Swirling storms over N. America, Caribbean
A look at the air space over North America and the Caribbean this morning reveals three swirling storms - one over the central U.S., a second just off the Delmarva coast, and a third building in the western Caribbean and threatening to become Hurricane Paloma sometime tomorrow.
From orbit, they look like the finger holes on a bowling ball.
Taking them one at a time, the big low spinning over the upper Plains states is bringing blizzard conditions to the Dakotas and thunderstorms to the Mississippi Valley. Up to a foot of snow is forecast today and tomorrow in the Dakotas. Travel on portions of Interstates 90 and 94 has been stopped or slowed. Wind gusts of nearly 80 mph have been recorded. Here's the wintry forecast for Rapid City, S.D.
The second low is the one that's been drifting slowly up the Eastern Seaboard for a couple of days, pushing clouds, drizzle and showers inland over much of eastern and central Maryland. The forecast says this storm should begin to slip north and east late today and tonight, bringing us slowly clearing skies. Friday looks sunny and warm, with a high near 70 at BWI Marshall. But that will be a short break. Another cold front, with more clouds and scattered showers, is due on Saturday. The big Plains storm looks like it will veer north and leave us alone.
Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Paloma continues to strengthen in the western Caribbean. She's the third cyclonic storm on the map this morning, and the "thumb hole" on the bowling ball.
At last check, the center of Paloma was still about 75 miles northeast of the Nicaragua-Honduras border. It was moving toward the north-northwest at about 7 mph, with top sustained winds of 45 mph. The forecast track shows it turning gradually toward the north, then the northeast.
A hurricane watch has been posted for the Cayman Islands. Jamaica and Cuba have been advised to watch the storm closely. A tropical storm watch remains in effect for parts of the Nicaraguan and Honduran coastline.
The chief threat appears to be heavy rain, with 4 to 8 inches likely, and isolated totals of a foot possible in the Central American nations.
UPDATE 4:20 p.m.: Paloma is nearing hurricane strength this afternoon, with top sustained winds near 65 mph. It is expected to become a hurricane late tonight or tomorrow. The hurricane watch for the Cayman Islands has been upgraded to a hurricane warning. The tropical storm watch for the Central American coast has been canceled.
Actually, there are four cyclonic storms twirling out there - the fourth one in the North Atlantic. Here's an amazing satellite loop, showing the scene in a wavelength that captures water vapor.