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August 31, 2008

Gustav stumbles, still dangerous; Hanna slows

NOAAHurricane Gustav remains a minimal Cat. 3 storm this afternoon after wind shear prevented an orderly ramping up of its power as it moved over warm currents in the Gulf. He is looking a little asymetrical in the satellite photos. Nevertheless, forecasters at the National Hurricane Center say the storm is packing top sustained winds of 115 mph, and could restrengthen as it moves on toward landfall in Louisiana tomorrow.

Gustav's winds had slowed to within a couple of miles-per-hour of becoming a Cat. 2. But hurricane hunter aircraft probing the storm's core this afternoon found signs of a slow increase. It's not clear how much it might intensify from here. The waters from where Gustav is now to the NOAAcoast are cooler (left), with less energy to lend the storm. And the wind shear continues to throttle the heat engines that power the cyclone.

That said, a Cat. 3 hurricane - even a "minimal" Cat. 3 - is still a fearsome thing, and nobody wants to stick around to test it.

The chief issue now is where, exactly, Gustav will go ashore. The forecasters and their computers are all over the place on this. The consensus seems to be that the surrounding atmospherics are shoving the storm track slightly to the west. The hurricane warnings have been moved west to High Island, Tex.  On the other hand, the warnings that extend eastward to the Florida/Alabama line have not changed.

There is even more disagreement about where a weakened Gustav will go after landfall. Some models have it stalling out over Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas and dropping a flood on those folks. Other projections send the storm to the southwest. Still others turn it with the westerlies and carry it north and east - toward us!

Anyway, here is the latest advisory for Gustav. Here is the forecast storm track. And here is how he looks from space.

Looks like the party people have fled New Orleans. Here's a web cam view of Bourbon Street. And here's I-10. Ghost town. Here are more NOLA webcams.

As for Tropical Storm Hanna, Gustav's little sister seems to be slowing and moving without much conviction in the Atlantic east of the Bahamas. The poor dear is being pummeled by shearing winds from the north, and the outflow from Gustav. So she is having trouble maintaining her strength.

That said, four or five days out, forecasters say, the conditions should improve, and Hanna is expected to strengthen. One forecast track, at least, sends Hanna into the Georgia/South Carolina coast - as a hurricane - by the end of the week. Here's a thought: What if Gustav's rains, and Hanna's rains, converge on the mid-Atlantic by next weekend. That would be some kinda rain. Check your sump pumps.

It's really way too early to put much stock in that. But here's the map, just for the record.

NOAA

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:54 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Gustav spins toward La. landfall Monday

NOAA

A somewhat weakened, but still deadly Hurricane Gustav barreled on this morning toward a Monday landfall somewhere along the Louisiana Gulf coast.

The storm's encounter with western Cuba on Saturday took some of the punch out of its top winds. But Gustav remained a Category 3 hurricane, with top sustained winds of 120 mph at 8 a.m. Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center said "some restrengthening" is expected in the next 24 hours, and that Gustav could regain the Cat. 4  power it had mustered just before landfall in Cuba.

Here is the latest advisory from the NHC. Here is the forecast storm track, which hasn't changed much. And here is the view from space.

Here's AccuWeather.com's spin on Gustav. And, for those hungry for even more hype on this increasingly bus hurricane season, here's Henry Margusity's blog. He's already gassing his cars. He thinks Hanna will cross Florida after Gustav makes landfall tomorrow, and deal the Gulf Coast a second blow late in the week. And, he's guessing that the next storm - Ike - will pound the East Coast once it forms, strengthens and crosses the Atlantic. Are we getting ahead of ourselves?

Hurricane warnings - meaning the hurricane conditions are expected within 24 hours - are posted today from Cameron, La., east to the Alabama/Florida state line. Those are the red lines on the coast on the map above. Tropical storm warnings - the blue lines - extend from the Florida line to the Ochlockonee River, in the Florida panhandle, and from Cameron, La. to High Island, Tex.

In all, tropical-storm force winds can be expected all across the northern coast of the Gulf, 200 miles outward from the center of the storm. Hurricane force winds extend up to 50 miles from the storm's eye. Big storm.

Mandatory evacuations are underway in parts of Louisiana, and especially in the New Orleans area. Detailed analyses of what caused the city's flood protection to fail in 2005, and three years of repairs and upgrades to the levees and flood walls and pumps have improved the city's chances, according to what engineers familiar with the work have told me. Among the key pieces of the project has been the installation of gates at the head of the canals leading out of the city and into Lake Pontchartrain. When the city has flooded in past storms, it has been from the lake. And during Katrina, it was lake water flowing in through breaks in the flood walls of the canals that did the worst damage. Now, at least, those canals are cut off from the Lake. They hope.   

Six to 12 inches of rain - or 20 in some places - will severely test the flood barriers and pumps. And the storm surge could top 10 or 15 feet.

Worse, the construction needed to bring the entire system to a state of readiness for a Cat. 3 hurricane is not scheduled for completion until 2011, I'm told. Residents were promised in 2005 that the job would be done by the start of the next hurricane season. Turned out to be a tougher challenge than they thought.

At the very least, we can expect more devastation to the wetlands south and east of the city - the natural barrier against these storms. They have been eroding steadily since engineers began redirecting the river in massive flood control projects during the last century, and preventing fresh sediment from reaching the Delta. There are long-range plans to address those issues, but storms like Katrina and Gustav won't wait for engineers and taxpayers to get their stuff together.

Good luck to everyone in the path of this storm.

 

Then there's Hanna. This also-ran storm is still just a tropical storm, with top sustained winds of 60 mph. At 8 a.m. this morning it was about 155 miles northeast of Grand Turk ISland in the Turks and Caicos Islands. It was moving west-northwest at 12 mph, and was expected tokeep headed that way, with a gradual decrease in forward speed for the next few days.

Tropical storm watches and warnings were issued for the Turks and Caicos Islands, and for the southeastern Bahamas. 

Hard to say what this storm will hold in store for the mainland U.S. The five-day outlook has Hanna becoming a hurricane off the central Florida coast by early Friday morning. For now, forecasters could only warn of long-period swells and rip currents along the southeast beaches.

Here is the latest advisory on Hanna. Here is the forecast storm track. And here is the view from space.

Way out there, across the Atlantic, forecasters still have their eye on another storm system near the Cape Verde Islands (below). This area of bad weather off the African coast was expected to develop further in the next few days, and could become the next tropical depression to watch.

NOAA

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:12 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

August 30, 2008

Strengthening Gustav now a Cat. 3 hurricane

NOAA

As expected, Hurricane Gustav intensified overnight and is now a Cat. 3 hurricane, with top sustained winds of 115 mph. The storm continues on a northwesterly track, headed first for western Cuba, and by early Sunday into the Gulf of Mexico.

That's the 5-day tropical-storm-force wind forecast map above. The winds moving in from the east toward the Bahamas are from Tropical Storm Hanna.

Here is the latest advisory on Gustav, and a 6 a.m. update. Here is the very worrisome forecast storm track, and the view from orbit.

If there is any reassuring news at all this morning, it is that the storm, once it moves into the Gulf, will encounter cooler waters and more wind shear. That should limit its further intensification. But it's not exactly going away. Here's more, from this morning's tropical weather discussion at the hurricane center:

"BY 48 HOURS...ALMOST ALL OF THE GLOBAL MODELS SHOW AN
INCREASE IN VERTICAL WIND SHEAR NEAR GUSTAV. IN ADDITION...SINCE
THE LOOP CURRENT IS SOUTH OF ITS TYPICAL LOCATION...THE HURRICANE
WILL BE MOVING OVER WATERS THAT ARE NOT NEARLY AS CONDUCIVE FOR
STRENGTHENING AS THEY COULD BE. THESE TWO FACTORS WILL HOPEFULLY
WEAKEN THE STORM PRIOR TO U.S. LANDFALL. HOWEVER...GUSTAV IS
EXPECTED TO BE A LARGE AND DANGEROUS HURRICANE AND THE NHC FORECAST
CONTINUES TO SHOW GUSTAV AS A MAJOR HURRICANE AT LANDFALL."

Want more to worry about? There's another storm brewing in the Eastern Atlantic, and forecasters seem to be giving it good chances for developing into a tropical storm in the coming days. Here's the scoop.

Okay. This too gloomy. The best news I can find this morning is that the remains of Tropical Storm Fay have eased the terrible drought that's persisted for a year in the South, and especially in the western Carolinas. Have a look. 

Maybe Gustav and Hanna will do their part, too.  On the other hand, things are worse in Maryland - or they were before Fay finally reached us yesterday. Here's our drought map.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:25 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

August 29, 2008

Gustav will be "large, powerful" hurricane

NOAA/Infrared

Tropical Storm Gustav is expected to grow and intensify rapidly today as it pulls away from the island of Jamaica and heads for the Gulf of Mexico. Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center say they're not sure yet precisely where the storm will make landfall early next week. But they warn that Gustav "is expected to be a large, powerful hurricane as it approaches the northern Gulf Coast."

Here's the latest advisory. Here's the very scary forecast storm track. And here's the view from space. That's getting to be a very impressive tropical cyclone.

And as if we needed to be worrying about other storms, the NHC is also watching tropical storm Hanna as it struggles to get itself better organized and aims for the Bahamas. Here's the latest advisory on Hanna. Here's the forecast track. And here's how she looks from orbit.

And, far to the east, off the African coast, another strong tropical wave is showing signs of rapid organization and could become the next named storm of the increasingly active 2008 Atlantic season. If so, it would be named Ike. Here's a look out there. (The storm is the one closest to the African coast.)

