use of anti-fever medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol).

#) Better yet, just stay home except for necessities or to get some outdoor exercise. And WASH YOUR HANDS!!!  ALL THE TIME!!

Our lost chances for taking action:
Here's another excellent report on how we lost our chance to take action.  The White House was completely inept at personalizing the threat and doing something about it.  

What we need to do now to prepare for the next round
We can't stay locked up forever and neither can we afford to reach herd immunity.  So how do we snake our way from being immobile to getting somewhere where we can manage the outbreak until a vaccine appears?  You know that as soon as we go back to work once case numbers go down there will be another outbreak.  We can't get away with it as long as there are a vulnerable population and viruses lingering.  The CDC has to get out of their asses, come up with a plan to deal with spot outbreaks, and be given a blank check to do what it takes.

I am hearing that the CDC is testing antibody tests.

Updates from Jason Persoff 
Several developments that may be of concern...

#) First off, the connection to NSAIDs and worsening of disease was incorrect.  It was a ramped up rumor mill not connected to any science, but attributed to the WHO.  The WHO has no concerns about NSAIDs, so use them as before.

#) The connections with ACE inhibitors and ARBs is still not clear.  Jury's out.  However, that's not likely a connection, more of a theoretical risk.

#) We have been seeing younger people coming in and ending up on the ventilator rapidly.  We're talking late teens/early 20s.  This is puzzling given the Chinese data, and worrisome to me.  Sure, these could be just a couple of aberrant cases, but I also heard Children's Hospital has a couple of kids on ventilators there too.  So, while kids, teens, and young adults largely do well, that doesn't mean you should discount the possibility of these age groups getting very sick, very rapidly.

I'm attaching an internal document on the science of NSAIDs and ACEI/ARBs below from one helluva smart pharmacist of ours if you want the details.  More to follow....

Clinical Pearl - Ibuprofen, ACEi, ARBs, and Steroids in the midst of COVID-19

By Kyle Molina, PharmD

In regard to NSAIDs, specifically ibuprofen, there is a report that went viral online yesterday (3/18) that World Health Organization (WHO) is recommending against use the use of ibuprofen for patients with COVID-19. Initially, there was no mention of this on the WHO website or within their media releases. This claim was from external media websites and, stems from the minster of WHO, not a formal recommendation by the WHO1. The WHO minister reportedly made the claim on twitter over the weekend, as mentioned in forwarded BMJ article, based on reports of 4 young healthy French patients who had taken ibuprofen and progressed severe disease. It is important to note that although this is a BMJ article, it is a new piece which has not undergone peer review, and there are calls for retraction of the piece based on the sources of these claims. The reported incidents are attributed to an uncited infectious diseases doctor in the South of France, which per BBC reporting yesterday morning is a social media hoax.2 There is apparently a similar claim floating around on Whatsapp and twitter originating from Ireland which cite similar story, however, the Infectious Diseases Society of Ireland has confirmed that the doctor cited in this claim is not even a real person. The other claim, has been that NSAIDS have previously been shown to exacerbate viral illnesses (most people have been citing the link between NSAID use and severe cutaneous varicella complications). It is not clear to me we can extrapolate this to cutaneous varicella to COVID-19 infection. The final line of arguement, stems from a lancet publication3 examining the link of ACE expression in the role of COVID infection, and cites animal evidence that ibuprofen increase ACE expression – I address the ACE theories below. The Europeans Medicine Agency released guidance yesterday saying there is a lack of a scientific link between ibuprofen use and COVID at this time.4 In addition, WHO has provided explicit clarification that they ARE NOT recommending against the use of ibuprofen – this was posted on their official twitter this morning and represents the WHO’s first official communication on the issue.5

