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November 30, 2010

Thirsty? Plenty of water in the reservoirs

Loch Raven ReservoirWith December arriving tonight along with what is expected to be a heavy rain, you could say we're entering the recharge season for the region's reservoirs.

Despite a summer of hot, dry weather, the city's reservoir system stands at 86 percent of capacity, according to the Department of Public Works. There are some 65 billion gallons in storage, about 10 billion short of capacity.

Liberty Reservoir is at 83 percent; Loch Raven is at 90 percent, and Prettyboy stands at 87 percent.

That's probably pretty good for this time of year, said Kurt L. Kocher, spokesman for the DPW:

"There have been so many fluctuations over the years that what is typical is hard to pinpoint.  In the mid 80s percent range is solid to a bit above average. We started out the year and went through most of last year with full or close to full reservoirs. We hit a dry spell in the summer with very hot temperatures which increases water usage. Higher temperatures meant high evaporation as well, then we had that one tropical event. Usually we would see a couple tropical storms replenish summer losses, but this is still quite good for late fall."

And with most vegetation now dormant for the winter, whatever falls in the watershed from now on will mostly seep into groundwater or flow into the surface system, recharging it for next year.

(SUN PHOTO: Barbara Haddock Taylor, Loch Raven Reservoir, November 2007)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:32 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: By the numbers
        

Mag. 3.9 quake reported off Delmarva

New quake mapThe U.S. Geological Survey is reporting a Mag. 3.9 undersea earthquake at about 10:45 a.m. Tuesday, centered off the continental shelf 181 miles southeast of New York City. That's roughly 200 miles east northeast of Ocean City, MD.

The tremor occured an estimated 5 km beneath the ocean bottom. It was reportedly felt by residents of Long Island. Anyone on Delmarva feel this one? Leave a comment and let us know.

UPDATE: The USGA has revised the initial report. Geologists now say the quake was 122 miles east southeast of New York City, and 189 miles northeast of Ocean City, Md., at the edge of the continental shelf and 6 km beneath the surface.

(USGS map)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:17 AM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Earthquakes
        

Rain, wind and "isolated tornadoes"

You've been warned. Exactly two weeks ago the National Weather Service was advising us of the possibility of damaging winds across Central Maryland as a strong cold front approached from the west. By midnight the forecasters were alerting us to watch for the danger of severe thunderstorms, and by 1 a.m. the watch had become a warning.

Weather radioA half-hour later an EF-1 tornado and damaging straight-line winds were ripping up roofs and trees along a swath of Northeast Baltimore and Parkville. Trees fell from Virginia to the Gunpowder River.

Today, with a very similar situation  developing across the eastern United States, forecasters at the Baltimore-Washington Forecast Office have issued a Hazardous Weather Outlook, advising us of the approach of a strong cold front, with the likelihood of heavy rain overnight tonight, with flash flooding, and thunderstorms along and east of the I-95 corridor "capable of producing damaging wind gusts and isolated tornadoes."

If you don't think this applies to you, check with the residents of Dutch Village and Mt. Pleasant Heights, if they've managed to get back into their homes yet. If you don't already have a NOAA Weather Radio, this would be a good day to get yourself to your local electronics store and buy one. They're cheap, and they will wake you up if the weather service issues a severe storm or tornado alert for your area.

The forecast calls for some more light rain today, becoming heavier overnight and into Wednesday morning with increasing risk of thunderstorms. Winds of 16-21 mph are likely, with gusts to 37. New rain could reach three-quarters of an inch by morning, with another inch possible Wednesday.

UPDATE, 3 p.m.: The NWS has added a Wind Advisory, in effect from 10 p.m. Tuesday night until 11 a.m. Wednesday morning. Wind gusts of 45 to 50 mph are forecast. Earlier post resumes below:

A Flash Flood Watch has been posted for Central Maryland from late tonight through Wednesday afternoon as small streams and creeks threaten to rise out of their banks in heavy rain.

