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February 26, 2010

Snow buries Garrett; I-68 may be closed again

Two feet of fresh snow and high winds made Garrett County roads dangerous and all but impassable Friday. Emergency managers there have reimposed a local state of emergency they had finally lifted on Tuesday, two and a half weeks after the February storms began.

Plows cannot keep ahead of fresh fallen and drifting snow, officials said, and emergency crews are busy clearing a second multi-car pileup, with numerous injuries, on Interstate 68.

"I-68 is not closed, but we are telling people, if you don't have to be out in this, don't bother coming out. These are blizzard conditions. They will travel at their own risk," said Sgt. James Hare, at the McHenry Barracks of the Maryland State Police.NOAA

While I-68 is not officialy closed, he said, eastbound traffic at 2:30 p.m. remained stopped just east of the Garrett/Allegany County line due to an accident that occurred around 11 a.m. today. "Travel is almost impossible there."

UPDATE: 3:30 p.m.: The State Highway Administration said I-68 is open in both directions, all lanes. Conditions are "improving, but hazardous."

County officials said the snow has been extraordinary, even for Garrett. "I've been in public safety for 35 years, and I've never seen storms one after another, with the cumulative effect being like this," said Brad Frantz, Garrett's director of emergency management.

"Road conditions are bad," he said. "So we are strongly urging folks to not travel in Garrett County right now. The roads are basically impassable. I'm pushing hard for Interstate 68 to be shut back down, and anybody who tries to travel will have to get on alternate routes, and those will be worse."

The National Weather Service is predicting another 10 to 20 inches of snow at McHenry through Saturday.

The State Highway Administration issued a statement warning of poor driving conditions in Garrett and western Allegany counties.

"Travel conditions are extremely hazardous ... causing major travel issues along Interstate 68 and US 40 west of Cumberland," officials said. "SHA maintenance crews continue to plow roads in the area, although the heavy snow and high winds are causing major delays and hazardous conditions."

WISP resortOrganizers of the "Deep Creek Dunk," a fund-raiser for the Special Olympics scheduled for Saturday in McHenry, are urging people not to attempt to make the drive because of the poor road conditions in Garrett County. Participants already in town were invited to take part in the dunk, at 2 p.m., and "scaled-back" festivities afterwards.

I-68 was closed for several hours Thursday afternoon after a 15-car pileup near Finzel, at the Garrett/Allegany County line. Five people were transported to area hospitals.

"Now it has opened back up, and shortly after we had another multi-casualty" incident, Frantz said. "We are still working that one ... The last I heard is that we had some entrapment with that."

Frantz said he had just finished a conference call with the National Weather Service. "We had one report of 23 inches of new snow," he said. "That's on top of what we already had. We are probably close to 250 inches of snow for the year now... more than 20 feet.

Even for snow-savvy Garrett County, Frantz said, "This is way beyond normal."I-68 at US 219 near Grantsville

"County roads are impassable. Plows are not able to plow. They basically can't keep up. They're blowing shut as soon as they open them. They are trying to keep major arteries open and having limited success. The more rural routes, they are getting to them as they can."

During an earlier storm, fire fighters were unable to reach a house fire, and the home was "a total loss," he said. No one was injured. "Pretty much any fire or EMS incident we're sending a plow truck ahead of it on the assumption that most areas are not accessible right now."

"The other issue that's brewing here is there is over 10 inches of water equivalent on the ground," Frantz said.  "When this thaws, it will be like getting a 10-inch rainstorm. If it goes all at once, the next thing you will be calling me about is the floods."

Garrett isn't alone, Frantz said. "To our west in West Virginia, they are having some of the same issues, and somewhat to the east. The western end of Allegany County is just about on the same level with us. From Cumberland east it slacks off. That's normally the case. Being on the Allegheny Plateau, everything gets hung up here."

The brutal weather is taking its toll. "Fire, EMS, 911, the county and state highway folks are doing a tremendous job, but it's starting to build up," Frantz said. There have been some equipment failures, and municipalites have been hurt further by sharp cuts in funding to local government from state highway user funds - the gasoline tax.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:09 PM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Winter weather
        

Wind gusts top 50 mph at BWI-Marshall

High winds driving around the west side of the big snowstorm now centered over Long Island reached more than 50 mph in gusts across parts of Central Maryland overnight. The winds contributed to thousands of power outages locally. Here's a sampling from the National Weather Service:Anemometer

MARYLAND

...ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY...
   1 N BALT-WASH INTL A    53 mph  1:24 AM  2/26   KBWI ASOS
   1 W HARMANS             53 mph   1:09 AM  2/26

...BALTIMORE COUNTY...
   1 N BALTIMORE MARTIN    46 mph  11:00 PM  2/25   KMTN AWOS

...FREDERICK COUNTY...
   MIDDLETOWN              56 mph  4:10 AM  2/26
   1 ENE BRUNSWICK         53 mph   3:49 AM  2/26

A station near Petersburg, W.V. reported a gust of 67 mph at 3:17 a.m. Here's more. And here's a sampler:

Frederick County:

Ballenger Creek:  63 mph  7:45 a.m.

Buckeystown:  57 mph  7:29 a.m.

Green Valley:  57 mph  7:53 a.m.

Middletown:  56 mph  4:10 a.m. 

Washington County: 63 mph  7:44 a.m. 

High wind warnings remain in effect across the region until 6 p.m. Friday. The NWS said:

"STRONG GUSTY NORTHWEST WINDS WILL CONTINUE THROUGH TODAY.
NORTHWEST WINDS OF 25 TO 35 MPH WILL GUST BETWEEN 55 TO 60 MPH...
WITH LOCALLY HIGHER GUSTS...ESPECIALLY LATE THIS MORNING.

"WINDS THIS STRONG WILL CAUSE DANGEROUS TRAVEL CONDITIONS...AND
LIKELY KNOCK DOWN TREES AND POWER LINES."

Winter Weather Advisories also remain in effect. Here's the full forecast for BWI.

Meanwhile, way out west, the hardy folks of Garrett County are grappling with blizzard conditions and another (nearly) two feet of snow out of this system. That comes on top of the 19 FEET of snow they've had already this season. That's no typo. Wisp resort reports 26 inches this week, with 218 inches so far this season. 

Now, Marylanders living out in Garrett are no snow sissies. But this winter is beginning to get to them. We received this report this morning from Cindy Stacey on the latest blow:

"Weather is probably worst of winter so far. We received 21.6 inches in this system. County emergency folks say most county roads are impassable. Brad Frantz is director of emergency management in Garrett County. He's advising everyone to stay off roads, unless emergency ... Nearly everything is closed, including Wal-Mart! Before this system, we've had 19-ft of snow this winter. Calling it hurricane-like storm ... even worse than blizzard. Amazingly, our power is still on, despite 30-50 mph winds."

We are trying to reach a spokesperson for the Garrett emergency management office. But it's a small outfit, and they say they are "extremely busy." We'll keep trying. Meantime, if you're upWisp resort 2/26/10 there, send snow photos. Clogged roads, buried houses and cars, crazed residents. It's all good.

John McCracken was snowboarding in two feet of fresh powder this morning. McCracken is marketing coordinator at the Wisp Resort in McHenry.

He said his commute to work this morning took twice as long as usual as snow and wind combined to fill in quickly behind the county plows.  

"As far as the local roads around the area, they're definitely snow-covered for sure," he said. "I saw something I've never seen in my life - a personal truck with a personal plow actually plowing a state road this morning. And they definitely appreciate all the help they can get."

UPDATE: Garrett County emergency management officials say Garrett's roads are "basically impassable," and are likely to remain that way throughout the weekend. There have been two multi-vehicle pileups on I-68, with casualties. Plow crews "cannot keep up." Motorists are being urged to stay home.

Has Garrett County had enough of winter yet?

"With a lot of the locals, you kinda get comments like, 'Boy, I haven't seen a snowfall like this in years.' So they've seen it before, but not recently," McCracken said. "We haven't broken the record for snowfall in Garrett County yet, but we're close."

"People new to the area, I think they're a little ... I don't want to say sick of snow ... but they are definitely ready for warmer temperatures and for spring to come," McCracken said.

Not so on the mountain. Despite gusts over 40 mph, and perhaps higher on the ridge tops, ski and snowboard conditions are terrific, McCracken said. "We're looking for a high of 22 today. I have been out all morning snowboarding, and it's not bad. A little windy ... not something you want to hang around in all day."

"As far as conditions, they are amazing. I got first track this morning ... I was riding in snow over my knees, some of the best conditions you can have," he said. Most trails and lifts are open, although a few loading and unloading areas are too deep in snow and need to be cleared.

(Top: Anemometer/Frank Roylance; Bottom: Wisp Resport/John McCracken, used with permission)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:27 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: By the numbers
        

February 25, 2010

Two feet of snow !

Two feet of snow

Gotcha!

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:20 PM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

Winds may gust to 50, 60 mph

We may have dodged the snow that is falling today just to our northeast. But it does not look like we will dodge the high winds being generated by the same powerful storm.

UPDATE: 9 p.m.: Light snow and blustery winds on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville. And cold - 31 degrees.

The National Weather Service has posted High Wind Watches through Friday afternoon across Maryland west of the Chesapeake. They say we can expect sustained winds of 25 to 35 mph, gusting as high as 60 mph overnight tonight into Friday. They say:

"WINDS THIS STRONG WILL CAUSE DANGEROUS TRAVEL CONDITIONS...AND
MAY KNOCK DOWN TREES AND POWER LINES.

Snow cuts power in Peterborough, NH"PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS... A HIGH WIND WATCH MEANS THERE IS THE POTENTIAL FOR A HAZARDOUS HIGH WIND EVENT. SUSTAINED WINDS OF AT LEAST 40 MPH...OR GUSTS OF 58 MPH OR STRONGER MAY OCCUR. CONTINUE TO MONITOR THE LATEST
FORECASTS"

UPDATE: BGE officials said they are preparing to respond to widespread power outages. But customers who find themselves in the dark may have to wait longer than they would like to have their power restored:

"We do not expect the impact of this storm to be as severe as what we experienced during this month's back-to-back blizzards. However, customers are reminded that when the wind exceeds 25 mph, it is usually unsafe to use bucket trucks so restoration work requiring those vehicles could be delayed until conditions improve."

The winds are the consequence of the deepening low pressure to our east, and later northeast, as this new coastal storm intensifies and pounds New England (AP photo, left) and New York with heavy snow, heavy rain, high winds, battering seas and coastal flooding. Check out this forecast for Boston, with stormy weather right through the weekend.

Philadelphia is getting snow this morning, too, with forecasts of 8 to 15 inches by Friday. A slight shift in the storm's path might have visited that snow on Central Maryland.

UPDATE  1 p.m.: The NWS has replaced Winter Storm Watches with Winter Weather Advisories for Carroll, Baltimore, Harford and (now) Anne Arundel Counties, plus the city. They call for 1 to 2 inches of accumulating snow late today, and 1 to 2 more overnight as we feel the backlash from this storm. That will mean lots of snow blowing around in the high winds. Wind speeds are picking up this afternoon, the barometer is falling, and temperatures may have topped out. Be careful out there tonight.

UPDATED UPDATE 4 p.m.: The Winter Weather Advisories now call for just 1 to 3 inches of snow tonight across the region as temperatures drop into the 20s.

Cecil County, meanwhile, along with much of the Eastern Shore, remains under a Winter Storm Warning, with 4 to 8 inches due in Cecil, and Dover, Del., but lesser amounts farther south on the Delmarva peninsula.

UPDATE 4 p.m.: The Warning for Cecil now calls for 6 to 12 inches there. Forecasters told us days ago there would be a sharp snow gradient somewhere in the region. I guess this suggests where it is. A little hard to grasp as we sit here in Baltimore amid afternoon sunshine and 40-degree temperatures.

The forecast discussion from Sterling provides a pretty thorough primer on what's going on.

Eric the Red shared this observation with me this morning as the predicted morning snowfall here proved a no-show:

"It was one of those storms that you just couldn't ignore and hope it didn't happen. I am a firm believer ... that is is much worse to keep quiet and have something happen, than to tell of a storm and have it miss. It really is a safety issue as much as anything."

Amen.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:08 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Fizzle and bust

That tearing sound you hear is the sound of forecasters' watches and warnings being rent asunder. Mother Nature has used one of the more complex and unusual winter storms in memory to humble the meteorologists and their high-speed computers. It is a pitiless science.

Although the storm is still getting cranked up this (Thursday) morning, and light snow was falling early this morning on the Eastern Shore, Central Maryland has obviously escaped the 1 to 3 inches meteorologists had expected to fall overnight. Temperatures were too mild, and the storm dragged too much dry air into the region to allow much to fall.

Snow map from FootsForecast.orgThere was some snow at BWI-Thurgood Marshall Airport, and it arrived pretty much on schedule in the wee hours after a few hours of light rain. But it never amounted to anything.

Forecasters cancelled their Winter Weather Advisories for much of the region, although they left the Winter Storm Watch up across Carroll, Baltimore and Harford counties - including the city. That's in anticipation of the storm's third act, which could pull cold air and snow out of the northwest as the big low loiters over New York late today and tomorrow.

UPDATE: Those Winter Storm Watches have been downgraded to Winter Weather Advisories, with just 1 to 2 inches of snow likely late today, and perhaps the same amount again overnight. And Anne Arundel County has been added to the advisory zone.

But forecasters out in Sterling don't sound real certain about any of this. (Edits are mine, for clarity):

"METRO BALTIMORE NEAREST CENTERPOINT [OF THE STORM]...AND STANDS BEST CHANCE AT
RECEIVING ACCUMULATING SNOWFALL. MAIN QUESTION THEN BECOMES WHAT TO DO WITH THE
WINTER STORM WATCH CURRENTLY POSTED ACROSS NORTHEAST MD.

"[PRECIPITATION AMOUNTS] WILL BE THE PRIMARY FACTOR. UNFORTUNATELY...DUE TO THE COMPLEXITY OF THE SITUATION...DONT HAVE BEST COMFORT THAT [COMPUTER] GUIDANCE [IS]  ADDRESSING THE NUANCES...ESPECIALLY IN REGARDS TO THE RETROGRADING SURFACE LOW [THE MOVEMENT OF THE STORM'S CENTER].

"SO DONT REALLY WISH TO GO WITH DETERMINISTIC QFP [A DEFINITIVE PREDICTION ONOAAN PRECIPITATION]. ... SATURATION IN SNOW GROWTH REGION NOT ALL THAT STELLAR... [SNOW] TOTALS WILL END UP BELOW WARNING [5 INCHES] ...BUT IT COULD BE VERY CLOSE. GIVEN THESE UNCERTAINTIES... WILL LEAVE WATCH STAND THIS CYCLE."

Eric the Red, a professional meteorologist in Baltimore, bailed on the snow forecast late Wednesday evening:

"It is fizzlin' big time. Obviously, snow won't stick when it's 40 degrees. That was courtesy of late-arriving clouds and a strong late-February sun. Next up, the coastal low is gonna stay offshore, so we'll miss the big snow. Finally, the low will travel farther north before getting stopped and turned around by the block, so our wrap-around snow for Thurs night will be less.  As luck would have it, we probably won't miss out on the winds.  Oh joy.

"At this point, maybe an inch or two in northern MD.  For everyone else... nada.  I'm guessing folks won't be too disappointed.  I should point out that we have at least one of these 'It's coming!  Oh, Nevermind...' storms a year, and this is the one for 2009-10."

The student forecasters at FootsForecast.org have a very informative spread on all this on their site this morning, including the serious winds still predicted for the region late today and tomorrow. Their snow map (above) shows us in a kind of protective bubble.

This is still a very big, very powerful storm. We just get to sit on the sidelines for most of it this time and watch others cope.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:48 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Forecasts
        

February 24, 2010

Complex storm could feature a lull between flakes

The winter storm headed for the Northeast early Thursday could bring 3 to 7 more inches of snow to Baltimore, capping a winter in which a few more inches hardly seems to matter anymore.

But this one will be different - one of the most complicated and unusual winter storms we've seen in quite a while. Maryland remains mostly on the southern and western fringes of the blast, which is expected to pound portions of New York and New England with heavy snow, tropical-storm-force winds and flooding. Philadelphians were told Wednesday to expect 8 to 12 inches. New York City could receive 7 to 13 inches, while Binghamton, in south-central New York State, could see as much as 12 to 18 inches.

Forecasters expect the tempest will drift up the coast Thursday, intensify, head inland into southern New York State, then turn west onto some kind of bizarre meteorological cloverleaf, moving west, then south into Pennsylvania, then east again before it finally heads out to sea off the New England coast this weekend.

AccuWeather.comAlong the way it looks like the storm will offer Baltimore rain; a rain/snow mix; then snow; then a lull in the action for a time Thursday afternoon; then more snow into Friday with a big helping of high winds.

For BWI-Marshall, the National Weather Service is calling for the storm to begin late Wednesday evening as rain and snow, turning to all snow after midnight as temperatures drop to freezing. Overnight accumulations could reach 1 to 3 inches of wet snow.

Winter Storm Watches, which mean 5 inches or more are possible by Friday morning, remained posted for Carroll, Baltimore, Harford countries, and Baltimore City. Farther south and west they were replaced Wednesday with Winter Weather Advisories, calling for 3 inches or less during the first phase of the storm.

After daybreak Thursday, the snow is forecast to continue until around 1 p.m., then quit for a time. That's the lull.

The break occurs as the storm intensifies off the coast, and drags dry air in from the southwest, cutting off theSNow and wind, Baltimore precipitation for much of the region. Portions in the mountains, the western shore of the bay and extreme northern Maryland may be slower to dry out, forecasters said.

Forecasters then expect the winds here will shift to the northwest and increase in speed, pulling colder air down from Canada around the west side of the low, which spins counter-clockwise. The highest winds will occur overnight Thursday into Friday, reaching 15 to 25 mph with gusts to 35 mph. 

The high winds, saturated soils and heavy, wet snow may lead to more downed libs and trees, and power outages, forecasters warned.

As the low moves into New York State, and begins to pivot to the west, then south into Central Pennsylvania, it is expected to trigger the third phase of the storm. The weather service says it will drive more snow into Maryland. Two to 5 more inches are possible at BWI before it all ends early Friday morning, according to the weather service.

"Considering the longevity of this system across the area, this period could possibly have the heaviest snows and highest accumulations for the Baltimore metro area and points northeast," said forecasters at AccuWeather.com. "Back into the DC Metro area and points northwest and southeast, lesser amounts expected, especially with wind-driven snow overnight and localized bands that may also be fairly short-lived."

Complicated enough? There's more. The blustery weather could continue through the weekend, with chances for light snow showers as a parting shot.

Here's AccuWeather.com's take on the storm. And here's FootsForecast.org, which predicts a total of 5 inches or more for Baltimore, and as much as 8 inches farther north and east in Maryland.

Eric the Red, a professional meteorologist in Baltimore, says:

"This is a very low confidence forecast, because the heavy snow will be just to our east and northeast, and any slight wobble could well result in blizzard conditions. My best early guess: Northern Va./D.C.:  1-2", perhaps less; Central Maryland: 2-4"; Northern Maryland:  3-6", perhaps as much as 8 inches."

Later, he said the potential for his forecast to "bust" was high:

"I'd place my money on the snow being less than advertised. The current 40-degree temperatures don't help either."

(SUN PHOTO/Amy Davis, March 2009)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:51 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Consider us lucky as storm targets NY, NE

Forecasters are still expecting several inches of snow and plenty of wind for Maryland as the latest coastal storm gathers to our south and prepares to drift by to our east. But this time the crosshairs are on northern New England, Central New York State, northern Pennsylvania and northwestern New Jersey.

Those folks will see a humdinger, by all accounts. Wet, heavy snow and high winds will likely bring down limbs and trees, and knock out power for extended periods. Heavy rain on the east side of AccuWeather.comthe storm could combine with snow melt to produce flooding. On the New England coast, tropical-storm-force winds will batter homes and beaches and cause coastal flooding. There should be some great video in the next few days, but considerable hardship for those in this storm's path.

Here, forecasters have posted Winter Storm Watches for all of Central and Southern Maryland, from Frederick County east. Other forecast stations have done the same for the Eastern Shore, Delaware, New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania.

The storm will begin here as rain and snow late today, changing to all snow in the wee hours. Accumulations are forecast at only an inch by daybreak, but with 2 to 4 inches more to follow for Baltimore on Thursday as temperatures stall in the low 30s. Points north and east could see an inch or two more, and points south an inch or two less. Salisbury could get 2 to 6 inches before it all ends late Thursday.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing here will be the "blowout" tides, as strong northwest winds drive water down the Chesapeake and produce some unusually low water. After nearly 50 inches of snow already this month - much of it thankfully now melted away - another 5 inches doesn't seem like a worry at all. 

