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Tropical conditions create strong storms in region

FARGO - Vacationers in search of a tropical trip need look no farther than Fargo this summer. High dew points and heavy rainstorms, sometimes accompanied by hurricane-strength winds, are frequent factors in this season's storm systems across the ...

FARGO - Vacationers in search of a tropical trip need look no farther than Fargo this summer.

High dew points and heavy rainstorms, sometimes accompanied by hurricane-strength winds, are frequent factors in this season's storm systems across the region.

Conditions in the lower atmosphere this summer are similar to those along the Gulf Coast, said Greg Gust, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Forks. That unstable, muggy air mixed with the more typical upper-atmosphere polar jet stream is fueling a perfect storm for severe weather.

"What we're getting is tropical, wet storms," Gust said.

The severe weather that blew through the Red River Valley early Monday re­flected the tropical trend.

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The storm dumped up to 6 inches of rain and whipped up winds of 90 to 100 mph in parts of Steele County, Sheriff Wayne Beckman said.

Rains of 3 to 4 inches in an hour are abnormal for the northern Plains, and the balmy weather with high dew points is partially to blame, Gust said. Standing water left over from a wet winter and spring and near-harvest plant transpiration are also contributing factors, he said.

"The more water you have around, the more available moisture you have for the next round of storms," Gust said.

The Hope Elevator took some of the heaviest damage in Monday's storm, Beckman said. At least two 50,000-bushel grain bins were destroyed, and winds blew the roof off of the main office building.

"That's the major thing because harvest is around the corner, so they have some major planning to do," Beckman said.

A number of homes in and near Hope reported water in basements. At least two homes are uninhabitable because of both wind and water damage, Beckman said. A chimney was blown off one home, and the roof was blown off another, he said.

The Red Cross was called in to provide assessments and aid for those affected by the storms.

The same line of severe weather caused minor street flooding in Fargo Monday morning, but roads were clear in time for most people to drive to work. Another storm about 11 a.m. dumped more moisture on the water-logged metro.

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Fargo Police Lt. Joel Vettel said the problem areas were on 32nd Avenue South, the Second Street underpass and the intersection of Main Avenue and 25th Street.

Public Works Director Ben Dow said it takes awhile for the storm sewer system to catch up when the rain falls that quickly.

The storm ushered in August with 1.15 inches Monday at Fargo's Hector International Airport as of 5 p.m. Monday. Fargo's total precipitation in July was 4.35 inches, 1.47 inches above normal.

So far this year, Fargo has recorded 17.9 inches of precipitation, 5 inches above normal.

Excess moisture and 80-degree temperatures prompted advisories Monday, when the heat index reached the 90s.

And what's to follow a muggy Monday? Meteorologists were forecasting the potential for more thunderstorms early today and later this week.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Heidi Shaffer at (701) 241-5511

Related Topics: WEATHER
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