There is also a Coastal Flood Watch up from Harford County to St. Mary's County, as southeast winds keep the Chesapeake Bay bottled up and drive high water into the creeks. High tides could run 2 to 3 feet above normal tonight through Wednesday afternoon. Here are some high tide times for the area:

HAVRE DE GRACE...5:00 AM AND 6:02 PM...
BOWLEY BAR...2:38 AM AND 3:40 PM...
FORT MCHENRY BALTIMORE...1:47 AM AND 2:49 PM...
ANNAPOLIS U.S. NAVAL ACADEMY...12:17 AM AND 1:19 PM...
CHESAPEAKE BEACH...12:02 PM...
SOLOMONS ISLAND...10:11 AM...
POINT LOOKOUT...9:21 AM... 

(SUN PHOTO: Frank Roylance, my weather radio)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:24 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

November 29, 2010

Heavy rain due, Tuesday into Wednesday

It reads a lot like the forecast two weeks ago, with a cold front approaching from the west with rain and mild temperatures followed by gusty winds and cooler temperatures. Two weeks ago that touched off an EF-1 tornado in Baltimore.

No mention of that danger yet in the forecast. For now, forecasters at the National Weather Service forecast office in Sterling, Va. say the cool temperatures and sunny skies we're enjoying today will begin to give way this afternoon to Autumn leavesincreasing high clouds.

The clouds are the forerunners of the frontal system that will bring us a warm and very wet air flow from the Gulf and the Atlantic on Tuesday as the high we're enjoying today moves east. The clockwise flow around that high, coupled with the counter-clockwise flow around the low to our north and west, will draw warm, moist air into the region from the southwest for Tuesday and Wednesday.

Temperatures late tonight, instead of falling as they normally do, will likely reverse course and rise, forecasters say. The rain is expected to reach the Baltimore area in the afternoon, with the heaviest amounts expected overnight Tuesday into Wednesday - as much as 1 to 2 inches. The chances of precipitation are put at 100 percent, with a chance of some thunderstorms developing.

Flash flooding could be a risk, forecasters said. With vegetation mostly dormant, more of the water will run off. Urban flooding is also a possibility where rain amounts are heaviest in storms. Here's AccuWeather.com's take on it.

Once the strong cold front passes Wednesday morning, temperatures will drop out of the 50s, into the 40s, with gusty winds out of the northwest. Any precipitation will end, and skies will clear for most of us. But forecasters hold out the possibility of snow showers on the western slopes of the Appalachians. We may also read of lake effect snows along the lee shores of the eastern Great Lakes.

Temperatures here will stay below normal through the weekend, Dec. 4 and 5, when a "weak clipper system" is expected to pass through. That holds at least the potential to deliver our legendary Dec. 5 snowfall in Baltimore. More on that soon.

But for now, the forecast just says the clipper "may have enough moisture associated with it to bring precipitation to the area ... At the moment, the only probabilities of precipitation are across the higher elevations in the form of snow showers."

(SUN PHOTO: Frank Roylance. Williamsburg, Va.)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:37 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts
        

November 28, 2010

December brings total lunar eclipse

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Lunar eclipse 2/20/08December arrives on Wednesday. It’s a busy month. The year’s earliest sunset occurs on the 8th as Sol drops below Baltimore’s western horizon at 4:43 p.m. The annual Geminid meteor shower – one of the year’s best if skies are clear - peaks on the night of the 13/14th. The fourth full moon of the season rises at 4:13 p.m. EST, on the 20th, only to be darkened by a total lunar eclipse. The eclipse begins at 1:32 a.m. on the 21st, and is total from 2:40 to 3:54 a.m. The winter solstice arrives later the same day, at 6:42 p.m. 

(SUN PHOTO: Jerry Jackson, Feb. 20, 2008)   

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:00 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition
        

November 27, 2010

November's temperature quirks

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

November sunshineSome oddities noted during the month of November: Temperatures at BWI-Marshall on Nov. 4 varied by only 3 degrees. The high that Thursday was 50 degrees, after a low of 47. (That matched another 3-degree spread on May 18, when the high was 56, the low 53.) On Nov. 12, the airport recorded both the month’s low temperature (28 degrees) and its high (66), a span of 38 degrees. There was a wider spread back on April 30 (42 to 83 degrees), but neither reading was the extreme for that month.