Gustav, of course, is the biggest and the most immediate worry. The storm is now centered about 100 miles west-northwest  of Kingston Jamaica. Its top sustained winds are around 65 mph, and the clouds are dropping 6 to 12 inches of rain on Jamaica and the Caymans today. They can expect life-threatening flash floods and mudslides, forecasters warned.

The storm is expected to pass over or near the Cayman Islands later today or tonight, and strengthen over the very warm water in that part of the Caribbean. By the time it reaches the western end of Cuba this weekend, Gustav is likely to have reached hurricane strength again.

Here's the forecast storm track. Forecasters are wrestling with a very complicated problem in predicting Gustav's path across the Gulf and onto the U.S. landmass. High pressure over Florida is has been steering the storm to the west, but that's expected to weaken, allowing the storm to curve more to the northwest and into the Gulf.

But then there is low pressure over the southeastern U.S. Some models suggest that low could draw the storm more to the north. But there's also some analysis that suggests a high over Ohio (!) could have enough influence on the situatioin to steer the storm farther west. Go figure. With so many uncertainties about Gustav's speed and the timing of the whole dance, the thing remains something of a guessing game.

Here's how AccuWeather.com spins it. Here's NASA's hurricane page.

In the meantime, there's also a great deal of concern about Gustav's intensity. Still only a tropical storm, Mr. G is moving past the weakening influence of Jamaica's land mass and over some very warm water. That energy is going to fire Gustav up to hurricane strength, probably tonight.

But the big issue is what will happen after that. National Hurricane Center forecasters say the wind shear - cross-winds at high altitudes that can stall a hurricane's intensification - appears light where Gustav is going for now. That "could produce a strong hurricane very quickly," the forecast discussion said this morning. But there's more shear in the central Gulf. Here's more:

"The official forecast will show rapid intensification before it reaches western Cuba and could be conservative, as some models show Category 4 strength (top sustained winds of 131- 155 mph) at that time ... Although the forecast shows some weakening due to the shear, Gustav is expected to be a large powerful hurricane as it approaches the northern Gulf Coast."

Out in the Atlantic, TS Hanna has been having more difficulty getting her act together. Forecasters say the storm's center is now about 250 miles north-northeast of the northern Leeward Islands, including the U.S. Virgin Islands. She is tracking  to the northwest at 14 mph.

Here's the latest advisory for Hanna.

But the Hurricane Center says their models suggest shifting conditions could allow the storm to intensify in the next day or two. She could be a hurricane by Saturday night or Sunday. The ace in the hole, as far as the East Coast of the U.S. is concerned, may be a developing ridge of high pressure over the eastern part of the country that could block Hanna's trek toward our shores. Wouldn't that be a relief?

Unfortunately, forecasters say that turn could threaten the islands.  They have warned interests in the Turks and Caicos Islands and the southeastern Bahamas to pay attention to Hanna.

The forecast track shows her curving around to the southwest early next week - what forecasters are calling "a rare but not unique track" for such storms. That could bring Hanna toward the Bahamas by the middle of next week. After that, it's anybody's guess.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:53 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

August 28, 2008

Fay dribbles here, gushes elsewhere

NOAA

We're finally starting to pick up a few sprinkles from what was once the meandering gusher called Tropical Storm Fay. We have a few hundredths of an inch on our gauge here at Calvert & Centre streets. The storm is now just a mass of tropical air (above), loaded with plenty of balmy moisture, but little of its former power.

But despite her poor performance in most of Maryland, Fay's ghost has been soaking folks to our south and west. Get a load of these rain totals - including more than 6 inches in Danville, Va. Here are some more.

Forecasters are saying our best shot at some badly needed rain will be today. They're giving us a 90-percent shot at "occasional rain."

But much of it will be light, they say. We should expect less than a tenth of an inch. Another tenth to a quarter inch is possible tonight at BWI, and more through Saturday. But the chances that any one location will get any begin to diminish after today.

By Sunday, the storm's remnants will have moved off, replaced by sunnier skies and drier air from the north and west. Sunday and Monday look sunny and warm, in the mid-80s. A great close to the holiday weekend. The good weather should persist into next week, but then we'll have to start watching for the effects of one or possibly two tropical systems - Gustav and what could become tropical storm Hanna. (See previous post.)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:17 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Gustav gathering strength, will enter Gulf

NOAA

Residents of the United States' Gulf Coast were keeping a wary eye on Tropical Storm Gustav today as the storm began to restrengthen in the Caribbean after battering itself against the mountains of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Authorities were already considering an evacuation from New Orleans. Here's more on accelerating storm preparations in Louisiana.

Meantime, a second storm was brewing in the Atlantic, with the potential to affect the East Coast next week. More on that one below.

Forecasters are still aiming their primary forecast track for Gustav straight into the Gulf by this weekend, with the center of the cone of uncertainty drawing a bead on Louisiana.

Here is the latest advisory. Here is the view from space. The forecast track is above.

Gustav was centered this morning about 170 miles south of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It was moving to the very slowly toward the west-southwest, gathering strength in some of the warmest waters in the Atlantic Basin. That warm water - well over 80 degrees Fahrenheit - is where these storms draw their power.

The forecast called for the storm to turn toward the west later today, passing very close to Jamaica, where the government has issued a hurricane warning. By tomorrow Gustav is forecast to turn more toward the west-northwest, moving into the Gulf and approaching the Louisiana coast.

For now, top sustained winds were running near 70 mph, just under hurricane force. Gustav was expected to regain its hurricane status later today, and forecast models predict it will reach Cat. 2 or 3 by the time it enters the Gulf over the weekend.

And that, of course, is a huge worry for residents of the Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle to Texas, none of whom needs to grapple with a landfall by another big storm. Judging from the comments below this Times-Picayune story, many are already plotting their escape.

Already, this storm is forecast to drop 6 to 12 inches of rain over Haiti, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands before it moves off. Isolated totals of two feet are possible, making dangerous mudslides and flash floods a real threat. Haiti and the Dominican Republic have already reported at least 22 dead.

Storm surge flooding of 1 to 3 feet above normal tides is likely where the storm's winds are blowing onshore. And this is still a tropical storm.

Almost unnoticed this morning is the formation of the next storm, dubbed for now Tropical Depression No. 8.  It's located about 300 nautical miles east-northeast of the northern Leeward Islands.

UPDATE: 12:30 p.m.: TD 8 has been upgraded to a tropical storm. It's Hanna now. Earlier post resumes:

This one is forecast to track west-northwest, across the Bermuda Triangle. It could become a threat to the East Coast  next week.  Maximum sustained winds were about 35 mph, just below tropical storm strength.  It was expected to become a tropical storm later today or tomorrow. If so, it will be named Hanna.

Welcome to the party, Hanna! Here's how the wind forecasts for the two storms look. Yikes!

NOAA

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:02 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

August 27, 2008

NE high blocks Fay rain

NOAA

A strong and very stubborn high-pressure center over New England is holding the rains from the remnants of Tropical Storm Fay to our south and west. Forecasters say that badly needed rain will have difficulty pushing north and east to give us the soaking we want.

You can see the problem very clearly in this satellite image (above). That bubble of clear air to our north and east is the high. The puffy white blob to our southwest is what's left of Fay. Nice and juicy, but just out of reach.

There is plenty of action to our south, though. The storm's remains are giving them lots to worry about in North Carolina.

But we get these nice sunny skies, and highs in the very unfamiliar 70s. And the nearest rain stays down in the Shenandoah Valley. The forecast gives us here in Baltimore our best shot at showers and thunderstorms tonight, with a 60 percent chance for a few drops. Those chances fade from Tursday (50 percent) through Saturday (30 percent).

That may sound encouraging. But the morning discussion out of Sterling is less so. The consensus of the models seemed to be leaning toward a more northerly track for the core of Fay's moisture, they said, "with much of the heaviest precipitation spreading across the higher terrain and while only scattered activity lingering intermittently over the east of the Blue Ridge to the coast."

Okay, so it's not very grammatical. You get their drift.

If there's hope, it's this for Friday and Saturday: "A few brief thunderstorms may develop closer to the more unstable region near the bay on Friday afternoon, with much lesser chances across the VA/MD Piedmont."

Then the next cold front passes by, clearing and drying the air for Labor Day and the first part of the new week.

Headed for the beach? Sunday and Monday look like your best days. The Kite Loft web cam at OC is down, but here's a view of Rehoboth. Looks fine from here today.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:56 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Gustav could threaten Louisiana

NOAA/NHC

Gustav, knocked back to tropical storm strength by its overnight encounter with the mountains of southwestern Haiti, is expected to regain its hurricane status in the next 48 hours and is beginning to look like a threat to Louisiana.

Hurricane warnings are up this morning for southeastern Cuba, including the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay. A hurricane watch is up for Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center say their models have Gustav strengthening over the extremely warm waters south of Cuba in the next few days, then turning northwestward into the Gulf of Mexico on Saturday. The numbers suggest Gustav would likely become a Cat. 3 "major" hurricane, with top sustained winds of at least 111 mph. And forecasters note that two of their models show it getting even stronger than that.

The storm's current forecast track takes it ashore on Monday anywhere from the Florida panhandle to southeastern Texas. But the center of the "cone of uncertainty" is aimed at southeastern Louisiana.

Needless to say, that kind of a storm, and that sort of trajectory has got to be worrying New Orleans, and all of the folks along the Louisiana coast, as we approach the third anniversary of Katrina's landfall there. Oil traders are also betting on damage to the offshore oil fields.

Here is the latest advisory. Here is the forecast track. And here is the view from orbit.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:27 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

August 26, 2008

Forecast splits over Fay rain

National Weather Service forecasters say their models remain split over whether we can expect any significant rain from the remnants of Tropic Storm Fay. That's Fay - the green blob over the western Carolinas - in the forecast map below. They need that rain badly there.

