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September 30, 2008

Where have all the sunspots gone?

NASA

Solar scientists are marveling at how quiet the surface of the sun has been this year - 200 days (through 9/27) with no sunspots visible. They're saying it's the quietest year on the sun since the Space Age began. The quietest since 1954 to be precise. The image above shows the sun as it looked on Saturday. And we still have three months to go.

It's not exactly a surprise that the sun has been spotless this year. We are at the minimum point in the current 11-year solar activity cycle, and sunspots - with all the flares and prominances that come with the maximum periods of solar activity - are typically scarce during solar minimums.

What's unusual is how very, very quiet the sun has been. This year has seen the fewest sunspots since 1954, and the seventh-fewest in the last century, according to NASA. It's a boon to solar scientists, who get to study our nearest star without the usual tumult on its surface. At the time of solar maximum, like 2001, the sun looked like this:

NASA

 What's really fascinating, though, is that this quiet sun coincides with the dimmest sun scientists have ever recorded, and a low in solar wind pressure. The lull in solar irradiance is only a tiny percentage below normal, but it is something to watch if our sun continues to dim. And the slowing of the solar wind actually began several years ago. But the confluence of changes has solar scientists on the run looking for links and explanations.

Who says there's nothing new under the sun? You can read more here. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:31 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

So how will you spend that $170 BGE credit?

That was sweet! I got my BGE bill this week and found a balance due of exactly zero dollars. It was the bill that reflected the one-time credit of $170 from the gas and electric company, the sum worked out as part of a $2 billion settlement of a lawsuit between the utility and state.

So, at least in theory, I should have an extra $170 in my household budget this month to spend on something else. Heck, the bill tells me I still have another $28 coming as a credit in next month's bill. But what to spend it on?

I could send it to my bank, and ask them to put it toward my car loan, or the home equity loan, or my credit card balance. They may be the last loans I can ever get. And it might save me a little bit of interest. Or, I could hang onto the $170, and put a sticky note on it saying: "For BGE gas cost increase" which the company says will cost me something like $110 more this winter.

But forecasters say the coming winter looks pretty mild for most of the country. So, maybe I won't need the extra cash for heat.

There is the banking crisis, of course. Maybe I should put  $1 in the cup of each of the next 170 bankers I encounter selling pencils on the sidewalk. Maybe that will help them get back on their feet.

Hey, maybe I should invest the money in my 401K. If history is any guide, it should be worth, oh, $17 by the time I'm ready to retire. Or, by tomorrow. Whichever comes first.

Hmmm. On second thought, maybe 10 cases of Oktoberfest would be a better investment in my future happiness AND my mid-winter warmth. Yeah. That's the ticket.

What are your plans for your $170 BGE credit? Drop us a comment. Let it all out. You'll feel better. I know I do.  

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:25 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Events
        

Cooler, sunny days ahead after showers

Forecasters say we're in for some showers and thunderstorms this afternoon and this evening. Some spots could see more than an inch of rain, and severe storms - with hail and damaging wind - are possible. But by Thursday, and straight through the weekend, we should enjoy cool, sunny days and chilly nights as October brings us something that feels more like autumn.

The showers and thunderstorms are expected to move in after 3 p.m. as a weak cold front approaches from the Ohio Valley. The I-95 corridor should see the storms around rush hour, with the action moving across the bay around dinnertime.

The the cold front pushes through on Wednesday, bringing us daytime highs only in the 60s by Thursday and on into the weekend. The overnight lows will sink to the 40s. Both are 5 to 10 degrees below the averages for this time of year at BWI.

Baltimore Sun Photo/Nanine Hartzenbusch/2005But skies should be mostly sunny, so whatever you decide to do this weekend, you ought to include an outdoor component. Next to April, October is Maryland's prettiest month, in my opinion. Summer's too hot and humid, winter too feeble for real winter sports. The weather in October is still mild, the air is mostly dry, and the hills are full of color. Perfect for a hike, a picnic in the park or a spin on the bike trails. If you have a convertible, it's the best time of year to drop the top.

But maybe your favorite month in Maryland is February (for snow?) or September (for tropical storm remnants?). Drop a comment below and let us know what you think.  

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:13 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

September 29, 2008

Action in the North Atlantic

http://weblogs.marylandweather.com/Laura.29.jpg

Now that Kyle has gone ashore in Nova Scotia and the Maritime Provinces of Canada, the National Hurricane Center has turned its attention to Laura, a new sub-tropical storm that has formed overnight in the North Atlantic (Upper right on this image). It's spinning almost due east of Ocean City but far out on the Atlantic, south-southeast of Newfoundland. Top sustained winds are blowing at 60 mph.

For now, Laura remains a sub-tropical storm, but forecasters see signs that she could develop into a true tropical storm:

"A PRONOUNCED CONVECTIVE BAND
NOW CURLS ABOUT THREE QUARTERS OF THE WAY AROUND THE EAST AND NORTH
OF THE LARGE CIRCULATION BUT THE LOW-LEVEL CENTER REMAINS BROAD AND
ILL-DEFINED WITH SEVERAL INTERNAL SMALLER SWIRLS.  WITH THE
IMPROVED CONVECTIVE SIGNATURE...A CASE COULD BE MADE THAT THE
CYCLONE IS BEGINNING TO ACQUIRE MORE TROPICAL CHARACTERISTICS."

Laura will not become a direct threat to North America, but shipping will be grappling with a bad storm. The storm track makes it appear that Ireland and the British Isles will be dealing with Laura in a few days.

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

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:25 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

That weekend gusher

Somehow, I managed to be on my way to Pittsburgh while the heavens were opening up on Severn, Baltimore, Towson and Cockeysville on Saturday. I posted once early in the morning before we left, and again from the road a couple of times, but a slow hotel connection hobbled my efforts. Suffice it to say it was a very impressive display by Mother Nature. But if you were here, you already know all that. Here are a few of the rainfall totals for the three-day storm:

Towson: 5.36 inches

Cockeysville:  4.56 inches

Hamilton (in Baltimore City): 4.50 inches

BWI: 4.15 inches 

Severn:  4.28 inches.

Blame the Atlantic low that went ashore in South Carolina, turned and wandered slowly up the Appalachians over the weekend.

The street flooding here was dramatic in the usual low spots in Cockeysville (Beaver Run and York Road) and down along the Jones Falls in the city and county.

Here is a more comprehensive rundown on rain totals.  The September total for BWI is now 6.73 inches. That's almost 3 inches above the norm for BWI in September, but a long way from the record of 12.41 inches, set in September 1934. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:32 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers
        

September 27, 2008

Kyle now a hurricane, off Outer Banks

NOAATropical Storm Kyle has graduated to hurricane status, and continues his northward trek in the Atlantic. The center of the storm late Saturday night was about 400 miles south of Nantucket, off the Carolina coast. It was moving to the north at 24 mph with top sustained winds of 75 mph - a minimal Cat. 1 hurricane. Kyle was expected to weaken Sunday over colder waters and before landfall.

A hurricane watch was posted for the Maine coast from Stonington east to Eastport, and for southeast Nova Scotia. A tropical storm watch is in effect for the Maine coast from Port Clyde to Cape Elizabeth, including the Portland area.

Rain from the storm was already reaching well to the north of the storm's center Saturday night. We can probably expect to see some serious flood video out of the region in the next few days. Here is the latest advisory. Here is the latest storm track. And here is the view from orbit.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:32 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

"Train" of showers off Bay soak Baltimore

NOAA 

Meteorologists call it "training," not because it gives them practice in forecasting rainfall, but because it suggests a "train" of storms that keep passing over a narrow area, producing repeated downpours and high rain totals.

Anyway, that's what Baltimore and points north have been experiencing this morning. Showers and thunderstorms, some with heavy downpours, have been moving up the Chesapeake, heading inland over Baltimore and on northward. Here's how it looks this morning on the radar loop. (Later in the day things will likely change, so will the loop.)

So far, since midnight, we have recorded 0.66 inches of rain here on the WeatherDeck. The total since Thursday is 1.54 inches. Here's where to find a map of totals that will be reported shortly by National Weather Service volunteer weather observers. (The map as I write this is yesterday's, but should be updated shortly.)

For CoCoRaHS observers' reports, click here. Click on "Total Precip" at the top of the rain column and it will order them from the highest amounts, down to the lowest. Thurmont and Potomac have seen about 2 inches.

It's all being driven by that Atlantic storm that went ashore near Myrtle Beach. The low is now moving north and east along the Appalachians, still well to our southwest. But the counterclockwise flow around the center is still pumping very wet Atlantic air across the region. Here's the satellite loop.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:30 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Storm reports
        

September 26, 2008

"Cool" animation shows arctic ice loss

The northern summer of 2007 saw more open water around the North Pole than ever before. The record loss of sea ice is a worry not just to polar bears and seals, but also to those concerned about global warming. The less ice, the less sunlight reflected back into space, and that means NASA/Goddard Space Flight Centermore solar energy absorbed by the Arctic Ocean. And that just reinforces the warming of the northern ocean, which has an impact globally - like switching off the planet's icebox.

Scientists have been watching the annual melt as an indicator of global climate change. Although the melting offers the prospect of commercial shipping in summer through the fabled Northwest Passage, the loss of "permanent" year-round sea ice is worrisome to many.  

And after last year's record melt, scientists were eager to see whether 2008 would exceed that mark. It didn't, although it came close. Here's more from the National Snow and Ice Data Center. And the pace of the melt during August did set a new record.

Anyway, scientists at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center's Scientific Visualization Studio have assembled an animation of the 2008 melting season as recorded by polar satellites. It's fascinating. Have a look.

Here's more from Goddard.  

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:33 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Climate change
        

Rain here falls short of forecast

NOAA

Woke up to thunder and lightning this morning, soon followed by a torrential shower. But it does not look like we got as much rain overnight as forecasters said we might - at least not in the Baltimore area. The Eastern Shore saw 1 to 2 inches, as predicted.

We recorded 0.22 inch here at Calvert & Centre streets in downtown Baltimore. I had about a half-inch out on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville. BWI airport reported about a third of an inch. Here’s a map of overnight rainfall as reported by NWS volunteer weather observers. Looks like some locations in Southern Maryland and in Northern Virginia saw more than an inch.

Here is the CoCoRaHS Website with their reports. Among the highlights are:

Leonardtown:  1.97 inches

Berlin: 1.83 inches

Bishopville: 1.69 inches

Salisbury: 1.59 inches

Princess Anne: 1.11 inches

We’re in for a couple more days of gray skies and occasional showers, with an isolated thunderstorm or two to spice things up. The problem is the persistent northeast flow of air around the storm that went ashore near Myrtle Beach, S.C. last night. It’s bringing us cool, wet air off the Atlantic.

Once the storm - now well inland in South Carolina - turns itself around and scoots off to the northeast, things will start to improve. We can expect the rain risks and drizzle to persist through Sunday, I’m afraid. Things won’t start to clear out until Monday. And then more rain returns by mid-week.

We’re looking at the coolest weather of the season so far after the middle of next week, with lows in the 40s and highs only in the 60s through the end of the week, forecasters said.

The tropics, in the meantime, seem to have revived a bit. Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center are watching Tropical Storm Kyle, now about 450 miles south-southwest of Bermuda, headed north-northwest at 13 mph. The island has issued Tropical Storm Warnings, but Kyle’s strongest winds are expected to stay well west of the resort.

NOAAKyle’s top sustained winds were measured at 60 mph this morning, and there was some chance the storm could reach hurricane strength on Saturday.

Forecasters have alerted interests in New England and Canada’s Maritime Provinces to keep a close eye on Kyle. The storm is not seen as a threat to the Middle Atlantic coast. But we should expect a continuation of rough surf conditions at the beaches.

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

Two other stormy areas are being watched - one in the middle of the Atlantic, and another in the Bay of Campeche, west of the Yucatan Peninsula. Neither shows much promise of becoming a tropical storm.

My apologies for a late post today. Our blog platform has been overwhelmed by traffic and inaccessible. I’m told that a fix is in the works.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:38 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

September 25, 2008

Tropical Storm Kyle forms in Atlantic

NOAA

The season's 11th named storm has formed in the Atlantic east of the Bahamas. It has been named Kyle, but it seems to pose little threat to land, at least for now.

Kyle was located more than 600 miles south southwest of Bermuda, moving north with top sustained winds of 45 mph. That course would take it well west of Bermuda, toward Maine and the Canadian Maritime Provinces.  It does seem likely to keep the surf pounding along the East Coast into next week.

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

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:37 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

How dark is your sky?

I received an email message the other day from Mike Shriver, in Linthicum. He was outside stargazing one morning recently. The sun was not up yet, and Mike spied Orion, The Hunter, rising in the east.

Orion is usually thought of as a winter constellation. Its bright trio of stars at The Hunter's belt is easy to spot, and it's surrounded by other bright stars - Betelgeuse, Rigel and Bellatrix are the best-known. The belt includes Mintaka, Alnilam and Alnitak. Great names, all.

Sailors, I've heard, hated to see Orion reappear each autumn, because they knew it's return meant the advent of violent winter storms. Or was it Capella?