Elsewhere, FootsForecast.org is focusing on the winds, which could reach 27 mph sustained for Baltimore, with higher gusts. The student forecasters' snow accumulation forecast foresees 8 inches or more from Washington to Philly, on the high end again as they have been for much of this winter - often correctly.

I will be on assignment until mid-afternoon. Will check back then.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:56 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Forecasts
        

February 23, 2010

Storm Watch posted here as "snow hurricane" nears

The latest forecast model runs are beginning to portray the Wednesday/Thursday storm as a more powerful actor, especially for upstate New York and Western New England. Northeast Maryland appears to be increasingly likely to get a much smaller piece of the action.

The National Weather Service has posted Winter Storm Watches this afternoon for Maryland counties from Frederick and Howard east, Calvert north (incuding Baltimore), on the Eastern Shore, as well as all of Delaware. The Watch calls for 5 inches of snow or more.

UPDATE: The Winter Storm Watch has been expanded to include Montgomery, Prince George's, Charles and St. Mary's counties, as well as Washington's Va. suburbs.

AccuWeather.com is calling this storm a "snow hurricane" and a "monster" of "historic proportions."NOAA No scarcity of hype in State College today.

That said, if the forecast is correct, it really will be a memorable storm to our north as the storm moves offshore, intensifies, curves slowly back toward Long Island and plows inland.

And that storm track - keeping close to the beaches - could mean more snow here than we've been led so far this week to expect, as we get the return flow of cold air on the west side of the low.

The precipitation should begin Wednesday evening as a mix of rain and snow, changing to all snow between midnight and 3 a.m. Thursday morning. The snow is expected to continue all day Thursday into Thursday evening, with temperatures here in the low to mid-30s.

The storm will also be windy, with winds of 15 to 25 mph Thursday, gusting to 35 mph. There are gale warnings for the bay, if the NWS forecast holds up.

Eric the Red, a professional meteorologist in Baltimore, is edging closer to issuing his "Uh Oh Warning."

"The total precipitation from the ensembles [a collection of forecast computer models that are run simultaneously, with the same data inputs, to see how much agreement there is] ranges from zippo (there's about 5 out of 21 total that do this) to another heavy dose of snow, especially east of the mountains."

"While I'm still not 100 percent convinced, this is getting harder to ignore."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:37 PM | | Comments (22)
Categories: Forecasts
        

At last, one welcome icicle

Just received this delightful letter, handwritten and sent via snail mail, from "Angela," in Towson. Angela has written to me before about the birds she sees from her windows. Enjoy.

Icicles"Dear Mr. Roylance,

"Years ago I wrote you, when I was 93, an article titled 'Catbirds and Raisins.' I saw something today that I thought the readers or 'bird fanciers' would appreciate.

"A mockingbird flew down from the roof, sat on a branch of an azalea bush (just overhead were many icicles hanging from the gutters). The mockingbird reached over and drank several sips of water from the dripping icicle. Snow covered the lawn and bushes, but he preferred to drink from the icicle.

"I was stunned when I saw it. I had never seen anything like it before; and because I was inside my house, sitting at a table having my cup of tea, and just looked out my window, close by, at the precise time the bird arrived to take a drink from an icicle.

"[That this occurred] on Valentines' Day made it especially important to me, since I am confined to my house because of a stroke and do not get out to see other things that are important to me, i.e., the malls and stores.

"To me, he was the most important Valentine gift I ever received. Yours truly, Angela..."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:51 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Winter weather
        

Despite climate doubts, Americans back CO2 curbs

A survey of more than 1,000 Americans suggests that we have increasing doubts about the nature of global climate change and the urgency of acting on the science.

Even the group identified as the most "alarmed" among those surveyed - those convinced that global warming is happening, is caused by humans and is a serious and urgent threat - has AP photo India shrunk from 18 to 10 percent of the total, according to the survey conducted by Yale and George Mason universities.

Groups described as "concerned," "cautious," and "disengaged" also declined as a percentage of the total surveyed. Only those described as "doubtful" and "dismissive" have grown as percentages of the whole - to 29 percent, from less than 20 percent in a 2008 survey.

The study's authors attribute the shift to "gloomy unemployment numbers, public frustration with Washington, attacks on climate science and mobilized opposition to national climate legislation."

But despite our increasing doubts, a strong majority of Americans - in six categories from the "alarmed" to the "dismissive" - still support the allocation of more money for clean energy research, tax rebates for people who make their homes and cars more energy efficient, and they back regulation of carbon dioxide emissions as atmospheric pollutants.

"The fact that five of the six Americas support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant is bound to be of interest to the president, Congress, and the EPA," said Edward Maibach, director of the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University. "Some business groups and other special interests as opposing EPA regulation, but most of the American people appear to be for it."

You can access the study through a link here.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:23 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Science
        

Rain, snow and wind due Weds., Thurs.

That much we can probably say with some certainty. The complex storm system headed our way will make for an interesting couple of days Wednesday and Thursday. But while we may well see some snow before we break back out into the sunshine for the weekend, unless Nature deals us a surprise (as some forecasters suggest), it looks like the worst of the storms' fury will be visited on New York and New England.

UPDATE: 12:31 p.m. Tues.: The National Weather Service has issued a Hazardous Weather Outlook for Central and Southern Maryland that includes the following:

"COASTAL LOW PRESSURE WILL BRING THE POTENTIAL FOR ACCUMULATING
SNOWFALL ACROSS THE OUTLOOK AREA WEDNESDAY NIGHT THROUGH THURSDAY
NIGHT. THERE IS UNCERTAINTY REGARDING THE EXACT TRACK AND STRENGTH
OF THIS STORM...SO PLEASE MONITOR THE LATEST FORECASTS.

Earlier post resumes:

The most important piece of what's coming will be a storm that is tracking along the southern, subtropical branch of the jet stream today. It is expected to pass by to our south, emerging off the Carolina coast Wednesday or Wednesday night. There, gathering energy from the Gulf AccuWeather.comStream, it is expected to intensify and move up the coast, curve toward the northwest and push inland.

AccuWeather.com is calling this an "historic" storm for upstate New York and New England, with loads of snow, blizzard conditions and near hurricane-force winds in some locations. (map at right)

"Cities likely to be impacted by heavy snow for all or at least part of the storm include: New York City, Albany, Rochester, Syracuse, Binghamton, Scranton, Allentown, Reading, Williamsport and Burlington. The storm also deliver heavy rain and flooding northeast of the center of circulation.

"The cities of Boston, Providence and Portland may have their hands full with coastal flooding problems."

The impact here in Maryland is less clear, although everyone seems to agree that we will experience a period of strong northwest winds as the storm's counter-clockwise circulation sweeps by to our east. AccuWeather.com predicts "blowout tides" from New Jersey to North Carolina. That will mean persistent low tides on the Chesapeake as the winds blow water out of the bay.

The question then becomes what sort of precipitation will we see. Those winds out of the northwest will bring in much colder air. And forecasters at Sterling believe the temperatures aloft will be plenty cold enough to support snow. The question is whether temperatures at the surface will allow that snow to land as snow. Says Sterling:

"Dynamics associated with upper low crossing the mid_atlantic Wednesday night/Thursday will be sufficient for chance [of precipitation]. Thermal profiles during the period supportive of snow ... but surface temperatures near 40 Thursday afternoon allow for rain/snow mix south and east of Interstate 95."

NOAAOfficially, the forecast for Baltimore calls for "a slight chance of rain after 1 p.m." Wednesday. That's followed by "a chance of rain or snow before midnight, then a chance of snow" for the rest of the night as temperatures drop to around 28 degrees. Thursday's forecast from Sterling calls for "a chance of snow." But the surface temperature will rise to 38 degrees. So will we see any real accumulating snow? No word yet from Sterling.Snow at the Inner Harbor

Says AccuWeather.com: "Exactly where this storm forms and tracks will determine whether you get all snow, all rain, snow to rain or just snow showers. A difference in track of as little as 50 miles will mean the difference. On thing is for sure, most people in the mid-Atlantic and New England will have problems from this storm's strong winds."

The student forecasters at FootsForecast.org aren't sure how much snow we should expect from this event, either. But they see loads of moisture and plenty of time for the coastal storm to pile up whatever does fall. So they are holding out the possibility of a surprise, especially in the extreme northeastern section of the state:

"With this system parked near the Gulf Stream for over 24 hours, it is entirely possible that moisture transport produces snowfall totals at or above significant criteria [4-5 inches], and may certainly surprise many people expecting just snow showers."

THIS JUST IN from Eric the Red, who had once dismissed this storm as all wind and snow showers, is sounding more concerned:

"Some disturbing model trends for Thurs and Friday. Not a slam dunk by any means, but the odds of getting hit by wind and snow ... have gone up.

"The big issue is how close to the coast does the storm track on its initial push up the East Coast. Not only will this impact how much - if any - snow falls Wed night into early Thurs, but will also dictate how quickly precipitation pushes back south into the region Thurs afternoon and night. Right now, consider us under an Uh Oh Watch.

"Bust Factor: Huge. This could end up with a whole lot of wind and clouds ... and some flurries. Or it could be another blizzard."

(SUN PHOTO/Jed Kirschbaum)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:06 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts
        

February 22, 2010

Mason-Dixon, Lorton meteors in TV cameo Weds.

Amateur astronomer and astrophotographer Mike Hankey, of Freeland, reminds the WeatherBlog that this week's edition of Meteorite Men will include a "short segment" on two recent meteor events in the mid-Atlantic states.

UPDATE: Apparently, the Mason-Dixon meteor has been edited out of the final version of the show. Lorton survives. Earlier post resumes:

The show, on Discovery's Science Channel at 9 p.m. Wednesday, will focus on last year's meteorite fall in Ash Creek, Texas. But Mike says there will be some attention paid to the Mason-Dixon meteor last July 6, and the Lorton meteorite fall in suburban Washington, D.C. on Jan. 18, 2010.

The Mason-Dixon meteor startled residents of north-central Maryland and nearby Pennsylvania with sonic booms and a fiery pass through the atmosphere. A security camera at a York Water Company pumping station caught it on tape. And Hankey captured the space rock's entry by accident on a digital camera hitched to his telescope. Despite a search by meteorite hunters, no trace of the meteor was ever found.

The Lorton meteorite was found quite easily. The fist-sized rock crashed through the roof of a Lorton doctor's office. No one was hurt, and the meteorite was turned over to the Smithsonian Institution. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:25 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events
        

Why there's more rain, lightning, on weekdays

Scientists at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt have been thinking hard about why rainfall and lightning activity in the Southeastern United States tend to peak on weekdays - Lightning over Baltimoreparticularly between Tuesday and Friday.

Their conclusion is that air pollution is likely to blame. And their chief suspects are particulate emissions of the sort spewed by diesel engines.

Their thinking - not yet fully borne out by their research - is that it's the fine particles in the soot, largely from trucks, that provide growing thunderstorms with more surfaces on which water vapor can condense into droplets. More, smaller droplets allow the thunderstorms to grow higher in the atmosphere. The droplets get colder, release more latent heat before they fall, and help fuel more energetic electrical storms.

The data showing there is more rain and more lightning on weekdays, on average, would seem to fit nicely with the fact that more trucks are on the road from Tuesday through Thursday. 

You can read more about their work here, on NASA's very interesting "What on Earth" blog.

(SUN PHOTO/Karl Merton Ferron, 2004)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:34 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Science
        

Rain late today; a mix Weds.; then snow chances

Looks like we're going to see a bit of rain on our snow heaps later today and tonight. NWS forecasters out at Sterling don't expect much more than a quarter-inch or rainfall, and even with plenty of snow remaining on the ground, there are no flood watches or warnings up for the moment. So while it may be very soggy out there, perhaps this will be a good opportunity to rid ourselves of some more of the February snow, ice, salt and general grime.

The comparatively mild temperatures and liquid precipitation come to us courtesy of a storm system moving through the Ohio Valley today. Because it will pass to our north and west, we will NOAAbe on the milder, wetter side of this one. They're calling for light rain this afternoon and tonight, ending quickly sometime after midnight. The snow will remain well to our north, around the Great Lakes and New England.

At the same time, there's another storm system moving along the southern branch of the jet stream. That one will emerge off the South Carolina coast. As it intensifies, and moves up the coast, winds will strengthen out of the northwest, dropping our temperatures Wednesday and Wednesday night. Forecasters say we have a 40 percent chance of overnight snow, but with little accumulation.

After another morning that barely touched 32 degrees today, we'll see sub-freezing readings again by Thursday morning. Another disturbance out of the northwest will bring us a 30 percent chance of seeing some snow (and rain) in the air on Thursday, but with daytime highs around 40 degrees, it shouldn't amount to much.

Then skies will clear for a while, if the forecast holds up. Sunny skies are forecast for Friday and through the weekend. But it will remain cool for this time of year, with daytime highs only around 40 degrees, and overnight lows in the 20s. The averages for the last week in February are in the upper 40s for highs, and the upper 20s for lows at night.AccuWeather.com

Here's how AccuWeather.com sees the storm system moving our way today (map, right):

"Yes, it will lead to street flooding, where snow is blocking storm drains. And yes, it will add some weight to the existing snow. However, most areas lost enough snow cover over the weekend to compensate for the added weight."

Student forecasters at FootsForecast.com offer two scenarios for the second, late-week storm. One produces only light, intermittent snow. The other brings wetter, windier weather. As for today's rain, they advise:

"Though outright "flooding" may not be a big concern today, when those of you in the Mid-Atlantic arrive home tonight, some may have water waiting in unplanned, unexpected places. It would be a wise to attempt a swipe at your nearby storm drain pile or try to clear frozen gutters, if possible."

Eric the Red, a professional meteorologist from Baltimore, says:

"Today and Tuesday still look too warm for anything but rain, with some sleet possible in the far northern and western locales ... like, so far north and west that if you have to ask, it's not you."

But he's been looking at forecast model runs for the late-week coastal storm, and he, too, sees a chance - in some of them - for some very strong winds and stormy weather here by week's end.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:55 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

February 19, 2010

Space station, shuttle in Sunday morning pass

No guarantees here, but this may be an event worth crawling out of bed for on Sunday morning.

The space shuttle Endeavour is wrapping up its business at the International Space Station today, having assisted in the installation of the station's new observation dome (NASA photo). Now the shuttle crew is preparing for undocking this evening and a landing in Florida Sunday night, weather permitting. Between now and then, the shuttle and the ISS will be flying in rather close formation, ISS observation windowaffording us a chance to see them both cross our skies, one after the other.

It's an opportunity that will soon become a bit of space history. The shuttle fleet is scheduled to be retired by fall, with just four flights left on the manifest. The sight of a shuttle and the ISS crossing the sky together will be a memory worth pursuing. You can read more about it here.

So, here's the deal: Our best chance to see the two spacecraft from Maryland will come at 5:43 a.m. on Sunday. The ISS will rise above the north northwest horizonas it crosses above the northern Great Lakes. It will look like a bright, moving star. It will climb less than halfway between the north northeast horizon and the zenith (straight up), rising to just 37 degrees at 5:45 a.m. as it flies over the northern Hudson River Valley.

From there, the space station will glide off toward the east southeast, disappearing at 5:47 a.m.International Space Station

The flyby is not one I would normally alert readers to, because of the hour, the cold and its relatively low arc across the sky. But skies are forecast to be only partly cloudy, and because of the diminishing opportunities to see the two craft together, I figured it would be worth the shot.

If you do go out to watch, allow several minutes on either end of the listed times. I'm not sure at this moment whether the shuttle will be flying ahead of the ISS or behind. (You can tell them apart because the ISS is much brighter.) But they should pass over in fairly quick succession. There has also been talk of raising the station's orbit, which also could affect the timing a bit.

Good luck. And as always, if you spot them, please drop back here and leave a comment describing the scene. I'll post them as soon as I can.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:03 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

Monday storm looking more like a rainy mix

The chances that Marylanders will be dealing with snow on Monday seem to be melting away this morning. But predictions that the storm center will pass to our north and west and bring us a "wintry mix" and rain instead of snow may not be all that comforting. Rain on top of whatever remains of this snow pack by Monday could cause us new headaches, as the risks of flash and urban flooding rise.

Winter rain in BaltimoreThe National Weather Service has increased the probability of precipitation on Monday and Monday night to 60 percent.

For Baltimore, forecasters out at Sterling say the event should begin with a 30 percent chance for some snow after 1 a.m. Monday. That shifts to a 60 percent chance of rain and snow before noon Monday, changing again to all rain in the afternoon and evening as temperatures rise close to 40 degrees.

Here's a bit of this morning's forecast discussion from Sterling:

"00Z GFS/EURO OPERATIONAL GUIDANCE [COMPUTER MODELS] NOW IN AGREEMENT ON THE UPPER WAVE TAKING THE SURFACE LOW UP THE OHIO VALLEY MONDAY...KEEPING THE SOUTHERN MID ATLANTIC IN THE WARM SECTOR THROUGH THE STORM PASSAGE.

"AS FOR PRECIPITATION-TYPE...SURFACE LOW DEVELOPMENT ALONG THE COLD FRONTAL ZONE
OVER NORTH CAROLINA/SOUTHEAST VIRGINIA LOOKS TO SET UP A [COLD AIR] WEDGE ACROSS NORTHERN VIRGINIA AND MARYLAND MONDAY AND MONDAY NIGHT. WHILE THE MAJORITY OF THE PRECIP LOOKS TO BE RAIN...THE LOW LEVEL AIR MAY BE COLD ENOUGH TO SUPPORT A WINTRY
MIX...PARTICULARLY ACROSS NORTHERN SECTIONS OF THE [FORECAST AREA] THROUGH THE EVENT."

Here's AccuWeather.com's take:

"For now, it appears a line from Chicago to Cleveland, Ohio to Scranton, Pa. and Worcester, Mass. might get the most snow from this storm. We will say, however, the track of this storm is still uncertain. AWinter rain in Baltimore change in path by as little as 100 miles could mean the difference between heavy snow, drenching rain or a wintry mix in your location ...

"Climatologically, odds favor snow versus rain this time of the year, due to coldness of the oceans, Great Lakes
and (snow covered) ground. While this does "not" appear to be a storm that produces 2 to 3 feet of snow, it will add more water and snow weight to the existing snow on the ground and on roofs. If the storm does track north of your snow-clogged area, concerns of flash and urban flooding will be raised due to snowmelt."

Mr. Foot and his student forecasters have issued as "Level 2 Alert" for Central Maryland. They see two possible storm tracks:

"One closer to Maryland, meaning less wintry precip and more liquid; one further south, meaning more snow and some ice." 

Eric the Red sees "winter slop" in his crystal ball:

"All ... of last night's ... model runs take the core low into the Ohio River Valley. Doh. If this forecast holds, we will see little if any snow, and a whole lot of sleet, freezing rain, and rain ... So New England seems to be under the gun for a prolonged snowstorm, while we're relegated to our more typical Maryland winter slop ... The best chance for snow and sleet will be across northern MD, while central and southern MD would be more apt to see rain and freezing rain."

With some luck, the 40+ weather we're due for the rest of this week will release much of the water in the snow pack before the new storm arrives. Last night was the first at BWI since Jan. 25 - and only the third night this year - in which temperatures have not dipped to the freezing mark. The low at the airport was 34 degrees.

(SUN PHOTO/Top: Kenneth K. Lam, 2005; Bottom: Amy Davis, 2007)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:50 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Forecasts
        

February 18, 2010

Temperatures climb toward average

Seems almost balmy out there, as temperatures poke into the 40s for the first time in more than two weeks.

February is running 7 degrees below average so far at BWI-Marshall Airport. We still have 10 days to go, and things do seem to be warming up. But for the month to date, this would qualify as the fourth coldest February on record for Baltimore. Here are the coldest average February temperatures for the city:Pansies in winter

1934:  24.3 degrees

1979:  25.6 degrees

1895:  26.2 degrees

2010:  27.2 degrees (through Feb. 17)

It's not so much that we've seen many extraordinarily low readings at the airport thus far in February. The coldest were 11-degree readings on the 7th and the 15th.

It's more that the temperatures were consistently low, in the 30s every day but one, and the teens and 20s every night. Only one day thus far in February averaged above the long-term norm for the date. That was Feb. 3, with a high of 42 degrees (the average high for the date) and a low of 27 degrees - a little above average.

Even today's balmy readings in the mid-40s are still barely meeting the average for the day's date.

Forecasters in recent days have been looking ahead at changes in the large-scale weather patterns that seem to promise a warm-up into the 50s in the first week of March. Sounds like sun-bathing weather after this month. But highs near 50 in the first week of March in Baltimore are only about average.

It will just feel like spring. But if it makes you feel better, March 1 does mark the end of the meteorological winter.

(SUN PHOTO/Karl Merton Ferron/2009)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:57 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: By the numbers
        

Storm track, rain/snow line uncertain for Mon/Tues

The chances we'll see some sort of snow, rain or mixed slop from late Monday into Tuesday crept upward a bit overnight as the National Weather Service bumped its forecast of the precipitation Potholes on MLK Blvd.chances from 30 percent to 40 percent.