(SUN PHOTO: John Makely, November 2003)

UPDATE: Monday morning's low of 25 degrees at BWI has eclipsed the 28-degree low reading on the 12th. That's what I get for trying to wrap up the month's weather data a week before it actually ends. - FR

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition
        

November 26, 2010

Today's forecasts updated around the clock

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Sterling forecasters 1996Donald Gansauer writes from Canton: “At what time of the day does the National Weather Service update its forecasts?” In the old days – 15 years ago – forecasts were released every six hours, at 10 and 4. Today’s “forecast” is a computer database. It maps every weather factor, from temperature to wave heights, for every point in the forecast area seven days out. As new data arrive from computer models, sensors, observations or emailed reports, they’re entered, and the forecasts adjust for all locations.

(SUN PHOTO: Barbara Haddock Taylor, NWS forecast office, Sterling, Va., 1996)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition
        

November 25, 2010

NOAA hurricane predictions were on the money

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

hurricanes 2010The 2010 Atlantic Hurricane Season ends next Wednesday. In May, NOAA forecast an “active to extremely active” season. Forecasters predicted 14-23 storms, with 8-14 hurricanes, 3-7  reaching Cat. 3. Well done. The National Hurricane Center named 19 storms, from Alex to Tomas. Only two names – Virginie and Walter – went unused. Of those, 12 reached hurricane strength. Five reached “major” (Cat. 3) status or higher - Danielle, Earl, Igor, Julia and Karl. Happily, none made direct landfall on the U.S. mainland.  

(NOAA: Left to right, 2010 hurricanes Karl, Igor and Julia) 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition
        

November 24, 2010

Where Thanksgiving began

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station in 2007 snapped this photo of Cape Cod, where the Pilgrims first stepped ashore in November 1620 and, on the west side of Cape Cod Bay, Plymouth harbor, where they established their colony.

Cape Cod and PlymouthTheir first landfall, if I recall correctly, was where Provincetown stands today, at the tip of Cape Cod. It would be a few more weeks before they happened on the harbor at Plymouth. They set up their little town near where Wampanoag Indians had once had a village. The native population had already been diminished by diseases brought by earlier explorers and fishermen.

The first Thanksgiving was held the following autumn, 1621, after a harrowing winter that killed off many of the settlers, and after reaping a successful harvest. Here's more on the image and the geology of the area.

At the far left-hand edge of this image, there's a gray smudge surrounding a small river. The river is the Acushnet, and the smudge on the west bank is New Bedford, Mass., still a major fishing port, where your weather blogger got his start in daily journalism. On the east bank are the towns of Fairhaven and Acushnet.

Have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving in the company of family and good friends. Cheers! 

(NASA PHOTO)  

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:37 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: History
        

Sleet possible N & W of city Thurs. morning

It won't last long, and it probably won't mess up your drive to Grandmother's house Thanksgiving morning. But holiday travelers should be aware that forecasters are calling for a period of sleet, and possibly some patches of freezing rain, north and west of the Baltimore-Washington corridor Sleetearly Thursday.

The sleet doesn't show up at all in the forecast for BWI-Marshall airport. There is rain in the forecast, beginning after 4 a.m. when the low temperature is expected to be around 35 degrees. Rain is likely to continue to be a factor into the morning. But the afternoon should just be cloudy, with highs in the mid-40s, if the forecast holds up.

But to the north and west, the precipitation may be icier. In Westminster, forecasters are calling for rain, "possibly mixed with sleet, beconming all rain after 9 a.m." The ground, and the streets, are still too warm for any of it to stick, or glaze. But it may catch your attention as you head out for Grandma's.

All of this comes about as the high pressure, cooler temperatures and sunshine we're enjoying Wednesday morning move off to the east and a warm front approaches from the south. That will bring more moisture into the picture, and we can expect high clouds to begin appearing from the west late today.

As that moisture hits the colder air to the north and west of the urban corridor, it's going to begin raining. And as that rain falls early Thursday morning, evaporational cooling may get temperatures low enough to our north and west to turn rain to ice as it falls, forecasters said.