But for backyard stargazers, Orion is an old friend, easy to find, and a kind of pointer for other treasures of the winter sky. Off to the east is Sirius, the brightest true star in the sky. To the west lie the Pleiades, or Seven Sisters, a jewel-box of a star cluster, especially in binoculars. And just below Orion's Belt lies the Orion Nebula, a cloud of glowing gas and young stars just visible to the naked eye, and a complex wonder through even a small backyard telescope.

Anyway, the sight of Orion sparked a memory in Mike's head.

"It made me think of an article I saw in the Sunpaper maybe two or three years ago. Maybe you had something to do with it. Maybe not. Anyway, if I recall correctly some organization was doing a study on air and light pollution. As part of the article, there was a diagram of the stars in Orion and they were asking readers to cut out the diagram. Then they were to go outside on a clear night and circle the stars on the diagram that they could actually see, and then mail it in. Apparently (once again, if I recall correctly) the results were going to be tabulated in some fashion and then published. I was wondering if this rings a bell with you. I would have been curious to see the results."

Good memory. It was the Enlighten Maryland project. We ran a story in The Sun in February 2002, along with a star chart of the constellation Orion. Readers were asked to go outside and find Orion, then circle only the stars on the chart that they could see with the naked eye. The thought was that, where light pollution was the worst, fewer of the stars would be seen. By piecing all the returns together, the project could construct a map of light pollution in Maryland.

I never heard anything about the results, either, at the time. I called Max Mutchler, at the Space Telescope Science Institute on Thursday and asked him about it.

Enlighten MarylandHe said the project received 1,130 returns (some of them at left), and ernest efforts were made to convert the data into a contour map of the light pollution in Maryland. But the reporting turned out to be inconsistent, perhaps because such a broad range of observers participated -  from school kids to amateur astronomers. Anyway, he was never able to put together a map that looked right to him.

"It was fun to try to refine the data and see if the results made any sense, but I wouldn't want people to read too much into it," he said. So, for whatever it's worth, here's what they came up with. Credit goes to Max Mutchler, Brian Eney and Melissa Jan, of Enlighten Maryland. The lighter colors represent the brighter skies and higher light pollution levels. The darker colors represent darker skies and better stargazing.

Enlighten Maryland

Like I said, it's a little rough. Here's a map of the locations across Central Maryland where the reports came from.

Enlighten Maryland 

If you want to see another light pollution map that covers the whole globe, I'll give you a link here.  Just click on the map for North America, and click to open the high resolution TIFF image. Then click on the little magnifying glass, and then on Maryland to zoom in to a scale that's useful. You can see the dark region in north central Pennsylvania, where you'll find dark skies preserved at Cherry Springs State Park. Out in West Virginia there are also some fine, dark skies.

You can also go to Observingsites.com for leads to the best nighttime skies in the nation.

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:40 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

Winds rise ahead of Atlantic storm

NOAA

Winds down at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station are huffing along at between 17 and 21 mph, with gusts to nearly 30 mph this morning, as that Atlantic storm moves closer to landfall later today in the Carolinas. It's even stormier at Ocean City, where the airport is reporting light rain and winds between 20 and 24 mph, gusting to 35 mph.

Our NWS forecasters, operating this week from facilities in State College, Pa. (their offices at Sterling, Va., are being moved this week to make way for runway expansion at Dulles International Airport), say we can expect rain to develop during the afternoon. We can use the moisture. BWI has recorded no rain at all for two weeks - since Sept. 12. 

Winds will rise to between 18 and 24 mph, with gusting to 40.

Most of our rain is expected to fall tonight - up to three-quarters of an inch at BWI. But we should be ready for at least occasional rain right through the day Friday and Saturday before this storm finally moves off to the northeast. Sunday and Monday will bring our next best shot at some sunshine.

The storm is not a hurricane, and for the moment not yet a tropical depression. But it is being tracked by the National Hurricane Center. Forecasters there say it is centered about 180 miles southeast of the South Caroliona/North Carolina border, moving slowly westward. Here's the satellite loop.

While it has "not yet acquired tropical characteristics," they said, it could still become a tropical or subtropical cyclone later today. 

But that probably won't matter much. It is still a strong low-pressure system, and it is already bringing strong winds, high surf, dangerous rip currents, coastal flooding and heavy rains to the Atlantic coast from South Carolina to Maryland.

In Maryland, a Coastal Flood Advisory remains in effect through the end of the week for the Chesapeake Bay's western shore, from Harford County to St. Mary's County. People along the bay shore can expect high tides 1 to 2 feet above normal predictions and minor flooding. Here are the high tide times for today and tonight:

HAVRE DE GRACE... 7:19 PM...
BOWLEY BAR... 4:57 PM...
FORT MCHENRY BALTIMORE... 4:06 PM AND 4:59 AM...
ANNAPOLIS U.S. NAVAL ACADEMY...2:36 PM AND 3:29 AM...
SOLOMONS ISLAND...11:28 AM AND 12:21 AM...
POINT LOOKOUT...10:38 AM AND 11:31 PM...

The NWS has also posted a Wind Advisory for Central and Southern Maryland and the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay, with gusts to 45 mph today and tonight. Forecasters said:

"WINDS THIS STRONG MAY DOWN SOME TREES AND POWER LINES. WINDS THIS
STRONG CAN ALSO MAKE DRIVING DIFFICULT...ESPECIALLY FOR HIGH
PROFILE VEHICLES. USE EXTRA CAUTION"

When the time comes, you can track any BGE outages here. So far, it's quiet for the linemen.

There's also a Gale Warning for the tidal Potomac and the Chesapeake through tonight.

You can track the wind and barometric readings on the bay off Calvert Cliffs at the Cove Point Data Bouy, here. For conditions in downtown Baltimore, try The Sun's weather station at Calvert & Centre streets.

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

September 24, 2008

Coastal storm brings wind, rain Thursday PM

NOAA water vapor loop

Get outside today and enjoy the warm, sunny, early-autumn weather, because it's all downhill from here. The radar loop shows a strong coastal low developing a couple of hundred miles off the Carolina coast. This system has top sustained winds of 65 mph and is developing more tropical characteristics, But it is not likely to become a tropical storm. 

(This is NOT the storm that was developing in the northeast Caribbean last week - the one we thought might become TS Kyle. That disturbance is still down there, still having trouble getting its act together.) 

Forecasters watching the coastal storm say they expect it to move toward shore today and tomorrow. The low's counterclockwise rotation, combined with the clockwise rotation of the high-pressure system over New England that's brought us this gorgeous weather, will begin increasing our winds out of the northeast today. The Sun's weather station is already showing the wind speeds rising. The barometer is still quite high. When it starts dropping, you'll know the wetter weather is en route. 

Here's AccuWeather.com's take on the storm

Next will come high cirrus clouds later today and tonight. You can actually see the edge of those clouds to our south today. They will evolve into cloudier conditions by morning with rain beginning in the afternoon. Forecasters  say we could expect as much as 2 inches of rain before the whole system departs on Friday.

The northeast winds will shove Chesapeake Bay water toward the western shore. A Coastal Flood Watch has been posted for Anne Arundel, Calvert and St. Mary's counties for late tonight and Thursday. It warns of high tides 1 to 3 feet above normal predictions and "minor to moderate coastal flooding."

A Hazardous Weather Outlook message has been posted for the entire western shore and the tidal Potomac River tonight and Thursday. It notes gale warnings off the ocean beaches, in the middle section of the Chesapeake and tidal Potomac River. Gale warnings mean winds of 39 to 54 mph are expected within 24 hours.

Here's the windy Ocean City forecast. The winds come with a High Surf Advisory and a high risk of dangerous rip currents. So don't fool with the surf for the next few days.

Some sunshine should return by Sunday. Sunny skies, with highs in the mid-70s, will return in time for the new work week. For now, watch that barometer.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:24 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Forecasts
        

September 22, 2008

A sunny welcome to Autumn

NOAA

These are the final, sweet, sunny moments of the Summer of '08. At 11:44 a.m. EDT today we welcome the Fall Equinox and the official start of Autumn in the Northern Hemisphere as the sun appears to cross the equator into the southern sky in its inexorable slide toward the next Solstice on Dec. 21.

The long-term forecast for the Fall season calls for temperatures and precipitation in our section of the country for the next three months to be near the 30-year averages. The Winter forecast, from December through February, anticipates near-normal precipitation in Maryland, with some chance for milder-than-normal temperatures. A big snowstorm is always a possibility, of course, but the averages would appear to be working against it. I suspect this winter will look more like last winter - very little snow and mild temperatures.

More immediately, we're looking at more delightful late-summer/early-fall weather as we head into the new work week. That's us in the sunshine in the satellite photo above, with clouds from the low off to our south and east. Here's how it looks in the satellite loop.

Forecasters at Sterling are expecting mostly sunny skies through Thursday, with highs in the 70s and lows in the sleep-friendly 50s as yet another cold front sweeps through today with more cool, dry air and high pressure.

Low pressure circulating off the Carolina coast later in the week will likely bring northeast winds and wet weather to the Chesapeake by Thursday or Friday. Models disagree over exactly how the event will play out. Confusing the issue is the tropical weather developing over the northern Leeward Islands, and how it will impact weather over the Southeastern U.S.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:28 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events
        

September 21, 2008

Next storm gathering in the tropics

NOAA

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center are watching the northeast Caribbean where stormy weather appears to be organizing into what could, later today, become the next tropical depression of the season. If it grows to tropical storm strength, it will be named Kyle.

Here is the satellite loop. Here is what the NHC is saying:

"THIS SYSTEM IS SHOWING
SIGNS OF INCREASED ORGANIZATION...AND UPPER-LEVEL WINDS ARE
EXPECTED TO GRADUALLY BECOME MORE FAVORABLE FOR DEVELOPMENT TO
OCCUR OVER THE NEXT COUPLE OF DAYS.  A TROPICAL DEPRESSION COULD
FORM LATER TODAY AS THE SYSTEM MOVES SLOWLY NORTH-NORTHWESTWARD.
AN AIR FORCE RESERVE RECONNAISSANCE AIRCRAFT IS SCHEDULED TO
INVESTIGATE THE SYSTEM THIS AFTERNOON.  LOCALLY HEAVY RAINFALL AND
STRONG GUSTY WINDS WILL AFFECT PUERTO RICO...THE VIRGIN ISLANDS...
AND THE NORTHERN LEEWARD ISLAND THROUGH MONDAY."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:17 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

September 19, 2008

Perfect. Again.

So what the heck do you write about when the weather is perfect day after day? Forecasters out at Sterling continue to predict sunny skies and highs in the 70s for as far as they can see (the middle of next week). Overnight lows will remain in the 50s, allowing us great sleeping weather, at no charge from BGE (Buffett Gas & Electric).

Here are some of the overnight low readings from around and about. Not quite as cold in the far west as forecasters had been predicting. Here's more:

BWI: 63 degrees

WeatherDeck, Cockeysville: 51 degrees

Calvert & Centre: 61 degrees

Westminster: 51 degrees

Cumberland: 50 degrees

Hancock: 51 degrees

And, from WeatherBug:

Accident, Garrett Co.: 47 degrees

Oakland, Garrett Co.:  48 degrees

Frostburg (not frosty): 43 degrees

Monkton:  52 degrees

Owings Mills:  54 degrees

Perry Hall: 56 degrees

There's nothing serious stirring in the tropics, although there is a stormy area in the Caribbean that's getting some attention. No worries there, though, apparently.

There's been no change at all on the Drought Monitor map, which still shows lingering dry conditions on the central Eastern Shore.

AP Photo/David PhillipSo what else? I came in this morning and found some interesting satellite images that show the flooding along the Gulf Coast of Louisiana and Texas where Ike ran ashore last weekend. There was also an aerial shot showing how the storm surge swept a Texas beach, clearing away most of the homes there. It's a pretty graphic argument for why people with homes near the beach need to evacuate when these storms threaten.

Why anyone builds there is another question entirely. It was interesting to read in The Sun this morning that Texas, using a law already on the books, is planning to seize beachfront property where the storm erased the dunes, the homes, and pushed back the waterline. What once were people's vacation properties will become state-owned beach. That much makes some sense. But the owners may not be compensated for the taking. Is that even constitutional? 

The former state senator who wrote the law in 1959 had little sympathy for those who built on shifting sands:

"We're talking about damn fools that have built houses on the edge of the sea for as long as man could remember and against every advice anyone has given," A.R. "Babe" Schwartz said."

I'd be interested to get readers' comments on Texas' plans.

And, from the Totally Unrelated News Dept.: Astronomers say they've snapped the first-ever direct image of a planet circling a sunlike star. The star is very young, and the planet is very big, very, very far from its star, and still very hot. So it's not going to be a place very friendly to life. But the search for habitable planets is making advances every day. I suspect that, within the lifetime of many of us, we will image an Earth-like planet and study the light bouncing off it for signs of life. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:38 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Forecasts
        

September 18, 2008

Frosty in Garrett; perfect here

Sun Photo/Kim Hairston 2005

The first frost of the season could arrive tonight in the far western reaches of Maryland. But for us lowlanders, the forecast for the weekend - and beyond - could not be more perfect.