But uncertainties about the storm's track this far in advance leave unanswered those questions about which type of precipitation we should expect, or how much.

It's hard to say which outcome would be best for our winter-weary region. Rain would add weight to what remains on our rooftops, just as more snow would. It would also accelerate the melting and runoff, and could threaten wet basements and urban and river flooding.

And a wintry mix of rain and snow - perhaps the mostly likely outcome - would add an extra dash of misery all of us can do without.

The good news is that, for now, the sun is out, temperatures have reached the 40s and there is a lot of melting going on. Perhaps we can get rid of enough of this mess before Monday to minimize the impact of whatever falls next week. 

In any event, it seems like a good time to dig some runoff channels through the snow pack if a fast melt would threaten flooding in poor drainage areas (like my back yard), and to open those storm drains and downspouts.

So what are those in our stable of forecasters saying this morning? Here's a bit of the forecast discussion from NWS Sterling:

"THE 00Z EURO [MODEL RUN] FEATURES A WEAKER BLOCKING LOW OFF THE CANADIAN
MARITIMES WHICH ALLOWS THE [STORM] SYSTEM TO TRACK NORTHEAST UP THE
APPALACHIANS...KEEPING THE [FORECAST AREA] IN THE WARM SECTOR WITH MOSTLY RAIN.

"A STRONGER BLOCKING LOW IN THE 00Z GFS [ANOTHER MODEL RUN] DIRECTS THE STORM ACROSS THE
[FORECAST AREA] IN A COLDER/SNOWIER SOLUTION. TIMING IS IN BETTER AGREEMENT IN
00Z GUIDANCE THAN PREVIOUS RUNS...BUMPED [PRECIPITATION PROBABILITIES] UP TO HIGHER CHANCES MONDAY/MONDAY NIGHT /WITH GEFS MEMBERS STILL SHOWING A WIDE RANGE OF
SOLUTIONS/.

"WENT WITH A ROUGH AVERAGE OF THE TWO FORMaryland Zoo in Baltimore
PRECIPITATION-TYPE...RAIN/SNOW SOUTHEAST AND SNOW NORTHWEST. PRECIP TYPE DEPENDS
ON THE LOW TRACK IN THIS CASE...SO WILL HAVE TO WAIT FOR BETTER [MODEL] AGREEMENT."

AccuWeather.com says:

"...[Y]ou guessed it, the swath of heavy snow may roll into the central Appalachians and the mid-Atlantic Sunday night and Monday. While a wedge of warm air will try to work northward along the Atlantic Seaboard with this storm, odds favor mostly snow verses mostly rain at this time of the year, due to the cold ocean, cold ground, etc.

"While this does "not" appear to be a storm that produces 2 to 3 feet of snow, it will add more weight to the existing snow on the ground and on roofs, be it water or more snow. We will say the path of this storm is uncertain at this point, and the storm's exact track will determine if rain, snow, or nothing falls in your area. If the storm does track north of your snow-clogged area, concerns of flooding will be raised due to snowmelt."

Mr. Foot's forecast team has issued a "Level 1 Alert," warning of "potentially moderate to significant" snow and wintry precipitation Sunday night through Monday night.

Eric the Red, a professional meteorologist from Baltimore, throws up his hands at recent model runs that were "aaalll over the place ... Some are annoying, some are novelties, and of course there's always Armageddon."

The worst case he cites is the Canadian model:

"It takes a low from the southern Plains into northern Kentucky ... then another low explodes (ka-boom) in eastern North Carolina. The Canadian [model] then drifts the low in Delaware, where it stalls. I'm not makin' this up."

"At this very early juncture, I think the MD/DC/VA region is under the gun for another significant winter storm. Major? Hopefully tomorrow's data will clear that up."

Stay tuned.

(SUN PHOTOS/Top: Karl Merton Ferron/Bottom: Algerina Perna)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:42 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Forecasts
        

February 17, 2010

Melt, baby! Four days of sun and 40 degrees ahead

It's 10:30 a.m. and the mercury has already topped 32 degrees here at Calvert & Centre streets. And the forecast out of Sterling on this Wednesday morning promises little to fear from snow showers today, and much to look forward to from the four or five days of sunshine and 40-degree highs the forecast has on tap.

Not so in Western Maryland, where northwest winds continue to push moist air up the western slopes, which produces more snow. The Wisp ski resort has recorded 51 inches of snow in JUST THE PAST WEEK, and 189 inches for the season. That's a lot, even for Garrett County.

But as those winds cross the mountains and flow down the eastern slopes, they dry out and warm up. So maybe this is the week when the ice shelf hanging over my front door will collapse, the gutters will run free and North Calvert below Mt. Royal will magically expand to two full lanes of traffic Love will melt the snowagain. One can only hope.

The important thing is to move the melting process along at a slow-to-moderate clip before the next storm rolls in early next week, or the warmup predicted for the first week in March arrives and hits the accelerator. We don't want to follow crippling record snowfalls with wet basements and flooding rivers.

(Nor do we want to accelerate the melt with propane. Bad idea.)

But here's the deal: Forecasting models see another storm moving across the continent this weekend, arriving at the East Coast by Monday. They disagree on just where it reaches the coast, leaving a raft of questions about who gets rain, who gets snow, and who gets missed. If we can't take a pass, we may prefer more snow to rain that could produce flooding.

Sterling is looking for partly to mostly sunny skies through Sunday. Highs should hold in the low 40s during the day, dropping into the 20s at night to touch the brakes on the Great Melt. That's a good thing.

Then there's Monday. At this point, five days out, the weather service sees a 30 percent chance for "rain and snow" Monday, with the highs reaching 39 degrees. That shifts to a 30 Canadian snow melter in actionpercent chance for snow Monday night, with a low near 26. Here's a bit of this morning's forecast discussion:

"HAVE REASONABLE CONFIDENCE THAT THERE WILL BE A WAVE THAT
AFFECTS THE REGION IN THE MONDAY TO TUESDAY TIME FRAME... BUT
UNCERTAINTY ABOUNDS WITH THE DETAILS OF THIS SYSTEM...ESPECIALLY
TRACK/STRENGTH. WILL KEEP CHANCE POPS [FORECASTS FOR A CHANCE OF PRECIPITATION] DURING THIS TIME...NOTING THAT THIS COULD BE A MIXED PRECIPITATION EVENT."

AccuWeather.com's weather blogger Henry Margusity is watching the models for this one, too. He sees plenty of cold air moving in, and seems to see more snow ahead. "I kinda feel this is going to end up back with a bigger storm next week," he said. But even he sounds weary of it all. Finally. "I'm hoping this is the finale. I'm done." 

Eric the Red, a professional meteorologist from Baltimore, sees the blocking high in the arctic setting up by the weekend to assure cold air here, and suspects the storm will track across Virginia, not the Ohio Valley (which would mean rain and a nasty mix), putting us in line for snow:

"We can say with confidence that this upper-air pattern will support cold weather here into next week, and the placement of the large-scale features also supports another eastern U.S. winter storm. I mentioned earlier that - off the top of my head - I have seen this set up 4 times this winter; 3 times we got hit, and once there was a near miss (storm formed a bit off the coast)."

Mr. Foot and his team of student forecasters don't have a prediction this far out. But they're working on it. Watch for updates here.

(SUN PHOTOS/Amy Davis)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:24 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Forecasts
        

February 16, 2010

Snow, and rumors of snow ...

Looks like the showers and flurries - all that resulted in Baltimore from the Alberta Clipper forecasters had touted all week - are about done. They added a neat 0.1 inch of snow to the seasonal tally at BWI, bringing the damage so far to precisely 80 inches. The average is 18.2 inches.

We may see a few more snow showers today and more tomorrow as more little disturbances flit by on northwest winds behind the departing storm. From there it looks like the rest of the week will bring us more cold weather, but with some sunshine. That should help to melt away a bit more of this colossal mess outside. But there are hints of a new coastal storm early next week. More on that below.

Ice in the guttersFor now, we continue  to deal with the aftermath of a month that left an official 49.3 inches of snow on the ground in just 13 days. Too much of that remains on my roof.

I was leaning out the dormers this morning trying to hack away at some of the snow and ice that have built up over the gutters. We made a little progress in the front, but the rear gutters are out of reach. And I lie awake at night listening to the drip ... drip ... dripdrip ... of water in the wall. Or somewhere it doesn't belong. We have an ice dam in the rear, which faces northwest and gets little sun.

So far, we have not seen any interior damage, or evidence of intruding water, aside from the dripping, dripping, dripping in my chamber wall. But I have lost sleep over the prospect of real leaks.

I remember heavy snow when I was a kid - maybe 1958 - that caused ice damming that backed melt water into the house. We had pots and pans all over the place to catch the drips. My grandmother's place had the same problem. It stained her wallpaper on the rear walls, and I still have dreams of her house, with water cascading down the walls. I suspect many people in Central Maryland are dealing with ice dams and unwanted water now, too. How about you?

Here's some useful advice for the ice dammed: http://capitalclimate.blogspot.com/2010/02/gettting-down-in-gutter-voyage-of-ice.html

As to the rumors of more snow ... At the moment, it is merely a projection by a forecasting model - a computer program that takes the current data and projects how the atmosphere will behave a week and more into the future based on known atmospheric physics and past performance when the setup has been very similar. It is not a guarantee. Too much can happen between now and next week to take the prediction to the bank. Or to your travel agent.

But there it is. The forecast discussion this morning from the NWS's Sterling forecast office says only this:

"HIGH PRESSURE BUILDS IN ON SATURDAY...THEN A DISTURBANCE MAY BRING A
CHANCE OF PRECIP ON SUNDAY ALTHOUGH THERE'S SOME UNCERTAINTY AS TO
THE EVOLUTION/TRACK OF THIS DISTURBANCE.

"UNCERTAINTY INCREASES FURTHER EARLY NEXT WEEK...AS ECMWF [A FORECAST MODEL] INDICATES A POTENT COASTAL STORM WHICH IS NOT REFLECTED IN THE GFS [ANOTHER MODEL]. WILL HAVE TO KEEP AN EYE ON THINGS IN THE DAYS TO COME.Eastern snowcover, Feb. 11

"TEMPERATURES ARE FORECAST TO BE SLIGHTLY BELOW CLIMO [AVERAGES] THROUGH THE
LONG RANGE."

AccuWeather.com's Meteo Madness blogger Henry Margusity says the Euro model has the storm coming up the east coast on Tuesday or Wednesday:

"It really winds up a good storm off of New Jersey, another big storm, one of those two-footers. I like the look of it. Certainly it's a player on the field."

Mr. Foot and his team of student forecasters are conceding a busted forecast for the overnight Clipper. They had predicted 6 inches or more, even as the system began to weaken:

"We saw the declining situation also, but decided to leave the forecast in place to account for what wrap-around shortwaves might do overnight and today. A bust nonetheless, but we saw it as a good learning exercise in how upper level dynamics can really rule the day."

Nothing from Foot's team yet on next week's storm.

Eric the Red, a professional meteorologist in Baltimore, had this early take on its prospects:

"The setup favors it ... with another strengthening block over the Davis Straight. The block is not retrograding (moving west) into that positrion, however, which is the slam dunk part (if this happens, the storm is going to follow). Rather, the block is just kinda meandering between Greenland and Northeast Canada ... Some of last night's [model] runs have it to one degree or the other, most notably the ECMWF. The GFS has a more suppressed system..."

While we wait for the computers to sort out the likelihood of another big storm, we will take a reader poll on the prospect of more snow. You'll have a week to cast your vote:

(SUN PHOTO/Gene Sweeney Jr.)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:06 AM | | Comments (23)
Categories: Forecasts
        

February 15, 2010

A few inches due, mostly north and west of cities

You can handle this, Maryland. Not to worry. The National Weather Service is looking for a few inches of snow late today and tonight out of the approaching Alberta Clipper, mostly north and west of the I-95 corridor. The rest of us will likely see less than an inch of accumulation, along with some unpleasantly cold and wet weather.

UPDATE: 4:30 p.m.: Forecasters are losing faith in the ability of this storm system to measure up, even to their much-reduced expectations. Dry air is surging into the storm center, threatening to bring the precipitation to an early end. Sterling may have to lift the Winter Weather Advisories early. Earlier post resumes below.

So focus on the good part: Once we get past mid-week, we can expect sunshine to assist with the nice, slow melt we've experienced so far, while temperatures remain well below normal for this time of year.

AccuWeather.comThe National Weather Service forecast office in Sterling has issued Winter Weather Advisories for counties north and west of Baltimore and Washington (purple on the map below). That's actually good news. It means no more than 3 or 4 inches of snow, which feels like nothing these days. More specifically, they're expecting just 1 to 3 inches in places like Westminster, Frederick, Gaithersburg and Columbia.

Baltimore can expect some snow in the air, starting in mid-afternoon, changing over to a nasty mix of rain and snow, then back to all-snow after dark before ending late Monday night or early Tuesday morning. Less than an inch is likely, forecasters said. The rain should speed some melting. Make sure your roof drains, downspouts and storm drains are clear.

AccuWeather.com's MeteoMadness blogger Henry Margusity (map above) keeps the worst of the storm well to our northwest, then moves the heavier snowfall to New England as the Clipper intensifies near Long Island. Says Henry:NOAA/NWS

"As you can see, Ohio and West Virginia up to the Northeast have the big snow the next 24 hours. New England will end with the 8-10 inches of snow when the storm hits the coast and intensifies. The good news is that the people hit by major snow will get a break from any large amounts of snow with the clipper.... But... there's plenty of winter left and I see the GFS has several storms to watch later in the month."

The student forecasters at FootsForecast.org are now calling for 3 inches at BWI from the new storm. 

Eric the Red, a professional meteorologist in Baltimore, says this storm is "kinda shaping up to be a non-event."

He says the storm is tracking farther north, and dragging dry air in toward its center (right-hand side of the dark "u" in the satellite image below) and cutting off the precipitation. Three inches for Central Maryland "might be pushing it," Eric said. Washington NOAAcould see nothing in the way of snow accumulation.

UPDATE at 4:30 p.m. from Eric: "This event has totally fallen apart, as the dry slot has more or less caught up to the precipitation ... This falls under the 'passing snow shower' category, and I'd be surprised to see anyone in the immediate metro area get more than an inch. In fact, I'd be surprised to even see that."

The weather service says Southern Maryland may see some flakes initially today, but that should change to all rain.

The far western counties may see more considerable accumulations - as much as 7 inches are possible, forecasters said, as the storm passes by and draws cold, moist air in from the Great Lakes as it departs. So far, though, there are only advisories out there, no Winter Storm Watches.

Down the road, forecasters see a small chance for snow showers Wednesday as a weak disturbance slides by late in the day. Beyond that, there is sunshine, with daytime highs in the upper 30s to near 40 degrees. Overnight lows remain in the 20s. The lows are about right for this time of year in Baltimore. But the daytime highs remain cold. The averages for this time of year at BWI would predict highs in the mid-40s.

We are still running 6.6 degrees below average at BWI for February.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:40 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Forecasts
        

February 14, 2010

Front loader visits South Dallas Street

Four days after the snow stopped, the 500 block of South Dallas Street in Fells Point got a welcome Sunday visit from a front loader and a big dump truck. Free at Last!

BEFORE:                                                                            AFTER:

Snow on South Dallas Street

Snow gone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But the folks in the 2400 Block of Everton Drive in Mount Washington woke up to find an eight foot pile of snow at the entrance to their street. Area resident Bob Byrnes tells the tale:

"Whoever was cleaning the main and sidestreets decided to use the entrance of the street to dump the snow. The 8-foot pile is impassable and makes access to the street by an emergency vehicle impossible. A city 311 operator was called about 8 a.m., but two hours later, nothing has happened. No other street in the Mt. Washington neighborhood appears to have been plowed in. The city contractors appear to have done an exemplary job everywhere but at the corner of Everton."

Anyone know if this blockade has been cleared?

Everton and Greenspring

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:56 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Winter weather
        

Weather Service now says 4 in. or less Mon./Tues.

With Monday's Clipper now projected to take a more northerly track along the Mason-Dixon Line, Central Maryland should expect the rain/snow line to set up over I-95, according to the National Weather Service. That would mean a wetter storm, with more rain and less snow accumulation.

Other forecasters are falling into line. But not all.

Snow cover 2/12/2010Here's a bit of this morning's forecast discussion from Sterling. [Edited by me for jargon.]

"STRONG UPPER LOW /CLIPPER SYSTEM/ EMBEDDED IN NORTHERN [JET] STREAM WILL
APPROACH THE REGION MONDAY BEFORE PUSHING THRU NORTHERN MID ATLANTIC STATES
MON NIGHT INTO TUE MRNG.

"MODEL GUIDANCE HAVE CONTINUED TO TREND FARTHER NORTH WITH THE TRACK OF UPPER LOW. CONSENSUS TRACK ...  SHOWS THE ... LOW MOVING ACROSS
NORTHERN WV AND WESTERN MD BEFORE TRACKING N OF THE MASON DIXON LINE LATE MON
NIGHT.

"THIS TRACK WILL ALLOW [DRY AIR] TO QUICKLY MOVE INTO THE
AREA MON NIGHT AS WELL AS BRING THE RAIN-SNOW LINE NORTHWARD INTO THE I-95
CORRIDOR. [RAIN] AMOUNTS AND SNOW TOTALS WILL BE LIGHT AND CONSIDERABLY
LIMITED BY THE DRY [AIR] WITH DRYING OCCURRING IN THE DENDRITIC SNOW
GROWTH LAYER.

"NORTH AND WEST OF THIS RAIN/SNOW LINE...ADVISORY SNOWFALL
ACCUMULATIONS [4 INCHES OR LESS] LOOKS REASONABLE WITH THIS SYSTEM. PRECIP SHOULD
TRANSITION TO ALL SNOW ACROSS THE ENTIRE [FORECAST AREA] MON NIGHT AS COLDER
AIR GETS WRAPPED AROUND THE BACKSIDE OF THE LOW."

UPDATE: In the meantime, AccuWeather.com has reduced its estimates:

"It now appears the storm will take a track farther north through the mid-Atlantic, bringing milder air into these cities and allowing rain to mix in with the snow Monday afternoon and evening.

"A complete changeover back to snow is expected late Monday night before the area dries out early Tuesday morning.

"The mixing will keep snowfall totals down to a coating to an inch or two across these metropolitan areas. Little or no mixing is expected in the northern and western suburbs, where snow totals could reach 2 to 4 inches."

UPDATE: FootsForecast.org still talks about 6 inches or more. But now they include a "Plan B," with all rain. "There is always bust potential, and we figure most of you would be a-ok with that!" But then they have a "Plan C," in which all variables turn bad and the storm dumps 12 inches on the area. Say it ain't so!

Eric the Red has also scaled back:

"Early late-night models are indicating a more northerly storm track, which definitely removes the big-time snow risk and trims back our expected snowfall.  I think we can probably scale this back to 1-3", maybe up to 4" in far northern MD."

The map above shows (in white) the snow cover on Saturday. There was snow on the ground - somewhere, at least briefly - in all 48 contiguous states (also in Alaska).

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:03 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Forecasts
        

February 13, 2010

Monday storm: 4-5 inches. Or 6 inches. Or 12...?

This much seems unavoidable: The Alberta Clipper steaming across the Plains will bring the mid-Atlantic states more snow on Monday into Tuesday. What remains unclear more than two days out is just how much we should expect from the fourth winter storm of the month.

UPDATE: The NWS now seems to be predicting a more northerly track for the storm. That would mean less snow for Baltimore, but more rain instead. And with all this snow still lingering on rooftops, and waiting to melt, more rain means more weight and a faster melt. Neither is good news.

If there is any good news, it is that we were spared more snow and misery from the Dixie snowstorm that has been tangling traffic and delighting kids across the Deep South in the last day or two. That one headed due east and failed to make the familiar left turn up the coast that so often brings us snow or wintry mixes in a season like this one. Small favors. At least these folks in Macon, Ga. enjoyed it.

The Clipper, however, seems destined to cross our path. The only good thing about it is that these storms are much drier than the Gulf Coast storms that throw so much Gulf and Atlantic moisture our way.

The chief worry is that, once it reaches the Atlantic, this Clipper will intensify and draw both energy and moisture from the Atlantic, sweeping that back in our direction, producing snow on the high end of today's estimates, rather than on the low end. With luck, the timing of that intensification will allow the worst of the storm to be visited on New England, and not us. We've had plenty of snow already, thank you very much. Let's share the wealth.