With respect to ACE/ARBs, given that ACE appears to be a critical site for SARS-COV entry, many are speculating on the role of the enzyme in COVID pathogenesis.  Early COVID studies showed a significant number of deaths occurred in those with hypertension, coronary heart disease, and diabetes, disease states associated with higher circulating levels of ACE and frequently an indication for ACE inhibitor or ARB. However, upon multivariate analysis of risk factors associated with in-hospital death from China, hypertension, diabetes, and coronary heart disease did not maintain their univariate association and may be just markers for advance age. Advanced age was a risk factor for in-hospital mortality (OR 1.1; 95% CI 1.03-1.17, P=0.0043) in multivariate analysis.6 ACE inhibitors are not known to prevent transmission or viral replication and may or may not bind the same epitope as SARS-COV-2 does for entry. It is unlikely that these agents prevents transmission via direct inhibition of the enzyme given these agents have not been identified in high throughput screens of related SARS-CoV previously. Another argument being made is that RAAS inhibition, ibuprofen, and TZDs may cause upregulation of circulating ACE, causing patients to be more susceptible to infection or more severe disease. Lines of evidence suggested include that Italians in general use ACEs, whereas South Koreans tend to use other antihypertensive medications, and this may relate to the difference in mortality rates seen between countries. I think we need to be skeptical as there are national differences in age, percentage of smokers, likely comorbidities. In addition, early infection prevention approaches differed significantly between the two countries, and I think we have all read about the burden on the Italian healthcare system this week. There are additionally conflicting animal models with previous SARS infections. The aforementioned Lancet article additionally proposes genetic differences between the ACE polymorphisms which might have a role, but it’s unclear at this time. The American Heart Association, the Heart Failure Society of America, and the American College of Cardiology issued a statement yesterday recommending “continuation of RAAS antagonists for those patients who are currently prescribed such agents for indications for which these agents are known to be beneficial, such as heart failure, hypertension, or ischemic heart disease”.7 With that said, Anthony Fauci, the Director of National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, did say yesterday in an interview with JAMA that he found these theories at least biologically plausible and should be investigated in studies before we make any changes in the use of these agents.8 There is not currently enough information to change practice, and we have no information whether modifying these drug regimens will do more harm than good.

Steroids have been an additional subject of discussion this week. A study published in JAMA last week indicated that use of methylprednisolone resulted in lower likelihood of death among those who developed ARDS.8 Notably, this was an unadjusted analysis and not the intent of the study, thus is subject to significant confounding. However, there is other RCT level evidence patients with moderate-to-severe ARDS benefit from early dexamethasone administration, therefore it is at least plausibly beneficial for our sickest patients with COVID and ARDS.9 The concern with routine use of corticosteroids in those with COVID is that steroids may diminish humoral immunity and allow for more rapid viral replication, prolonged viral shedding, as seen in some studies of other respiratory viruses including influenza and respiratory syncytial virus.10,11  In contrast, corticosteroids are likely still beneficial among COVID patients with a compelling indication (e.g., asthma, COPD, septic shock, likely ARDS). The risks and benefits of corticosteroids should be carefully weighed for each patient.

This is all to say we have extremely limited data to suggest we need to change our current practices with use of these medication. In this present time, be very cautious and skeptical of information being reported as it is susceptible to false claims or based on limited evidence. Please critically evaluate recommendations for data support and authenticity.

I’ll provide updates if any of this information changes and if you have any questions please let me know.

9. Wu C, et al. Risk Factors Associated With Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome and Death in Patients With Coronavirus Disease 2019 Pneumonia in Wuhan, China. JAMA Intern Med. Published online March 13, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2020.0994

10. Villar et al. Dexamethasone treatment for the acute respiratory distress syndrome: a multicentre, randomised controlled trial. Lancet Resp Medicine.

11. Nelson L , et al . Viral Loads and Duration of Viral Shedding in Adult Patients Hospitalized with Influenza, The Journal of Infectious Diseases, Volume 200, Issue 4, 1 August 2009, Pages 492–500,

12. Moreno G, et al. Corticosteroid treatment in critically ill patients with severe influenza pneumonia: a propensity score matching study. Intensive Care Med 44, 1470–1482 (2018).  

A whole suite of websites brings the grim realizations to us.
The latest site shows in stark terms when each state will go through its own surge and how unprepared they will be.  Oklahoma looks to be short 200 ICU rooms.

Epidemiologists are the experts in a new spotlight.
We've had epidemiologists who've thwarted other outbreaks come out to give us a picture of what's coming.

Our lost chances of taking action:
This article shows how Asian countries learned how to respond to a new outbreak when SARS erupted onto the scene in 2003.