Forecasters this morning are talking about a series of cold fronts projected to sweep across the region from now through Sunday. There's is no rain associated with any of them, just some clouds. And there seems to be little or no concern that they will cut much into the sunshine we'll see during the day, or the stars we'll enjoy at night.

For far-western Garrett County, though, radiational cooling - the loss of daytime heat into space through cloud-free night skies - will drop air temperatures to near 40 degrees. Because some surfaces can lose more heat than the air around them, that will mean "patchy" frost in the most vulnerable locations. Friendsville, in Garrett County, is expecting a low of 38 degrees tonight.

We won't see anything like that. Insulated by the lingering warmth of the ocean and the bay, we're expected to remain in the low 50s tonight, with highs tomorrow near 70 degrees. That's 7 degrees cooler than the long-term averages for this time of year at BWI. In fact, the high of 70 degrees predicted for tomorrow would be the coolest daytime high at the airport since May 28.  

The forecast, in short, looks perfect. Sunshine and highs in the 70s every day through next Wednesday. If you were thinking of retiring (and have anything left in your 401K), the coming week would be a great time to bail out and put the rocker out on the porch. Golden Days, indeed. If not, a round of golf, or the bike trail, or a walk in the park will have to do.

The tropics remain quiet.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:15 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

September 17, 2008

See the International Space Station this weekend

Attention Space Cadets! The International Space Station has been a regular visitor lately for those hardy souls who are up and outside before dawn breaks. For the rest of us, the ISS is returning this weekend to the more user-friendly evening sky.

NASAFriday marks the beginning of a fine series of flyovers by the growing, and increasingly brilliant manned space laboratory. If you have never seen it go by, or have not rousted the kids out from behind their computer games to see it, make a resolution to do so this weekend. The weather looks promising. And who knows? The spectacle might inspire the videoheads to crack the science books and become astronomers, or astronauts, or (if things go badly) newspaper science writers.

The ISS, traveling at an orbital velocity of about 17,500 mph, circles the planet once every 90 minutes, so there are more opportunities to see it than I will note here. I'll spare you the passes that are very close to the horizon, and liable to be lost in the clutter of trees, rooftops and urban air pollution. I also skip those that are rather short - when the station rises above the horizon, for example, and quickly plunges into the Earth's shadow, and disappears from sight.

Here then, are the brightest and best four opportunities for the coming weekend. If skies are clear, or mostly so, just step outside at the stated times, look in the right direction, and you will see the station. For the uninitiated, it will rise above the horizon looking like a steady white star, except it will be moving higher into the sky at a brisk clip. It's traveling at about 17,500 miles per hour, and will usually cross the entire sky in just 4 or 5 minutes.

If you see something moving with multiple lights, or flashing lights or colored lights, it's an airplane. Keep looking. What you're seeing of the station is actually sunlight, reflected off the ISS's reflective solar panels, or shiny metal shell. And as the ISS has become larger during the construction of the last few years, the more sunlight it's been reflecting. It is bright enough now to shine through hazy skies and thin clouds. And it can be seen even before the sky is totally dark. Some satellite enthusiasts have spotted it in the daytime.

There is a crew of three on board. Here's more on them and what they're up to.

If you want to see more of the station, you can get flyby predictions online from Heavens-Above.com  Just sign in, punch in your location, and it will provide all sorts of information, from ISS flybys to maps of the night sky. Try it. Those are your tax dollars up there.

So, without further ado, here are the specifics for the best ISS passes for the Baltimore area from Friday through Monday evenings:

FRIDAY: The ISS will appear above the southwestern horizon at 7:59 p.m. as it soars up the East Coast from Florida to the Outer Banks, it will appear from Baltimore to fly just above and very close to the bright planet Jupiter in the southern sky. It will be not quite halfway up the southeastern sky at 8:01 p.m., moving just below the bright star Altair, the southernmost member of the Summer Triangle. From there, the station will move off toward the eastern horizon, disappearing into Earth's shadow at 8:03 p.m.

SATURDAY: This time, the ISS will be flying a parallel track to Friday's, but farther to the west, flying up the Appalachian mountain chain toward New England. From here, it will appear above the southwestern horizon at 8:25 p.m., climbing to about 50 degrees above the northwest horizon - more than halfway up the sky and well above the Big Dipper, if you can see that constellation. From there it will zip off toward the northeast, vanishing near the "W"-shaped constellation Cassiopeia at 8:29 p.m.

SUNDAY: This pass will be almost identical to Friday's, except the times will change, and it will be slightly higher in the sky. Look for the station to rise above the southwestern horizon at 7:16 p.m., flying above the planet Jupiter - the brightest object in the southern sky. It will pass just beneath Altair again, then head off toward the northeast, disappearing close to the horizon around 7:24 p.m.

MONDAY: This will be a pass much like Saturday's, as the station once again flys up the Appalachian chain toward the Canadian maritime provinces. Look for it above the western horizon at 7:43 p.m., rising to about halfway above the northwestern horizon by 7:45 p.m. Then it will fly off toward the northeast, disappearing at 7:49 p.m.

If you're really into this stuff, there will be opportunities this weekend to spot the much smaller and fainter, 22-ton European spacecraft Jules Verne. It recently left the ISS and is headed for a fiery re-entry later this month. Here are the specs on Jules Verne's passes over Baltimore, along with the ISS.

Good luck. Be sure to come back here after the show and leave a comment. Share the experience.   

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:22 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

September 16, 2008

A new hurricane record set?

Weather Underground

The National Hurricane Center said today it could not immediately confirm that this year's storm season marks the first time on record that that six consecutive named tropical storms or hurricanes have made landfall in the United States. The guy who  searches the records for such things is unavailable until Thursday.

But Weather Underground blogger Jeff Masters, citing NOAA data, reported during Hanna's romp up the coast that its landfall tied the previous record of five consecutive U.S. landfalls. That mark had been set and matched five times before:

2004: (Frances, Gaston, Hermine, Ivan, and Jeanne)
2002: (Edouard, Fay, Gustav, Hanna, and Isidore) (Familiar names? Atlantic storm names are recycled every six years, unless severe damage or loss of life prompt their retirement.)
1985: (Gloria, Henri, Isabel, Juan, and Kate)
1979: (Bob, Claudette, David, Elena, and Frederic)
1971: (Doria, Edith, Fern, Ginger, Heidi)

So it sure looks like we've established a new mark this year. Three of the last six named storms struck Texas. The others hit Florida, Louisiana and North Carolina. Get a better look at the above Weather Underground track map, here.

The assaults began on July 23 when Hurricane Dolly made landfall at South Padre Island in Texas as a 100-mph Cat. 2 storm. It spared human lives in Texas, but caused $1.2 billion in damage. At the time, it was the third costliest tropical system in Texas history. Flash flooding from Dolly's remnants killed two people in New Mexico.

On Aug. 5, Tropical Storm Edouard made landfall with heavy rains and 65 mph winds, near Port Arthur, Texas. Tropical Storm Fay drifted out of the Caribbean and made landfall on the Florida Keys, and then again in South Florida on Aug. 18. It crossed the peninsula, dumping huge amounts of rain that caused serious flooding before moving out into the Atlantic. Fay then turned west, crossed the peninsula again into the Gulf, and made landfall again on the Florida Panhandle. That made it the first storm in Florida history to make landfall there four times.

Hurricane Gustav made landfall in Louisiana on Aug. 31, with 110 mph winds after weakening from a Cat. 4 to a Cat. 2 storm. It caused more flooding and an estimated $15 billion in U.S. damage. Hurricane Hanna developed on Sept. 1 but weakened during a long period wandering in the Bahamas. It then turned north and moved up the East Coast as a tropical storm. It made landfall in North Carolina Sept. 6 with top winds of 70 mph.

The sixth storm to make landfall in the U.S. was, of course, Hurricane Ike, which crashed ashore in Texas, near Galveston over the weekend, a 110-mph Cat. 2 storm. It has already been tagged with causing an estimated $27 billion in damage in the U.S., the third most destructive U.S. storm on record, after Andrew in 1992, and Katrina, in 2005. Better numbers are likely as more time passes.

In the meantime, check out these amazing before-and-after photos from the USGS. This is why people need to obey evacuation orders.

With two-and-a-half months to go, the 2008 season has so far produced more than half of the storms predicted for this year. 

Named storms: 10 (Colorado State Univ. forecast: 17. NOAA forecast: 14-18) 

Hurricanes: 5  (CSU: 9. NOAA: 7-10)

"Major" storms: 3  (CSU: 5. NOAA: 3-6)

Maybe we'll get lucky and find we're done. For now, the tropics remain quiet.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:49 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

September 15, 2008

Mild night was the last for a while

The overnight low at BWI this morning was a balmy 72 degrees - not terribly far from the "normal" daytime highs for this time of year. But cooler, dry air is building in from the north and west behind the cold front that's passed by us today. So we can look forward to chilly nights and more seasonable days for the rest of the week.

The low of 72 this morning was only 2 degrees short of the record "high minimum" for the date. That 74-degree mark was set on this date in 1915.

UMBCThe forecasters out at Sterling are calling for a high of 84 degrees this afternoon, a darn sight cooler than the 91 degrees we recorded yesterday at BWI. It was 91 here at Calvert & Centre streets, too. The rest of the week looks partly to mostly sunny, with highs in the mid- to upper-70s. The normal highs for this time of year are in the upper 70s, so we're pretty much on the beam, again. Finally.

No windows in your cubicle? That's the sky this morning, at left, from UMBC.

Nights will be cool from here on this week. So open those windows, shut off the AC, and pull up a blanket. The forecast calls for lows in the mid- to upper-50s, which is exactly right for mid-September at BWI.

There's no rain at all in the forecast for this week. We picked up 0.39 inch at BWI-Marshall on Friday, but I don't think that's representative of what many of us saw in those downpours Friday evening.

We recorded 1.09 inch here at The Sun. Some of those bursts of rain fell at rates in excess of 0.7 an hour. They just didn't last very long.  We've accumulated 2.41 inches at the airport so far in September, which is about a half-inch ahead of the average September pace. The Sun has recorded 2.58 inches.

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

September 14, 2008

Record heat possible today

NOAA

With a big, intense high pressure system to our south and east, pumping hot air up from the South, forecasters out at Sterling are looking for highs around 95 degrees in Baltimore this afternoon. If they're right, that could set a new record for the date and BWI.

UPDATE: The high today at BWI was 91 degrees, so no record was broken. Ninety-degree weather in September is not all that unusual. There were six days in the 90s in September 2007, and three days in October 2007. The hottest was 94 degrees on Oct. 9, which set a record for the date (as did the 91-degree reading the day before.) Previous post resumes below.

The high is the same one that steered Hurricane Ike across the Gulf into Texas, and then turned it toward the north, and now the northeast. The storm was just being swung around the southern, and then the western rim of the high's clockwise circulation. Now, the same system is carrying Ike's remnants north and east along the cold front at the top edge of the high, and across the Great Lakes. Looks like my mother-in-law in Erie, Pa. will get soaked. But not us. We won't be seeing a lot of rain tomorrow from Ike's remains as had been forecast late last week.

Instead, tomorrow we get partly sunny skies and highs in the 80s. There's no significant rain at all in the forecast  for the week ahead. The cold front that's due to drop past us tomorrow will send our daytime temperatures back into the 70s, actually a bit below normal for this time of year at BWI.

Until then we're in for a mid-September scorcher today. If we really do reach 95 today at BWI, it will break the 94-degree record set for the date 77 years ago - back in 1931. It's more than 15 degrees hotter than the long-term average for a Sept. 14.

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:54 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts
        

September 12, 2008

Havoc on the Texas coast

AP Photo David J. Phillip

Hurricane Ike is still hours from landfall and already he has spread havoc up and down the Texas coastline. Coastal communities, including Surfside Beach are already flooded. At least one fire has broken out amid flooded beachside homes on Galveston Island (above). Coast Guard rescue crews have risked their own lives to rescue motorists caught in the flood waters as Ike's storm surge pushes inland.

Spend a little time with these videos on CNN.com I recommend especially the Coast Guard helicopter rescue. Here is a photo gallery.

The tidal data from Galveston shows that the rising water - some 7 feet above normal tides - has paused, but not retreated significantly as the cycle passes low tide. When the tide begin to rise again, the coast will feel the full impact of the surge. Forecast still call for a surge as big as 15 to 22 feet in Galveston Bay, and 14 to 17 feet for Galveston Island.

The weather data from the Pleasure Pier shows gusts to 50 mph. That will get worse. Top sustained winds near Ike's center were still 105 mph, with higher gusts. Houston has been warned to expect winds at higher altitudes to 120 mph - enough to blow out the windows of some Houston skyscrapers.

Did I mention a foot of rain and tornadoes?  