The clouds will stick around after the precipitation ends, making it a gray and damp sort of Thanksgiving. But temperatures won't fall much as evening arrives and more warm air arrives from the south. Friday's high will reach the mid-50s early as the next cold front approaches with more rain chances. The front will slip by during the day Friday, opening the door to some much colder air from the Arctic as the day goes by.

Overnight lows Friday into Saturday may drop below freezing, rebounding only into the mid-40s on Saturday and Sunday. Sunshine will make it a nice weekend for shopping. Or loafing.

(SUN PHOTO: Karl Merton Ferron, March, 2007)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:21 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Winter weather
        

November 23, 2010

We could see 70 today before rain arrives

Unless the thickening clouds today keep temperatures in check, the thermometer at BWI-Marshall could threaten the 70-degree mark today. But the mild weather won't much last longer.

Moon over East BaltimoreForecasters are watching the approach of the next cold front, which is moving out of the Ohio Valley and due to pass through here late today. It could bring some showers, but it's also possible the rain will not make it past the Appalachian highlands.

In any case, there's colder air behind the front, and we won't see highs on Wednesday much beyond the 50-degree mark. Forecasters say skies will clear for a while, making the start of the holiday travel period on Wednesday and into Thursday pretty pleasant.

There's actually a warm front forecast to pass through our region early Thanksgiving morning. And, thanks to the perversity of weather, it could actually trigger some briefly frozen precipitation as it advances into the colder air to the north. Here's Eric the Red's take:

"This morning's run of the WRF [computer model] actually has a pronounced period of sleet north and west of Baltimore, which finally succumbs to just plain old rain by mid-day. Once the front lifts to our north, we should dry out for the remainder of Thanksgiving Day and warm up."Fall flower

But there's a second, stronger cold front due to approach our region. It's likely to bring us more rain late on Thursday into Friday, forecasters said. Once that front is past us, skies will clear and temperatures for your weekend shopping will drop. Expect highs in the mid-40s and overnight lows below freezing.

It looks like the really bad holiday weather will stay to our north and west. AccuWeather.com is talking about snow in central and eastern Pennsylvania on Thanksgiving day, making driving icy on I-80 east from State College, and on the Turnpike east of Breezewood. Lake effect snows on Saturday are expected on I-90 and I-81 in New York State, and on I-80 and on I-90 from Western New York to Ohio.

Then we can look forward to the next cold front and associated precipitation, due early next week. The students at Foot's Forecast don't seem to have anything nice to say about the weather from here on into winter.

(SUN PHOTOS: Frank Roylance)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:17 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts
        

November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving blizzard ... but not for us

Nothing like a late-autumn blizzard at Thanksgiving to spice up the weather and travel forecast. Fortunately for Marylanders, all the excitement, for now, is far to our north and west.

AccuWeather.comAccuWeather.com is watching the arctic air spill into the mountain Northwest, and predicting blizzard conditions across the Dakotas and eastward to Michigan at midweek. That system will begin to affect the Great Lakes and the Northeast later in the week, AccuWeather.com said:

"Cold winds will follow the storm throughout the Great Lakes region on Thanksgiving and the interior Northeast into the weekend. The cold air blowing over the relatively warm lake waters may trigger the biggest episode of lake-effect snow since last winter."

So, if your Thanksgiving plans take you to Erie, Pa., or Buffalo, or Cleveland, or other points north and west, go prepared for wintry conditions and problematic driving late in the week.

Here in Central Maryland we shouldn't have to contend with any of that for the moment. The National Weather Service says we can expect these balmy 65-degree days to continue through Tuesday. Then the first of two cold fronts will pass through. The first, on Tuesday, could be heralded by a narrow band of showers.

Wednesday will be cooler after the frontal passage - in the 50s. But it will be sunny as high AccuWeather.compressure builds in behind the front, and a fine day to travel if you must.

But that ridge of high pressure will move offshore pretty quickly, followed by another, stronger cold front out of the Ohio Valley. It may not get here until late on Thanksgiving Day, forecasters say. This one could bring some thunderstorms as it goes through. But we will only have to read about wintry weather to our north.

There's colder weather behind that front. Our weekend highs will stall out in the 40s with some gusty winds. But at least it will be sunny.