So here's the deal so far:

The National Weather Service is not predicting accumulations. It's too soon for them. But, in this morning's Forecast Discussion, the folks at Sterling are dropping some hints:

"AS WITH MOST CLIPPER LOWS...THIS SYSTEM WILL NOT HAVE A LOT
OF MOISTURE TO WORK WITH UNTIL IT TAPS INTO ATLANTIC MOISTURE AS IT
APPROACHES THE COAST. ALTHOUGH IT IS TOO FAR OUT TO FORECAST EXACT
SNOWFALL AMOUNTS...HIGH SNOW TO LIQUID RATIOS AND STRONG UPPER-LEVEL
DYNAMICS COULD BRING THE POTENTIAL FOR A HIGH-END ADVISORY OR
BORDERLINE WATCH/WARNING
FOR PORTIONS OF THE AREA...ESPECIALLY WEST OF
THE BLUE RIDGE AND ACROSS NORTHERN MD. MIXING ACROSS LOWER SOUTHERN MD AND NORTHERN PIEDMONT IN CENTRAL VA COULD LIMIT SNOWFALL ACCUMULATIONS."

AccuWeather.comThe hidden clue here is "high-end advisory or borderline watch/warning." That would translate into 4 or 5 inches of accumulation, since the NWS would issue a Winter Weather Advisory up to 4 inches, and a Winter Storm Watch with a forecast of 5 inches or more.

Okay. On to the other prognosticators. AccuWeather.com says we're in the crosshairs once again:

"Hard-hit Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia have the potential to receive around half a foot of snow from this storm. New York City is also likely to get in on some of the heavier snow."

And here's Mr. Foot and his student forecasters:


"Our original analyses first published Thursday 2.11.2010 remain on track: 6 inches or more by Tuesday noon across much of the I-95 corridor from Washington to Philadelphia. Amounts may approach 12 inches in portions of northern Maryland, as well as the MD eastern shore and Delaware. The snow will arrive on radar by noon Monday, but due to cold surface and upper level temperatures, may not reach the ground until late afternoon. Honesty, we wish there were better news to warm your heart on this Valentine's weekend."

And finally, here is Eric the Red, a professional meteorologist from Baltimore:


"As it stands now, I think we should hold the line of a chance of snow Monday afternoon and Monday night, with a best guess of 3-6"... with locally more to the north of the low center. I am beginning to think this may be a bit high, but I've always preached (and tried to practice; sorta) sticking with your gut. If the low tracks farther north, then we would get much less (1-3" maybe), and if the low passes too far south we'd be left high and dry. Again, with a much smaller (but still strong) system, the room for error is much less."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:17 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Forecasts
        

February 12, 2010

Snowpocalypse: Our weekend storm in time lapse

Thanks to 3 SonsProductions for this time-lapse animation of the Super Bowl Weekend Storm. The scene: S. Bouldin Street in the Canton section of Baltimore. The time: 3:38 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 5, 2010 through 5:30 p.m. on Saturday. The lead actor: 25 inches of snow.

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:04 PM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

February 11, 2010

The stats are in

BWI snowfall 2010

Thanks to Christine Fellenz, Sun Graphic artist

As a footnote, I should add that December - remember December? - was also the snowiest December on record for Baltimore, with23.2 inches of snow at BWI.

Oh, one more thing: Here is the NWS interactive snowfall map for the Tuesday/ Wednesday storm.

I'll be taking a few days off. Please talk amongst yourselves.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:25 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: By the numbers
        

Mercy: Presidents' Day storm fading

We're still a long way from Monday, but from this distance, at least, it's beginning to look like the forecast for more accumulating snow on Sunday night and Monday issued earlier today is Iciclesalready beginning to fade.

The National Weather Service says later computer model runs have delayed the Alberta Clipper-type storm, pushing its arrival in the mid-Atlantic states back to Monday. They're calling it just a 50 percent chance of snow.

Better still, the forecast discussion says it will arrive with relatively little moisture, making it a mere whiff of the kind of storm we are becoming used to this winter. And, it will move quickly off the coast. Here's how they put it:

"GFS OPERATIONAL [MODEL] RUNS NOW SUGGEST NEXT STORM PASSAGE
TO BE LATER MONDAY/MONDAY NIGHT. ... LOW CROSSES THE SOUTHERN
OHIO VALLEY SUNDAY NIGHT...CROSSING SOUTHERN PORTIONS OF THE MID
ATLANTIC MONDAY INTO MONDAY NIGHT. NO SOUTHERN STREAM SUPPORT IS
APPARENT...INDICATING A LACK OF DEEP MOISTURE /PARTICULARLY COMPARED
TO THE PREVIOUS SYSTEMS/. LOW PRESSURE DEVELOPS IN VICINITY OF THE
DELMARVA MONDAY NIGHT...QUICKLY TRACKING NE WITH AID OF A STRONG JET."

AccuWeather.com, too, seems less than impressed:

"How big a deal this storm will be when it reaches the East Coast later Monday and Tuesday is not known at this time. It could bring snow to a region that doesn't need any more; however, it lacks all the credentials to become another extreme event."

Over at FootsForecast.org, the student forecasting team is watching the new storm:

"Our shortwave specialist Forecaster Snowlover is already all over this and we will report on his tracking efforts later ... If specific liquid forecasts for Dulles or BWI airports are calculated using 16:1 ratios, we may face the "s-word" again (as in significant, or 4 " + by Tuesday noon).

Finally, Eric the Red, a professional meteorologist from Baltimore, says, "The system for Monday right now looks pretty tame, but models have been underpredicting the intensity of these things ... so I'm just gonna throw up the yellow flag ... keep an eye on Monday ..."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:20 PM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Weekend snowstorm, the view from orbit

This satellite image was shot on Sunday - before the latest storm, but after the Friday-Saturday blizzard - by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer aboard NASA's Earth Observing Terra satellite. That snow stopped short of the NYC area. Enjoy.

Feb. 5-6 blizzard from space

And here's another, shot today (Thursday), showing us digging out from under the Feb. 9-10 storm. Smile.

Feb. 9-10 snowfall from space

You can see a closeup of the Chesapeake region here, but the photo, shot on Monday after the weekend storm, is a tad overexposed because of the bright snow cover.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:41 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

So far this winter: 6 feet, 7 inches of snow at BWI

 Snow depth map Feb. 10, 2010

For a city that sees 18.2 inches of snow in the average winter (and less than 12 inches in each of the last three winters), this can only be described as a jaw-dropping season. NO ONE predicted this, and no one could have.

So far this winter - and I say "so far" because there is more snow on the horizon - Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport has recorded more than 6 feet, 7 inches of snow. That is nearly four and a half times our annual average. Plenty of locations in Central Maryland saw more.

We have had three big storms averaging 21.8 inches each at BWI. Nothing like that has ever been recorded here. We have witnessed the snowiest winter, the snowiest February and the snowiest month on record for the city.

And if you can believe these guys, Baltimore has just bumped off Syracuse, N.Y. for first place as the snowiest city in the U.S. this winter. We soared from 26th place just five days ago. Washington, D.C. is 10th.

And people are complaining that their street hasn't been plowed.

Here are the seasonal numbers, all from BWI, through Feb. 10:

December:  23.2 inchesCars buried in snow

January: 7.5 inches

February: 49.2 inches

Total:  79.9 inches (6' 7.9 inches) 

Previous Record: 62.5 inches, set in 2002-03

Seasonal average:  18.2 inches

Here are the BWI stats for February 2010, through Feb. 10: 

Feb. 2-3 storm:  4.9 inches

Feb. 5-6 storm:  24.8 inches

Feb. 09-10 storm:  19.5 inches

Month total: 49.2 inches

Previous Feb. record: 40.5 inches (2003)

Feb. average: 6.4 inches

Here are some early reports on 24-hour snowfall from the CoCoRaHS network. Here are more from NWS weather spotters. Frederick, Carroll and Baltimore counties seem to have topped the charts, with many locations reporting two feet of snow and more from the latest storm. Some have more than four feet on the ground.

You can see more on snow cover across the country, including the snow depth map at the top of this post, here. 

One more thought. We're only 11 days into February - not even halfway - but so far we are running almost 7 degrees below average for the month, at 26.6 degrees through Wednesday.  We have had  just one day of above-average temperatures. If we ended the month this cold, it would be the fourth-coldest February on record for Baltimore. But surely the temperatures will rise in the next two weeks. Right?

Coldest Februaries in Baltimore:

1934:  24.3 degrees

1979:  25.6 degrees

1895:  26.2 degrees

2010*:  26.6 degrees

Average: 35.5 degrees

* - Through 2/10/10

 

I received this today from Frank Bonincontri, a Marylander now living in Wisconsin. His view of winter weather kind of puts things in perspective for us as we continue to dig out ahead of the next storm: 

Frank,

Thanks for your articles. I have been reading them along with the updates and honestly can say I am in disbelief of how people seem to be “demanding” their streets be plowed down to the pavement. First off, I was born and raised in Maryland and now live in Wisconsin. As I type this, it is currently 1 degree outside. I cannot believe how much snow Maryland had received the past couple days and can only imagine how difficult it must be.

Let me give you a perspective of winter out here and what I had to learn as “normal” out here.

I moved to Wisconsin in 1997 and experienced my first snow of 12 inches all at once. After that, it snowed every other day with accumulations of 3”, 7” and another 5”.

Needless to say, I spent every outing getting stuck, digging myself out of parking lots, driveways and everywhere in between. I had flat tires and eventually ruined the transmission on my car from getting stuck so much.

I drove a family filled car of people into a ditch (at slow speed, no injury) and also while driving home from work one night thought I saw my wife’s car in a ditch. After nearly getting sideswiped to make a u-turn and navigating back down a snow filled, slippery, white-out road, I drove two miles back to find it was someone else with the same exact car.

Here are some interesting things:

Schools here are only closed normally when the wind chill is below 0 or we have VERY high wind. Last year I experienced -35 with wind chill and still went to work, only school closed for a few days.

Schools and business only close when it’s about 20 plus inches of snow, or at the owners/boss discretion. Typically if there is 5-10 inches, you’re going to work.

The roads are ALWAYS bad. Marylanders need to understand this; after a storm, the snow is plowed but there still remains another layer on top. NO MATTER WHAT. It then becomes a “road on top of the road” and even has its own potholes! The snow gets plowed, but the slush and low temps do not allow it to melt 100%. We drive on roads like this for months. My street has been like this for about a month along with the majority of all side streets. Major highways are always priority, then secondary county highways, then residential. They do get plowed in a timely manner, and are usually well prepared fleetwise.

The wind is always bad and creates your negative temps. Sun or no sun. The wind creates a lot of drifting and when you have wide open spaces (farmland surrounds my county) you drive into unexpected drifts all the time.

In Minnesota, they only use sand (instead of salt) to put down, which makes it a slush filled wonderland of slippery roads. The speed limit is also 75 on the highway.

During winter, I typically see about 8-20 cars that slid off the highway and now occupy the ditch and are buried in snow. Tractor trailers are no exception.

My heating bill is typically 300.00 and up

The lakes are frozen along with rivers etc, and everyone drives, dirt bikes, trucks, cars, snowmobiles, parties, have bands play, races, and ice fish on them. Only in Wisconsin I drove my car 80mph on a frozen lake and did doughnuts.

In closing, your best defense is to have a snow blower, a 4 wheel drive vehicle and plenty of warm clothes. I have learned that this is all normal, but still remember when it was all new, crazy, and shocking back in 1997. I thought I would never survive and believe me, it is still very difficult.

The only advice I can give to you all is after the snow has gone, and summer comes around, is first, buy a snow blower on a deal. Your back and heart will thank you for it. Second, enjoy your time off and spend it with your family or friends. Being stuck inside isn’t as bad as it used to be right? We have TV, movies, internet, music, our cell phones etc. Can you imagine back in the 1970’s when you actually had to talk to each other?

Frank in WI

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:20 AM | | Comments (22)
Categories: By the numbers
        

Good morning! Flakes in the forecast ... Sorry

I really hate to do this to you while we're still dealing with that mess outside. But there are more snowflakes in our forecast. Really.

The National Weather Service, is calling for a 30 percent chance of snow developing Sunday night and continuing (50 percent chance) into Monday, Presidents' Day. Here's how they're describing it four days out:

"THE NEXT SHOT AT PRECIPITATION ACROSS THE [FORECAST AREA] IS IN THE LATE SUNDAY/MONDAY TIME FRAME AS LOW PRESSURE APPROACHES FROM THE LOWER MISSISSIPPI
RIVER VALLEY ... PRECIP SHOULD BEGIN TO OVERSPREAD THE SOUTHWEST PORTIONS OF THE [FORECAST AREA] LATE SUNDAY AND SPREAD NORTHEAST OVERNIGHT AHEAD OF A WARM FRONT.SNow on the Weatherdeck

"THE LOW CENTER SHOULD CROSS THE MID ATLANTIC ON MONDAY...ACCOMPANIED BY THE MID LEVEL LOW CENTER. TEMPERATURES AT THIS TIME LOOK COLD ENOUGH FOR THE PRECIPITATION TYPE TO BE ALL SNOW...BUT THIS COULD CHANGE WITH THE TRACK/TIMING OF THE LOW CENTER."

And that's it from Sterling. Way too soon for NWS predictions on snow accumulations. Here's how AccuWeather.com's MeteoMadness blogger Henry Margusity calls it. (Parenthetical words are mine, for clarification.)

"Clipper comes down late [in] the weekend and early next week. Clipper will spread snow from the Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic. GFS [a computer model that did well with the last storm] blows the storm up Monday night and hits Maryland, southern PA, northern Virginia and NJ with more snow. Looks like a 4-8 incher this time. It does want to take the snow up to New England, but given the block and the lack of storms into New England, I am not ready for that yet.... I am confident that places that have been getting the snow will once again get the snow..."

Mr. Foot and his weary student crew have not yet weighed in on the Presidents' Day storm. We all hope to hear from them when they regroup.

Stay tuned for the latest numbers on the Feb. 9-10 storm, and the season to date.

(SUN PHOTO/JammieCam photo by Frank Roylance/Morning on the WeatherDeck)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:33 AM | | Comments (19)
Categories: Forecasts
        

February 10, 2010

NWS: Intense storm likened to a Cat.1 hurricane

The howling winds, swirling snow and plummeting visibility that drove plow drivers off the highways today are being driven by an intensifying offshore low-pressure system that meteorologists are likening to a Cat. 1 hurricane.

Winds topped 58 mph over part of the Chesapeake Bay, and 40 mph gusts were common across the region as the storm's center deepened and drifted slowly along the mid-Atlantic coast, AccuWeather.comforecasters said. 

"They have hurricane-force wind warnings up for that sector of the ocean, so for all intents and purposes, it's a ... Category 1 hurricane," said meteorologist Bryan Jackson, at the National Weather Services's forecast office in Sterling, Va.

Barometric pressure readings from an offshore buoy in the area sank to 28.93 inches, Jackson said. That deep low, along with the relative warmth of the offshore ocean waters, provided the energy that intensified the storm and drove the day's winds.

"We had some tropical storm-force winds for the southern part of the bay, off Solomons Island," Jackson said. Winds in Manassas, Va., gusted to 57 mph during a morning squall. An elementary school in Frederick County recorded a 52-mph gust, and a Reisterstown station reported a gust to 44 mph during the morning.

At BWI, winds gusted as high as 40 mph. Such winds and low visibilities created blizzard conditions, Jackson said, but until meteorologists can determine how long those conditions were sustained, they won't be able to put a "blizzard" label on the storm.

Asked to compare this storm with the 24.8-inch blizzard on Friday and Saturday, Jackson said the weekend storm carried more moisture. "That's why places will hit two feet [of snow] with this one, where they were getting two-and-a-half to close to three feet" over the weekend.

But "this one was certainly windier," he said, and for that reason "this has been more hazardous. They're reporting that plows were being pulled off the roads with snow squalls going through. It's just too dangerous having people on the roads."

"These are the most hazardous conditions of the winter, and it's been a very hazardous winter," he said.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:21 PM | | Comments (16)
Categories: Winter weather
        

NWS: Storm totals now 20 to 30 inches

Things seem to be heading in the wrong direction again this afternoon.

First, the National Weather Service has upped its estimates of the total snow accumulations once this storm finally ends tonight. Instead of the 10 to 20 inches they've been warning about for two days, forecasters have just upped the ante to 20 to 30 inches for Baltimore and its suburbs.

UPDATE: BWI is reporting 11.9 inches at 1 p.m. That makes 41.6 inches of snow so far this month. That breaks the record of 40.5 inches, set in February 2003, making this the snowiest February, and the snowiest month, since snow records began here in 1883. 

UPDATED UPDATE: At 4 p.m., BWI reported 16.9 inches of new snow from this storm. Added to the 60.4 inches that fell earlier this season, Baltimore is now at 77.3 inches for the season - more than four times the annual average. It is the snowiest winter, snowiest February (46.6 inches) , snowiest month on record for the city. 

Winds this afternoon will blow at 25 to 35 mph, with gusts as high as 55 mph. Those are gale-force winds, and these are blizzard conditions we are experiencing (although it may take a little time for Sterling to verify whether the conditions persisted long enought to make this, officially, another blizzard).

And, because of these powerful winds, they say, we should expect snow to blow into 3- to 5-foot drifts (up from 2 to 4). I think I can see that much in the drifts on my neighbors' roofs. 

Baltimore does really seem to be in the bullseye on this one, along with points to our north and east. I suspect we will soon be reading of some amazing weather in Philly, New Jersey and New York City.

For Washington, the expectation is closer to 8 to 16 inches of snow by the time the snow ends, with 2- to 4-foot drifts. Pikers.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:08 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Accumulations begin to top 1 foot

New snow accumulations across Central Maryland at mid- to late- morning have begun to top 1 foot, with the highest numbers, as forecast, in the north and east portions of the state.

Here is a sampling from the National Weather Service, which asks us "not to panic" and to "enjoy your favorite indoor activities." (I could have a lot of fun with that one, but I better not go there.)

Lineboro, Carroll County:  15 inches Buried cars

Norrisville, Harford:  14 inches 

Long Green, Baltimore County:  13 inches

Monkton, Baltimore Co.:  12.8 inches

Glyndon, Baltimore Co.:  12 inches

Catonsville, Baltimore Co.:  11.3 inches

(The WeatherDeck, Cockeysville:  11 inches/ Can you find the cars in this picture?) 

Severn, Anne Arundel:  10 inches

Germantown, Montgomery:  10 inches

Mount Airy, Carroll:  10 inches

Camp Springs, Prince George's:  8.5 inches

Gwynn Oak, Baltimore City:  7.5 inches

Here's more from the NWS:

"WHILE ALL REGIONS IN THE AREA ARE EXPERIENCING EXTREMELY DANGEROUS
CONDITIONS...BALTIMORE COUNTY...THE CITY OF BALTIMORE...AND ANNE
ARUNDEL AND HARFORD COUNTIES IN MARYLAND ARE EXPERIENCING
PARTICULARLY PERILOUS WINTER WEATHER CONDITIONS THROUGH 3:00 PM.

"PEOPLE ARE ENCOURAGED NOT TO PANIC...BUT TO SIMPLY STAY
INSIDE...ENJOY YOUR FAVORITE INDOOR ACTIVITIES...AND RIDE THIS STORM
OUT...THE HAZARDOUS CONDITIONS WILL BE IMPROVING LATER THIS EVENING."

And then there's this, for those of you reading this as you drive the state's scenic byways:

"IF YOU GET STRANDED IN YOUR VEHICLE...DO NOT LEAVE YOUR CAR TO TRY
TO WALK FOR ASSISTANCE...YOU CAN QUICKLY BECOME DISORIENTED IN
WIND DRIVEN SNOW AND COLD. THIS STORM WILL SUBSIDE EARLY THIS
EVENING...SO WAIT IN YOUR CAR FOR EMERGENCY HELP TO ARRIVE."

"PERIODICALLY RUN YOUR ENGINE FOR ABOUT 10 MINUTES EACH HOUR FOR
HEAT. ENSURE YOUR EXHAUST PIPE IS CLEARED OF SNOW AND ICE. CRACK
YOUR WINDOWS TO AVOID CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING. TIE A COLORED CLOTH
TO YOUR CARS ANTENNA OR WINDOW TO BE VISIBLE TO RESCUERS. FROM
TIME-TO-TIME...MOVE YOUR ARMS...LEGS...FINGERS...AND TOES TO KEEP
BLOOD CIRCULATING
."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:27 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: By the numbers
        

NWS: "Extremely dangerous winter weather"

With Blizzard Warnings in effect until 7 p.m. Wednesday from the Virginia suburbs of Washington, through Baltimore to Philadelphia and New York City, the National Weather Service is warning that weather conditions have begun to deteriorate. With heavy snow and winds gusting as high as 60 mph, attempts to travel could become life-threatening.

Total snow accumulations still could reach 10 to 20 inches, with windblown drifts 2 to 4 feet deep.

The entire state of Maryland is now under a Blizzard Warning! Has this EVER happened before?

Says Steve Zubrick, NWS science officer in Sterling: "I'm not sure about when the last time all of MD. was in a blizzard warning ... but right now you are in a blizzard! (or as close as you'll ever be in one.)