Images, video and WeatherBug web cams are already showing flood waters moving up coastal streets, with waves battering waterside homes. And this is only the beginning. Ike's eye is not expected to reach the coast until late tonight or early tomorrow. Even some of those Texans who boasted they would ride it out have begun to change their minds. No wonder. Here are the Hurricane Warnings.  Here's a piece of it, toned down slightly from last night's "leave or die" notice:

"NEIGHBORHOODS THAT ARE AFFECTED BY THE STORM SURGE...AND POSSIBLY
ENTIRE COASTAL COMMUNITIES...WILL BE INUNDATED DURING THE PERIOD
OF PEAK STORM TIDE. MANY RESIDENCES OF AVERAGE CONSTRUCTION
DIRECTLY ON THE COAST WILL BE DESTROYED. WIDESPREAD AND
DEVASTATING PERSONAL PROPERTY DAMAGE IS LIKELY. VEHICLES LEFT
BEHIND WILL LIKELY BE SWEPT AWAY. NUMEROUS ROADS WILL BE
SWAMPED...SOME MAY BE WASHED AWAY BY THE WATER. ENTIRE FLOOD PRONE
COASTAL COMMUNITIES WILL BE CUTOFF. COASTAL RESIDENTS IN MULTI-
STORY FACILITIES RISK BEING CUTOFF. CONDITIONS WILL BE WORSENED BY
BATTERING WAVES CLOSER TO THE COAST. SUCH WAVES WILL EXACERBATE
PROPERTY DAMAGE...WITH MASSIVE DESTRUCTION OF HOMES...INCLUDING
THOSE OF BLOCK CONSTRUCTION. DAMAGE FROM BEACH EROSION COULD TAKE
YEARS TO REPAIR.

What's ahead for Texas? Check out this video from Cuba, where Ike struck earlier this week.

Here is the latest advisory. Here is the forecast storm track. Here is the view from space.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:38 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Conditions deteriorating on Texas coast

NOAA

The waters of the Gulf of Mexico are already rising ahead of Hurricane Ike as the giant storm closes on the northern coast of Texas and western Louisiana. Sea levels are already 5 feet above predicted tides, and forecasters are warning of an approaching storm surge that could push the water 20 to 25 feet above normal levels.

Video from the Texas coast shows beach communities are already awash. That's making WeatherBug meteorologist Joe Bartosik very nervous:

"I’m becoming extremely concerned by what I’m seeing on our own WeatherBug cameras, tidal gauges, and news clips: storm surge flooding placing communities well underwater (at least 4 to 6 feet) from Cameron, Louisiana to Galveston, Texas and the hurricane hasn’t even arrived yet! At this point, and with forecasts of a 20 to 25 foot surge, I don’t think it would be unrealistic or overly dramatic to expect extreme, if not catastrophic, storm surge damage similar to that which occurred in Katrina and Rita."

Here's how a WeatherBug camera in Galveston captured the storm surge this morning as it put water over a parking lot at Moody Gardens. Watch the parking space lane paint, and then the median strips, go under. This one will be good to watch as the storm itself moves in.

Here's the forecast for Galveston. And here are the warnings. It's quite a read.

That high water will drive miles up the bays, rivers and ship channels. Large, battering waves are expected to crash over coastal communities, with widespread damage. The warnings, as we have reported in the previous post, are dire. Anyone remaining behind in one- or two-story residences can expect "certain death," forecasters have stated.

The center of Hurricane Ike was 195 miles southeast of Galveston at 11 a.m. EDT today, moving to the west-northwest at 12 mph. It was expected to begin a gradual right turn later today, and to the north by tomorrow into the Southern Plains.

Top sustained winds had strengthened a bit overnight, to 105 mph. That's pretty close to the 111 mph threshhold for a Cat. 3 "major" hurricane, so its possible Ike could make that mark before landfall. A wind gauge 400 feet high on an offshore oil platform was reading 125 mph earlier this morning.

In the meantime, winds are rising and the barometric pressure is falling in the Houston and Galveston area. You can track conditions on this private weather station in Galveston . (First station I linked to shut down almost immediately. This link is a new one that still seems to be working).

Here is some realtime weather data from the Pleasure Pier in Galveston. Here's the tide data.

Here is the latest advisory on Ike. Here is the forecast storm track. Here is the view from space.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:35 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Showers today, Ike's remnants Monday

NOAA

Weather disturbances traveling along the stalled frontal boundary that's draped across the Northeast (the dark blue swath on the national radar map above) will mean showers and thunderstorms as the day goes by today. Sunday looks partly sunny, forecasters say, but there's more rain in store Monday as the remnants of Hurricane Ike (scary red blob above) are swept across the Southeast, along the front, to the mid-Atlantic states.

First, we can expect up to a quarter-inch of rain today, and more of the same tonight as the first storms move through, forecasters say. Some spots under thunderstorms could see more. There are still some abnormally dry conditions on the Eastern Shore, so more rain is welcome for now. The rain chances continue on Saturday, but the probabilities diminish.

You can blame the southerly winds, which are blowing more mild, moist air into the region, where it is running up against cooler air to the north, fueling the precipitation.

Sunday looks partly sunny and very warm, with afternoon highs crowding 90 degrees. Quite a surprise after enjoying three days in the 70s.

Then Ike's moisture moves in late on Sunday and Monday, accelerating out of the lower Mississippi Valley and getting absorbed by low pressure along the cold front. No estimates yet on where, exactly, the bulk of the rain will fall, or how much to expect. My guess is that, with all the damage we're likely to be reading about in Texas, nobody will pay any attention to our rain.

By late Monday the cold front finally will have pushed through, bringing cooler, drier air down from the Great Lakes. We should see sunny skies through the middle of the week, with highs in the upper 70s to low 80s, and overnight lows in the 50s.

So, what's that other red stuff on the radar, southeast of Florida? Those are the disorganized remnants of Tropical Storm Josephine. Some "slow development" is forecast as the bad weather moves north-northwest. Stay tuned.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:04 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Forecasts
        

September 11, 2008

Stay in Galveston, face "certain death"

Residents of Galveston who stay behind to "ride it out" in one- or two-story structures as Hurricane Ike approaches in the next 24 hours were warned by the National Weather Service tonight they will face "certain death" as a storm surge up to 22 feet high rolls across the island.

I have never seen a warning like this one, issued tonight for Galveston:

"LIFE THREATENING INUNDATION LIKELY!

"ALL NEIGHBORHOODS...AND POSSIBLY ENTIRE COASTAL COMMUNITIES...
WILL BE INUNDATED DURING THE PERIOD OF PEAK STORM TIDE. PERSONS
NOT HEEDING EVACUATION ORDERS IN SINGLE FAMILY ONE OR TWO STORY
HOMES WILL FACE CERTAIN DEATH.
MANY RESIDENCES OF AVERAGE
CONSTRUCTION DIRECTLY ON THE COAST WILL BE DESTROYED. WIDESPREAD
AND DEVASTATING PERSONAL PROPERTY DAMAGE IS LIKELY ELSEWHERE.
VEHICLES LEFT BEHIND WILL LIKELY BE SWEPT AWAY. NUMEROUS ROADS
WILL BE SWAMPED...SOME MAY BE WASHED AWAY BY THE WATER. ENTIRE
FLOOD PRONE COASTAL COMMUNITIES WILL BE CUTOFF. WATER LEVELS MAY
EXCEED 9 FEET FOR MORE THAN A MILE INLAND.
COASTAL RESIDENTS IN
MULTI-STORY FACILITIES RISK BEING CUTOFF. CONDITIONS WILL BE
WORSENED BY BATTERING WAVES. SUCH WAVES WILL EXACERBATE PROPERTY
DAMAGE...WITH MASSIVE DESTRUCTION OF HOMES...INCLUDING THOSE OF
BLOCK CONSTRUCTION
. DAMAGE FROM BEACH EROSION COULD TAKE YEARS TO
REPAIR."

Take a few minutes to read the warnings issued for Galveston tonight. It's terrifying.

Here's a sample:

"STRUCTURAL DAMAGE WILL INCLUDE THE MAJORITY OF MOBILE HOMES BEING
SEVERELY DAMAGED. THOSE THAT SURVIVE WILL BE UNINHABITABLE UNTIL
REPAIRED. HOUSES OF POOR TO AVERAGE CONSTRUCTION WILL HAVE MAJOR
DAMAGE...INCLUDING PARTIAL WALL COLLAPSE AND ROOFS BEING LIFTED
OFF. MANY WILL BE UNINHABITABLE. WELL CONSTRUCTED HOUSES WILL
INCUR MINOR DAMAGE TO SHINGLES...SIDING...GUTTERS...AS WELL AS
BLOWN OUT WINDOWS. UP TO ONE QUARTER OF GABLED ROOFS WILL FAIL.

"PARTIAL ROOF FAILURE IS EXPECTED AT INDUSTRIAL PARKS...ESPECIALLY
TO THOSE BUILDINGS WITH LIGHT WEIGHT STEEL AND ALUMINUM
COVERINGS. OLDER LOW RISING APARTMENT ROOFS MAY ALSO BE TORN
OFF...AS WELL AS RECEIVING SIDING AND SHINGLE DAMAGE. UP TO ONE
QUARTER OF ALL GLASS IN HIGH RISE OFFICE BUILDINGS WILL BE BLOWN
OUT. AIRBORNE DEBRIS WILL CAUSE DAMAGE...INJURY...AND POSSIBLE
FATALITIES.

"NATURAL DAMAGE WILL INCLUDE ALL TREES WITH ROTTING BASES BECOMING
UPROOTED OR SNAPPED. NEARLY ALL LARGE BRANCHES WILL SNAP. BETWEEN
ONE QUARTER AND ONE HALF OF HEALTHY SMALL TO MEDIUM SIZED TREES
WILL BE SNAPPED OR UPROOTED...MOST COMMON WHERE THE GROUND IS
SATURATED. UP TO THREE QUARTERS OF NEWLY PLANTED GROUND CROPS
WILL BE DAMAGED."

And here's a bit of the storm advisory from the National Hurricane Center that deals with storm surge:

 "COASTAL STORM SURGE FLOODING OF UP TO 20 FEET ABOVE NORMAL TIDE
LEVELS...ALONG WITH LARGE AND DANGEROUS BATTERING WAVES...CAN BE
EXPECTED NEAR AND TO THE EAST OF WHERE THE CENTER OF IKE MAKES
LANDFALL...EXTENDING A GREATER THAN USUAL DISTANCE FROM THE CENTER
DUE TO THE LARGE SIZE OF THE CYCLONE.  SURGE FLOODING OF UP
TO 25 FEET COULD OCCUR AT THE HEADS OF BAYS.  COASTAL STORM SURGE
FLOODING OF 6 TO 8 FEET ABOVE NORMAL TIDE LEVELS...ALONG WITH LARGE
AND DANGEROUS WAVES...CAN BE EXPECTED WITHIN THE TROPICAL STORM
WARNING AREA ALONG THE NORTHERN GULF COAST"

Given the developments with Ike during the day today, I yield the point on this storm. If all this plays out as forecast, Ike will indeed be a "monster." 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:44 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Galveston in peril

NOAA

Texas officials are warning residents of the Galveston area that the city's 17-foot seawall may well be overtopped as Ike comes ashore late tomorrow, and their homes on the island may be be flooded up to the eaves - 14 feet.

Ike may not have winds enough to put it into Cat. 4 or Cat. 5 territory. But it is a very broad storm and it is moving a great deal of water. Storm surges ahead of Ike, from the center to the east, could reach as much as 20 feet, forecasters are saying, and will almost certainly - even at lesser heights - cause disastrous flooding well up into Galveston Bay and elsewhere in the region.

Galvestonhistory.orgIf you've ever been to Galveston, you know what a lovely city it is, filled with beautiful old homes restored or rebuilt after the calamitous hurricane of 1900. That storm caused terrible damage and killed what has been estimated to be 8,000 people - maybe more. It remains the deadliest natural disaster ever to strike the U.S. One hates to see the city's homes suffer a similar fate 108 years later. But at least this time people have been given the information, the time and the opportunity they need to flee, unlike in 1900.

Is Ike a monster? If you measure it by storm surge, or square miles of ocean covered, maybe so. I've seen some impressive arguments to that effect since this morning's post and I'm willing to concede that point. It surely will be for those in its path. Here's the latest from the folks at WeatherBug:

"Ike may not be as strong as a Category 3 storm, but its impact could be similar.  Offshore buoys have reported waves up to 30 feet.  Also, tidal gauges along the coasts of Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi are 2 to 5 feet above normal.  Strong easterly winds on the north side of Ike will continue to drive the waves along the coast, leading to a significant storm surge of perhaps 15 to 20 feet above normal tide just north of where Ike makes landfall.

"Track forecasts are also nudging northward as Ike is expected to move along the backside of a building subtropical ridge over the southwest Atlantic and the Southeast U.S.  There is very good model agreement in taking Ike north of Corpus Christi, to just south of Galveston Bay, which increases the chances for significant impacts (wind, surge, tornadoes) in the Houston metro area.  In addition, the oil refineries will be hit by strong winds and high waves."

If you measure "monstrous," after the fact, by the loss of life, by damage to the region (and repercussions across the economy if Houston is paralyzed, and the refineries are knocked out), it looks like we'll have the answer in a few days.

Then what? Should people be encouraged and subsidized to rebuild along the coast? Good question. Why does anyone build (or insure) homes in the paths of these storms? With enough time, calamity is inevitable. But of course they will rebuild, just as we would in Ocean City. Just as we have in Isabel's wake. And as sea levels continue to rise, these surge and flood events will only get worse. Makes you wonder how smart we really are.