Beyond that, however, some forecasters are continuing to talk about the growing risk of some much colder, and perhaps snowy weather. While it won't get here during the long holiday weekend, as had once been feared, Eric the Red, at least, seems pretty confident that we'll be seeing some action early in December.

SNow Dec. 5, 2007Eric, a professional forecaster from Baltimore, is watching as a "massive blocking high" over Greenland continues to form. This is the feature that tends to force the northern jet stream to loop southward into the Northeast, bringing us much colder weather. Add a storm to the mix and we could see snow. Last winter's blizzards involved such blocking highs - also called a negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation. 

So, "the effects will not be immediate because there will be some combatting forces at play," Eric said. "Trust me on this: The blocking high will win this battle eventually ... it just might take a week."

Until that happens, he continues, "we'll be spared the full brunt of the arctic air that is poised to plunge south. But the models not only show the block holding on, they move it west into the jackpot-for-snow spot ... the Davis Strait [the narrow waterway betweeen Greenland and Baffin Island]... When the blocking highs move west and reach the Davis Strait, inevitably some sorta East Coast storm spins up ... sometimes too far offshore, but sometimes not (like last year). This particular high reaches the Davis Strait on or about Dec. 1. So the first week of December could get very, very interesting."

Snow on Dec. 5 again? Here's what Foot's Forecast has to say about the first days of December:

"December 4 - 8 in the along the east coast is the first period of potentially disturbing weather. Several long-range climate teleconnections that our team routine monitors continue to show strong signals this period may feature a particularly high-impact event along the eastern seaboard."

(SUN PHOTO: Glenn Fawcett, Dec. 5, 2007)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:51 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Winter weather
        

November 21, 2010

"Long Night Moon" also a "Blue Moon"

Full moon over BaltimoreFROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

The moon is full at 12:28 p.m. today, rising over Baltimore at 4:38 p.m. As the third full moon since the autumn equinox, this one’s called the Long Night Moon, or the Moon Before Yule.

But you could apply the same names to the next full moon, which occurs Dec. 21, just 15 hours BEFORE the winter solstice. As the third full moon in a rare season with four, this one fits the original definition for a “Blue Moon.”

Popular usage has since attached the label to the second full moon in one calendar month.

(SUN PHOTO: Karl Merton Ferron, 2004)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition
        

November 20, 2010

Brilliant Venus dominates eastern sky before dawn

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Venus/NASAEarly risers have begun asking me about that bright object they’re seeing in the eastern sky just before dawn as November moves toward a close. It’s the planet Venus, rising now a little before 5 a.m., well before the sun. It is near its maximum brightness next week and dominates everything in that part of the sky. But it’s not alone. Just to the right, and a little above Venus is the bright star Spica, in the constellation Virgo. And just above Venus and Spica is pale yellow Saturn.  

(NASA PHOTO: Venus)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition
        

November 19, 2010

Tornado radar loop released

The National Weather Service has released the radar loop images from Wednesday morning's storm, which included the brief EF-1 tornado that struck northwest Baltimore and Parkville.

Here's the link:  http://bit.ly/bALK4p  And here's a link to NWS photos and maps. http://www.erh.noaa.gov/er/lwx/events/svrwx_20101117/photos.php 

(PHOTO: National Weather Service)Baltimore tornado damage

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:28 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

Maryland averages 4.3 tornadoes a year

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Wednesday’s EF-1 tornado is the fifth in Baltimore City since 1973. The weather service’s tornado database lists a 1973 event rated an F-0 on the old Fujita Scale, the weakest rating. But eyewitnesses reported six different funnel clouds over the city that day. Two F-1 funnels touched down in 1994 and an F-0 in 1996. Maryland counted 209 tornadoes between 1950 and 1998, an average of 4.3 per year. The most recent (until this week) was an 80-mph, EF-0 twister in Anne Arundel County, on Sept. 30.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition
        

November 18, 2010

NE Baltimore windstorm ruled an EF-1 tornado

The National Weather Service concluded tonight that the violent windstorm that struck Northeast Baltimore and Parkville was an EF-1 tornado with top winds of 85 to 100 mph. Damage was tracked along a path five miles long, all done within the span of four minutes.