"Not how there are lulls interspersed with outrageous, near whiteout conditions. That's a characteristic of the random nature of these howling winds. Enjoy!"

 In a Special Weather Statement issued at 8:24 a.m., forecasters at Sterling said:

"...EXTREMELY DANGEROUS WINTER WEATHER CONDITIONS THIS MORNING FOR
THE BALTIMORE-WASHINGTON REGION...THE EASTERN PANHANDLE OF WEST
VIRGINIA...

"DO NOT ATTEMPT TO DRIVE THIS MORNING AND EARLY AFTERNOON. LIFE
THREATENING BLIZZARD CONDITIONS HAVE DEVELOPED RAPIDLY ACROSS THE
BALTIMORE-WASHINGTON REGION THIS MORNING.

"AT 7:27 AM THIS MORNING...A WIND GUST WAS RECORDED TO 60 MPH AT
MANASSAS VIRGINIA. NUMEROUS WIND GUSTS OVER 40 MPH HAVE OBSERVED
AROUND THE REGION ALONG WITH WHITE-OUT CONDITIONS."

The Blizzard Warning issued for Baltimore is in effect until 7 p.m.. It still calls for 10 to 20 inches of new snow before the storm ends late today. The heaviest period of snowfall will be from this morning through the early afternoon.

Forecasters said an additional 2 to 5 inches are possible this morning.

BWI has already received 5.2 inches as of 7 a.m. That means this is now the snowiest winter on record (since 1883) for Baltimore. The old record was 62.5 inches, set in 1995-96. We are now at 65.6 inches and counting.

More accumulation reports are coming in. Here is a sampling of 7 to 8 a.m. measurements:Whiteout in Cockeysville

Sykesville, Howard County:  11 inches

Jarrettsville, Harford:  9 inches

Ellicott City, Howard:  9 inches

Mount Airy, Carroll:  8.5 inches

Long Green, Baltimore:  7.8 inches

Camp Springs, Prince George's:  7.1 inches

Bel Air, Harford:  6.5 inches

Columbia, Howard:  6.1 inches

Crofton, Anne Arundel:  5.5 inches

(SUN PHOTO/Frank Roylance/Whiteout in Cockeysville)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:43 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Winter weather
        

Blizzard Warnings up; this storm's not over yet

As many in Central Maryland wake up to light snow or none in the air this morning, with only a few inches on the ground, it might be tempting to conclude - to wish - that this storm is over. Not so fast.

The National Weather Service predicted a lull in the action during the night as one phase of the storm ended and the next cranked up.

NOAAMany in the region were seeing that before dawn today. The snow had stopped, or continued with very fine, wet flakes. And that has prompted Sterling to reduce predicted storm totals for portions of the forecast area, especially to the south of Baltimore.

Said Eric the Red, a professional forecaster in Baltimore:

"Wow.  I just cleared my driveway.  Holy crap!

"We had sleet for about an hour last night, and some folks actually went to freezing rain.  That was courtesy of the "northern" low pulling warmer air up aloft on its southern and eastern side.  Once the coastal low started to spin, it countered by pulling cold air aloft back south... and we went back to snow. ... Snow will continue into the eve... ~ 7 pm east of the Blue Ridge. Marginally good news... the wind forecast has come down a hair... but still strong."

Forecasters insist that the heaviest snow, colder temperatures and winds gusting as high as 50 mph are still on the way later this morning and early this afternoon. The Winter Storm Warnings still call for 10 to 20 inches by the time the thing winds down this afternoon.

AccuWeather.com agrees: "Residents along the Interstate 95 corridor from Washington, D.C., to Boston may be able to get to work this morning. Traveling home, however, could prove impossible. Flight and mass transit delays and cancellations are sure to mount as heavy, wind-whipped snow dangerously drops visibility and clogs roads and runways. The weight of the snow will make shoveling strenuous for many people, and could cause more roof failures..."

Indeed, the barometer was very low (29.32 in. on the WeatherDeck) and still falling at daybreak today. Ditto at The Sun's weather station at Calvert and Centre streets. Watch that barometer, and when it heads back up again, that's when we'll be on our way out of this thing.

Forecasters at the Baltimore-Washington Forecast Office in Sterling have hoisted Blizzard Warnings (red on the map) for Baltimore, its suburban counties and the northern tier of Maryland counties from Allegany east to Cecil. Similar warnings are in effect this morning for the Upper Shore counties, all of Delaware, eastern Pennsylvania, most of New Jersey, New York City and Long Island.

UPDATE 8 a.m.: The Blizzard Warnings have been expanded to Washington and its Md. and Va. suburbs.

UPDATED UPDATE, 10 a.m.: The warnings now cover the entire state.

Here's a bit of this morning's forecast discussion:

"THE TRUE DYNAMICS OF THIS SYSTEM WILL GEAR-UP IN THE COMING HOURS THIS MORNING...AS THE UPPER LOW SHOOTS SOUTHEASTWARD ACROSS THE [FORECAST AREA] AND THE COASTAL LOW QUICKLY DEEPENS JUST OFF THE DELMARVA COAST.

"EARLY INDICATIONS OF WHAT'S IN STORE AS THESE ELEMENTS COME TOGETHER
OVER THE AREA CAN BE SEEN ON REGIONAL RADAR...W/ A SURFACE TROUGH [LOW] THAT ISNOAA
QUICKLY SLIDING THRU WV...NOW CROSSING THE CENTRAL APPALCHIANS AND WILL
SHORTLY BE MOVING INTO THE I-81 CORRIDOR. WIND GUSTS OF 25-35KT
COMMON W/ THE PASSAGE...ALONG W/ ABOUT A 10-15 DEGREE TEMPERATURE
DROP
AND A DECENT PRESSURE SURGE ... 

"AS THIS FEATURE TRUDGES ACROSS THE FOOTHILLS AND PIEDMONT LATER INTO THE
PRE-DAWN HRS...THE LOW LEVEL WARM AIR ADVECTION LAYER THAT GAVE PARTS OF THE REGION
A MIXED PRECIP REGIME OVERNIGHT WILL QUICKLY BE REPLACED W/ A COLD
AIRMASS AND DRIER AIR
... 

"CURRENTLY...SCATTERED AREAS OF LIGHT-MODERATE SNOW FILLING-IN OVER
MUCH OF THE [FORECAST AREA] BEHIND THE HEAVIER ACTIVITY FROM LATE LAST
NIGHT...THAT HAS SINCE MOVED UP INTO NJ/SRN NY. BETWEEN THE
My brideAPPROACHING UPPER LOW AND THE DEEPENING COASTAL LOW WILL BE AN AXIS
OF HIGHER MOISTURE INFLUX AND LIFT...LEADING TO BANDING OF SNOW
ACROSS THE I-95 CORRIDOR OF NRN VA-ERN MD LATER THIS MORNING.

"ONCE THIS FEATURE SETS-UP...PERIODS OF HEAVY SNOW AND NEAR WHITE-OUT
CONDITIONS
WILL DEVELOP /ESPECIALLY ACROSS NORTHEASTERN MD/. HEAVIER
SNOWFALL RATES AND STRONGER WINDS
WILL BEGIN TO OVERSPREAD THESE
AREAS...AND BLIZZARD CONDITIONS WILL BECOME MORE LIKELY FROM LATE
MORNING INTO THE EARLY AFTN HRS.

"THE SNOW BAND WILL BEGIN TO MOVE EASTWARD TOWARD DELMARVA INTO THE MID
AFTERNOON HOURS...AND MUCH OF THE SNOW WILL START TO TAPER OFF ACROSS THE
CWA THRU THE LATE AFTN AND EARLY EVENING HRS."

We have 6.5 inches of new snow on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville this morning. Most of that fell before 9:30 p.m., and what's falling now (just before 6 a.m.) is very fine and light. UPDATE: By 7 a.m., moderate snowfall has resumed.

UPDATE: at 8:30 a.m. we're at 8.5 inches, but my bride (left) is making it go away.

It's a little early for the morning snow accumulation reports. Here are some reported to the National Weather Service. CoCoRaHS reports are also starting to come in.

Hey ... Maybe it IS over. Wouldn't that be nice?

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:30 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Forecasts
        

February 9, 2010

Cool, interactive map of last weekend's snow totals

The National Weather Service has posted a pretty nifty, Google Maps-based interactive map of last NOAAweekend's snow totals in and around Baltimore and Washington, and elsewhere around the region. You can zoom in, pan around and click on individual readings.

If you look at the readings around BWI, it becomes a bit difficult to swallow the NWS conclusion that the airport received "only" 24.8 inches of snow. Aside from one 20-inch report from Fermdale, virtually ALL the other readings in the vicinity of the airport - including Elkridge and Glen Burnie - are in the 29-38-inch range.

Heavy snowSpeaking of snow (do we speak of anything else these days?), we just pulled data on snowfall in the six largest cities among the 15 with the highest annual average snowfall, according to the National Climatic Data Center.

We're talking about places such as Flagstaff, Ariz., (averaging 100.3 inches), and the lake-effect cities of Erie, Pa. (88.8 inches), Syracuse (115 inches), Buffalo (93.6 inches), Rochester (92.3 inches) and Binghamton, N.Y. (84.2 inches).

Baltimore, by contrast, averages a paltry 18 inches a year.

This season, however, B'more is playing with the big boys.

At 60.4 inches and counting, we have seen more snow this winter than Binghamton (44.3 inches), and stand within striking distance of Buffalo (61.3  inches), Erie, Pa. (62 inches), Rochester (63.5 inches) and - with 10 to 20 inches of snow en route to Charm City - even Syracuse (74.5 inches) may be within reach.

Only Flagstaff, with 106 inches already this season, and snow expected all week, seems invulnerable.

Glory can be ours. (Well, maybe. It's snowing in all of these places this week.)

BTW, the snowiest city on the list? Blue Canyon, Calif. They average 240 inches of snow a year.

(SUN PHOTO by Karl Merton Ferron/ Feb. 6, 2010)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:31 PM | | Comments (15)
Categories: By the numbers
        

Round 2 starts by mid-afternoon

Ready or not, here comes the region's second bout of brutal winter weather in five days. The National Weather Service says Central Maryland should expect the next two-day snowstorm will get underway sometime in mid-afternoon Tuesday.

It should start slowly, like the last storm, with no more than an inch or two east of the mountains before dark this evening. But then the storm will gather strength over the ocean off Cape Hatteras, pumping more Atlantic moisture into the equation overnight.

The forecast calls for 6 to 10 inches by daybreak at BWI, followed by 5 to 9 inches more during the day Wednesday. The heaviest snowfall should occur Wednesday morning, forecasters say. The peak should be early in the afternoon as colder air moves in, the atmosphere becomes more unstable and heavy snow bands move through.   

The Winter Storm Warnings first posted on Monday still call for 10 to 20 inches of new snow at BWI by Wednesday night, on top of the 24 inches or more that fell Friday and Saturday. Winter Storm Warnings for this impressive storm are also posted for Northern Virginia, all of Maryland, Delaware, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, as well as parts of 10 other states. 

Still diggingFor the weather geeks among us:

2 inches of new snow at BWI will establish this as the snowiest winter season since Baltimore began keeping snow records in 1883.

11 inches of new snow will make this the snowiest February and the snowiest month on record for the city.

- 18.2 inches of new snow will mark the third time this season we have received snow equivalent to our average annual snowfall - in a single storm.

- 26.6 inches of snow at BWI (God help us) would make this the deepest two-or-three-day snowfall for Baltimore, the longest recognized by the National Weather Service.

28.3 inches of new snow would beat the four-day accumulation during the series of storms on Feb. 15-18, 2003 - the deepest accumulation for any storm or series of storms on the official record.

Could it really get that deep? Maybe, if you believe some of the other forecasters in the area.

Mr. Foot's student team at FootsForecast.org (I managed to make that a "dot.com" in the paper School buses snowed intoday; been working too hard) is calling for 22.5 inches by midnight Wednesday at the Maryland Science Center, with less as you go south from the city.

They think the moisture content of this storm will be as high as 18-to-1, with 1.5 inches of rain equivalent on the way. If so, their forecast accumulation is conservative.

AccuWeather.com has us in a 6-to-12-inch band, with more close by to our northeast. "Over a foot of snow will bring travel to a standstill along the I-95 corridor from Baltimore to New York City, where blizzard conditions could develop," they say.

The National Hydrometeorological Prediction Center says:

"HEAVIEST SNOW IS EXPECTED FROM MARYLAND AND EASTERN PENNSYLVANIA TO NEW JERSEY ... LONG ISLAND...AND THE SOUTH COAST OF NEW ENGLAND ...WHERE SOME 12 INCH PLUS
TOTALS ARE SUPPORTED ON THE MAJORITY OF MODEL GUIDANCE.  THERE
SHOULD BE AN INTENSE BAND OF SNOW WEST OF THE SURFACE CIRCULATION ON
WEDS WITH THE APPROACH AND PASSAGE OF THE UPPER LOW....WITH THE
POTENTIAL FOR BLIZZARD CONDITIONS FROM NJ TO LONG ISLAND."

(Top: AP Photo, Carolyn Kaster/Bottom: SUN PHOTO- Barbara Haddock Taylor)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:44 AM | | Comments (26)
Categories: Forecasts
        

February 8, 2010

Storm Warnings posted: Another 10 to 20 inches due

The National Weather Service has posted Winter Storm Warnings for all of Maryland west of the Chesapeake Bay, calling for 10 to 20 inches of new snow by Wednesday evening.

Read it and weep:

"THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN STERLING VIRGINIA HAS ISSUED AWindsock in Blizzard
WINTER STORM WARNING FOR...WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM NOON TUESDAY
TO 7 PM EST WEDNESDAY. THE WINTER STORM WATCH IS NO LONGER IN
EFFECT.

* PRECIPITATION TYPE...SNOW.

* ACCUMULATIONS...10 TO 20 INCHES.

* TIMING...MID-AFTERNOON TUESDAY THROUGH WEDNESDAY.

* TEMPERATURES...TEMPERATURES NEAR FREEZING AT THE ONSET TUESDAY
  AFTERNOON. TEMPERATURES WILL DROP INTO THE UPPER 20S TUESDAY
  NIGHT AND WEDNESDAY.

* WINDS...LIGHT SOUTHEASTERLY WINDS TUESDAY BECOMING
  NORTHWESTERLY 15 TO 25 MPH WEDNESDAY.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

"A WINTER STORM WARNING MEANS SIGNIFICANT AMOUNTS OF SNOW ARE
EXPECTED OR OCCURRING. THE COMBINATION OF SNOW AND STRONG WINDS
WILL MAKE TRAVEL VERY HAZARDOUS."

(PHOTO by Jim Dawson, Trappe, Md./ Used with permission)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:40 PM | | Comments (41)
Categories: Watches and warnings
        

Lend a hand to the snowbound

Clearing snow in Cockeysville 

As we all sweat and struggle to break free of all this snow and ice and resume our normal routines, let's try to remember those who can't get through this alone.

I just received this reminder from a reader. She asked me not to use her name or to mention the jurisdiction where she works because it's not an official statement. Just a heartfelt one:

"Please mention somewhere for folks to look out for any neighbors, friends or relatives that are elderly or disabled or both. We at the Emergency Operations Center are taking hundreds and hundreds of phone calls from elderly and/or disabled people who are looking for someone to just shovel off their front steps or clean off their cars so that they can get out.

"We have very limited resources - right now it's up to volunteers with four-wheel drive vehicles to get some dialysis patients to the doctors. Or for medical emergencies.

"We have no volunteers to speak of to clean off cars and shovel walks. If everyone who is able-bodied helped one person who isn't , most folks would be OK."

(SUN PHOTO/Barbara Haddock Taylor)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:28 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Notes to readers
        

NWS: "A good likelihood" of more than 10 inches

Snow aftermathThe updated Winter Storm Watch issued at noon today by the National Weather Service has effectively doubled the official estimates for snowfall in Baltimore with the approaching storm.

The new Watch says there is a "potential" for 8 or more inches of snow, and "a good likelihood of snow in excess of 10 inches." Previously, the Watch called for 5 inches or more.

The Watch is in effect from mid- to late-afternoon Tuesday until Wednesday evening.

The update brings the weather service more closely in line with other forecasters in the area, who have been talking about a 10 or 12-inch storm, or as much as 20 inches, for a couple of days. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:57 PM | | Comments (45)
Categories: Forecasts
        

How would 5 to 10 inches sound to you now?

I'm not saying that's how much we'll get when the Tuesday/Wednesday storm finally checks in, although 5-to-10 does seem to be a conservative assessment of the current thinking among the meteorologists I've checked.

UPDATE, Noon: The NWS has just updated their Winter Storm Watch. You won't like it:

"ACCUMULATIONS...POTENTIAL FOR 8 OR MORE INCHES OF SNOW. THERE IS
 A GOOD LIKELIHOOD OF SNOW IN EXCESS OF 10 INCHES."

Earlier post resumes below:

But after the 21-inch storm in December, and the 24-inch (maybe) storm last weekend, 5 to 10 inches just doesn't seem to pack the panic value it might have, say, last year. Am I wrong?

Anyway, the National Weather Service is putting the storm potential at 5 inches or more. But that's misleading. It just reflects their belief that the coming storm will meet their criteria for issuing Winter Storm Watches, which begins at 5 inches. So that's the floor for this storm. The watches cover all of Maryland except the southernmost counties.

We are now moving within the 36-hour window for this storm, so the forecasters at Sterling have begun to put out accumulation forecasts. So far, however, that only covers Tuesday before sundown. And even though they expect the snow to start after 2 p.m. in Baltimore, they're only predicting "less than one inch" for that time period. Sound familiar? That's about how the last storm began. The snow started late morning, and snowed until sunset without much accumulation.

We should get the Tuesday night and Wednesday accumulation predictions from Sterling later today.

In the meantime, other forecasters are all over this new storm. Mr. Foot and his stable of student prognosticators, who have done extremely well this season, are looking for 5 inches in AccuWeather.comWashington, and 10 inches in Baltimore.

AccuWeather.com has a very tight wedge on its map, where Central Maryland appears to be looking at 3 to 6 inches, with more (6 to 12) in the extreme northeastern corner of the state.

The key to this storm appears to be exactly where the coastal low decides to form and intensify after twin lows now crossing the continent out of the Southwest and the Northwest finally merge. The farther south that happens - say, off the Carolinas - the more time the storm will have to gather strength and moisture off the Atlantic and drop it on us. If all that happens off Delmarva, we'll get less snow as the storm drifts northeastward to pound New York and New England. We'll see.

NOAA's Hydrometeorological Prediction Center in Camp Springs, Md. is saying this morning it believes the coastal low will begin to form over the Carolinas, but that the worst of the snow would fall to our north and east. Here's a bit of their discussion:

"Expect the potential for blizzard conditions during Wednesday north and west of the intense surface low ... with a potential for one foot plus amounts from eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey to parts of southern New England."

Finally, here's Eric the Red, a professional meteorologist from Baltimore, who sounds worried:

"The bullseye is once again centered over I-95 corridor and points east. [Precipitation] totals will also be less south of DC, but the immediate DC burbs are under the gun again..." 

He is also forecasting strong winds - higher than during the last storm, which fueled blizzard conditions in parts of the state:

"... [W]hat we just experienced is nothing compared to what is coming in terms of wind... Wednesday will feature extremely dangerous conditions if these models are right... If I had to paint a guess ... a 10-20" snowstorm is on the menu, with perhaps a bit less west of Frederick and south of DC. But the wind will be a major major issue with this one."

The good news appears to be that yet another Gulf Coast low that's expected to develop later this week will stay down there, leaving us in sunny but colder-than average weather through the weekend.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:23 AM | | Comments (16)
Categories: Forecasts
        

February 7, 2010

Yes, it was a blizzard

It's official (but preliminary). The Super Bowl Weekend Storm in Maryland was a blizzard. Or, at least it met blizzard criteria at BWI-Marshall Airport and at the Patuxent Naval Air Station in St. Mary's County. It seems likely that many places in between also met the test.

"Near-blizzard conditions" were recorded at several other locations in the region, including Annapolis, meaning they had blizzard conditions, but not for the required three-hour minimum.

Here's the statement, issued Sunday afternoon by the National Weather Service forecast office in Sterling, Va.:

"PRELIMINARY INDICATIONS OF BLIZZARD CONDITIONS IN ST. MARY`S AND
ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTIES IN MARYLAND ON SATURDAY 6 FEBRUARY 2010...

"THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DEFINITION OF A BLIZZARD IS A WINTER
STORM WHICH PRODUCES THE FOLLOWING CONDITIONS FOR 3 HOURS OR LONGER:
SUSTAINED WINDS OR FREQUENT GUSTS 35 MPH OR GREATER...AND FALLING
AND/OR BLOWING SNOW REDUCING VISIBILITY FREQUENTLY TO LESS THAN
ONE-QUARTER MILE ON A WIDESPREAD OR LOCAL BASIS.