One set of models sends most of the moisture north and east along the west side of the Appalachians. Another sends it our way. The official forecast  opts for rain here, calling for increasing rain chances Wednesday night, and right through Saturday. Sunday and Labor Day look better, with sunny to partly sunny skies returning, and highs in the low 80s.

Whatever we get is badly needed. BWI has recorded only 0.6 inch this month, and nothing in nearly two weeks - since the 14th. National Airport in Washington has reported just 0.54 inch and Dulles has seen only 1.22 inches.

Streams are low across central Maryland and many lawns have that brown, late-summer look. 

NOAA

 

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:26 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Gustav could become "extremely dangerous"

NOAA

Gustav is now a Category 1 hurricane with top sustained winds of 90 mph and a direct threat to Haiti. But forecasters at the National Hurricane Center warn this morning that the storm will soon be moving over very warm waters, and "most indications are that Gustav will be an extremely dangerous hurricane in the northwestern Caribbean Sea in a few days."

Here is the current advisory. And here is the view from space

The current forecast track sends Gustav into the Gulf of Mexico by Sunday morning. Surface waters there are a bit cooler than those south of Cuba. But they are warm enough at this time of year, and conditions are sufficient to warrant concern. 

Gustav - the seventh named storm of the 2008 Atlantic season - became stronger still over night after growing yesterday from a tropical distubance, to a tropical depression, tropical storm and finally a hurricane all in one day.  

The storm's center was about 75 miles south southeast of Port au Prince, Haiti this morning, moving toward the northwest at about 9 mph. Hurricane warnings were posted for the southern portions of the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

A ridge of high pressure to the north was expected to steer the storm more toward the west for the next few days.  A hurricane watch is posted for southeastern Cuba, including the U.S. military outpost at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The storm was expected to pass just south of Guantanamo on Wednesday.

Top sustained winds were forecast to reach Category 2 strength (top sustained winds 96 mph) later today before making landfall in southwestern Haiti. residents of that region were told to expect rainfall of 4 to 7 inches, with some spots receiving up to 15 inches. Storm surges of 2 to 4 feet above normal tides were anticipated.

After leaving Haiti, forecasters said, Gustav "is forecast to be over extremely warm waters with relatively light shear. The official intensity is increased and now calls for Gustav to be a major hurricane [Category 3 or higher, top sustained winds of 111 mph or higher] in the northwest Caribbean Sea. It is worth noting that [two computer models] ... show an even stronger hurricane."

If Gustav moves on into the central Gulf of Mexico, it will become a threat to offshore oil operations. That would surely have an impact on the oil markets. At that point, the storm, while it could well weaken, would almost inevitably make landfall somewhere along the U.S. Gulf Coast. Once in the Gulf, there is no way out for these storms except to crash ashore. 

In the meantime, forecasters are also watching two other Atlantic disturbances that could become more developed in the coming days. 

NOAA

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:39 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

August 25, 2008

Gustav forms in the Caribbean

NHC/NOAA

UPDATE: It's Gustav. The storm brewing in the Caribbean today has reached tropical storm strength. Here is the latest advisory. The storm track is above. Here is the view from space. The earlier post follows:

Hurricane forecasters at the National Hurricane Center are now watching a new tropical depression - TD 7 - in the east-central Caribbean. It is showing signs of further organization, and could pose a threat from Jamaica to the Bahamas in a few days. Storm-battered Forida could also be in this storm's path.

The system is forecast to become a tropical storm later today or early tomorrow. Interests in Jamaica, eastern Cuba, and the southeastern Bahamas have been advised to pay attention to this system. Tropical storm warnings are already posted along the southern coast of Hispaniola.  An Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft was scheduled to investigate the storm and gather data this afternoon.

If this system reaches tropical storm status, with top sustained winds of 39 mph, it would be given the name Gustav, the seventh named storm of the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:20 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Scattered showers today; awaiting Fay rains

Parts of the region are getting some showers and thunderstorms this morning as a cold front approaches the region. Sunny skies and cooler weather will follow as we await the remnants of Tropical Storm Fay.

Northern Baltimore and Harford counties seemed to be getting the showers at the moment, as this radar loop indicates (or does as I post it; things will change as the day goes on). The lightning detectors at Brooklyn Park Weather don't seem to be showing any lightning with that shower, however.

The forecast says the cold front will sag down out of PA and settle somewhere to the south of the Baltimore region. That will drop our daytime highs into the upper 70s for the rest of the week. That's cool for Baltimore at this time of year, continuing the cool trend for the month. Until that happens, though, we may see a high today well into the 80s - maybe the upper 80s this afternoon. With the showers around, and the frontal passage, we'll also have plenty of clouds.

The next event on the horizon that has forecasters scratching their heads is the fate of the remnants of Tropical Storm Fay. The old girl is still spitting and spinning down in southern Mississippi. But she's getting ready to change course and head our way.

AccuWeather.comForecasters and their computer models disagree over her exact path. Some say the bulk of the rain will drift north and east along the west side of the Appalachians. Other think the low will split, with some of the rain moving up the west side of the mountains, with another low  moving toward the Atlantic coast. That's what would bring us some badly needed rain.

Here (and at left) is AccuWeather.com's take on the rain.

For now, the folks at Sterling are putting our rain chances at 30 to 40 percent for the Wednesday-to-Friday period.

Speaking of Fay rains, here's a roundup of some of the rain totals reported from stations across the South. Pretty impressive.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:50 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

August 22, 2008

A survivor's tale from the '33 hurricane

Our story in Friday's Sun marking the 75th anniversary of the Great Hurricane of 1933 stirred up some memories for at least one survivor of that storm.

I got a call this afternoon from Michelle Dase, who told me her father, William R. Howard, Jr., was aboard the SS Chatham, steaming down the Chesapeake when that storm struck. So I gave him a call at his home in Towson, and we chatted about his adventure.

www.armed-guard.com "I was a kid, only 9 years old," he told me. That makes him 84 now, retired for 23 yrs from the Equitable Trust Co., where he was a vice president.

"We lived in Hagerstown at that time," he continued. "I had grandparents down in Florida, and I had an uncle in Massachusetts." His mother and father were taking them to see their relatives, but Howard can't quite recall which way they were headed - Florida or New England. But he does remember sailing from the piers at Pratt and Light streets on what was a beautiful day.

"My daughter asked me, 'Didn't they know a hurricane was coming?' But no one said anything to me about it."

The family had boarded the SS Chatham, of the old Merchants and Miners Line. The ship, according to online records, was built in 1926. It was a 5,649-ton passenger steamer, a sister ship to the more famous SS Dorchester. Both came to violent ends.

Both the Chatham and the Dorchester were requisitioned by the U.S. government in 1941 for service as troop ships.

The Chatham was torpedoed and sunk in 1942 in the Belle Isle Straits, between Newfoundland and Labrador. The Dorchester, too, was sunk in 1942, in the Atlantic, by a German torpedo, with the loss of 675 lives. Among the dead were four U.S. Army chaplains, who gave their lives so others could live. But that's another story.

The Howard family's voyage at least began well.

"It was a large steamer. We got on it and we had dinner. It was beautiful going down the bay," he recalled. "We got I don't know how far down when the hurricane hit. We bounced all over the place. The ship rocked from side to side. When the bow went up and down the propellers came out of the water and made the whole ship vibrate."

This was no longer a pleasure trip.

 "My mother got so sick, she wanted to get off the ship." She spent most of the voyage in their cabin, Howard recalled. "My father and I were the only two who went down to dinner that night. Most everybody else was sick. I think I was too young to know what was going on."

Somehow, he said, he and young friend he made on board managed to play ping pong during the storm. "We lost I don't know how many balls."

The ship was not exactly watertight, he remembers. "The water kept leaking in through the portholes, and we had about a foot of water. The boat would tip and the water would run to one side. Then it would tip and run the other way."

Sun PhotoAfter a while, the ship anchored to wait out the storm. The hurricane was wreaking havoc with shipping in the region. The Evening Sun reported that the steamer Annapolis left its pier in Baltimore, headed for Tolchester, but had to turn back after getting as far as North Point. Other trips were canceled.

A ferry called the Philadelphia , bound from Baltimore to Love Point on Kent Island, turned back at North Point after the deck - normally six feet above the waves - began dipping small fish, according to its captain. The steamer City of Norfolk went aground near Pocomoke Sound, and passengers had to be rescued. Baltimore's harbor also sustained damage. (photo above)

Like the Chatham, the steamer Berkshire, also of the Merchants and Miners Line, halted its voyage from Baltimore and anchored near the Virginia capes.

That was a smart move. The coastal steamer Madison had run aground off the capes with 100 people on board. They radioed for help after waves swept away part of the superstructure. Two Coast Guard vessels responded.

Twelve hours after the Chatham anchored to ride out the storm, the wind and waves calmed. The passengers were put ashore in Norfolk, which had been badly battered by the hurricane.

"Norfolk was under water," Howard said. "They built up planks for us to walk on in the dock area. All the lights were out. I remember a lot of lanterns around, and candles. The only place we had to stay was a hotel down there. We had to walk up seven flights of stairs 'cause there were no elevators. It took a while for the family to lose their sea legs. "It seemed like the building was swaying all night long," he said.

That was the end of the voyage for the Howards. Mrs. Howard was not about to go on board the Chatham or any other ship. Her husband had worried about her the whole time, and agreed. So they took a bus to Washington for some sightseeing, and eventually back home to Hagerstown.

But Howard was 9. "It was all an adventure for me. People didn't get around as much back in those days as we do now," he said.   

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:06 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Observer reports
        

Two more storms on deck

NOAA

Even as Tropical Storm Fay continues to bedevil Florida, forecasters at the National Hurricane Center are watching the next two disturbances lined up across the tropical Atlantic for signs of development.