Here's the latest advisory on Ike. Here is the forecast storm track. Here is the view from orbit.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:12 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Sprawling Ike could bring 20-foot storm surge

NOAA

Hurricane Ike is still spinning with top sustained winds of "only" 100 mph -  Cat. 2. But it is a sprawling storm, with hurricane winds more than 100 miles from its center. And those winds are pushing a storm surge ahead of them that could rise to 20 feet as the storm nears the Texas coast late Friday. The surge map above shows a 90 percent probability (dark red) of a 5-foot surge (or higher) around Galveston.

The National Hurricane Center's latest advisory says Ike's big surge should be expected to the east of wherever the storm's center goes ashore. The hurricane winds extend 115 miles from the center, while tropical storm winds reach 275 miles out. That's one very large storm, and it puts many more people and more property in serious danger.

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

Forecast models differ on how much, if at all, Ike will strengthen before landfall. Some say Cat. 2 when he goes ashore. Some say Cat. 4. Here's the discussion.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:20 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Ike is big, but no "monster"

U.S. Navy

Okay, I've been grumping privately about this for a couple of weeks - ever since the CNN morning achors began referring to Hurricane Gustav as a "monster" storm as it crossed the Gulf of Mexico and threatened New Orleans.

This morning, they did it again. Only this time, Kiran Chetry used the word to describe Hurricane Ike, now closing in on the Houston area with another round of violent tropical weather nobody around the Gulf needs to see again.

Now, I do sometimes take issue with those who accuse the news media of "hyping" Atlantic hurricanes. These are dangerous storms, and there are thousands of lives and billions of dollars in property at risk whenever hurricanes or tropical storms make landfall. The media and government at all levels - as well as the general public - need to err on the side of caution every time. It would be far worse - as the Bush Administration learned after Katrina (photo above) - to do too little to prepare and to warn people about the possibilities.

That said, we also cannot afford to devalue the language we use in describing these storms and their potential consequences.

Gustav was no "monster." My dictionary defines "monstrous" as "Deviating from the norm in structure or appearance... unusually large ... hideous: shocking."   Churchill described the Nazi regime as "a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed." Get the drift?

Gustav was, briefly, a strong Category 4 storm, with top sustained winds of 150 mph. But its encounter with Cuba knocked it back to a 135-mph Cat. 3. Despite forecasts to the contrary, it actually weakened as it moved in on Louisiana, and went ashore as a strong Cat. 2 storm. 

It was bad. Twenty-five people died in the U.S. as a result of this storm. And damages came to something like $20 billion. But it was hardly the "Storm of the Century," or the "Mother of all Storms" that New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin warned his residents about. Now, you could argue that Nagin was just trying to motivate his people to flee, and avoid the scenes of death, desperation and squalor that followed Katrina. But what words will he use when a Cat 4 or Cat 5 bears down on his city again? And, given enough time, it will.

Ike is bad, too. Here's the latest advisory. Here is the forecast storm track. And here is the view from orbit.

Ike is a Cat. 2 hurricane with top sustained winds of 100 mph. And forecasters say there's a chance he could become a Cat. 3 (111 mph or more) before making landfall on Saturday morning. But Ike is no monster, either.

The National Hurricane Center tells us that storms of Cat. 3 or more occur an average of 2.3 times each season.  Now, for my money, you don't get to be a "monster" hurricane if you show up more than twice every season, on average.

So what about Cat. 4? The government's data shows that Cat. 4 storms strike the U.S. once every six years, on average. I'd use the word "historic" for those, perhaps. But "monstrous?"

To get a "monster" label from CNN, I would argue that you have to qualify as a Cat. 5 hurricane as you get within a few days of landfall. Katrina would qualify under that definition. She reached Cat. 5 status, however briefly, a day before landfall, but slowed to a Cat. 3 before touching the Louisiana coast. She killed more than 1,800 people, and caused $81 billion in damage.

NOAA/CamilleAny  Cat. 5 storm that makes landfall with that sort of power gets a free ticket to monstrous, in my book. That admits the Labor Day Storm of 1935, Hurricane Camille (left) on the Gulf Coast in 1969, and Hurricane Andrew in South Florida in 1992.

Cat 5 storms - with top sustained winds of 155 mph or more -form in the Atlantic, on average, once every three years, although the pace in the 2000s seems to have quickened. There have been only four years - 1960, 1961, 2005 and 2007 - when more than one Cat. 5 has formed in the same season. And 2005 was the only year in which two Cat. 5 storms (Dean and Felix) made landfall (not in the U.S.) at that strength.

Now that starts to sound more like "monster" to me. You could also make a case for using central barometric pressure as your measure of "monstrosity." I could live with that. I'd nominate any storm with a central pressure of 27.50 inches of mercury or less. 

I would also allow the word to be used - after the fact - for the most destructive storms, such as Hazel (1954) and Agnes (1972), which, while not Cat. 5 storms, were monstrously destructive anyway. 

But that's just me. What do you think?

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:48 AM | | Comments (25)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

September 10, 2008

Ike intensifies, Texas begins evacuations

NOAA

Hurricane Ike now covers about half the Gulf of Mexico, a big, strengthening storm that is already about as big as its next target - Texas. Top sustained winds are running at 100 mph, with further strengthening to Category 3 expected tonight. Forecasters are talking about Cat. 3 or 4 winds of 130-135 mph just before landfall.

The exact point of landfall doesn't matter too much when hurricane winds extend 90 miles from the storm's center. It's best to get out of the way. Texans have already begun to evacuate low-lying coastal areas, with Corpus Christi increasingly in the storm's crosshairs. 

Hurricane watches were posted this afternoon for most of the Texas coastline, with Tropical Storm warnings up for Louisiana's coast.

Here is the latest advisory on Ike. Here is the forecast storm track. And here is the satellite loop. Here is how the meteorologists at WeatherBug see the storm's development.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:59 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Ike, now Cat. 2, gathers force for beach assault

NOAA

UPDATE: Hurricane Ike is now a Category 2 storm with top sustained winds of 100 mph. The storm continues to gather strength in the Gulf of Mexico, headed for a weekend landfall in Texas. Watch Ike grow in this satellite loop. An earlier post follows, below. 

Hurricane Ike appears to be recovering from its scrape with the Island of Cuba, and appears ready to become a major hurricane again tomorrow, with designs on the central Texas coast.

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center note that Ike's cloud pattern is becoming better organized, and some deep convection has developed near the center - both indications that the storm's primary heat engines are still healthy and revving up. Maximum sustained winds have increased from 75 mph as it pulled away from Cuba yesterday to near 90 mph today. Here's how the morning discussion at the NHC put it: 

"THE OFFICIAL FORECAST MAKES IKE A CATEGORY THREE HURRICANE BASED ON A BLEND BETWEEN STATISTICAL AND DYNAMICAL MODELS. HOWEVER, THE INTENSITY FORECAST IS UNCERTAIN, AND IKE COULD END UP BEING A CATEGORY HIGHER OR LOWER THAN FORECAST."

A Cat. 3 storm has top winds of at least 111 mph.

The storm was moving toward the northwest at 8 mph, with a slight left turn later today. A weakening high over the eastern U.S. is still expected to curve the storm track more to the right before or soon after landfall. 

Here's the latest advisory for Ike. Here is the forecast storm track. And here is the view from space.

In the meantime, Tropical Storm Warnings remain in effect for waters west of Key West to the Dry Tortugas, and over portions of western Cuba as Ike's outflow continues to be felt there. They can expect 6 to 12 inches of rain. The Keys could receive another 1 to 3 inches, with 2 to 4 over other parts of South Florida. Isolated tornadoes, waterspouts, storm surge flooding, large and dangerous waves and rip currents are also still on the menu until Ike moves farther off. Here's some more video from Key West.  And this, too.

In Texas, folks are preparing for Ike's landfall this weekend. 

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

Cloud curtain sliding south

NOAA

Have you noticed the clouds? Driving south from Cockeysville late this morning I noticed it was very sunny, with clear blue skies to the north. But as I drove south to the Beltway, I slid beneath the cloud cover. And on arriving downtown, it was quite gray.

What was so striking was the very sharp and well-defined east-west boundary, then just north of the city, between the clear skies to the north, and the clouds to the south. And it's all very apparent in the satellite image above.

You don't often notice such a clear boundary between weather systems. If you haven't stepped out side to look, you should. To the north of the cloud line, clear, dry air presses in on the warmer, wetter air to the south. Between them is a cloudy cold front - the one that triggered yesterday's clouds and rain showers.

That cold front stretches this morning from southern New Jersey to Winchester, Va., and from there all the way down the Appalachians to Atlanta, Ga. As I write, the sunshine is beginning to reach downtown Baltimore. Still cloudy to the south.

There are still some showers around to our south, in Central Virginia. The advance of the drier air and sunshine toward the south will be slow, as the northern edge of the clouds is dried up and dissipated. Forecasters expect it to stall out somewhere to our south. Temperature peaks today will depend on where you are relative to the sunshine and the clouds - warmer to the north of the cloud line, and cooler to the south.

All the clouds and moisture gradually return late in the week as a warm front. Forecasters are looking for a chance of showers again Friday and Saturday, with highs stuck in the 70s until Sunday. Then we pop back into the 80s.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:11 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

September 9, 2008

Ike moves into Gulf of Mexico; Texas on alert

NOAA

After battering Cuba for several days, Hurricane Ike - just barely a hurricane for the moment, has moved off the northwestern tip of the island and entered the Gulf of Mexico. Next stop?

Ike was about 90 miles west-southwest of Havana, moving west-northwest at about 10 mph. Top sustained winds are blowing at 75 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center, just two mph from slipping back into tropical storm range. But Ike somehow managed to retains his core structure, and central pressures remain low, according to the hurricane hunter aircraft. So he is expected to restrengthen over the warm waters and favorable winds along its path across the Gulf.

Some computer models show Ike becoming a major storm again, Cat. 3 or better. But others aren't so persuasive according to the latest discussion from the Hurricane Center. A weakening of the high pressure north of the Gulf suggests that Ike's track will begin to turn to the right a bit after four or five more days, putting the central Texas coast and the oil patch at greater risk.

Check out the Saturday forecast for Port Aransas, Tex.

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

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:38 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Moon, Jupiter and a fireball outburst

NASA/Marshall/Bill CookeLooks like we  were clouded out this morning, but sky watchers elsewhere in the U.S. had an unexpected treat as a rare outburst of "September Perseid" meteors - a flurry of fireballs - put on quite a show. For somebody else.

That's a photo of the outburst at left - actually a "stack" of images combined to show all the fireballs over the Marshall Space Flight Center's All-Sky camera over 4 hours. Thanks to Spaceweather.com

The September Perseids are caused by debris from the dust trail of an unknown comet. Every few years they produce an outburst of meteors, and fireballs like these. Nobody is sure why. The same thing happened in 1936, 1986, 1994 and now in 2008. And we missed it. 

They said the fireballs were about as bright as Jupiter. There's some small chance that the outburst will continue tonight. Look after midnight when the constellation Perseus rises above the northeastern horizon.

We may have to settle for a look (if skies clear enough) at Jupiter itself, which will be very close to the moon this evening as seen from Earth - less than the width of three fingers held at arm's length. A very striking sight in the southern sky.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:00 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

Northwest Passage open for business

NASA 

For the first time in at least a half-century, you can circumnavigate the north polar ice cap without being blocked by sea ice. It's the fabled Northwest Passage, long sought, but seldom navigated.

The ice this summer has not (yet) retreated quite enough to set a new record minumum. But it has melted back enough around the edges to leave open water (less than 10 percent ice-covered) all the way around the Arctic Ocean Basin (if you don't mind sailing around Greenland). Here's more.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:59 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: History
        

Cold front brings more rain showers

NOAA

Looks sort of Hanna-like out there this morning. Heavy showers, then sunshine. But it's not Hanna Redux, just a new cold front crowding us from the north and west. The cold air is shoving up against very moist, warm air to the south and east. That makes the warm, wet air rise, cool and give up its moisture in the form of showers and (BOOM!) thunderstorms.

Here's the radar loop.

There is a Severe Thunderstorm Watch posted from Cecil and Harford to St. Mary's counties until 4 p.m. There is a LOT of water in these showers, so the NWS has also posted a Flash Flood Watch from noon until 8 p.,m. today for the western DC suburbs, the District and the Baltimore metro area.

The flooding is a risk because Hanna managed to fill up some streams that had been much lower a week ago, with more room to accommodate the runoff. Now a heavy storm could more easily put the creeks over their banks. Or so the reasoning goes. Here is the streamflow map. It does look a lot wetter than it did last week.

Forecasters out at Sterling say we can expect another quarter- to a half-inch of rain today and more tonight before the front finally passes by. That will usher in cooler weather. Tomorrow should be partly sunny, with highs only in the mid-70s. Tomorrow night will be a blanket night, with lows near 50 degrees.

The rest of the week should be very nice, with pleasant temperatures in the 70s to near 80 degrees, and partly to mostly sunny skies. There's a small chance for more showers on Friday.