"PRELIMINARY INDICATIONS SHOW THAT BLIZZARD CONDITIONS WERE
RECORDED AT TWO OBSERVATION LOCATIONS IN THE REGION ON SATURDAY
6 FEBRUARY 2010.  THE FIRST OCCURRENCE WAS AT
BALTIMORE/WASHINGTON
INTERNATIONAL THURGOOD MARSHALL AIRPORT IN ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY
MD...FROM APPROXIMATELY 12 MIDNIGHT TO 5:00 AM EARLY SATURDAY
MORNING.
  DURING THIS TIME PERIOD...WIND GUSTS WERE RECORDED TO
37 MPH WITH VISIBILITIES AT OR BELOW ONE-QUARTER MILE IN HEAVY SNOW.

"THE SECOND LOCATION WAS AT THE
PATUXENT RIVER NAVAL AIR STATION IN
ST. MARY`S COUNTY MD...FROM APPROXIMATELY 12 NOON TO 4:00 PM
SATURDAY AFTERNOON.
  DURING THIS TIME PERIOD...WIND GUSTS WERE
RECORDED TO 41 MPH WITH VISIBILITIES REDUCED TO ONE-EIGHTH MILE IN
HEAVY SNOW.

"NEAR-BLIZZARD CONDITIONS...WHICH MET THE COUPLED VISIBILITY AND WIND
CRITERIA THAT OCCURRED OCCASIONALLY DURING THE STORM...BUT FELL
BELOW THE 3 OR MORE CONSECUTIVE HOUR CONSTRAINT OF THE FORMAL
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DEFINITION OF A BLIZZARD...WERE OBSERVED IN
ANNAPOLIS MD...RONALD REAGAN WASHINGTON NATIONAL AIRPORT...DULLES
INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT...AND ANDREWS AIR FORCE BASE
IN PRINCE
GEORGES COUNTY MD.

"AS WITH ANY MAJOR CLIMATE RECORD ACHIEVEMENT...THESE PRELIMINARY
RECORDS WILL BE QUALITY CONTROLLED BY NOAA`S NATIONAL CLIMATIC DATA
CENTER OVER THE NEXT SEVERAL WEEKS."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:54 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Winter weather
        

Winter Storm Watch posted for region. Again

The National Weather Service has posted a Winter Storm Watch for the region, predicting at least 5 more inches of snow due with a new storm due here on Tuesday. The Watch is in effect from Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday afternoon.

Read it and weep:NOAA

* PRECIPITATION TYPE...SNOW.

* ACCUMULATIONS...POTENTIAL FOR 5 OR MORE INCHES OF SNOW.

* TIMING...MID TO LATE TUESDAY AFTERNOON THROUGH WEDNESDAY
  AFTERNOON.

* TEMPERATURES...TEMPERATURES AT OR JUST ABOVE FREEZING AT THE
  ONSET TUESDAY AFTERNOON. TEMPERATURES WILL DROP INTO THE MID TO
  UPPER 20S TUESDAY NIGHT AND WEDNESDAY.

* WINDS...LIGHT SOUTHEASTERLY WINDS TUESDAY BECOMING NORTH-
  NORTHWESTERLY 15 TO 25 MPH WEDNESDAY.

I just got off the phone with Bryan Jackson, NWS meteorologist at Sterling. He says this storm will bring more warm air and mixed precipitation into Southern Maryland Tuesday, but the Baltimore area is expected to receive all snow.

Thankfully, this is not another soggy coastal storm coming north from the Carolinas packing loads of moisture and getting more intense as it approaches.

Instead, this one is coming across the country as two low-pressure systems. It's not going to be as wet as the last one, Jackson said, and it will become a coastal low only after it reaches the Delmarva coast. Its biggest impact is expected to be to our north as it intensifies and moves north from here.

"We're not looking, certainly, at anything as significant as what we just had," he said. "But we are looking at the potential for a Winter-Storm-Watch-criteria snowfall," which is 5 inches or more.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:58 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Watches and warnings
        

Baltimore headed for seasonal snow record

Even with the asterisks hanging like icicles from the Super Bowl Weekend Storm, it looks like Baltimore will set a new record this winter for total snowfall in a single season. If so, it will be the third seasonal snow record set in just 14 years.

According to the tally from the National Weather Service, we have so far accumulated 60.4 inches of snow since the first flake stuck on Dec. 5, 2009:.

December 2009: 23.2 inches

January 2010:  7.5 inches

February 2010:*  29.7 inches 

That total has eclipsed the No. 2 season and brings us within barely 2 inches of the all-time record. We could easily break that mark when the next storm strikes on Tuesday.

Here's how the seasonal rankings look now:SNowdrift, icicles

1. 1995-96:  62.5 inches

2. 2009-10:  60.4 inches*

3. 2002-03:  58.1 inches

4. 1963-64:  51.8 inches

5. 1898-99:  51.1 inches

*Through Feb. 6

On another topic, I've been thinking about the kerfuffle over the official measurements of the snowfall at BWI-Marshall. After a contractor (I believe the NWS "contractor" at BWI is the FAA staff) failed to follow NWS protocol in measuring the storm total, Sterling's meteorologists had to estimate the total accumulation, and picked 24.8 inches. The number is a conservative choice between the 28.6 inches arrived at with hourly measurements, and the 24.7 inches measured after the storm had finished accumulating and became compacted.

They concluded that the Super Bowl Weekend Storm beat the previous record for a two-day storm, which Sterling interprets to be the Feb. 16-17 piece of the four-day Presidents' Day Weekend Storm in 2003. Until yesterday, the NWS Sterling forecast office Website had always rated the 2003 storm as a four-day event that totaled 28.2 inches. Now they consider that a two-day event that totaled 24.4 inches

The new results:

No. 1 Two-day Storm: Super Bowl Weekend Storm 2010:  24.8 inches

No. 2 Two-day Storm: Presidents' Day Weekend Storm 2003: 24.4 inches

Still King of the Mountain: Three-day Knickerbocker Storm, 1922:  26.5 inches

Super Bowl Storm from spaceI can understand why meteorologists fuss over how they should count a four-day storm like the Presidents' Day Weekend Storm in February 2003. That event truly was a combination of at least two separate storms, with some brief period in between with no precipitation.

And I suppose there is something useful to scientists about distinguishing one-day storms from the two-day and three-day variety; although I'm not sure why a 20-hour storm that snows past midnight should be treated as a two-day storm, while a 20-hour storm that occurs within one calendar date is classified as a one-day storm.

And I have no clue why this is an issue now, years after the Sterling folks posted their table of the Top Twenty Snowstorms in Baltimore, (also below) listing the four-day, two-storm, 2003 blowout as No. 1. (The table has now disappeared from the Sterling Web site.)

But in the end, it seems to me that what matters to the public is how much snow has been dumped on them, no matter how many days it took for it to end. For all of us who had to wait for the snow to stop back in 2003, and then dig out, the storm was a single event. And the snow we had to remove was 28 inches deep (more or less).

My vote would be to keep the old Top Twenty list, and insert the dear departed Super Bowl Weekend Storm at No. 3, after the Presidents' Day Weekend Storm in 2003, and the Knickerbocker Storm in 1922.

What say you?

(PHOTOS: Top: SUN PHOTO/Roylance-Snowdrift/ Bottom: UCAR satellite image of mid-Atlantic snow, shot Sunday 2/7/10)

Sterling's Top Twenty Snowstorm, as it appeared on their Web site until Saturday. (It had not been updated with the December 18-19, 2009 storm (21.1 inches), or the Feb. 5-6, 2010 storm (24.8 inches, an estimate)) 

128.2 inches ... Feb. 15-18, 20031114.1 inches ... Dec. 11-12, 1960
226.5 inches  ... Jan. 27-29, 19221213.1  inches ... Feb. 11-12, 2006
322.8 inches ... Feb. 11, 19831313.0  inches ... Mar. 5-7, 1962
422.5 inches ... Jan. 7-8, 19961412.3 inches ... Jan. 22, 1987
522.0 inches ... Mar. 29-30, 19421512.1 inches ... Jan. 30-31, 1966
621.4 inches ... Feb. 11-14, 18991612.0 inches ... Feb. 16-18, 1900
720.0 inches ... Feb. 18-19, 19791711.9 inches ... Mar. 13-14, 1993
816.0 inches ... Mar. 15-18, 18921811.7 inches ... Feb. 5-8, 1899
915.5 inches ... Feb. 15, 19581911.5 inches ... Dec. 17-18, 1932
1014.9 inches ... Jan. 25, 20002011.5 inches ... Mar. 21-22, 1964

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:25 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: By the numbers
        

"Accumulating snow is likely ..."

Just as Central Maryland begins to shake off the asterisk-laden "record-breaking" snowstorm that struck Friday and Saturday, we turn to face yet more "accumulating snow" forecasters say will reach us Tuesday and Wednesday. Some models suggest we could see as much as another 10 inches. More or less

Snow and sunYes, my weary diggers, the National Weather Service is advising us of "accumulating wintry precipitation," beginning sometime after noon on Tuesday. The chances, for now, are rated at 60 percent for Tuesday, rising to 70 percent Tuesday night and fading to 30 percent Wednesday.

The folks at Sterling, as is their policy, are not yet venturing accumulation totals. Storm tracks and rain lines remain pretty uncertain. But this morning's forecast discussion describes this new storm in a way that sounds a bit like the one that struck here Friday, except not as intense.:

"HIGH PRESSURE WILL MOVE OFF THE COAST MONDAY NIGHT WHILE ANOTHER
STORM SYSTEM MOVES THROUGH THE MIDWEST. ...THERE IS STILL SOME
UNCERTAINTY AS TO EXACTLY WHEN THESE SYSTEMS WOULD PHASE AND
CONSEQUENTLY HOW STRONG THE COASTAL LOW WILL GET BEFORE MOVING OFF
TO OUR NORTHEAST.

"EITHER WAY...THERE IS A GOOD CHANCE FOR WINTRY
PRECIPITATION LATER TUESDAY INTO WEDNESDAY
AS THESE SYSTEMS PHASE
AND LOW PRESSURE DEVELOPS OFF THE MID-ATLANTIC COAST.

"ACCUMULATING SNOW IS LIKELY FROM NEAR THE CITIES OF WASHINGTON AND BALTIMORE TO
THE NORTH AND WEST...WITH MIXED PRECIPITATION LIKELY TO THE SOUTH
AND EAST. PLEASE CONTINUE TO MONITOR THE LATEST FORECASTS WITH THIS
SYSTEM BECAUSE A SLIGHT CHANGE IN THE TIMING OF THESE TWO SYSTEMS
PHASING TOGETHER WILL HAVE A SIGNIFICANT IMPACT ON THE AMOUNT OF
PRECIPITATION THAT WILL OCCUR."

Okay, so that's the NWS. Our newest professional contributor, Eric the Red, is thinking the new storm will clock in with something like 4 to 8 inches of new snow. Says he:Free at Last!

"Models are showing a very disturbing trend for Tuesday.  They more or less replay this storm, but with a bit less precipitation.  The latest GFS [a forecast model] as well as last night's Canadian and NOGAPS [more models] show an upper-air low approaching from the west, while a secondary low forms to our south and moves to the Mid-Atlantic coast.  At this early juncture, this kinda has a 4-8" look to it... with the BIG snow headed for New England.

'Some prelim models...

'WRF - Has secondary low forming at the mouth of the Chesapeake and moving slowly up the coast, with liquid equivalent (QPF - which stands for Quantitative Precipitation Forecast) of 0.50-1.00"... which if all snow would be a 5-10".  The bulls eye is east of DC.

'RSM - Same idea, but begins to drift the storm back down the coast at the end of its forecast cycle.  QPF is 0.50-1.00 (5-10"), with a bulls eye in northeast MD.

'PSU-Eta - Same idea, but as the energy jumps from the Ohio Valley to the MD coast, the pcp misses us.  We've seen this happen before... so it's not out of the question.  QPF - less than 0.10... with little if any snow.

'Canadian -  Ouch.  Winds up another stem winder off the Delmarva coast, and punds the region with another not-quite-as-bad big hitter... say 8-16".

NOGAPS: a bit farther offshore, but still paints the area with a modest snowfall.

'GFS - The 12z [latest] is not in yet, but last night's 00z run (7 pm w/balloon data) is disturbing... with a strong secondary low forming at the mouth of the Chesapeake and movg slowly northeast.  The GFS' QPF is over an inch for central MD... indicating a Canadian-model-like 8-16"

'Still time to sort all this out, but needless to say, another 1 footer would be a back breaker fer sure.  I'll keep ya posted.  Right now, as I mentioned before, if I had to pick a number... 4-8", with precipitation starting Tues afternoon and lasting into Weds morning."

UPDATE, 11 a.m., from Eric the Red: 7 am/w balloon data: GFS clobbers us.  It has 1 to 2" liquid... which if all snow, would be another blizzard.... 10-20".  In all honesty, let's hope that doesn't happen.  I like snow... but even I have my limits. E

AccuWeather.com doesn't have a snow map out yet for our part of the country. But their MeteoMadness blogger, Henry Margusity, seems to be putting the deepest snows to our north, leaving us in a 3- to 6-inch zone.

doesn't have a snow map out yet for our part of the country. But their MeteoMadness blogger, , seems to be putting the deepest snows to our north, leaving us in a 3- to 6-inch zone.

Mr. Foot's Forecast hasn't gone there yet, but they do seem to be anticipating 4 inches or more. Hope to hear from his team soon.

(SUN PHOTOS/Frank Roylance/Path to my door/Claire Cohn - Thanks!)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:26 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Forecasts
        

February 6, 2010

Maryland snowstorm sights and sounds: Video coverage

Posted by baltimoresun.com at 7:56 PM | | Comments (0)
        

Do NOT run your snow-buried car's engine

Sure, you're cold. And tired. Shoveling is exhausting. But don't take your break in the car with the engine running. It could put you in a cold grave. Consider this message from a WeatherBlog reader in Columbia:

"Frank, you may want to help people not kill themselves as I almost did.

"I managed to dig a trench to my car (Columbia, so 30+ inches) and had the great idea to defrost it. My satellite radio, unlike my satellite TV, was working so I sat in it while it was running.

"I started seeing that distortion effect INSIDE THE CAR and realized carbon monoxide was coming in the car.

"Someone, I guarantee, will sit in their car cave while it defrosts and accidentally asphyxiate."

Remember, the snow piled around your car can trap carbon monoxide coming from the exhaust. It can quickly incapacitate you before you realize what's happening. Then it will kill you. Clear snow from the exhaust pipe and leave the engine off until the car is ready to roll.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:10 PM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Notes to readers
        

No snow total for BWI

Jim Lee, the meteorologist-in-charge at the NWS forecast office in Sterling, says a problem with snow measurements at BWI during the late departed snowstorm means we will not have an official total, perhaps for several days.

On top of that, he says, it's not yet clear how they will measure the four-day storm in February 2003 that currently holds title as the biggest on record for Baltimore.

One thing Lee says he is confident about is that this storm did beat the 2003 storm, by at least a fraction of an inch.

Here's the deal:Super Bowl Storm

The contractor paid to make snow measurements at BWI for the weather service (the NWS has none of its own personnel there) evidently failed to follow NWS protocols in measuring the snow.

Those rules say the observer must allow snow to fall on an official "snow board" for six hours, then wipe it clear and repeat the procedure every six hours until the snow ends.

The technique is designed to split the difference between measuring all the snow at once (which means the snow will have compacted some from its own the weight), or measuring it more frequently, and perhaps exaggerating the snow depth by eliminating most compaction.

The contractor measured every hour on the hour and added it up. That produced a total of 28.6 inches. He also took a "snow depth" reading, meaning that he measured all the snow at once, after it stopped falling. Because of compaction, that came to 24.7 inches.

Super Bowl Storm"We don't have an observation for every six hours," Lee said.

Sterling is now consulting with headquarters, and with climatologists, to figure out how to make a reasonable estimate of what a six-hour measurement might have been. "We'll have to come up with an official estimate somewhere between the 24.7 inch snow depth and 28.6," Lee said.

But then what should they compare it to? The No. 1 snowstorm currently on Sterling's Top Twenty list is the Feb. 15-18 storm in 2003. The total on the Sterling Web page for that storm was 28.2 inches.

Did the storm that buried my car (left) beat that? It's not clear.

The 28.2-inch measurement on the Sterling Web site notwithstanding, the National Climatic Data Center doesn't recognize four-day storms, Lee said. Besides, the 2003 storm was actually two storms. His office is now focusing on two days of that storm for the official record challenge. That's the total of 24.4 inches that fell on Feb. 16 and 17, 2003.

If that's upheld by the NCDC, both measurements from BWI for the Super Bowl Weekend Storm just ended would beat that mark, so whatever intermediate figure they eventually agree on would as well. And that would make this the biggest two-day storm on record for Baltimore.

Lee like its chances. "I'm feeling pretty comfortable saying we broke a two-day snowfall record in Baltimore," he said.

UPDATE: Preliminarily, the NWS is estimating the storm's two-day BWI total at 24.8 inches, beating the 2003 storm by 0.4 inch.

In the meantime, Sterling's Top Twenty Snowstorms chart was taken off the Website Saturday afternoon. The site still lists the February 2003 storm as the biggest THREE-day storm on record for the city at 26.8 inches. 

The biggest two-day storm, if downtown measurements are included, was in January 1922 - 26.3 inches. 

Stay tuned.

(SUN PHOTOS/Frank Roylance/The WeatherDeck (top)/My poor car (bottom))

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:55 PM | | Comments (14)
Categories: By the numbers
        

Snow winding down; bitter cold tonight

The record-breaking storm that has stalled the region under a weighty layer of wet snow is moving out to sea. Snowfall is coming to an end from north to south across the region as the low pressure center off Delmarva drifts to the northeast, forecasters said.

UPDATE: Blizzard Warnings on the Western Shore have been canceled. The sun is shining on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville. The Great Dig has begun.

NOAAAs the storm departs, cold air out of the northwest will sweep in behind it, dropping overnight temperatures into the teens and single digits Saturday night. That should turn the snow and slush on the ground to hard ice and limit the effectiveness of road salt.

There won't be much relief - or melting - on Sunday or Monday as highs stall near the freezing mark and drop into the teens at night. Worse, there's a chance for more snow on Tuesday.

The official forecast calls for a chance of rain or snow on Tuesday afternoon, followed by a 70 percent chance for snow Tuesday night. That will be followed by a 40 percent chance of more snow Wednesday.

NWS forecasters at Sterling aren't venturing any accumulation totals yet. There's still too much uncertainty about the storm and the precipitation types we can expect. Safe to say it won't rival the snows of the last 24 hours.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:19 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts
        

City total tops two feet

The CoCoRaHS Network is now reporting a 7 a.m. snow total from Baltimore's Hamilton neighborhood  of 25.1 inches. Two-foot snow totals are becoming quite common across the region as more reports come in. Some spots are nearing the three-foot mark.

And the snow continues to fall. It's snowing hard on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville at noon.

UPDATE at 2:50 p.m.: Snow has stopped on the WeatherDeck.

Here is the latest NWS tally. And here are some early morning CoCoRaHS reports from places not yet mentioned here:Super Bowl snow

Friendsville, Garrett County:  35.5 inches

New Market, Frederick Co.:  34 inches

Long Green, Baltimore Co.:  20 inches

Taneytown, Carroll:  20 inches

Greensboro, Caroline:  19.3 inches

Pasadena, Anne Arundel:  18 inches

Easton, Talbot:  17 inches

Funkstown, Washington Co.:  15 inches

Colora, Cecil:  13.8 inches

St. Michaels, Talbot:  12.5 inches

Princess Anne, Somerset:  2.1 inches

 

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:48 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: By the numbers
        

Snowstorm is now No. 3 on B'more's record books

At 10:30 a.m. Saturday, the National Weather Service is reporting 23.5 inches so far at BWI-Fells PointMarshall Airport. That makes this the third-biggest snowstorm since snow records for Baltimore began in 1883.

And the snow is still falling. Another 3 inches and this Super Bowl Weekend Storm will eclipse the No. 2 snowstorm - the 26.5-inch blockbuster on Jan. 27-29, 1922.

Forecasters do not believe the storm will topple the all-time record - the 28.2-inch storm on Feb. 15-18, 2003.

We'll see.

(Fells Point PHOTO by Lindsay Rothstein/Used with permission)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:15 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: By the numbers
        

Share your snow stories

How has the snowstorm affected you and your community? We want to hear from you -- stories about what you've done and seen this weekend -- from the serious to the silly. Please share your anecdotes by commenting below, including your name and city. If you're on Twitter, add #mdsnow to your tweets to have them appear in our feed.


Posted by baltimoresun.com at 11:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Winter weather
        

Blizzard Warnings expanded to Upper Shore

The National Weather Service forecast office in Mt. Holly, NJ has expanded Blizzard Warnings to the Upper Shore of Maryland, including Kent, Queen Anne's, Caroline and Talbot counties.