Neither one is very well organized at the moment, but forecasters say conditions will slowly become more favorable for them as they drift across the ocean toward the Antilles.

The first in line is centered about 400 miles east of the Windward Islands. It's headed west northwest at 15 mph. The second is midway between Africa and the West Indies, east northeast of the first storm. This one is also drifting west northwest at about 15 mph.

This is the time of year when the eastern tropical Atlantic begins to crank out these tropical waves and send them off across the Atlantic like pies down the conveyor belt. Some fall apart, but others get their acts together in a big way. Those are the storms that can track toward the East Coast, and landfall along the Florida or Carolina shore. That's when we start to pay close attention.

It was just that type of tropical storm that bashed the coast from Virginia to New Jersey in 1933. Ocean City took a terrible hit, but the Great Hurricane of 1933 (or the Chesapeake and Potomac Hurricane, as some called it) cut a new inlet across the barrier island at Ocean City and gave the resort direct access to the sea. That proved to be an economic boon to the town. The cleansing tidal flow into the Sinepuxent Bay also fixed the terrible pollution that had plagued the bay side.

You can read more about the 1933 storm, and see a gallery of photos from The Sun's archives, on our Website today, if you haven't already. Just click here.

Here's the latest advisory on Fay. Here's the storm track. and here's the view from space.

Sun Photo 1933

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:46 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Stuck on perfect

The weather forecast appears to be stuck. The folks at Sterling must have left the needle on "PERFECT" and headed off for vacation at the beach. We're liking it a lot, but a little rain from Fay next week wouldn't be a bad thing. Parts of Maryland are back on the Drought Monitor map, and some lawns (like mine) are drying up.

Partly to mostly sunny skies and highs in the low to mid-80 will be the mantra throughout the weekend, and on into next week, if the forecast holds up. We will get into an easterly, or southeasterly flow off the Atlantic this weekend, which will bring us some morning cloud cover. But most of it will burn off in the afternoons, dropping the cloud cover from 60 or 70 percent in the mornings, to 40 percent in the afternoons.

So we get some nice sunshine, with welcome intervals of shade as clouds blow in front of the still-strong August sun.

Out at the beach, the forecast is nearly the same for the final weekend before the kids go back to class. They're looking for sunny skies and highs in the upper 70s. Wind and water conditions do pose a "moderate" risk of rip currents, however. So keep an eye on the youngsters.

There's a cold front approaching the region for the early part of next week. But forecasters don't seem to feel it will produce rain for our area.

The next significant prospect for rain will come - maybe - when the moisture from the remnants of tropical storm Fay finally get swept up in the regular flow of weather across the country. Forecasters say the computer models have that rain moving our way by Thursday.

We should be pulling for Fay to pay us a visit. Streamflow in Maryland and ground water levels are down. And the state is back on the Drought Monitor maps in a significant way for the first time since May 13. "Abnormally dry" conditions have cropped up on the Eastern Shore along the Delaware line, and in Montgomery, Howard, southern Carroll, western Baltimore and western Charles counties.

How dry is it where you are? My grass and flowers are drying up, but maybe this weather is good for the veggies.

Here's the map.

USDA

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:54 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

August 21, 2008

Fay rains here by Thursday?

NHC

Tropical Storm Fay is moving so slowly, it's not easy to figure out where her rains will be three days from now, let alone a week. The "cone of uncertainty" in the map above indicates the storm's center could be anywhere from the northern Gulf of Mexico to central Mississippi by Sunday.

But forecasters dealing with the extended forecast have been consulting their computer models and making some guesses. And there seems to be at least a possibility that we'll get some rain out of the storm's remnants (if there is any left) as early as next Thursday. That would happen after the wet weather crawls up the Mississippi and Ohio river valleys, and drifts north eastward to our forecast area.

The best solution would be to turn the rain back toward western portions of the Carolinas and North Georgia, where they desperately need it. Here's some speculation from Frank Strait, an AccuWeather.com blogger.

Here's a snippet from today's long-range discussion from Sterling:

"MUCH OF THE EXTENDED FORECAST REVOLVES AROUND TROPICAL STORM FAY.
THIS FORECAST IS BASED ON THE OFFICIAL TRACK GUIDANCE FROM TPC
ADVISORY NUMBER 24 FROM 11 AM TODAY. CURRENT FORECAST BRINGS THE
CENTER SOMEWHERE INTO THE LOWER MISSISSIPPI RIVER VALLEY REGION BY 8
AM TUESDAY...WITH THE DETERMINISTIC FORECAST CENTER IN SOUTH CENTRAL
MISSISSIPPI.

"FROM MIDWEEK ONWARD...HAVE CHOSEN TO FOLLOW THE EUROPEAN DEPICTION
FROM THE LAST SEVERAL RUNS...WITH REMNANTS OF FAY ADVANCING
NORTHWARD INTO THE OHIO VALLEY. ARRIVAL OF DEEPER LAYER MOISTURE
SHOULD INCREASE CHANCES OF CONVECTION WEDNESDAY ACROSS WESTERN
ZONES...AND ACROSS THE ENTIRE AREA BY THURSDAY."

Why am I writing about Fay and what she may or may not be doing a week from now? Have you been outside? It's like Honolulu out there. Actually, it's way better than Honolulu! It's perfect. What's to write about?

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:21 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Fla. flight delay: Catfish on runway

You know it's been raining too long in Florida when airport officials start delaying flights to give them time to clear the catfish from the runways.

USGSBut it seems that's exactly what happened yesterday at Melbourne International Airport. To be fair, the four catfish weren't exactly swimming. They were walking on their pectoral fins. (There is some weird wildlife down there. That's a "walking catfish" at left.)  But the fact remains they'd been emboldened by their expanding watery world to begin speculating on new property they seemed destined to inherit.

After all, Melbourne has been in the bullseye of this storm, clocking more than 20 inches of rain from Tropical Storm Fay and counting.

So, air traffic controllers had to delay incoming flights until crews could walk the runways and clear off the fish - and other critters - that had begun to flee their waterlogged homes and stake their claims on whatever was left to them.Florida State Parks

Fish and Wildlife ServiceIn addition to the catfish, the airport wranglers rounded up two gopher tortoises (right), a blue indigo snake (left) and, of course, an alligator.

Don't believe me? Here's the report from WFTV in Melbourne.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:52 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Land of Pleasant Living

Now why do you suppose anyone moves from Maryland to Florida? Or vacations there in hurricane season?

Here: Dry, sunny skies, with highs near 80 degrees. Yesterday's high at BWI was just 81 degrees. (We held at 79 here at The Sun.) Cool nights. Silent air conditioners.

There: Tropical Storm Fay slows to a crawl, dumping staggering volumes of water on the central part of the state. Rain rates of 1 to 3 inches per hour. Totals well into double digits. And 4 to 8 inches more before the storm moves back across the state toward the Gulf.

Here's the latest advisory. Here's the wacky forecast storm track. And here's the view from space

There's a menu of warnings and statements now up for residents of Melbourne. And here's a Cape Canaveral beach cam. Scary. 

So come back, all you sun seekers. We forgive you. The beaches here are sunny, the water's fine. The basement is dry.

NASA/GSFC/Aqua

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:47 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

August 20, 2008

Fay stalls, drowns Florida

Greg Kahn/Naples Daily News

You can say what you want about the way the news media hype tropical systems that never really grow into "dangerous" hurricanes. But Fay is a good example of why we can't afford to ignore the little storms.

Although it never achieved hurricane status, slow-moving Tropical Storm Fay is dropping a tremendous amount of rain on the state of Florida. She has already caused at least one death in the state, sparked tornadoes, caused severe flooding and produced record rains. And there's more to come. 

I just checked Cocoa Beach, just south of the Kennedy Space Center. I count more than 21 inches of rain since Tuesday morning. I don't care where you are, or how well you think you can handle a "small" storm like this one - 21 inches of rain is dangerous and capable of causing tremendous damage. Add winds of TS strength and you're going to wish you lived somewhere else.

Agnes (in 1972) was a hurricane only briefly. And Isabel (in 2003) was knocked down to tropical storm status immediately after making landfall in North Carolina. But both caused tremendous damage and deaths.

Here are some more rainfall totals from East Central Florida.

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE OFFICE MELBOURNE   16.83"
MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT 13.32"
VIERA   18.42"
WINDOVER FARMS 24.80"
FORT PIERCE 11.26"
SCRIPPS SPACE COAST REPORT FROM SEBASTIAN- PUBLIC -   18.50" 

Here's a rainfall estimate map, based on radar data. And it's still coming down. Here's the word from the hurricane center:

FAY IS EXPECTED TO PRODUCE ADDITIONAL RAINFALL ACCUMULATIONS OF 5 TO 10 INCHES OVER EAST-CENTRAL AND NORTHEASTERN FLORIDA...WITH 3 TO 6 INCHES OVER SOUTHEASTERN GEORGIA. ISOLATED STORM TOTAL AMOUNTS OF 30 INCHES ARE POSSIBLE IN FLORIDA.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:40 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Perfect through the weekend; Fay rain later?

Boy, you can't beat this forecast. From today straight through the weekend, forecasters are calling for sunny to mostly-sunny skies. Afternoon highs will stick close to seasonal norms - in the mid-80s - and the nights will be fine for opening the windows and shutting off the AC.

It looks for now like we're done with the 90-degree beatings we've been taking this week. The backdoor cold front late yesterday dropped temperatures noticeably. After a high over 90 yesterday afternoon, we fell to 52 overnight out on the WeatherDeck. Here are the readings from The Baltimore Sun's weather station at Calvert & Centre streets.

BWI reported a high yesterday of 93 degrees (the fourth 90-plus day this month), and then an overnight low of 62 degrees. 