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

September 8, 2008

Ike rains pound Cuba; winds down, for now

NASA

Hurricane Ike today was pounding Cuba with torrential rains and high winds. But contact with the island's mountainous terrain disrupted the circulation around the center and knocked the storm's top sustained winds down to "only" 80 mph.

Residents of Florida and the Gulf Coast should take no comfort in that, however, as forecasters expect Ike will revive as its center remains over warm water south of Cuba, and again when it moves into the eastern Gulf and slows. Re-strengthening is expected before the storm reaches the Gulf Coast later this week.

Here is the latest advisory for Ike. Here is the forecast storm track. And here is the view from space.

Here's a bit of this afternoon's discussion at the Hurricane Center. They seem to feel that high pressure to the north will keep Ike on a more westward path. That could spare the northeastern Gulf coast, and New Orleans. But it would seem to be sending the storm toward the La.-Tex border, or even Houston. Maybe Houstonians will be taking refuge in New Orleans this time.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:11 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

September 7, 2008

A month's rain in a day

Baltimore Sun photo by Patrick Smith

We may be tempted to write Tropical Storm Hanna off as a "fizzle." But for many Marylanders, yesterday's tropical storm delivered a formidible punch in the form of heavy rain and high winds.

Portions of Montgomery and Frederick counties reported well over 5 inches of rain. Fifteen stations reported rains over 4 inches. Areas of Harford, Howard, Carroll and Cecil recorded more than 3 inches before the day was over. That was easily a month's rain in one day for many locations, and well within the forecasts we were seeing on Friday.

And while the sustained winds rarely topped tropical storm force (39 mph), the gusts often did, even in Baltimore City and its surrounding suburbs. Ocean City saw winds gusting to more than 60 mph during the storm.

Here are some of the MOST IMPRESSIVE RAINFALL READINGS, provided by WeatherBug.

The Bullis School, Potomac:  6.11 nches

Montgomery County Schools Transp. Dept.: Rockville: 5.95 inches

Diamond Elementary School, Gaithersburg:  5.18 inches

North East High School, (Cecil): 4.5 inches

Earth and Space Lab, Frederick: 4.3  inches

Mt. Airy Middle School, (Carroll): 4.13 inches

Nanjemoy Creek Env. Ctr (Charles): 3.71 inches

Manchester Elem. School (Carroll): 3.09 inches 

Darlington Elem. School, Sykesville (Carroll): 3.01 inches

Folly Quarter Middle School (Howard): 2.99 inches

Shady Side Elem. School (Arundel): 2.77 inches

Wilde Lake HS, Columbia:  2.57 inches

Here are some MORE READINGS FROM CoCoRaHS, a network of volunteer weather observers.

WIND GUST DATA FROM WEATHERBUG this morning includes the following highlights:

Ocean City:  63.1 mph

Crisfield Fire Dept.: 55.9 mph

UMES, Princess Anne:  50.6 mph

MEMA Emergency Operations Center, Reisterstown:  44.5 mph

Oriole Park Camden Yards, Baltimore: 44.5 mph

Thurgood Marshall HS, Baltimore: 44.1 mph

Hamstead Hill Academy, Baltimore: 43.8 mph

Here is a compilation of wind and rain data from the National Weather Service. You can also view lists of storm damage reported to the National Weather Service by clicking HERE. Be sure to click through the many "Version" numbers at the top of the NWS page for more a comprehensive look at the reports.

Ike is next. While not headed for the East Coast, this dangerous storm (top winds at 135 mph, 18-foot storm surge possible) will be a worry for many in the Bahamas, South Florida, all of Cuba (including the U.S. base at Guantanamo), and the northern Gulf Coast, including Louisiana and Texas. Here's the discussion from the National Hurricane Center.

Here is the latest advisory on Ike. Here is the forecast storm track. Here is the view from orbit.

NOAA

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:47 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

September 6, 2008

Hanna pulling away; rains near end

NOAA

The radar loop for the Northeast at 4:40 p.m. shows that most of Hanna's rains have passed through Central Maryland. Although the center of Hanna's rotation remains in the southern end of the Chesapeake Bay, and the Delmarva Peninsula, there is very little precipitation showing on radar to the south and west of Baltimore.

The rain gauge here on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville reads 2.42 inches. All but a quarter-inch of that has fallen since daybreak today. That's a good bit of rain for 8 or 9 hours, but not the 3 to 7 inches forecasters warned of yesterday.

Out at BWI, the NWS instruments clocked only 1.6 inches. But Dulles International, in Northern Virginia, has reported almost 5 inches of rain today.

Other locations may likewise have seen far more rain than others. Flash flood warnings are in effect in several counties west of Baltimore and Washington. Most streams in the region are now running well above their norms for this time of year, and a few are at record highs.

We just ventured out and notice very high water - though no road flooding - on Beaver Dam Creek at York Road in Cockeysville. Western Run is also very high, but not out of its banks.

There is lots of ponding on the roads, and cars are throwing up some impressive rooster tails. Traction is dicey in some places where the water is laying on top of a thin layer of oil accumulated during weeks of dry weather. So drive carefully.

Here are some storm damage reports reported to the National Weather Service in Sterling. Plenty of downed trees and street flooding. Virginia seems to have had the worst time of it. You can click on the "version" numbers across the top for earlier reports.

Sorry this post is so late, but we lost power for a time this afternoon. BGE has reported more than 75,000 customers out of service today. More than 46,000 (including me) have already had their power restored.  

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

Now we can turn our attention to Hurricane Ike, still a Category 3 storm in the western Atlantic. Ike has strengthened today, and is headed for the Turks and Caicos islands with 135 mph winds. Here is the latest advisory for Ike.

Here is the forecast storm track, which is taking the storm into the Gulf, with Cuba, South Florida and, of all places, New Orleans in its sights. And here is the view from space.

The good news? First tropical Storm Josephine is no longer a threat. She has dissipated in the far eastern Atlantic. Second, the forecast for tomorrow looks great: sunny with highs in the mid-80s. Great weather for cleaning up the yard.

 

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:33 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Hanna still en route

NOAA

If you woke up disappointed (or relieved) that the trees are still and the overnight rain has been a trifle, don't let down your guard just yet, Baltimore. Hanna is ashore, and she's slowed her maximum winds a bit. But she has not gone away.

Some outer bands sprinkled the region with a quarter-inch or so of rain over night. But there's more to come. The regional radar loop shows the situation best, with the heavier stuff still moving up the bay. They're getting winds over 20 mph in the southern Chesapeake, with more to come.

Here's the latest advisory. Here's the official forecast for BWI. Here's the storm track, which does not appear to have changed much. And here's the satellite view.

If you're along the bay and worried about surge, plan for 1 to 3 feet, not the higher amounts noted in today's story. Those are for locations east of the storm's center. We're west. That should have been made clearer.

This storm will move through the region today, pass to the south and east of the city and race off to the northwest this evening. A fast flyby will minimize the rain totals and the duration of any high winds. We hope.

Then there's Ike, which may well erase memories of Hanna before the next few days pass. Ike remains a Category 3 hurricane, with top sustained winds of 115 mph. He is now drawing a bead on the storm-weary Bahamas, South Florida and the Gulf. And maybe New Orleans, if you can believe it.

Here is the latest advisory on Ike. Here is the forecast storm track. And here is how he looks from orbit.

The good news is that Tropical Storm Josephine - next in line behind Ike - has finally fallen apart. The National Hurricane has issued its last advisory on Josephine, so we can stop thinking about that one, at least.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:38 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

September 5, 2008

Desperate Hanna watchers: Track the storm

NOAA

Hanna is making her final approach to the U.S. mainland tonight. She's no hurricane, but it doesn't require a hurricane to generate a whole lotta trouble for Maryland. Isabel (2003) was a tropical storm. So was Agnes (1972).

I'm not saying we're in for anything like those storms. But it could easily be like Ernesto in 2006, or Jeanne in 2004. What? Forgotten those already? Me, too. But I read the clips. It was a mess. Plenty of structural damage, loose boats, flooding and power outages all over the place.

So stay inside. And if you have the electrical juice to read this, you can do what I do: Report on Hanna while sitting on your keister:

For the LATEST ADVISORY on Hanna, click here. For the LATEST STORM TRACK, click here. And for the LATEST VIEW of Maryland from orbit, click here. (IT WILL BE DARK UNTIL THE SUN COMES UP.)

Now, if you want to see where all the POWER OUTAGES are happening, and how BGE is doing cleaning them up, click here.

For lists of STORM DAMAGE AND OTHER INCIDENTS reported to the National Weather Service in Sterling, click here. (THIS, TOO, MAY BE BLANK UNTIL STUFF STARTS HAPPENING.)

For all the WATCHES AND WARNINGS current for Central Maryland and Northern Virginia, click here.

To track CONDITIONS ON THE CHESAPEAKE Bay, go to the John Smith Trail bay data buoys by clicking here.

For WEATHER RADAR from Sterling, click here. For WEATHER CONDITIONS AT BWI, click here.

For real-time weather conditions at PRIVATE WEATHER STATIONS almost anywhere around Maryland (including the very empty executive parking lot at The Baltimore Sun): click here.

If you do venture out, and you see cool weather stuff happening, drop a comment here. (BE PATIENT WITH OUR CREAKY SYSTEM. ALL COMMENTS HAVE TO BE NOTICED, AND THEN READ, USUALLY BY ME. ) 

Better yet, SUBMIT YOUR DIGITAL PHOTOS to our MarylandWeather.com Web site. GO HERE for that.

Be safe. Stay dry. And don't be a dope and try to drive through high water. Six inches of moving water can sweep you AND YOUR CAR away. TURN AROUND. DON'T DROWN. And don't make water rescue crews risk their lives to save your sorry self.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:18 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Are you ready for Hanna?

Okay, so Hanna is not a hurricane. And it's likely to be weakened by the time it crosses the Carolinas and Southeastern Virginia and finally reaches Delmarva.

No matter. Hanna will be a windy storm, with gobs of rain. The barometer has begun to head downward, so Hanna is on her way. It's only prudent to consider your risks and make sensible preparations. Here is the storm-prep checklist from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Look it over. Consider your pets and loved ones. Do what needs to be done. 

Before the storm:

* If evacuating, pack an emergency supply kit with food, bottled

water, prescription medicines, and important documents.

* If you plan to drive, fill your gas tank as soon as possible.

* Turn off gas, electricity, and water, and disconnect appliances

before leaving.

* Take steps to ensure your pets' safety during the storm.

* Follow designated evacuation routes for your area, and expect

heavy traffic.

If you stay home during the storm:

* Pack an emergency supply kit with necessities such as food,

bottled water, and prescription medicines to last from three to

five days.

* Determine the best escape routes from your home, and make sure

that everyone in your house is able to follow the escape plan.

* Look for escape routes from upper levels of the house, in case

of flooding.

* Do not go outside, even if the weather seems calm. Wait for

local authorities to tell you it is safe to go outside.

* If your home is flooded or damaged, move to a neighbor's or a

local shelter.

After the storm:

* Do not drive through flooded roads, as cars can be swept away or

lose power.

* NEVER touch a downed power line or anything in contact with one.

* Turn off electrical power when there are hazards around your

home such as standing water, fallen power lines, or gas leaks.

* Listen to announcements in local media (radio, television or

newspaper) to find out if it's safe to use tap water, and follow

instructions regarding water.

* If you are not sure if water is safe to use, boil water before

you use it for anything, including brushing teeth, cooking,

drinking, or bathing.

* Throw away any food that may have been touched by floodwater.

* Use battery-powered lanterns and flashlights, instead of

candles, to prevent fires.

* Stoves, generators, lanterns, and gas ranges release dangerous

carbon monoxide gas and should always be used outdoors, far away from

windows, doors and vents.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Visit www.emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/hurricanes

or call 1-800-CDC-INFO.

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:14 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Notes to readers
        

Trop. Storm Warning Issued; Hanna toting 4 to 7 inches of rain

NOAA

UPDATE 11:50 A.M.: The Tropical Storm Watch issued for Maryland has been upgraded to a Tropical Storm Warning. That means tropical storm conditions are now expected here within 24 hours. The warning includes all of the Chesapeake Bay, the Tidal Potomac and the Eastern Shore. An earlier post continues below.  

Sure, we'll get some bluster out of Hanna when she arrives tomorrow. Some limbs and maybe some weakened trees will topple, and power will go out for many of us. But I suspect it will be the rain that we remember once Hanna departs.

Central Maryland from Harford County south to St. Mary's and the Eastern Shore are all under a Tropical Storm Watch through Saturday. We should expect sustained winds tomorrow of 25 to 35 mph, with gusts to 50 mph throughout the day. The strongest winds are likely east of the I-95 corridor. Clouds in the outermost bands of Hanna are already approaching the Chesapeake. Here's a satellite phone shot at 11 a.m.

Flash Flood Watches are up throughout the region, too. Forecasters say we can expect 4 to 7 inches of rain before the storm is over, with localized accumulations of 10 inches. The rain could start as early as tonight. Although the low streamflow we're seeing now should leave plenty of room for the rivers and creeks to rise, there is still a danger of small-stream flooding into low-lying roads if rainfalls exceed 3 to 4 inches over three hours.