The warning is in effect until 7 p.m. Saturday. The additions fill in a gap in a swath of Blizzard Warnings that extends from southern Maryland to Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Harford County, parts of the Eastern Shore, Delaware and coastal New Jersey.

In addition to the falling anow, as the coastal low intensifies today, winds will increase across the wearning area. Blizzard conditions include falling or blowing snow, with winds in excess of 35 mph decreasing visibilities to less than a quarter mile for a period in excess of three hours. NOAA

Here's a portion of the warning:

"HEAVY SNOW WAS OCCURRING ACROSS THE AREA EARLY THIS MORNING AND
WILL CONTINUE THROUGH MUCH OF TODAY. THE SNOW WILL FALL HEAVILY
AT TIMES...WITH RATES UP TO 1 TO 3 INCHES AN HOUR. THE HEAVIEST
SNOW WILL OCCUR THROUGH ABOUT MIDDAY TODAY. THE SNOW MAY MIX WITH
SLEET AT TIMES EARLY THIS MORNING MAINLY ACROSS SOUTHERN TALBOT
AND CAROLINE COUNTIES...AND MAY BE INTERMITTENT THERE AS WELL.

"STORM TOTAL SNOW ACCUMULATIONS OF 20 TO 27 INCHES ARE EXPECTED. AN
INCREASING NORTHEAST TO NORTH WIND WITH GUSTS OF 35 TO 40 MPH
INTO EARLY THIS AFTERNOON WILL CREATE EXTENSIVE BLOWING AND
DRIFTING SNOW...ALONG WITH WHITEOUT CONDITIONS. THE WIND COMBINED
WITH THE FALLING SNOW WILL CREATE EXTREMELY HAZARDOUS CONDITIONS
INCLUDING GREATLY REDUCED VISIBILITIES TO LESS THAN ONE QUARTER
MILE AT TIMES."

Forecasters out at Sterling, meanwhile, now say Baltimore and D.C. are not likely to break the all-time snowfall records for either city.

On the other hand, they say, both cities have already set new snowfall records for Friday's date, breaking marks set more than a century ago. "So this can still be called a record-breaking storm," they said.

For Baltimore, that busted record for Feb. 5 was 6.4 inches, set in 1899. The new record is 7.5 inches. Looks like we have also broken the Feb. 6 record of 8.4 inches set in 1978.

In Washington, the old record for Feb. 5 was 7.5 inches, set on this date 1892. The new record, set yesterday, is 8.7 inches. The record for Feb. 6 was 4.4 inches, set in 1983. That one's toast, too.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:39 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Watches and warnings
        

Two feet and counting as Super Bowl Storm delivers

Turns out the weather forecasters knew what they were talking about. The big Super Bowl Weekend Storm that's been talked about, hyped and doubted across Maryland for days hasSuper Bowl Weekend Storm finally delivered. Some locations have already topped two feet.

Here are some snow tallies from NWS spotters.

Here are some of the early measurements being reported at 7 a.m. by the CoCoRaHS Network.

Elkridge, Howard County:  32 inches

Crofton, Anne Arundel:  26.8 inches

Columbia, Howard:  26.4 inches

Clarksburg, Montgomery:  24.5 inches

Mount Airy, Carroll:  20.1 inches

(WeatherDeck, Cockeysville, Baltimore County:)  15 inches

La Plata, Charles:  14 inches

Deale, Anne Arundel:  11 inches

Salisbury, Wicomico:  5.4 inches

BWI-Marshall Airport, the official station for Baltimore, where forecasters had predicted 20 to 30 inches by tonight, was reporting 19 inches at 8 a.m. That would already put this storm on Baltimore's Top Ten list - Snoat the No. 9 spot - and the snow is still falling.

The NWS at Sterling is now calling for another 4 to 8 inches today at BWI, and total storm accumulations of 18 to 24 inches for Baltimore.

If we get the 8, and top out at 27 inches, that would make this the No. 2 storm, behind the 28.2-inch Presidents' Day Weekend Storm in February 2003. A total of 24 inches would make this No. 3.

There's plenty of time to dig out this weekend, so take it slow. This is very dense, very heavy snow. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:16 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Winter weather
        

February 5, 2010

Blizzard Warnings extended to Baltimore, DC

UPDATE, 8:30 p.m.: Here are some snow totals as they come in tonight. Parts of Arundel now have more than 6 inches on the ground. Allegany County is reporting 8 to 11 inches after 6 p.m.

The National Weather Service has posted Blizzard Warnings this afternoon for Anne Arundel, Calvert and St. Mary's counties (red on the map), including the city of Annapolis.

UPDATE, 10 p.m.: The weather service tonight added southern Baltimore, Harford, Charles, Prince George's counties, plus Baltimore City and the District of Columbia to the blizzard warnings.

NOAAThe warnings mean residents should expect falling and blowing snow, with winds in excess of 35 mph and visibilities reduced to less than a quarter mile for a period of three hours or more. The warnings are in effect from 10 p.m. Friday night to 10 p.m. Saturday. The forecast calls for snow totals of 20 to 30 inches before the storm ends Saturday night.

Here's a portion of the warning:

"THIS EXTREMELY DANGEROUS STORM IS EXPECTED TO PRODUCE RECORD
SNOWFALL FOR THE BALTIMORE AND WASHINGTON DC METROPOLITAN AREAS.
TRAVEL CONDITIONS TONIGHT ACROSS THE REGION WILL BE EXTREMELY
HAZARDOUS AND LIFE-THREATENING. HELP YOUR LOCAL AND STATE
GOVERNMENT FIRST RESPONDERS AND TRANSPORTATION AGENCIES BY
STAYING OFF THE ROADS."

"A BLIZZARD WARNING MEANS SEVERE WINTER WEATHER CONDITIONS ARE
EXPECTED OR OCCURRING. FALLING AND BLOWING SNOW WITH STRONG WINDS
AND POOR VISIBILITIES ARE LIKELY. THIS WILL LEAD TO WHITEOUT
CONDITIONS"

UPDATE: 5 p.m.: Meanwhile, the mercury has hit 32 degrees downtown, at The Sun's weather station at Calvert and Centre streets. That's just about the dew point (31 degrees) so the air is saturated and cold enough for the flakes to begin sticking. And the barometer is headed for the basement. All the ducks are lined up.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:38 PM | | Comments (35)
Categories: Watches and warnings
        

Tweaked again ... Forecast goes to 20-30+

This is like some kind of nightmare auction. The NWS forecasters have boosted their snow total forecast from 20-28 inches to 20-30 inches, with some locations facing even more.

It's not entirely unexpected. The BWI forecast shows 1-3 inches this afternoon; 15-21 inches Snow preparationstonight; and 5 to 9 inches Saturday. Add both ends of those ranges and you get 21 to 33 inches.

Any way you slice it, this is going to be a whale of a snowstorm, rivaling the deepest on record for both DC (in 1922) and Baltimore (in 2003). It will also be very dangerous for anyone outside and moving around Friday night. (See below.) 

And if the forecast beyond tomorrow is correct, we're looking at cold weather for the cleanup. This one won't vanish the way the December storm did.

For the record, Mr. Foot has been making predictions in these ranges for some time now. He's currently at 25 to 33 inches. AccuWeather.com still has us in the 12 to 24-inch band.

Eric (can we call him Eric the Red to make him as colorful as Mr. Foot?), is a professional meteorologist from Baltimore we have added to our resources. He is playing with the data on how much moisture this storm will bring - the equivalent of 2 to 3 inches of rain - and the ratio of snow depth to liquid. Here's his thinking:

"Food for thought: If the upper end of 3 inches liquid verifies ... AND we get all snow ... AND we work on a modest 12:1 [snow to liquid] ratio, that would get you a max of 36 inches. If you applied the same assumptions but went 15:1, it would be over 40 inches. That seems a bit far-fetched ... but with this storm, I guess anything is possible."

"Enjoy. This will be one for the books."

Amen.

(AP PHOTO/Steve Ruark/Feb. 5, 2010)

From the National Weather Service:

A FEW PRECAUTIONARY AND PREPAREDNESS ITEMS TO NOTE:

1.  FOLLOW MANUFACTURERS INSTRUCTIONS WHEN OPERATING A GENERATOR OR
AXILLARY HEATER.  ENSURE PORTABLE GENERATORS ARE ADEQUATELY VENTILATED.

2.  TRAVEL CONDITIONS TONIGHT ACROSS THE REGION WILL BE EXTREMELY
DANGEROUS AND LIFE THREATENING.  HELP YOUR LOCAL AND STATE
GOVERNMENT FIRST RESPONDERS AND TRANSPORTATION AGENCIES BY STAYING
OFF ROADS LATER THIS EVENING AND TONIGHT.

3.  FOLLOW LOCAL AND STATE GOVERNMENT EMERGENCY DECLARATION ORDERS.
IF YOU ABSOLUTELY NEED TO TRAVEL IN AN EMERGENCY...DO NOT TRAVEL
ALONE.  LET SOMEONE KNOW YOUR TIMETABLE AND YOUR PRIMARY AND
ALTERNATE ROUTES.  CARRY WITH YOU A WINTER STORM SURVIVAL KIT WHICH
INCLUDES A MOBILE PHONE...BLANKETS...FLASHLIGHT WITH EXTRA
BATTERIES...HIGH CALORIE NON-PERISHABLE FOOD AND WATER...AND A
SHOVEL.

4.  IF YOU GET STRANDED IN YOUR VEHICLE...DO NOT LEAVE YOUR CAR TO
TRY TO WALK FOR ASSISTANCE...YOU CAN QUICKLY BECOME DISORIENTED IN
WIND DRIVEN SNOW AND COLD.  THIS STORM WILL SUBSIDE SATURDAY
AFTERNOON...SO WAIT IN YOUR CAR FOR EMERGENCY HELP TO ARRIVE.
PERIODICALLY RUN YOUR ENGINE FOR ABOUT 10 MINUTES EACH HOUR FOR
HEAT. ENSURE YOUR EXHAUST PIPE IS CLEARED OF SNOW AND ICE.  CRACK
YOUR WINDOWS TO AVOID CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING. TIE A COLORED CLOTH
TO YOUR CARS ANTENNA TO BE VISIBLE TO RESCUERS. FROM
TIME-TO-TIME...MOVE YOUR ARMS...LEGS...FINGERS...AND TOES TO KEEP
BLOOD CIRCULATING.

5.  AVOID OVEREXERTION WHEN SHOVELING SNOW.  BREAK THE SHOVELING
DOWN INTO SMALLER JOBS AND TAKE FREQUENT BREAKS.

6.  IN CASE OF POWER SUPPLY DISRUPTIONS...HAVE AVAILABLE FLASH
LIGHTS WITH EXTRA BATTERIES...EXTRA FOOD AND WATER...EXTRA MEDICINES.

7.  ENSURE ANY PETS AND FARM ANIMALS HAVE PLENTY OF WATER...FOOD...
AND SHELTER.

FINALLY...THE KEY TO GETTING THROUGH THIS AND OTHER PERIODS OF
HAZARDOUS WINTER WEATHER IS WITH ADVANCE PLANNING AND BEING AWARE OF
CURRENT CONDITIONS.  THIS STORM WILL BE WINDING DOWN EARLY SATURDAY
EVENING...SO DO YOUR PART AND LET YOUR LOCAL AND STATE GOVERNMENTS
RESTORE ROADWAYS TO NORMAL CONDITIONS BY STAYING AT HOME.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:23 PM | | Comments (29)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Oh, my ... NWS boosts forecast to 20-28 inches

2003 snowstorm Baltimore 

 

UPDATE: Let the wild rumpus begin. There are flakes in downtown Baltimore at 11:05 a.m. Meanwhile...

The forecast escalation continues. Now the National Weather Service has issued a new Winter Storm Warning that predicts snowfall across the region between 10 a.m. Friday and 10 p.m. Saturday in the range of 20 to 28 inches.

As we've said, a 28-inch storm would threaten the all-time (since 1883) Baltimore record snowfall of 28.2 inches back on Feb. 16-18, 2003 (photo). It would also, of course, eclipse the 21.1 inches that fell in December. Some locations could well see more than the airport. Some forecasters have an upper end to their predictions well into the 30-inch range.

Here's part of the Winter Storm Warning:

 * TIMING...SNOW WILL BEGIN MID-MORNING...AND WILL CONTINUE THROUGH
  SATURDAY EVENING. CONDITIONS WILL DETERIORATE RAPIDLY THIS
  AFTERNOON...WITH HEAVIEST SNOWFALL OCCURRING FROM SUNSET THROUGH
  SATURDAY MORNING. THE MOST HAZARDOUS CONDITIONS WILL OCCUR
  TONIGHT.

* VISIBILITIES...THE COMBINATION OF HEAVY SNOW AND STRONG WINDS
  WILL REDUCE VISIBILITIES TO BELOW ONE-QUARTER MILE...PRODUCING
  NEAR-BLIZZARD CONDITIONS TONIGHT THROUGH SATURDAY MORNING.

* TEMPERATURES...HIGHS IN THE LOWER 30S TODAY. TEMPERATURES WILL
  BE IN THE MID TO UPPER 20S TONIGHT AND SATURDAY.

WeatherBlog readers report that the snow is already falling (at 10:15 a.m.) in the Beltsville/Laurel area. Also in Columbia. "Light snow" reported at 11 a.m. from BWI. Downtown Baltimore remains flake-free. For now.

Here's the latest forecast from Sterling. Here's AccuWeather.com, and here is Foot's Forecast.

(SUN PHOTO/Jed Kirschbaum/February 2003)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:26 AM | | Comments (18)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Stay home? Or leave early?

So what should we do today? The National Weather Service says this Top Ten snowstorm should begin to produce flakes across Central Maryland beginning late in the morning to our south, and by 1 p.m. or so in Baltimore and its suburbs.

School systems across the region appear to have decided to cram in the minimum number of hours today to qualify as a real school day (although what kid will be thinking of anything but snow?). They'll dismiss two to three hours early to avoid the worst of the afternoon snow. They hope.

I plan to get to work as usual this morning, but I am hoping to be able to scram early and get Dig we musthome before the roads become treacherous. I can finish the day at home via computer. Lots of my colleagues will be spending the night - maybe two - in downtown hotels so they can get the papers out for Sunday and Monday delivery.

But what if all this clever planning just makes things worse today? What if the school buses, an early PM commute, the salt trucks, plows and the first few inches of snow all converge in a colossal, slippery, snowy gridlock?

We've seen it before - an afternoon snowfall that panics commuters and ends in jams that extend a 30-minute commute to hours.

Shouldn't we all just stay home today, enjoy an historic snowfall and let our public servants doNOAA their jobs? What do you think?

Here's the forecast. The NWS is still calling for 18 to 24 inches of snow by Saturday evening as another Gulf low reforms off the Atlantic coast and spins north to the mid-Atlantic states. Two to four inches are predicted by nightfall.

If they're right, even if we just top 16 inches, this storm will rank among the Top Ten snowstorms since Baltimore snowfall records began in 1883. A 24-inch storm would rank No. 3. 

Here's AccuWeather's take on the nor'easter. They finally bumped their estimates to 12 to 24 inches after lagging other forecasters late Thursday.

And here's Mr. Foot's Forecast. They're looking for 20 to 28 inches, warning motorists to be off the roads by noon.

(SUN PHOTO/Frank Roylance/2006)

Top 20 Snowstorms in Baltimore: (1891-2006)
128.2 inches ... Feb. 15-18, 20031114.1 inches ... Dec. 11-12, 1960
226.5 inches  ... Jan. 27-29, 19221213.1  inches ... Feb. 11-12, 2006
322.8 inches ... Feb. 11, 19831313.0  inches ... Mar. 5-7, 1962
422.5 inches ... Jan. 7-8, 19961412.3 inches ... Jan. 22, 1987
522.0 inches ... Mar. 29-30, 19421512.1 inches ... Jan. 30-31, 1966
621.4 inches ... Feb. 11-14, 18991612.0 inches ... Feb. 16-18, 1900
720.0 inches ... Feb. 18-19, 19791711.9 inches ... Mar. 13-14, 1993
816.0 inches ... Mar. 15-18, 18921811.7 inches ... Feb. 5-8, 1899
915.5 inches ... Feb. 15, 19581911.5 inches ... Dec. 17-18, 1932
1014.9 inches ... Jan. 25, 20002011.5 inches ... Mar. 21-22, 1964

 

This table is a bit outdated. The Dec. 18-19 storm in 2009 would now rank 7th, at 21.1 inches.

Here's more, from a professional meteorologist new to our stable. We'll just call him Eric.

"The "early" balloon-data model runs (00z) are in, and they are consistent with the idea we will see 18-24", perhaps more.  The unsettling thought is this:  As it stands now, the coastal low is expected to curve out to sea. If it stays closer to the coast... and heads more toward New England, then this will be a record setter for sure.  The blocking high over Greenland/Davis Straight will apparently keep this from happening, but strong storms tend to go "left" cos they tend to modify the jet stream as much as the jet stream pushes them along.  A weaker system is at the mercy of the jet stream, and will be more apt to go "right" or eastward along with the jet.

"Bulls Eye:  Models are somewhere in nrn VA up into nrn MD for the jackpot... altho in this case, it's all relative... cos even the folks who aren't in the sweet spot will still get big-time snow.  Here's what the 00z models have wrt to the location of the bulls-eye:

"The WRF/NAM puts it south of DC (seems too suppressed actually), so central MD "only" gets 14-20"

"The GFS whacks Baltimore and DC with a Goodfellas-like 24"+

"The RSM is just like the GFS, but has a bonus 30" + feature (if all snow) southeast of DC

"The PSU-Eta hits the burbs between DC and Baltimore with a Big-Money 30" max

"I think 18-24" is a safe bet... but there will be higher amounts. 

"Did I mention next Tuesday? The GFS forecasts out 384 hours.  In this morning's run, there wasn't a single frame that depicted temperatures above freezing.  No joke.

"Oh, timing... DC: 7-10 am... Baltimore: 9 am - Noon  Not good for decsion makers

"If you're at work on Friday, please, please keep an eye on radar...

http://sirocco.accuweather.com/nx_mosaic_640x480c/RE/INMAREVA_.gif

"Since the well-publicized bust last Saturday, the NWS at Sterling,VA (our local office) has been uncharacteristically aggressive with this week's watches and warnings, and I think they deserve serious kudos for being proactive.

"Fun stuff!"

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:51 AM | | Comments (23)
Categories: Winter weather
        

February 4, 2010

New NWS snow estimates: 16 to 24 inches

Wax down those shovels, Maryland, there's snow on the way. The National Weather Service has posted Winter Storm Warnings for everybody from the Chesapeake west to Allegany County. The warnings call for 16 to 24 inches of snow for the Baltimore area.

UPDATE: Blizzard Warnings have been posted for central and southern Delaware and southeastern New Jersey. The Winter Storm Warnings in Maryland have been extended to the Lower Eastern Shore, where six inches or more are expected.

UPDATED UPDATE: The snow estimates for Central Maryland have been bumped to 18 to 24 inches.

The first flakes are expected sometime Friday morning, (by early afternoon in Baltimore), and they're likely to continue through Friday night, all day Saturday and into Saturday evening. I suspect, if the forecast holds up, this timing will discourage December 2009 snowschool officials about opening their doors at all on Friday. No point in bringing everybody in only to send them home in a storm.

The snow chances are about as high as they get - 100 percent for Friday and Friday night, slipping to 90 percent (UPDATE: now 100 percent) on Saturday. Temperatures at BWI should be near freezing for the duration of the storm, in the upper 20s and low 30s. Here's some of the Winter Storm Warning, just to give you the flavor of the thing:

"CONDITIONS WILL DETERIORATE RAPIDLY
  FRIDAY AFTERNOON...WITH HEAVIEST SNOWFALL OCCURRING BETWEEN
  SUNSET FRIDAY TO SUNRISE SATURDAY. THE MOST HAZARDOUS WINTER
  WEATHER CONDITIONS WILL OCCUR FRIDAY NIGHT...WHEN THE
  COMBINATION OF HEAVY SNOW AND STRONG WINDS WILL REDUCE
  VISIBILITIES TO BELOW ONE-QUARTER MILE...PRODUCING NEAR-BLIZZARD
  CONDITIONS
."

Swell.

If the forecasters at Sterling are right, this snow will rival the 21-inch storm that struck just before Christmas. Although we have had more snow in a single season before, neither Sterling nor I could find any examples of two 20-plus inch snowstorms striking Baltimore in a single winter season since they started keeping snow records here in 1883.

There are actually two storm systems cranking up and headed our way - one is gathering strength NOAAand plenty of Gulf moisture today across the Gulf Coast states. The second is moving out of the Northern Rockies; it is expected to drop its snow here on Saturday, on top of whatever the Gulf system delivers.