So, are we done with the 90s for the summer? I wouldn't bet the ranch on that. BWI had six days in the 90s in September last year. But then, we had 16 days in the 90s in August of last year, too. And we're not going to come close to that this month.

Thanks largely to a cool August (a degree cooler than the long-term average so far, with 12 of 19 days below the norm), this summer has been generally cooler than the last two. At least so far. Here are the counts of 90-plus days, by month:

2006: May (2); June (6); July (18); August (13); September (0); TOTAL: 39

2007: May (3); June (7); July (10); August (16); September (6); TOTAL: 42

2008: May (0); June (9); July (10); August (4) through the 19th; TOTAL: 23

Now, as for Fay...  In their discussion this morning, forecasters at Sterling say that by Sunday, the high pressure system we're under now will begin to move off the coast. That will put us in the return flow, bringing warmer, wetter air up from the South. Humidities will rise, increasing the chance for showers or thunderstorms Sunday night into Monday.

By the middle of the week, moisture from the remains of Tropical Storm Fay could begin to cross our region, bringing rain. But forecasters can't tell yet where or precisely when that would occur.

Here's the latest advisory for Fay. Here's the five-day forecast track. And here's the view from space. 

If it comes, we could use it. BWI is running 1.68 inches below average for the month. Drought monitor data show abnormally dry conditions close by, in Delaware and New Jersey. Streams are low in central Maryland and water tables are falling, although that's not unusual for mid-summer.

On the map below, red and orange dots represent streams flowing at rates in the driest quarter of the archived record. 

No emergency, but a good dose of rain would be welcome.

USGS 

 

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:35 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts
        

August 19, 2008

Fay fades, we stay dry, get cooler

NASA

Looks like Tropical Storm Fay won't make it to hurricane status, and is more likely to fade as she moves north along the Florida peninsula. And the computer models seem to be falling into agreement that the storm's remnants will not make it to Maryland.

Here's the latest advisory. Here's the current forecast track. And here's Fay viewed from orbit. Got reservations in Orlando? Lotsa luck. Here are some Orlando web cams. Kinda soggy.

Our forecast, after noting a slight chance for an isolated shower late today as a "back door" cold front drops across the region, shows nothing but sunny weather right through the weekend.

That cold front will drop our daytime highs from around 90 degrees again today, to the low- to mid-80s for the rest of the week. That's about normal for this time of year. Yesterday's high of 91 degrees at BWI (it was 92 here at Calvert & Centre streets) was way out of line. The BWI record for the date was 96 degrees, reached in 2002. That sun was scorching! 

In addition to cooling us off, the cold front, and the high pressure behind it, will block the advance of Fay's remnants, forecasters say. The computer models have the storm either dissipating as it tramps inland across the South, or being deflected by the circulation around the high pressure system toward the north and west, bringing lots of rain to the Deep South or the lower Mississippi Valley.

Go figure.

In the meantime, there is another storm brewing far out in the tropical Atlantic. Looks a bit unfavorable for rapid development, but forecasters are watching it. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:28 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

August 18, 2008

Fay Watch

NOAA

Everybody's watching Tropical Storm Fay this morning as the big blow heads north across Cuba and draws a bead on South Florida. The center of the forecast track probabilities runs straight up the west coast of Florida. Forecasters have her reaching hurricane strength briefly before moving inland and weakening.

Watches and warnings are up in the Florida Keys and both sides of the peninsula. Here's the Miami forecast. Not pretty. It's worse for Sarasota.

Beyond Florida, if Fay takes the middle road, the wind and heavy rain will move north into Georgia and the western Carolinas later this week, bringing desperately needed rain. Maybe too much; we'll have to wait and see. But these tropical storm remnants are usually what knocks down stubborn summer droughts.

Here in Maryland, there is nothing in the forecast yet. Forecasters seem to be betting that high pressure over our part of the country will keep Fay's remnants from moving this far north. Here is this morning's discussion from Sterling.  

For now, here is the latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center. Here is the forecast track. And here is the view from orbit.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:28 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

August 15, 2008

Tropical Storm Fay is born

The National Hurricane has announced that the stormy weather gathering in the area of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic has reached tropical storm strength, and has been named Fay.

The storm is moving to the west at 14 mph, with top sustained winds of just 40 mph. No strengthening is expected until the system clears the mountainous islands and moves back over warm water. In the meantime, watches and warnings have been posted from the Dominican Republic to Cuba.

Here's the latest advisory. Here's the forecast storm track which, for now, seems likely to provide some badly needed drought relief to the Southeast. And here is the view from orbit.

Fay/NOAA

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:48 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Lunar eclipse Saturday, on the Web

Tomorrow's full moon will be partially eclipsed as it slips through the shadow that the Earth casts into space.

Space Telescope Science Inst.The bad news is that the eclipse will occur during our daytime, while the Americas are facing the sun. The next total lunar eclipse visible here will be on Dec. 21, 2010. The good news is that, through the magic of the Internet, we'll be able to sit at home, in front of a computer screen, and watch the eclipse unfold on the night side of the planet.

At the height of the eclipse, more than 81 percent of the moon's disk will be in deep shadow. The rest will remain in bright sunlight. That will yield a weird, two-toned lunar disk. The whole event will last about three hours. Web coverage will begin at 3:30 pm EDT Saturday, Aug. 16.

Here are the specs on this eclipse, from Fred Espenak's NASA Eclipse Page.

Here is a pretty darn cool set of animations on the eclipse.

This is a link for an eclipse Webcast from the Netherlands. Here's one from Norway, although the forecast wasn't so great there. But here's one from the Canary Islands, which looked better. Thanks to SpaceWeather.com for the links.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:28 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

South Florida on alert

Storm/NOAA

The National Hurricane Center is watching stormy weather in the northeast Caribbean that is now affecting Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It is getting better organized and could become a tropical depression later today.

If it develops further into a tropical storm, it will be named Fay.

Hurricane hunter aircraft from NOAA and the U.S. Air Force Reserve will be flying through the storm today to gather more data.AccuWeather.com

Forecasters have issued a statement urging interests from the Virgin Islands to South Florida to prepare for locally heavy rains and gusty winds. Here's AccuWeather,.com's take on the storm's prospects, and their storm track map, at right.

The storm is expected to move up the East Coast next week, and could be affecting Maryland weather around the middle of the week, according to forecasters at Sterling, Va. Here's a snippet from this morning's discussion:

"WILL CONTINUE TO KEEP AN EYE ON THE TROPICS NEXT WEEK. GUIDANCE
FORECASTS A TROPICAL SYSTEM OFF THE SOUTHEAST COAST BY THE MIDDLE OF
NEXT WEEK."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:26 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Hail of a day; more on the way

Yesterday's thunderstorms dropped a big load of hail across the region. Here are some of the biggest reported:

1 inch:  Finksburg, Carroll County; near Fairhaven and North Beach, in Anne Arundel County

0.88 inch:  Germantown, Montgomery Co.; Fallston in Harford County, and Bentley Springs, Baltimore County

NOAAFor more reports of hail from yesterday's storms, click here. And here's more about hail, with some amazing photos. The hail photo at left is a generic image from NOAA, not from yesterday's storm. If you have one, send it in.

There was also another blast of heavy rain in some very localized areas:

Ridge, in St. Mary's:  1.94 inches

Deale, in Arundel:  1.6 inches

Bel Air, in Harford:  1.14 inches

Princess Anne, in Somerset:  1.12 inches

We can expect more showers and thunderstorms this afternoon. Forecasters out at Sterling say we're running a 50 to 60 percent chance for storms after noon. Some could be severe, they say, with large hail and damaging winds The high today at BWI should be in the mid-80s.

Storms could continue past midnight. But the weekend looks great, with sunny skies and highs in the low-80s on Saturday, climbing to near 90 on Sunday.

The near-90 weather will persist into next week. And forecasters are watching developments in the eastern Caribbean near Puerto Rico, where bad weather could develop today into a tropical depression. If so, it could begin to affect our weather sometime in the middle of next week as the storm moves up the East Coast.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:44 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Observer reports
        

August 14, 2008

Localized downpour swamps Lutherville area

Reports are now trickling in from the torrential but extremely localized rain that fell yesterday afternoon in the Towson, Lutherville, Timonium area. One official NWS spotter in Towson reported 3.6 inches of rain in an hour.

The amateur CoCoRaHS network reported very little rain across the state yesterday. But what fell was significant and very narrowly focused. The high readings:

Cockeysville:  .85 inch

Jacksonville:  0.67 inch

Long Green:  0.54 inch

Towson:  0.47 inch

We clocked 0.12 inch on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville. Here at Calvert & Centre streets, we saw nothing. BWI saw nothing. The National Weather Service in Sterling has posted its Cooperative Observer measurements for yesterday. They have no observers in the Baltimore area, but do show some very heavy, very localized accumulations in Virginia and West Virginia.

But much more impressive than the numbers have been the eyewitness reports I've been receiving, like this:

"Dear Mr. Roylance,

On Wednesday evening (August 13th) 99% of the Baltimore area was rain-free. The exception was the Towson-Carney-Parkville area where a compact - but persistent - thundershower parked (or "trained") over the area for 2-3 hours. There was wave after wave of torrential rain and gusty winds. Busy intersections were awash and there was considerable tree damage - especially in the area of Goucher Boulevard and Joppa Road. Several times the skies brightened and it appeared the storm was moving out of the area but it drifted back as strong as ever. My question - what atmospheric conditions can cause an isolated storm to behave that way? Thanks! - Ted Lingelbach, Parkville"

You can read some other rain reports in the reader comments I posted here late yesterday. Here's a private station in Towson with more than an inch. And here's one in Timonium with nearly 4 inches in the can.