Storm surge flooding is also a danger tomorrow. Forecasters are warning that tides will run 2 to 4 feet above normal levels on the western shore of the Chesapeake and the tidal Potomac. Highest water levels should occur around the time of high tide tomorrow. - between 10 a.m. and 12 noon in the Baltimore and Annapolis areas, and between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. in the Washington area.

Here is the latest advisory on Hanna. Here is the forecast storm track. And here is how she looks from space. Here is AccuWeather.com's thinking on this storm and the next - Ike.

Out in Ocean City and the Eastern Shore, winds will run between 39 and 44 mph, with gusts to 60 mph during the day. Hanna will drop 4 to 6 inches of rain out there, if the forecast holds up. Coastal storm surge flooding will run 3 to 5 feet above normal levels.

NOAA

So where is Hanna this morning? The National Hurricane Center puts Hanna's center about 400 miles south of Wilmington, N.C. She is moving to the northwest at about 18 mph. The forecast track has the storm accelerating later today toward the South Carolina/North Carolina border. Maximum sustained winds remain at about 65 mph, still below hurricane strength. There is some chance it could intensify between now and landfall, but forecasters didn't seem to think that was likely.

From there, the forecast track takes the storm across Delmarva and up the coast to southeastern New England.

The most important thing to remember about Hanna is that she is one big storm - big, as in broad. Tropical Storm-force winds extend more than 300 miles from the center. So, even if the center passes offshore from Maryland, it will still be one very wet and windy day.

Remember, 3 or 4 inches of rain in one day is the equivalent of a normal month's rain for us in 24 hours. If your roof leaks, or your basement gets damp in a good rain, you will be sopping up water tomorrow. And don't count on the shop-vac. You may well lose power at the height of the storm, when you need it most.

Forecasters are advising Marylanders to listen to NOAA Weather Radio. (If you don't have one, go buy one today. They're not expensive and they're great when the weather turns nasty and the power goes out.)

Otherwise, follow the forecasts on radio and TV (and here).  Fill your gas tank; check on batteries for flashlights and radios; gather up some canned food, drinking water and first aid supplies. And secure anything in your yard that might blow around. It would be a good idea to make sure the storm drains around your house are cleared of debris, too. There will be a lot of water running down the streets and backyard swales.

Then there's Ike. The next storm in line for a possible encounter with the U.S. mainland is still well out in the Atlantic. But Ike is a Cat. 3 storm. It's weakened some from its former Cat. 4 status. But it is an increasing threat to the Bahamas and the Southeastern U.S. The storm track remains uncertain. But the power of this storm has everyone watching it very closely.

Here is the latest advisory on Ike. Here is the forcast storm track, which seems to threaten South Florida most, but could carry it up the East Coast, or into the Gulf. And here is how he looks from space - a bit lopsided as he struggles with shear on his north side. But forecasters say there is lighter wind shear and warmer water ahead for Ike. He is expected to regain some intensity down the road, and remain a very dangerous storm.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:37 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

September 4, 2008

Tropical Storm Watch issued for Maryland

Parts of Maryland is now under a Tropical Storm Watch as TS Hanna continues its advance on the U.S. mainland. A new track forecast brings the storm up the coast, with the center line of the "cone of uncertainty" passing directly over Ocean City. Here's how it reads:

"A TROPICAL STORM WATCH HAS BEEN ISSUED FROM THE NORTH
CAROLINA/VIRGINIA BORDER NORTHWARD TO GREAT EGG INLET NEW
JERSEY...INCLUDING THE CHESAPEAKE BAY...THE TIDAL POTOMAC...
WASHINGTON D.C...AND THE DELAWARE BAY. A TROPICAL STORM WATCH MEANS
THAT TROPICAL STORM CONDITIONS ARE POSSIBLE WITHIN THE WATCH
AREA...GENERALLY WITHIN 36 HOURS."

Central Maryland is also under a Flash Flood Watch for Saturday, with 3 to 6 inches of rain possible along the storm's path.

The good news? Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center this afternoon are saying that it is increasingly unlikely that Tropical Storm Hanna will strengthen to hurricane status before making landfall tomorrow. On the other hand, the old girl is not likely to weaken either, and "PEOPLE ARE REMINDED THAT THERE IS VERY LITTLE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A STRONG TROPICAL STORM AND A MINIMAL HURRICANE," they said.

More precisely, Hanna was blowing with top sustained winds of 65 mph at last check. Hurricane force winds begin at 74 mph. Either one will knock you down, take out trees and utility lines and make a general mess of the place.

Tropical Storm Warnings are posted now all the way to the North Carolina/Virginia border. A Hurricane Watch extends to Currituck Beach Light in the Outer Banks, including Pamlico Sound.

The other news out of the Hurricane Center this afternoon was a slight twitch to the west in Hanna's forecast track. She could twitch again, of course. But if this latest track change holds up, the storm's center will run right up the coast - NOT offshore - passing directly over Ocean City. That would mean stiffer winds for the resort, for the Eastern Shore, and quite possibly for Baltimore. A bigger twitch to the left could send the center of the storm west of the Chesapeakem setting us up for some significant bay flooding.

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

The other concern, of course, is that Hurricane Ike is right behind Hanna, a few days east in the Atlantic. No assurances yet where he will go, but with top winds at 135 mph (down a tad from earlier today, but still extremely dangerous) we have to keep a close watch on that storm, too.

Here's the latest advisory for Ike. Here's the track map, and here's the view from space. That's one good-looking hurricane.

And here is the wind forecast map. It shows a 60 percent chance of tropical storm winds on the Eastern Shore. You can see Ike right on Hanna's heels. Josephine is about to enter at the right of the picture. But she seems to be falling apart.

NOAA

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:06 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Sunny and hot today; Hanna approaches tomorrow

noaa

Yet another day of sunny, 90-plus September weather today, the third in the first four days of the month. It would be welcome late-season summer weather if it weren't for the fact that Baltimore has recorded only four days of measureable rain since Aug. 1

That's all about to come to a soggy end , however, as Tropical Storm Hanna makes her move on the Southeast Coast of the U.S. We should begin to see high clouds from Hanna slipping in as early as Friday morning, with increasing cloudiness all day. Forecasters out at Sterling are predicting as much as 3 inches of rain for Baltimore as the storm begins to be felt here Friday afternoon or evening.

That's Hanna, east of the Bahamas in the satellite image above. Hurricane Ike, the one with the eye, is drifting into view on the right. Ike is a compact Cat. 4, with top winds of 140 mph. He is likely to weaken some in a few days, but nothing to be trifled with. We may be writing about Ike next week.

The heaviest rains are due Saturday, they say, with 1 to 2 inches predicted during the daytime, and another three-quarters of an inch Saturday night. Showers and thunderstorms could linger into Saturday evening. But then the whole system will have whizzed off to the northeast, leaving us under sunny skies on Sunday, with highs in the lower 80s.

The Eastern Shore and Ocean City would feel the brunt of the storm if the current forecast track holds firm. OC is forecast to see winds of 43 to 46 mph on Saturday, gusting to 60. That's tropical-storm force and twice what Baltimore would see, forecasters say. There is also a risk of isolated tornadoes. Rainfall on the shore doesn't look much different than ours, however - maybe even a bit less. And, there is already a risk of dangerous rip currents as the long-period swells kicked up by the Atlantic storms reach the beaches.

If you're out in the storm Saturday, stay safe. And if you get some pictures of flooding, or wind damage, or waterspouts or anything stormy and cool, send them in and we'll post them.

Way down the road, we're looking for a new cold front early next week, leaving us with highs only in the 70s by mid-week.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:21 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Hanna heads for Carolinas; Ike a Cat. 4

NOAA

Another sunny day in the 90s today. You'd never know we had two tropical storms to worry about. Tropical Storm Hanna has circled around and is now making a beeline for the Carolina coast with winds that are forecast to reach hurricane strength before landfall early Saturday morning. Out on the Atlantic, meanwhile, Hurricane Ike is now a fierce Cat. 4 storm with top sustained winds of 140 mph.

Here's a satellite loop showing both storms - Hanna in the Bahamas, and Ike - with a clearly defined eye - entering at the right side of the screen. 

Hanna is first. A hurricane watch has been posted for most of the South Carolina coast, and a portion of the North Carolina shore. The watch means that folks there should prepare for hurricane conditions within 36 hours. Here's the latest advisory.

The storm's center early this morning was 770 miles south-southeast of Wilmington, N.C. It was tracking toward the northwest at 12 mph. Top sustained winds were blowing at 70 mph with "slight" strengthening expected prior to landfall. At 73 mph Hanna would become a minimal Cat. 1 hurricane.

The most notable thing about Hanna is her size. Forecasters describe Hanna as "large and robust." Tropical storm-force winds extend nearly 300 miles outward from the storm's center. The storm surge ahead of this storm will run 1 to 3 feet above normal tides.

The forecast track would carry Hanna up the coast, passing just offshore from Ocean City around mid-day Saturday. Our forecast calls for 3 inches of rain or more in Baltimore before the storm races off to the notheast.

With the storm's center to our east, that will mean our winds would be from the north at 13 to 23 mph. That would blow water out of the Chesapeake and spare bayshore residents any serious flooding from the bay. Street flooding and high water in the streams and creeks may be another matter to watch for. Here's today's local weather story by Scott Calvert.

Then there's Ike, the most powerful storm of the seaon to date. Ike this morning was 550 miles northeast of the Leeward islands, headed west-northwest at 17 mph. The storm was expected to turn a bit toward the west and west-southwest in the next few days, but no one was predicting where it would strike land.

From space, Ike was a thing of beauty. Top sustained winds were howling at 145 mph with higher gusts. Forecasters said:

"THIS IS AN EXTREMELY DANGEROUS CATEGORY
FOUR HURRICANE ON THE SAFFIR-SIMPSON HURRICANE SCALE.  IT IS
EXPECTED THAT IKE WILL MAINTAIN CATEGORY FOUR OR CATEGORY THREE
INTENSITY OVER THE NEXT 48 HOURS."

The forecast storm track carries it into the Bahamas, with a subsequent curve to the northwest and the southeastern coast of the U.S. Here's Ike:

NOAA

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:18 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

September 3, 2008

Ike now a Cat. 3 hurricane; Josephine weakens

The National Hurricane Center this afternoon upgraded Tropical Storm Ike to hurricane status. Farther west, Hanna was regrouping and turning for the Carolinas. And to the east in the Atlantic, meanwhile, Tropical Storm Josephine was losing strength.

UPDATE: 8:45 P.M. Ike has been upgraded again this evening. It is now a Category 3 storm with top sustained winds of 115 mph. Earlier post resumes below.

Ike is now the fifth hurricane of the 2008 Atlantic season. It was 670 miles east northeast of the northern Leeward Islands, moving toward the west-northwest at 18 mph with top sustained winds of about 80 mph. Forecasters said:

"THIS GENERAL MOTION IS EXPECTED TO CONTINUE TONIGHT
AND EARLY THURSDAY...FOLLOWED BY A TURN TO THE WEST ON THURSDAY
NIGHT AND FRIDAY...TAKING IKE OVER THE OPEN WATERS OF THE
WEST-CENTRAL ATLANTIC DURING THE NEXT COUPLE OF DAYS.  IT IS TOO
EARLY TO DETERMINE WHAT IF ANY LAND AREAS MIGHT EVENTUALLY BE
AFFECTED BY IKE."

Here is the latest advisory on Ike. Here is the forecast storm track, which would seem to carry the storm into the Bahamas by Sunday morning. And here is the view from orbit.

Farther east, Josephine was wheezing a bit, and may not survive. Here's the forecasters' assessment:

"STRONG VERTICAL SHEAR AND DRY AIR HAVE REALLY WORKED A NUMBER ON
JOSEPHINE DURING THE LAST SEVERAL HOURS.  AFTER LOOKING RATHER
IMPRESSIVE EARLY THIS MORNING...THE SATELLITE PRESENTATION HAS
SINCE RAPIDLY DEGRADED.  CLOUD TOPS HAVE WARMED AND THERE IS NOW A
NOTICEABLE LACK OF ORGANIZATION." Read more here.

Here is the latest advisory on Josephine. Here is the forecast storm track. And here is how she looks from orbit. Pitiful.

In the meantime, Hanna, our most immediate threat, seemed to be getting better organized, and the air pressure at her center was falling - a sign of intensification. You can read more here. Hanna is moving north at 12 mph, and was expected to accelerate. Top sustained winds remain at about 60 mph, but she is still expected to become a hurricane (73 mph) as soon as tomorrow.

Here is the latest advisory. And here is the view from orbit. She looks rather lopsided, but must still be taken seriously. Here's the storm track: 

NOAA

 

Here's the latest discussion of Hanna from the folks at WeatherBug:

"The uncertainty with the track forecast remains high.  In order for Hanna to continue to move northwest, the ocean storm that has been parked near Nova Scotia for more than a week needs to retreat northward very rapidly, allowing ridging to develop where Hanna is headed.  The longer the delay, the more likely a westward track towards Melbourne or Jacksonville, Fla., becomes.  The NOGAPS (NGPS) model is the one closest to this particular scenario.  All of the other model forecasts take Hanna further north or east, mainly into the Carolinas on Saturday morning.