The Gulf system is forecast to move east and become the latest in a series of coastal storms that have punctuated our weather since autumn. It's expected to intensify over the ocean on Friday, and pump lots of Gulf and Atlantic moisture into the cold air that will be settling over our region. That's the recipe for heavy snow.

That storm, another low over southeastern Canada and a high to our north will combine to draw more cold air south into the region, keeping the snow machine spinning for us.  Exceptions may include extreme Southern Maryland and Central Virginia, where warmer air moving in with the AccuWeather.commaritime moisture may produce a wintry mix.

Forecasters say the heaviest precipitation is likely to occur late Friday afternoon through Friday night, with several inches on the ground by the Friday evening commute.

Elsewhere, AccuWeather.com is calling the event "paralyzing" for our region, with the potential for as much as two feet of snow in some locations. Adding insult to injury, AccuWeather.com is now touting another snowstorm on Tuesday. Let's not go there yet.

Mr. Foot's forecast team is predicting "an historic and extremely heavy wet snowfall" for our region Friday and Saturday. Mr. Foot spins out two possible scenarios, depending on how much mixing there is and when it all begins. One scenario would bring us 12 to 18 inches, the other 18 to 26 inches. Which one gets your vote?

For the geekier among us, there is the U.S. Hydrometeorlogical Prediction Center's discussion, which includes such highly technical terms as, "prolific accumulations," and "incredible amount of Gulf and Atlantic moisture..." 

And after the snow? Expect skies to clear by Sunday, with highs near freezing and overnight lows Saturday and Sunday nights in the teens as the new week begins. This new snow will not go away as rapidly as Tuesday night's did.

(MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images/December snow in Chevy Chase)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:09 AM | | Comments (43)
Categories: Forecasts
        

February 3, 2010

How much snow did you get?

The National Weather Service has completed a snow map for Tuesday night's storm. Not hard to see why one can't expect the forecasters to get it perfect for everyone's neighborhood. Enjoy:

NOAA

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:44 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: By the numbers
        

Winter Storm Watch posted: 12 to 20 inches

Here we go again. The National Weather Service forecast office in Sterling, Va., has just posted a Winter Storm Watch for nearly all of Maryland west of the Chesapeake. It warns of the possibility of more than a foot of snow, and  "a good chance" for more than 20 inches in some places, by Saturday.

AccuWeather.comHere's more from the National Hydrometeorological Prediction Center, which uses the word "crippling." Here's AccuWeather.com (snow map at left). And here's Mr. Foot, who has been all over this one..

The Winter Storm Watch says the snow would begin by late morning on Friday, and continue through Saturday evening. Temperatures late Friday and Saturday should be in the upper 20s to 30 degrees. Says Sterling:

"THIS STORM HAS THE POTENTIAL TO BE SIMILAR TO THE DECEMBER 19TH STORM.
PLAN FOR SUBSTANTIAL DISRUPTIONS TO TRAVEL FRIDAY AFTERNOON THROUGH THE
WEEKEND."

That Dec. 19 storm dropped 21.1 inches at BWI over two days. If we get another 20-inch-plus snowstorm out of this at BWI, it will be the first time since snow records began in 1883 that's occurred. Hoo boy.

But there will be differences, according to the forecast discussion from Sterling:

"COMPARISONS HAVE BEEN DRAWN TO THE LATE DEC SNOW STORM
/MAINLY IN THE UPPER DYNAMICS...PROGRESSION AND EVEN TIMING - LATE
FRI THRU EARLY SUN/. IT MUST BE NOTED THO THAT THE INCOMING SYSTEM
WILL BE A BIT WARMER OVERALL...W/ A DEFINITE RAIN-SNOW LINE
FURTHER NORTH THAN THE DEC STORM AND STORM-TOTAL ACCUMULATIONS
STILL UNCERTAIN
."

"ENOUGH COLD AIR WILL BE IN PLACE /E
OF I-95/ FOR AN ALL-SNOW PRECIPITATION-TYPE /POSSIBLY A BRIEF PERIOD OF A RAIN-
SNOW-SLEET MIX AT ONSET/. ALONG AND EAST OF I-95 WILL CERTAINLY BE THE
MIX LINE FOR MUCH OF THE DAY...W/ A CHANCE OF A SNOW CHANGEOVER
LATER IN THE EVENING-OVERNIGHT AS A SFC LOW STRENGTHENS OFF THE
COAST OF CAPE HATTERAS AND PULLS SOME OF THE COLDER AIR BACK SWD.

"AS THIS LOW STRENGTHENS...MUCH LIKE THE DEC STORM...WINDS WILL
STRENGTHEN OVER THE BAY AND COASTAL REGIONS /NEARING GALE WARNING
FROM SAT AFTN-EARLY SUN/. BACK TO THE WEST...SNOW WILL CONTINUE OVER
THE REGION AND BE ESPECIALLY HEAVY AND CONTINUOUS LATE FRI INTO
EARLY SAT. EVEN AS THE SURFACE LOW TAKES A BULK OF THE SYSTEM OFF THE
MID ATLANTIC COAST SAT MORNING...SNOW WILL CONTINUE ALL THE WAY BACK
INTO THE OHIO VALLEY /HEAVIEST EAST OF THE APPALACHIANS/. ANOTHER ROUND OF
LIGHT-MODERATE SNOW WILL CONTINUE THRU MUCH OF THE DAY FOR THIS
REGION ASSOCIATED W/ THE PASSING UPPER TROF AXIS."

Enough warning for you?

Just to jazz up the hype machine a little... Just received this via Candy Thomson, The Sun's outdoors writer, who got it from a DNR guy who got it from a guy who works at the NOAA forecast center. (How's that for attribution?)

"Subject: Early Friday Scoop

"Good morning,

"Have a few minutes before I delve into a report that is due this
Friday...  so let's cut to the chase.
First... there is no question a storm is coming.  There is also no
question that it will be a very large storm, with 2-3 days worth of Gulf
moisture inflow to work with.  So it won't be lacking in the pcp
department.  The westward-moving blocking high over the Davis Straight
should virtually ensure the system does not track to our west and
north... but rather suppresses it to our south.  This would also ensure
that it is mostly a cold event for the entire region, and support snow
or sleet or snow grains (mostly snow).

"Timing..  The first batch of pcp will be overrunning pcp... pcp that
forms when warm, moist air from the Gulf runs into and over cold air
already in place.  Overrunning pcp is not an easy animal to pinpoint wrt
timing cos it's not really an entity that moves from point A to point
B... but tends to kinda just develop.  Models handle this differently...
with the latest NAM/WRF having the snow arrive ~ 8 pm on Friday, while
the GFS has snow falling in the metro area between 7-11 am on Friday
morning, with crippling snowfall rates by mid afternoon.  Needless to
say, this is a huge discrepancy, and would directly impact most
everyone's planning (work, kids, shopping, etc).  I think the safe bet
is to go with the earlier timing.

"Amounts:  The GFS is "lighter"... with "only" 1.25 to perhaps as much
as 1.75".  Assuming a conservative 10::1, that'll get you 10-18" of
snow.  The WRF is the closest thing to Armageddon in a non-hurricane
fcst scenario that I've ever seen.  It has a whopping 3" max over
Baltimore (literally centered on Mt Washington). with over 2.5"
everywhere else.  Again, assuming all snow, that would be 25-30"+.
Ouch.  Let's put it this way:  Rulers may be useless for measuring snow
by late eve on Friday.

"Duration:  OK... so we have some differences inre to the onset, but the
general idea is during the day on Friday.  When does it all end?
Well... after the overrunning part of the storm starts to wind down, the
models all show a second, stronger coastal low developing which gives us
a second prolonged burst of wind-driven snow.... some of which would be
quite heavy.  This is the part of the storm that will be occurring on
Saturday.  No Hyperbole here:  If the GFS and WRF are correct, the
region will be shut down on Saturday (and likely beyond).  The coastal
low will be pulling colder air into the region from the north, causing
that snow to be fluffier and more apt to blow around into large drifts.
The snow would finally end as the remnant western low drifts over head
late Saturday eve or early Sunday.

"Analog:  The NWS is using the Feb 10-11, 1983 storm as an analog.  That
storm featured almost 23" of snow at BWI, with lightning and thunder.
Sounds good to me.

"Summary:  Yes, it's still 2 days away... and while I tend to geek out
on y'all a bit, this storm should be taken seriously.  My biggest worry
would be anyone who "has" to be at work on Friday... and they make it in
without any problem cos the pcp is slow to arrive, and then spend the
next 8 hours trying to get home.  The NWS is buying into it at every
level (local and national offices), the models have it, and the storm
already exists.  Safe to say, she's a comin'.

"I'll keep you posted if there are any changes. - E"

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:54 PM | | Comments (26)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Ever seen "sea smoke?"

Barbara Herron, of Baltimore, sent me this note this morning, with a photo she snapped during a recent cruise:

Sea smoke"Dear Frank,

"My husband and I got home on Monday from a cruise that went from Baltimore to Charleston, Key West, the Bahamas and back. On Sunday, in the Gulf Stream about 35 miles off Cape Hatteras, we had really awesome conditions – seas up to 15 feet, air temp around 35F, winds at 40 and gusting to 50, a fog bank, and sea smoke. I understand that sea smoke occurs when the water is at least 30 degrees F warmer than the air. It was amazing to watch. I thought you might enjoy the photo I snapped with my iPhone.

"Thanks for your terrific weather blog. You’re one of my favorite parts of the Sun.

"Barbara Herron"

(PHOTO by Barbara Herron/Used with permission)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:49 AM | | Comments (11)
        

3 to 6 inches was on the money

We had a hard time measuring the snow on the WeatherDeck this morning because I forgot to clear away the old snow. But looking at the CoCoRaHS report this morning, it looks like the NWS forecasters out at Sterling got this one about right - 3 to 6 inches.

Here's a sampling:Light snow

Bryan's Road, Charles County: 6.0 inches

Long Green, Baltimore Co.:  5.9 inches

Mt. Airy, Carroll:  5.7 inches

Clarksburg, Montgomery:  5.5 inches

Severn, Arundel:  5.1 inches

Columbia, Howard:  5.0 inches

Hamilton, Baltimore City:  4.5 inches

Kingsville, Harford:  4.3 inches

Taneytown, Carroll:  4.0 inches

Towson, Baltimore:  3.0 inches

Another pretty snowfall, filling the trees but easy to shovel and yielding to salt on the streets. And the kids will get to school today, mostly, if a bit late.

But it was just the appetizer. We still have the main course - the weekend storm - to deal with. Here's the Hazardous Weather Outlook from the folks out at Sterling:

"FRIDAY THROUGH SATURDAY...A STORM SYSTEM HAS TO POTENTIAL TO
AccuWeather.comPRODUCE HEAVY SNOWFALL ACROSS THE MID ATLANTIC REGION. THERE IS
UNCERTAINTY REGARDING THE EXACT TRACK AND EVOLUTION OF THIS
STORM...SO PLEASE MONITOR THE LATEST FORECASTS.
"

Sterling is offering no accumulation predictions yet. Too early. But the forecast is putting the chance of snow at 90 percent for Friday night at BWI-Marshall, and 80 percent on Saturday. Temperatures will be in the upper 20s Friday night, and the lower 30s on Saturday.

Up at AccuWeather.com, they've got Central Maryland in the 6- to 12-inch band for this storm (map), but we're darn close to some 12- to 18-inch territory to our west.

Mr. Foot and his team are much more optimistic (or is it pessimistic?) about this storm. "This storm will not be for the faint of heart," says he. He puts the accumulations at 12 to 24 inches, depending on where and when the snow line sets up.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:41 AM | | Comments (16)
Categories: Winter weather
        

February 2, 2010

NWS boosts advisory to 3 to 6 inches

NOAAOh my... The overnight storm that was to deliver 1 to 3 inches Tuesday into Wednesday has been boosted to a 3-to-6-incher. The National Weather Service has upped the ante to a Winter Storm Warning, which means we have the potential for more than 4 inches of the White Death.

The Warnings have been posted along a swath (pink on the map) from Northern Virginia  across DC to Central Maryland, including Baltimore and the surrounding counties from Montgomery and PG to Arundel, Howard, Frederick, Carroll, Baltimore and Harford.

They have also swept Calvert and St. Mary's into the old Winter Weather Advisory, for 1 to 3 inches instead of rain.AccuWeather.com

AccuWeather.com's snow map (right) looks like it's been overtaken by events.  

So what's going on here? Apparently, better agreement among the forecast models, and therefore greater confidence in the chances for snow, heavy at times through DC and Baltimore, as these weather systems converge on the region tonight.

The WSW opens at 5 p.m. for Baltimore, with snow starting here between 5 and 7 p.m. Will that mean a rush hour snowfall? Maybe. Should folks bug out and head for home early? Drop me a comment when you start to see snow falling where you are.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:14 PM | | Comments (31)
Categories: Forecasts
        

1 to 2 inches possible Tuesday night

Just to keep us in the mood, the winter of 2009-10 is preparing to dish up another taste of the season tonight as two low-pressure systems converge on the mid-Atlantic. One is approaching from northern Illinois, while the second moves up from the south to become the latest coastal system to affect the region.

AccuWeather.comThe NWS at Sterling has issued a Winter Weather Advisory for all Maryland west of the bay except Calvert and St. Mary's counties, where the precipitation could be rain depending on where the rain/snow line settles. The advisory calls for 1 to 3 inches of snow elsewhere across the region by daybreak Wednesday.

The snow would begin in the southwestern portions of the forecast area, down in Virginia, with 1 to 2 inches by early afternoon if the forecast holds up. The precipitation, starting as rain south and east of the I-95 corridor, would then and move north and east, reaching the Baltimore area in the late afternoon, between 5 and 7 p.m., forecasters said.

Snow accumulations would begin sometime after sunset Tuesday, with 1 to 2 inches in the DC area. 

Here's AccuWeather.com on the Tuesday/Wednesday snow.

Meanwhile, forecasters are continuing to watch the weekend weather. An offshore track would ensure we get mainly snow here, but limit the amount of moisture available, they said. A more northerly track would bring more moisture, but slide the rain/snow line closer to the metro areas.

Here's what AccuWeather is saying about the weekend event. Here's Mr. Foot's take on it.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:22 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Forecasts
        

February 1, 2010

What? Again? Another weekend snow threat

Forecasters out at Sterling will get a chance to redeem themselves this week as Maryland confronts yet another weekend snow threat. No one is predicting accumulations this far out. But the excitement among snow forecasters is already building about this new storm - at least as it looks in the early model runs.

As I've made clear (I hope) since the beginning of this blog in 2004, I am not a forecaster. I don't make predictions. But I do enjoy passing along what the real forecasters are saying, when they say it, based on the information they have at the time and their own skills and instincts about this stuff. (And I always am wary of February, based simply on local weather history.)

Just remember weather forecasting is not orbital mechanics. These storms cannot ever be predicted with certainty (as last weekend's storm proved once again), and especially this far in advance. Our purpose here is to alert prudent readers to the buzz, and to let them make their own assessments and plans for the weekend. 

So, here is what the National Centers for Environmental Prediction in Camp Springs, md. has  been saying since this morning about the new storm. This seems to be what is ginning up the buzz:

"MAJOR WINTER STORM ANTICIPATED FROM THE CAROLINAS TO
SOUTHEASTERN NEW ENGLAND...

"THE 00Z/01 GLOBAL NUMERICAL GUIDANCE SHOWS A CONTINUATION OF THE
CURRENT FLOW REGIME ACROSS THE UNITED STATES THROUGH THE MEDIUM
RANGE PERIOD...WITH A STRONG PACIFIC JET COMING INTO THE WEST
COAST...AND A SPLIT...CONFLUENT FLOW OVER THE EASTERN STATES.
THIS PATTERN PRODUCED SNOW AND ICE OVER PORTIONS OF THE CAROLINAS
AND MID ATLANTIC STATES THIS PAST WEEKEND...AND IT APPEARS ANOTHER
WINTER STORM IS IN THE OFFING FOR THE SAME AREAS THIS UPCOMING
WEEKEND...WITH AN EXPANSION OF THE SNOW INTO THE NORTHEAST ON THE
OCEAN SIDE OF I-95.  A COMPLEX WAVE ORGANIZING OVER THE GULF OF
MEXICO EARLY IN THE PERIOD WILL SPREAD MAINLY RAIN INTO THE
SOUTHERN STATES.  THE WAVE IS EXPECTED TO CONSOLIDATE ALONG THE
CAROLINA COAST EARLY DAY 5...WITH A RAPID DEEPENING NEAR CAPE
HATTERAS.  CLIMATOLOGY SUGGESTS THE STORM WILL LIFT ALONG THEAccuWeather.com
WESTERN EDGE OF THE GULF STREAM...THOUGH THE DOMINANT NORTHERN
STREAM THIS WINTER IS LIKELY TO HERD THE BEST MOISTURE EAST OF
I-95...AS WITH THE EVENT BEFORE CHRISTMAS.  STILL...THE IMPACT FOR
THE MAJOR METROPOLITAN AREAS WOULD BE HIGH.
."

Here is today's forecast discussion from Sterling. And here's the forecast.

And here is what AccuWeather.com is saying. "Could this be another big winter storm for the central Atlantic region? The answer to that is yes it could." That's AccuWeather.com's map at right, which seems quite rainy.

And finally, here is where Mr. Foot and his team  ("I have a bad feeling about this.") are on the prospects.

Speaking of Sterling, and last weekend's storm, I promised I would ask Steve Zubrick, the NWS science and operations officer at Sterling to respond to those who took the office to task for not forecasting the 3 to 8 inches that fell on Saturday. You can read his reply below.

"Frank,

"Did we "drop the ball" on the forecast?

"Depends on one's expectation. If they expect us to get it right 100% of
the time, then "yes" we did.

"However, our winter verification stats suggest we get it "right" about
90% of the time. So...perhaps 1 out of 10 events are going to slip
through our (i.e., the meteorological profession; not just this office)
hands. Weather forecasting research is still quite and active scientific
study.

"Note: while I agree with the letter-writer's stance of admitting
mistakes/learning from them and moving on (that's healthy!) his
passive-aggressive swipes at meteorologists as being arrogant,
contemptible and dishonest are not appropriate in a professional dialog
and not worthy of a response.

"I can show you many scientific (peer-reviewed) professional papers
highlighting one (or more) of our inaccurate forecasts, and then how
that paper proceeds to show in a constructive manner what happened to
cause the bad forecast and what one could have done differently.
 - Steve Z"

Steve also sent this along - a look back at last week's forecasts and the weekend storm:

"Hi Frank.

"I was off work for the entire duration of this storm. I did monitor the
storm at times.

"This storm system featured a very tight gradient between heavy snow and
really no snow. Resolving that was a real challenge to all forecasters,
not to mention the models. A first look suggests the mid levels (5kft -
18 kft) had more energy than models were suggesting. This increase warm
advection (and moisture advection) aloft...and help develop some nice
deformation bands of more moderate snow. Predicting exactly where those
bands would occur is difficult and was one of the challenges to getting
the snowfall forecast right for this storm. Another feature was the high
liquid equivalent water ratios on the order of 1:15 to almost 1:20.

"I've only begun to look at the past observed and model data for this
event. I'll know more later this week.

"For Balt...our forecasts were too low for snow totals as late at Friday
afternoon...calling for well less than an inch of snow accumulation. But
by early Friday evening (just before 7PM)...the forecast changed to a
Winter Weather Advisory on the South side of Baltimore (Anne Arundel)
for 1 to 2 and around an inch in Baltimore.  Less than 3 hrs later (951
PM)...we included all of the Balt area in a winter weather advisory and
mentioned 1 to 3 inches in the southern suburbs.
By 3AM (about 8 hours before the first flakes fell in Balt.) our
forecast called for 1 to 3 inches.

"We're working on a snow map...check our web site later this afternoon.

"Anyway, the snow certainly made it further north than we originally
thought.

"When I look at our winter storm verification statistics over the past
several winters, we average a probability of detection (of more than 4"
of snow and/or 1/4" of ice) of near 90%, with a lead time of nearly 20
hrs for our winter storm warnings. This past Saturday, we didn't do as
well as we'd like and as our past numbers have indicated. - Steve Z."

Here's how it turned out:

NWS/Sterling

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:30 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Forecasts
        
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This site is the Maryland Weather archive. The current Maryland Weather blog can be found here.
Frank Roylance is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. He came to Baltimore from New Bedford, Mass. in 1980 to join the old Evening Sun. He moved to the morning Sun when the papers merged in 1992, and has spent most of his time since covering science, including astronomy and the weather. One of The Baltimore Sun's first online Web logs, the Weather Blog debuted in October 2004. In June 2006 Frank also began writing comments on local weather and stargazing for The Baltimore Sun's print Weather Page. Frank also answers readers’ weather queries for the newspaper and the blog. Frank Roylance retired in October 2011. Maryland Weather is now being updated by members of The Baltimore Sun staff
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