I called Brandon Peloquin, a NWS meteorologist at Sterling. He said the problem yesterday afternoon was the lack of wind to push the thunderstorms along. So, with plenty of moisture in the atmosphere, and strong sunshine to heat it up, convection began to carry the warm, moist air high into the atmosphere, where it cooled, condensed, and began to rain out.

"It was very persistent and localized - one storm that just sat there and did not move," he said. "The flow in the atmosphere was very weak, and storms that didn't have any wind to push them along." After one storm peters out, "something redevelops right over the top of what was there before."

One NWS spotter in Towson reported 3.6 inches of rain, Peloquin said. The weather service did issue a flash flood warning for an area east of Towson because of the heavy rain. Some basements were reportedly flooded, but there were no official reports of street flooding or damage. Only a few miles in any direction, it was "an entirely different ballgame." Streets were dry, or nearly so.

"It will be different today," he promised. Although showers and thunderstorms are in the forecast, but there will be "more push" to the atmosphere. Storms may be locally heavy, but they will be moving toward the east and should not persist as long in one place.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:43 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events
        

August 13, 2008

Slow-moving storm unloads on Timonium

A slow-moving thunderstorm is dropping quite a load of rain on portions of northern Baltimore County this afternoon. Although downtown Baltimore remains dry just before 6 p.m., radar shows more than 3 inches has fallen this afternoon on a small area of the country north of Towson.

Is that even possible? Maybe so. A private weather station reporting on the Weather Underground seems to confirm the radar estimates - more than 3 inches today on their gauge, too.

Anyone out there under this downpour? Send us a comment and describe what you're seeing. Better yet, send us a photo.

Here's how the NWS was reporting it. (We'll forgive their spelling):

AT 543 PM EDT...DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED A STRONG THUNDERSTORM OVER
TOWSON...DRIFTING SLOWLY NORTH AT 5 MPH. ANOTHER STORM WAS LOCATED
JUST WEST OF GLENCOE...ALSO DRIFTING SLOWLY NORTH.

LOCATIONS THAT WILL LIKELY BE AFFECTED BY THESE STORMS INCLUDE
TOWNSON... COCKEYESVILLE... AND GLENCOE.

WIND GUSTS UP 40 MPH CAN ARE POSSIBLE WITH THESE STORMS.

HEAVY RAINFALL WILL ACCOMPANY THESE STORMS...WITH RAINFALL RATES OF
2 TO 3 INCHES AN HOUR POSSIBLE. HEAVY RAINFALL MAY REDUCE
VISIBILITY BELOW A MILE AND CAUSE PONDING OF WATER ON ROADWAYS.

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:46 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Storm reports
        

South could use a tropical storm

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center are still tracking two disturbances in the tropical Atlantic, either or both of which could develop into tropical storms in the coming days. And while no one would wish a disaster on islands in the Caribbean, or on communities along the Southeastern coastline of the U.S, these storms can have their upside.

I'm talking about rain. There are still parts of the Southeast that have never recovered from last year's drought. Some of the most severe drought conditions in the nation persist in portions of northern Georgia, and the western Carolinas.

Souch drought conditions in summer are frequently ended in August or September by a tropical storm or two that stumble ashore along the Gulf Coast or in northern Florida or the Carolinas.

But it didn't happen last year. The 2007 Atlantic hurricane season never really paid off for the Southland. All but one storm bypassed the region entirely. And even as Maryland's drought was relieved over the past winter, conditions to our south, as noted on last week's Drought Monitor map (below), remain in what is defined as "exceptional" drought - the worst category on the scale. More than half the region is in "severe" drought, or worse.

National Drought Mitigation Center

AccuWeather.comNo one can say yet whether either of the two areas of bad weather in the Atlantic will develop into tropical storms, much less where they will take their rain. But AccuWeather.com is projecting storm tracks that at least point in more or less, kind of, the right direction.

Whatever the fate of these storms, we need to spare a kind thought for tropical weather, and the potential benefits it can bring to drought-stricken regions of the country.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:33 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

August 12, 2008

September weather in August

Hard to imagine nicer weather than this - unless it's the dry, sunny, pleasant weather typical of late September or early October.

"Needed to check the calendar to make sure it's really August," quipped a NWS meteorologist in this morning's discussion from Sterling. Here's this morning's view of our region from space.

NOAAWe dipped into the upper 50s on the Weather Deck in Cockeysville this morning. It was pretty chilly under the stars at 2:30 a.m. watching the Perseid Meteor Shower.

Here at Calvert & Center, in the shadow of the State Pen, the low was 66. The airport instruments reported a low of 66 degrees, about normal for the date. It was 56 out in Martinsburg, W. Va.

Yesterday's high at The Sun was only 80 degrees, well below the long-term average high for the date of 86 degrees. We'll be about the same today, with a forecast high for the airport of 84 - still a shade cool.

The only fly in the ointment this week is a low-pressure center in the Southeastern U.S. It's supposed to pass to our south and move off the Carolina coast - something of an oddity for this time of year, apparently. Looks more like the kind of storm we'd worry about in winter.

The low could trigger some showers or thunderstorms late Wednesday or Thursday. But forecasters are rating that only a "slight" risk for our area.

Beyond that, and on into the weekend, things look great. Seasonable highs in the mid-80s, cool nights in the mid-60s, and partly to mostly sunny days. The next shot at some rain comes on Monday.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:22 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

New tropical storms may be brewing

NOAA

A new disturbance (No. 1 above)  is brewing in the central tropical Atlantic, and forecasters at the National Hurricane Center say conditions are favorable for the bad weather to develop into a tropical depression during the next couple of days. A U.S. Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft and crew are ready to investigate the disturbance later today if called upon.

At the same time, there is a second area of low pressure (2 above)  just east of the first stormy region. It's off the coast of West Africa, near the Cape Verde Islands, and has been getting better organized overnight. It could follow the first storm across the Atlantic and pose a second threat if development continues.

Here is the Atlantic Graphical Tropical Weather Outlook. And here is a satellite view of the Atlantic

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:01 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

August 11, 2008

Ocean cycle may explain cool Alaskan summer

I know, this isn't about Maryland weather, but it was prompted by a query from a Maryland reader of the Sun's weather page about the weather in Alaska.

He asked me for some numbers on what he perceived to be a cool summer in Alaska, based on low temperature readings for the state on our print weather page. I made a quick check of the summer averages for Anchorage and Fairbanks and confirmed his take on it. 

FAAJune and July in Anchorage both averaged 2.5 to 3 degrees below the long-term temperature averages. Fairbanks had a pretty normal June, but after a sizzling July 4th of 85 degrees (same as Baltimore on the same day), the temperatures fell off a cliff.

July in Fairbanks averaged 60.6 degrees, almost two degrees below normal. And August is averaging 51.4 degrees, a whopping 7.7 degrees below the long-term norms.

So I put in a call to the National Weather Service up there, and eventually found myself chatting with Gary L. Hufford, the regional scientist for the NWS in Alaska. He's in Anchorage, which enjoyed a rare sunny day yesterday (above, from an FAA web cam). He said temperatures in Alaska this summer really have been unusually cold.

Alaskans are "certainly noticing it," he said, "especially because the period of 2002 to last summer. 2007, we've had some incredibly pleasant summers." It was so warm, in fact, that the summers of 2004 to 2006 were very bad forest fire years for the state, as the warm weather speeded drying in the bush and left it prone to fires. But in Alaska, they're adapting, according to one Fairbanks writer, who said this summer is "becoming the most miserable in recorded history."

What seems to have occurred, Hufford said, is a shift to what climatologists call the cold phase of a cycle in the North Pacific Ocean called the "Pacific Decadal Oscillation," or PDO.

I've written about this phenomenon. NASA climatologists said in May the cool phase seems to have begun last fall, and could influence temperature and rainfall patterns in the United States for decades to come, including enhanced hurricane seasons in the Atlantic, milder winters in Maryland, more dry weather in the Southwest and Southeast, and cooler, rainier weather in the northwest.

Hufford said the Arctic Low, a persistent feature of the far northern atmosphere that usually hangs out near Greenland, has shifted west to the northeast corner of Siberia.

"That has ... put us into a lot of flow from the northwest, out of the arctic. And anytime you get air off the arctic, it's not gonna be warm," Hufford said. It also brings persistent cloudiness to the skies over Alaska.

"Everybody's aware of it," he said, "and that's what's getting to them."

The lack of sunshine has impaired the development of wild berries, which Alaskans love to pick in summer. "What berries you get are not very sweet," he said. Hufford also reported a big flock of cranes flying through Fairbanks last week, perhaps a sign of colder weather in the far north and an early fall.

The cool-phase PDO also tends to produce disappointing salmon runs in Alaska, while enhancing them in the northwestern  corner of the lower 48 states.

"What really makes it interesting is that we've seen two or three events of snow down to 3,500 feet or so (in the mountains), right in the middle of summer. That's definitely not as usual thing here," he added.

If this really is the start of a cool-phase PDO they're seeing, it's of no small concern to Alaskans. And it's not just because of one summer of bland blueberries and scarce salmon.

When these PDO phases shift, they tend to do so for decades, not the 4- to 7-year cycles typical of the El Nino/La Nina cyclings in the tropical Pacific.  The Icebox State could be in for a long haul.

"That's what's concerning us, if this is in fact the PDO," Huffford said.

The last time the PDO shifted into a cool phase was in 1947. And it stayed there until 1976, bringing cooler, cloudier summers.

The big question is how the cool PDO will interact with the longer, global "signal" from global warming.  "We're not sure," he said. Maybe they'll cancel each other out for a while. "It's an excellent opportunity to see how the PDO may react with it ... From a scientific standpoint, we're learning."