"The intensity forecast is a bit more certain.  Deep warm water is available just east of the Bahamas up toward the Carolina coast, which will be favorable for strengthening to a hurricane.  Due to the influence of the ocean storm, this increase in intensity likely will hold off until Friday.  It is unlikely that Hanna will intensify beyond Category 1 strength.  However, if the ocean storm can move off to the northeast quickly, Hanna does have an outside shot at reaching Category 2 strength before making landfall."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:16 PM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

A turn to the north for Hanna

Tropical Storm Hanna seems to have pounded Haiti and its unfortunate people long enough. Forecasters say the storm finally seems to have made her long-predicted turn to the north. Maybe. Top sustained winds remain at about 60 mph, but the old girl is getting bigger, and some strengthening is still expected in the next day or two as the storm heads for the U.S. mainland.

Hanna has been hammered by wind shear, which has left her a bit disheveled and disorganized. But she is still predicted to get ahold of herself and regain hurricane strength and get a wiggle on today and tomorrow, reaching the Carolinas early Saturday. Here's AccuWeather.com's predictably more eager assessment.

Here's our forecast. We here in central Maryland seem to have a 10 to 20-percent chance of seeing tropical-storm-force winds in the next five days. Ocean City's risk goes to 40 percent.

NASA's hurricane page reports that South Carolina's governor is warning that coastal evacuations are possible there, and the National Guard may be activated:

"In Georgia voluntary evacuations of Georgia’s barrier islands and low-lying coastal areas may begin today, Wednesday, Sept. 3. Meanwhile, federal, state and local emergency response teams, the American Red Cross were already preparing for Hanna's arrival."

Here is the latest Hanna advisory. Here is the storm track. The centerline in the "cone of uncertainty" now takes Hanna off the coast as she passes our latitude. If the storm does take that track (it could still come up the west side of the bay) that's good news for those worried about storm winds piling water northward into the bay. It also takes the strongest winds offshore. 

And here is the looped view from space. Below is a NASA photo of Hanna, shot yesterday by the Earth-Observing Aqua satellite.

NOAA

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:38 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Hanna pauses before heading our way

NOAA

Tropical storm Hanna continues to sit and spin north of Hispaniola, with top sustained winds still below minimal hurricane strength. But forecasters at the National Hurricane Center say she is poised to begin her long-forecast run north and west toward the U.S. mainland.

In the meantime, storm trackers continue to follow tropical storms Ike and Josephine - still far out in the Atlantic.

As for Hanna, as odd as her meanderings near the Bahamas have been since last week, forecasters - and their computer models - seem to remain steadfast in their belief that she will turn sometime today and make a beeline for the coast of South Carolina, or thereabouts. Depending on just when she decides to get moving, we can expect to feel some effects on Friday or Saturday.

Here's a bit of this morning's discussion from the hurricane center:

"THERE IS NO SIGNIFICANT
CHANGE TO THE PREVIOUS TRACK OR INTENSITY FORECAST REASONINGS.
HANNA IS EXPECTED TO GRADUALLY ACCELERATE NORTHWESTWARD OVER THE
NEXT 72 HOURS AND MAKE LANDFALL OVER THE SOUTHEASTERN UNITED STATES
...POSSIBLY IN THE SOUTH CAROLINA AREA. IT IS WORTH MENTIONING THAT
THE 00Z MODEL RUNS CONTAINED UPPER-AIR DATA FROM DROPSONDES
RELEASED AROUND HANNA FROM THE NOAA GULFSTREAM-IV JET AIRCRAFT...
WHICH USUALLY PRODUCES BETTER TRACK FORECASTS. THE OFFICIAL
FORECAST IS SIMILAR TO THE PREVIOUS TRACK AND IS CLOSE TO THE NHC
MODEL CONSENSUS.

"THE INTENSITY FORECAST BASICALLY REMAINS UNCHANGED AND FOLLOWS THE
SHIPS INTENSITY MODEL...WITH HANNA EXPECTED TO REGAIN HURRICANE
STATUS BY 36 HOURS AND CONTINUE TO INTENSIFY UNTIL LANDFALL OCCURS"

The current forecast for Maryland doesn't call for much that should get anyone too worried. An inch or two of rain and some breezes are about all they're calling for at the moment. There's a lot of land between Myrtle Beach and Baltimore, and plenty of time to calm a storm that seems unlikely to gather too much power between her present location and the Carolina beaches. And the track seems to have Hanna speeding through here very quickly. So there should be no long, lingering rains. There is always room for surprises, however. So stay in touch with the forecast.

So here's the latest advisory on Hanna. The storm track forecast is above. It appears to have shifted to the east a bit, taking the center east of the bay. That would seem to reduce the danger of storm surge flooding along the bay, if it holds. And here's how she looks from space. Kind of a mess this morning, I'm afraid.

Next up is Ike. Here's the latest advisory. Ike is expected to become a hurricane sometime today. Top sustained winds are now around 65 mph. Here's the storm track, which takes it into the Bahamas by Sunday. Those folks are having a bad time.  And here's how he looks from orbit. A fine-looking storm.

And here is Josephine, with top winds around 60 mph, but still far off: the latest advisory. the storm track, which seems likely to keep this storm at sea.  And the view from space. That's Josephine just entering the right side of the Atlantic-wide image.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:32 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

September 2, 2008

Tropical Storm Josephine forms in Atlantic

As forecast, the latest tropical wave to roll off the African coast has gathered strength and made it to tropical storm status. She is Josephine, the 10th named storm of the season.

Here is the first advisory on Josephine. Here is the forecast storm track. And here is the view from orbit. (That's Ike to the left, Josephine to the right.)

NOAA

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:04 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Hanna already touching SE beaches

Wave action spawned by Tropical Storm Hanna is already affecting Maryland beaches and those to our south. The National Weather Service has posted a Hazardous Weather Outlook noting "High Rip Current Risk" on the beaches (green on the map) from today right through the weekend.

NOAAOnce-hurricane Hanna has been downgraded tropical storm status as she wobbles around between the Bahamas and Hispaniola. Those folks are getting a ton of rain and face high risks of flooding and mud slides.

There is growing uncertainty at the National Hurricane Center about whether this faltering Hanna can regain her hurricane intensity after being pummeled by wind shear for several days. Here's a bit of the discussion this morning:

"In about 24 hours, global models show the shear weakening, and this could allow Hanna to restrengthen. However, given the present lack of organization, it is difficult to know how much strengthening is possible. The new official forecast is lower than the previous advisory, but shows Hanna becoming a Cat. 1 hurricane in about 36 hours. It should be noted that this is a low confidence forecast. In fact, if one consults the wind speed probability product included in this package, it can be seen that there is nearly an equal probability of Hanna being a tropical storm or hurricane at Day 3."

That is, just before landfall.

The biggest concern for the mainland U.S. is the forecast track, which takes her up the coast off Florida this week, with landfall somewhere in Georgia or the Carolinas. That will likely mean we're facing a weekend of heavy rain, brisk winds and perhaps some risk of coastal storm surge flooding, depending on the storm's final path. With enough rain, we could also see some inland flooding as well, although the creeks are low and there's more than the usual capacity for runoff. At the very least, we need to start thinking of wet basements and the health of our sump pumps.

More immediate, though, is the danger of rip currents. AccuWeather.com has already reported one drowning south of Kure Beach, N.C. And lifeguards at Wrightsville Beach made 27 rescues on Labor Day as the powerful rip currents got some unwary swimmers into trouble.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:13 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Hanna "could be a major hurricane"

NOAA

Hurricane Hanna, which is still dawdling south of the Bahamas and just north of Haiti, is expected to strengthen this week, turn and head up the East Coast. It could be a "major" hurricane at landfall, according to this morning's discussion at the National Hurricane Center.

"Major" is NHC shorthand for a Cat. 3 storm or stronger - with top sustained winds of 111 mph or more.

The 5-day forecast track for Hanna (above) now sends it ashore in South Carolina, with its remnants passing just west of the Chesapeake Bay by late Saturday. If that forecast holds - a big IF - it would be the recipe for some serious rainfall this weekend. And if Hanna retains its counterclockwise rotation, it could also mean some significant storm surge up the bay. Probably not on the scale of Isabel's remnants in 2003, but most definitely something to watch.

Here is the latest advisory on Hanna. You have the storm track above. And here is the view from space.

Ike is now a tropical storm in the central Atlantic Ocean. Here's the latest on him. And the storm track.

And that other tropical wave that was coming off the African coast yesterday is now a tropical depression - No. 10 for the season. It is expected to become a hurricane by this weekend - Josephine if nothing else pops up in the meantime. That will be on next week's agenda.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:45 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

September 1, 2008

Hanna now a hurricane; Ike is tropical storm; more to come

NOAA

Gustav is barely ashore - and still at hurricane strength  as I write this - and to the east more trouble is brewing. Hanna finally reached hurricane strength this afternoon, and about midway between us and Africa, the ninth tropical storm of the season was born and immediately named Ike.

You may need a scorecard this week, as the remnants of Gustav continue to batter the country's midsection; Hanna begins to threaten the Southeast, and us by the weekend; Ike enters the picture from the Atlantic, and yet another storm brews off the coast of Africa and begins the long trek across the pond. Maybe the map above will help get you oriented. 

Here's the rundown on Gustav. First is the latest advisory, showing Gus to be a minimal Cat. 1 storm this evening. Here's the forecast storm track, which looks take it on a long, slow curve back toward the Mississippi valley by week's end, leaving plenty of rain and flooding for Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma. And here's the view  from space.

Next is Hanna, which is nearly motionless east of the Bahamas. But she is expected to get a move on later this week, and could come ashore in Georgia or South Carolina by week's end. Here is the latest advisory. Here is the forecast storm track, which could become interesting for us by the weekend. And here is the view from orbit.

Finally, here's Ike. The latest advisory; the storm track (aimed at the Bahamas for now), and the view from space.

If the newbie off Africa gets rolling, it will become Tropical Storm Josephine. Here's what the forecasters have to say about her:

A TROPICAL WAVE LOCATED OVER THE FAR EASTERN ATLANTIC A COUPLE
HUNDRED MILES SOUTH-SOUTHEAST OF THE CAPE VERDE ISLANDS CONTINUES
TO SHOW SIGNS OF ORGANIZATION.  THIS SYSTEM HAS NOT YET ACQUIRED A
WELL-DEFINED SURFACE CIRCULATION CENTER.  HOWEVER...ENVIRONMENTAL
CONDITIONS ARE FAVORABLE FOR DEVELOPMENT AND THIS SYSTEM COULD
BECOME A TROPICAL DEPRESSION AT ANY TIME OVER THE NEXT DAY OR SO AS
IT MOVES WESTWARD AT 15 TO 20 MPH.

Here's our forecast for next weekend. Pretty wet. And here's how the forecast discussion from Sterling deals with it:

THE FORECAST BECOMES RAPIDLY UNCERTAIN FRIDAY
THROUGH THE WEEKEND. HURRICANE HANNA IS EXPECTED TO MAKE LANDFALL
SOMEWHERE ALONG THE SOUTHEASTERN COAST AND TRAVEL NORTH ALONG THE
EDGE OF AN ATLANTIC RIDGE...WHICH AT THIS POINT LOOKS TO BE
SOMEWHERE ALONG THE EAST SIDE OF THE APPALACHIANS ... CHANGES IN THE FORECAST SHOULD BE EXPECTED.

AT MINIMUM...HANNA WILL BRING RAINFALL TO THE FORECAST AREA BEGINNING
SOMETIME FRIDAY AND LINGER THROUGH AT LEAST PART OF THE WEEKEND.
THE WIND FORECAST IS HIGHLY UNCERTAIN...AND COMPLETELY DEPENDENT
ON THE TRACK...TIMING AND INTENSITY OF HANNA.  

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:37 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Gustav ashore; tropics send more

NOAAHurricane Gustav was coming ashore in Louisiana this morning, a minimal but still deadly Category 3 storm with top sustained winds around 115 mph. Torrential rains and a dangerous storm surge were being felt all across the northern Gulf Coast.

Meanwhile, further east in the Atlantic, the tropics were boiling as Tropical Storm Hanna dawdled near the Bahamas, and at least two more disturbances appeared to be developing into tropical depressions that could eventually become threats. 

Here is the latest advisory on Gustav. Here is the storm track. andd Here is how he looked from space.

You can check surface conditions at various data buoys in the area. Click here. And, if they are still operating, you can visit many private weather stations in Louisiana by clicking here.

Hanna remained nearly stationary east of the Bahamas, waiting for steering winds and more favorable conditions for further strengthening and some sense of direction.

Here is Hanna's latest advisory. Here is her forecast storm track, such as it is. It does show her as a hurricane, headed for the mainland, by the week's end. And here is how she looks from orbit.

And finally, here is the rundown on two disturbances in the central and eastern Atlantic that could become Tropical storms Ike and Josephine.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:18 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Hurricanes
        
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About Frank Roylance
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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