Inevitably, Alaskans are looking at the cool summer they've experienced and cracking wise.People are saying "What global warming?" when they're desperate for a decent summer day over 60 degrees. "Oh boy, we hear that every day," Hufford said.

Hufford's response is that the PDO is a short-term trend relative to the long-term changes that come with global warming. We're going to see a lot of regional variability like this within the much longer-term, gradual increase in average global temperatures.

Hufford also laments that the cool PDO "is going to cost me money. My wife is not gonna go well into another six months of winter with a cold summer like this. I suspect I'm gonna be hearing about taking a trip to some sun for a while. Here in Alaska, we're real fans of Hawaii."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:52 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Science
        

Weather looks good for tonight's meteor shower

High pressure and dry air out of Canada is the recipe we want for viewing tonight's Perseid meteor shower. Too often in the Chesapeake region we get nominally clear skies for this reliable annual event, but high humidity still washes out much of the display.

NASA/Perseid meteorNot this time. Forecasters out at Sterling say the upper-level low responsible for yesterday's clouds and storms is pulling away off the Jersey coast. It's being replaced by all this terrific cool, dry air. It's still just 73 degrees at The Sun as I write, up from an overnight low of 63 degrees. The airport dipped to 58 degrees overnight. This seems to be the mid-August break in the weather we've been waiting for. And it's here just in time for the Perseid shower.

That's not to say things are perfect this year. For the early part of the night we still must contend with the glare of the moon, now just four days short of full. It won't set until 1.47 a.m. in Baltimore.

Still, the skies should be clear, and the brightest meteors should begin to be visible after Perseus - the constellation from which the meteors seem to emerge - rises well above the northeastern horizon around 11 or 12 midnight tonight.

The best time to look will be between moonset and dawn tomorrow morning. Here's a nifty photo gallery of last year's Perseids.

The Perseid shower occurs each year as the Earth, in its annual trip around the sun, crosses the dusty trail of the Comet Swift-Tuttle. The comet itself, on its 130-year orbit around the sun, is cruising somewhere out near the orbit of Uranus this year. But the dust it leaves behind is still orbiting all along the comet's path. And this is the night when the Earth crosses the densest portion of that trail.

As our planet smacks into those dust  grains and pebbles, they streak into the thin air at the top of the atmosphere at 37 miles per second, heating the air and making it glow until the dust is vaporized. We see it as a bright, fleeting trail across a portion of the sky.

The Perseids are remarkably reliable, producing as many as 60 meteors an hour at their peak. And because mid-summer is a pleasant time to be out under the stars, this is probably the most-watched annual meteor shower of the year - although it is not usually the best.

 

The first meteors to show up will be the so-called Earth-grazers. These are the meteors that streak across the sky late in the evening before the shower's early-morning peak. They're skimming the top of the atmosphere from east to west just as Perseus is rising in the northeast.

Later, as Perseus rises higher in the sky, the Perseid meteors seem to radiate in all directions from the constellation. They're not really coming from the constellation itself, of course. That's just the direction in which the Earth is traveling at this time of year. Perspective makes the meteors appear to be flying toward us, like snowflakes in the headlights of a moving car.

The bottom line here is that you can really look in any direction for these meteors. Although you may be able to trace the paths of many of them - the true Perseids - back to the constellation. They will appear almost anywhere in the sky. Until the moon sets, however, it may be best to watch with your back to the moon's glare. (If you see some that appear NOT to fly out of Perseus, they are probably "erratics" bits of dust and debris unrelated to Swift-Tuttle.   

Once the moon has set, the added darkness should reveal more of the fainter meteors.

So, find a place with a dark sky, away from urban lighting. There are some suggestions for dark-sky locations at the end of the article at this link.

Take a blanket or a sleeping bag. We're looking for lows in the 50s tonight. Stretch out on the ground, or in a reclining lounge chair of some kind, and just watch the sky. Allow 10 or 15 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark.

But beware. Meteor-watching can be addictive, and will definitely cost you sleep!  Be sure to stop back here in the morning and share your experience with all the sleepyheads who passed it up. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:53 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

August 7, 2008

Chinese air pollution: Getting better?

AP PhotoThe pictures and videos from the Beijing Olympic village are appalling. The thick smog and frighteningly short visibilities can only hint at what it must be like to breathe that air - much less compete in it at world-class levels. Four American athletes arriving at the airport with air-filters over their mouths and noses took a lot of heat for the perceived insult to their host country. But it probably wasn't a bad idea.

The Weather Channel website has an interesting page on Olympic weather and air conditions.

With the coal-burning Chinese economy on an astonishing roll, and their huge, urbanizing population eager to adopt a U.S.-style motorized existence, it would seem like there is little or nothing we could expect but continuing degradation of the Chinese environment.

And it's not bad for the Chinese alone. That air pollution degrades the air for the entire entire planet. Much of it can actually be traced as it drifts across the Pacific and into U.S. airspace.

That said, I've run across an essay today that seems to suggest that the situation in China has actually gotten better in recent years. And they write of a dynamic in national economies that seems to bring about environmental improvements as a country's collective wealth grows. Something called the Kuznets Curve.

Wouldn't that be nice?  Have a look.  It's a long read, but fascinating. Does this make sense to you?

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:58 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Air quality
        

Showers today, but weekend still looks great

Many of us will probably get bypassed, but forecasters do expect scattered showers and possibly thunderstorms this afternoon and this evening as another cold front sweeps through, reinforcing the cooling and drying we've already begun to see in recent days.

The thermometer out at BWI did finally make it into the 90s yesterday afternoon - 92 degrees. We touched 93 here at The Sun's weather station, at Calvert & Centre streets during the 3 o'clock hour. But dewpoints - humidity - have been falling since yesterday afternoon as drier air filters in from the northwest.

So, once we get past the rain threat today and  perhaps tomorrow, we're still looking at a fine weekend, with sunny skies, highs in the low 80s and low humidity. Forecasters are now saying that some storms today COULD become strong to severe, with damaging winds and small hail. Or, maybe not.

With luck, skies will clear enough during the early evening to give us a nice view of the International Space Station as it glides overhead. Click here for details.

While you're waiting for the ISS, get a good look at Jupiter, gleaming brightly in the southeast in the evening. Here's how one reader described it for me in an email this morning:

NASA photoHi Frank,
I ventured out to the back yard last evening around 10PM to have a smoke. I'm usually in bed by that time, but I took a few minutes to gaze south-southeastward through the haze and BWI lights to look at Jupiter and Sagittarius. Wow - that's quite an impressive sight. It's as if Jupiter has become a bright jewel in the "teapot's" handle. I wish I had a decent set of binoculars or a telescope. I'd loved to see the moons again. It brings back childhood memories of the first time I trained my old telscope on Saturn. It gave me goosebumps. 
-Mike Shriver
Linthicum, MD 

You, too, can gaze on the King of Planets, on any clear evening this month. Try some binoculars on it, and see if you can make out any of the four Galilean moons, layed out on either side of the planet's bright disk, as in the NASA photo above. They won't look this big in binocs, but if you steady the glasses on something solid, and your eyesight is OK, you should be able to make it out. Try it! And let the kids try it, too. Their eyes are better anyway.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:56 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

August 6, 2008

Last of the 90s?

Cloud cover cut back on our sunshine yesterday but it also prevented any severe weather and kept temperatures from reaching the 90-plus that Sterling had forecast for the Baltimore area. Again.

High temperatures at the airport have not been able to get past 86 degrees this week, despite repeated forecasts for 90-plus afternoons. Today's forecast high for the airport is 94 degrees. But only time will tell if we make it.

Deep Creek Lake/Sun Photo/Christoper T. AssafWhether we do or not, it looks like we'll be enjoying comfortable highs in the low- to mid 80s right through the weekend as cooler, drier air pushes in from the north and west behind a cold front.

Before we get there, forecasters say there's another chance Thursday for some warm, stickier weather and more showers, but it does not look like there's any risk for severe weather.

So, look for a great weekend. If you're headed for the beaches, there's a slight risk of thunderstorms for the rest of the work week. But the weekend looks fine, with highs near 80 degrees and sunny skies. Don't forget the sun block!

Still not cool enough? Go west, to Deep Creek lake or Oakland, (left) where the weekend highs will hover around 70 degrees, with overnight lows in the sleep-friendly 50s!

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:32 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

August 5, 2008

Storm risk diminishes

UPDATE at 5:30 p.m.: Forecasters are backing off their storm forecasts for this evening. Here's a portion of this afternoon's discussion from Sterling:

"EXTENSIVE CLOUD COVER THROUGH THE DAY TODAY HELPED TO ELIMINATE
THUNDERSTORMS ACROSS THE FORECAST AREA. CANNOT RULE OUT
THUNDERSTORMS HOWEVER THIS EVENING.  ... SEVERE THREAT AT THIS TIME APPEARS MINIMAL ... ACTIVITY FURTHER NORTH AND NORTHWEST HAS INCREASED. THAT ACTIVITY IS
EXPECTED TO MOVE SOUTHEAST...AND COULD HELP TRIGGER MORE ACTIVITY.
CANNOT RULE OUT A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM THIS EVENING...BUT CONFIDENCE
IS NOT VERY HIGH."

Earlier post follows:

Building heat and humidity near the surface, and cooler, drier air approaching aloft from the northwest late today will be the ingredients for what forecasters at Sterling expect will be a stormy evening.

They're calling for showers and thunderstorms developing later in the afternoon, and remaining a threat through the evening. A tenth to a quarter-inch of rain is possible, with more in thunderstorms. The storms may erase our chances to watch the International Space Station tonight. More on that in a moment.

Wednesday will be hot again - up to 92 at BWI - with more showers possible on Thursday as a second cold front passes by. But that one will clear the decks. From Friday well into next week we're looking for clear, sunny skies and seasonable highs in the low- to mid-80s as drier air builds in from the north and west. Nights will cool into the mid-60s, so open those windows and give the AC a rest.

Yesterday's high at BWI never made it into the 90s as Sterling had expected it would. Eighty-six was the most it could manage. We saw 88 degrees here at Calvert & Centre streets. The NWS is looking for 90s today. We'll see if they're right this time.

The overnight lows have been refreshing - 61 degrees yesterday and 67 this morning at BWI. We threw open the bedroom window early this morning and found the fresh, cool air a real relief. Others, apparently, hadn't done the same, so we were serenaded by the whirr of all the neighbors' air conditioners.

How about you? Do you seal up the house for the summer to keep out the heat, the pollen and the noise? Dutchess Community College Archive

Anybody still spend summer nights on an old-fashioned sleeping porch?  There was a time, before air-conditioning, when such porches were common. Here (above) is one at Bowne Hospital, a TB sanitorium in Dutchess County, N.Y., now the administration building for Dutchess Community College. Thanks to Ann Winfield and the DCC Archive for permission to use the image.

I can remember visiting a fraternity house at Bucknell U. one weekend in my youth and found all the brothers routinely slept on a second-floor sleeping porch. I can't remember what time of year it was, exactly. But I do recall it was cold as all get-out. I can't believe they still do that - not with tuition somewhere north of $30K a year.

Here (below) is another, more inviting sleeping porch I found online. It's at a bed and breakfast near Frankfort, Mich., called Reverie on Lake Michigan. Susan King, one of the owners, let us use the photo. Looks like naptime to me.

Susan King/Used with permission 

So where was I? Oh yes. The storms tonight may well obscure our view of the ISS as it flies over. But, just in case you get a break in the weather, here are the specs: Watch for the station to rise above the northwest horizon at 9:31 p.m., climbing high overhead by 9:34 p.m. It will be hard to miss if the clouds part - just about as bright as Jupiter, which is gleaming in the southeast after sunset.

At 9:35 p.m., the space station will vanish abruptly from sight as it flies into the Earth's shadow - sunset on board the station. With no direct sunlight to illuminate it for us, the ISS just disappears.

There's another nice ISS flyby on Thursday evening, weather permitting. Watch for details on The Sun's print Weather Page on Thursday morning.

Here's tonight's flight path from Heavens-Above.com, where you can get ISS flyby predictions for your location and much more..Heavens-Above.com

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:40 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Edouard goes ashore in Texas

Tropical Storm Edouard has made landfall on the northwest Gulf Coast without ever reaching hurricane strength. That's good news for the people who live and work in the region. But they still face considerable damage and hardship from the strong winds - up to 65 mph - heavy rains and storm tides that are battering the area today.

Here is the latest advisory on Edouard. Here is the forecast storm track. And here is the view from space.

NASAThere was another terrific satellite image of the storm, taken at mid-day Monday. It showed Edouard looking more organized and symmetrical, suggesting that another couple of days in open water could have turned it into a really serious threat. Here's a closer look at the photo.

If you've written Edouard off as no serious problem for the coastal region, think again. Here is the forecast for today in Houston. They are looking at rainfall rates of 2 to 4 inches an hour today, with accumulations up to 6 inches. Eight inches are possible in some spots.

In addition, isolated tornadoes, flash floods, property damage from high winds and storm surges are also possible.

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:51 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

August 4, 2008

Hot and humid midweek; great weekend

Sun Photo/Karl Merton Ferron, 2004

More hot weather ahead to start the new week, I'm afraid. After a near-perfect Sunday and a gorgeous Sunday evening (did anyone notice that slenderest of crescent moons, in the west after sunset?) of mild temperatures and low humidity, the stickiness will be on the rise again today and especially tomorrow, forecasters say.

Sterling is looking for highs today and tomorrow back up in the 90s after a nice weekend respite in the 80s. We've seen 20 days with highs of 90 or more so far this summer at BWI. We'll likely add three more this week before we get some relief.

That relief will be sweet, but we have to get past Tuesday first. Forecasters say the usual combination of rising heat and humidity, acting against an approaching cold front and upper-atmosphere disturbances will bring us a good chance for showers and thunderstorms Tuesday.

We could be looking at heat index values of 100 degrees or more tomorrow before the storms arrive to cool things down. Wind conditions aloft will favor strong to severe thunderstorms, so keep an eye on the forecast, and switch on your NOAA Weather Radio late Tuesday and Tuesday night.

The relief comes late in the week, when daytime highs will sink back into the more seasonable 80s, with lower humidity. Those highs will quite likely be below the seasonal norms. They're calling for highs of 83 under sunny skies for the weekend. Out at the beaches, we could see highs near just 80 degrees

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:12 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Edouard strengthening; could become hurricane

NOAA

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center say that Tropical Storm Edouard, after a faltering a bit overnight, appears once again to be strengthening as it cruises westward toward landfall tomorrow somewhere along the upper Texas Gulf Coast.

At 8 a.m. Monday it was centered about 80 miles south-southwest of Grand Isle, La., with top sustained winds of about 50 mph. When and if those winds reach 74 mph, Edouard will be ranked as a hurricane.

Hurricane watches have been posted from west of Intracoastal City, La. to Port O'Connor, Tex. That means hurricane conditions could develop within 36 hours. That's in addition to the Tropical Storm Warnings issued from the mouth of the Mississippi River westward to San Luis Pass in Texas.

Forecasters are warning of a storm surge 2 to 4 feet above normal high tides in the TS warning area. People in the storm's path could also see 2 to 4 inches of rain, with as much as 6 inches in isolated spots in southeastern Texas.

Here's the latest advisory on Edouard. Here's the forecast storm track. And here's the satellite loop.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:40 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

August 3, 2008

New tropical depression forms in Gulf

TNOAAhe National Hurricane Center reports that a new tropical depression has formed today in the northern Gulf of Mexico, headed west toward the Texas Gulf Coast. It is the fifth of the season, and, if it strengthens as predicted will soon become Tropical Storm Edouard.

Here is the latest advisory. Here is the forecast storm track. And here is the satellite loop.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:23 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Storms destroy church, topple trees

Yesterday's thunderstorms caused widespread damage across the region, including the destruction by fire of one of Baltimore's oldest and most lovely churches.

The 130-year-old Mount Vernon United Methodist Church, in Hampden, was consumed by fire after it was apprently struck by lightning during the storm. In c ase you missed it, here's this morning's story in The Sun.

Elsewhere, high winds snapped or uprooted trees, and sent them toppling on utility lines, cars and structures. There was roof damage, blocked roads, and golf-ball-sized hail in some spots.

We recorded almost a half-inch of rain out on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville. BWI had about the same from an early-morning storm on Saturday, but almost nothing from the afternoon rains. Here at Calvert & Centre streets, our instruments clocked 0.85 inch from the earlier storm, and an evening rain, but nothing in the afternoon.

It looks like sunny and continued hot weather until late Tuesday, then more showers and thunderstorms until the weekend.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:52 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Storm reports
        

August 1, 2008

One wet July

Well, July is finally behind us, and it was a wet one. The bulk of the month's rain, of course, fell on one day - the 2.42-inch deluge on Wednesday, July 23 (see photo). That was the official total at the airport. Other locations will have different numbers. We had only 1.4 inches on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville, and 1.89 inches here at Calvert & Centre streets (until the weather took our station off-line).

AP PhotoThe month's total rainfall came to 5.47 inches at BWI. That was 1.62 inches above the long-term July average for the airport, and it continues what is now a four-month stretch of extra precipitation that has added 7.39 inches of surplus to our totals for BWI.

For the year since January, we are now running a 4.61-inch surplus. Only January and March saw deficits.

July was also notable for its heat. The average temperature for the month at BWI was 77.5 degrees, one degree above the 30-year average. Yesterday, with a high of just 84 degrees at the airport, was the third-coolest day of the month.

At no time in July did the airport fail to top 80 degrees. There were 10 days in the 90s - equal to July 2007. That brings the total for the summer to 19 days - two more than last year. But we're running well behind 2006, when we'd had a total of 24 days in the 90s by the end of July (with 13 more to come in August of that very hot summer).

The airport high for the month was 94 degrees, on the 20th. The low was 59 degrees, on the 25th. The longest stretch of hot weather was a seven-day streak of 90-plus days, between the 16th and the 22nd.

Only five days in July were rated as cloudy. Two were clear. The rest were "partly cloudy."

We're two-thirds of the way through the meteorological summer now, but only one-third through the hurricane season, which doesn't peak for another month. So far, so good. Look for a chance for showers or thunderstorms Saturday and Saturday evening. Otherwise, we seem to be stuck in a long stretch of sunny days, with highs near 90 degrees. Sunday will be the best of the batch - sunny and 86 if the forecast holds up.NASA

Watch Sunday's paper for details on a nice pass by the International Space Station, which will fly almost directly over Baltimore - very bright - on Tuesday evening Aug. 5, and then vanish. The long-range forecast calls for mostly cloudy skies that night. We'll see. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:11 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers
        
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This site is the Maryland Weather archive. The current Maryland Weather blog can be found here.
Frank Roylance is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. He came to Baltimore from New Bedford, Mass. in 1980 to join the old Evening Sun. He moved to the morning Sun when the papers merged in 1992, and has spent most of his time since covering science, including astronomy and the weather. One of The Baltimore Sun's first online Web logs, the Weather Blog debuted in October 2004. In June 2006 Frank also began writing comments on local weather and stargazing for The Baltimore Sun's print Weather Page. Frank also answers readers’ weather queries for the newspaper and the blog. Frank Roylance retired in October 2011. Maryland Weather is now being updated by members of The Baltimore Sun staff
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