But the tornado was part of a more complex storm that included powerful straight-line winds, too. Those winds, in fact, caused most of the damage. The tornado was on the ground for less than a minute, the surveyors concluded. 

Here is the NWS report, published, as is their custom, in all capital letters:

"AFTER AN EXTENSIVE REVIEW OF NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE AND FEDERAL
AVIATION ADMINISTRATION WEATHER RADARS...GROUND OBSERVATIONS... AN
AERIAL SURVEY...AND EYEWITNESS ACCOUNTS...THE BALTIMORE/WASHINGTON
WEATHER FORECAST OFFICE OF THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE HAS
DETERMINED THAT A TORNADO ESTIMATED AT A CATEGORY 1 ON THE ENHANCED
FUJITA SCALE STRUCK NORTHEAST BALTIMORE DURING THE EARLY MORNING
HOURS OF WEDNESDAY NOVEMBER 17TH...WITH ESTIMATED WIND SPEEDS FROM 85
TO 100 MPH
."

"THE TORNADO WAS FORMED WITHIN A LINE OF THUNDERSTORMS WHICH SPANNED
FROM PENNSYLVANIA TO NORTH CAROLINA ON WEDNESDAY MORNING NOVEMBER
17TH.  THIS LINE OF THUNDERSTORMS WAS RACING TOWARDS THE NORTHEAST
AT 70 MPH AS IT CROSSED THE BALTIMORE/WASHINGTON REGION.  IT IS
HYPOTHESIZED THAT A STRONG DOWNBURST OF WIND...ALSO KNOWN AS A
REAR-INFLOW JET...DESCENDED FROM APPROXIMATELY ONE MILE HIGH IN THE
ATMOSPHERE DOWN TO THE GROUND...AND BECAME COINCIDENT WITH THE LINE
OF THUNDERSTORMS AS IT MOVED ACROSS THE CITY OF BALTIMORE.

"THIS STRONG DOWNBURST OF WIND CAUSED A BREAK IN THE LONG LINE
OF THUNDERSTORMS AND CREATED TWO SEPARATE THUNDERSTORM LINE
SEGMENTS.  THE STRONG DOWNBURST OF WIND CONTINUED TO MODIFY
THE THUNDERSTORMS...CREATING A SWIRLING WIND AT THE SOUTH END
OF THE NEWLY FORMED NORTHERN SEGMENT.  THE SWIRLING WIND IN
THIS TYPE OF THUNDERSTORM SYSTEM IS OFTEN REFERRED TO AS A
BOOKEND VORTEX...AND IT RESULTED IN THE GENERATION OF A BRIEF
EF-1 TORNADO.

"THE PATH OF WIND DAMAGE FROM THE THUNDERSTORMS THAT ALSO
PRODUCED THE BRIEF TORNADO STARTED ON THE WESTERN EDGE OF
MORGAN STATE UNIVERSITY IN NORTHEAST BALTIMORE CITY AND THEN
CONTINUED FOR APPROXIMATELY 5 MILES TO THE NORTHEAST TO
GUNPOWDER STATE PARK IN BALTIMORE COUNTY.  IT SHOULD BE NOTED THAT
THE VAST MAJORITY OF WIND DAMAGE ALONG THE 5 MILE LONG PATH WAS DUE
TO STRAIGHT LINE WINDS FROM THE DESCENDING REAR-INFLOW JET AS IT HIT
THE GROUND...REFERRED TO AS A MACROBURST. EMBEDDED WITHIN THE DAMAGE
PATH OF THIS MACROBURST WERE TWO AREAS OF DAMAGE THAT ARE ASSOCIATED
WITH THE EF-1 TORNADO.

"THE DAMAGE FROM THE EF-1 TORNADO WAS IN TWO SEPARATE AREAS A HALF
MILE APART.  THE FIRST AREA WAS ONE-TENTH OF A MILE LONG AND 175
YARDS WIDE THAT INCLUDED THE DUTCH VILLAGE APARTMENT COMPLEX. THREE
OF THE UNITS HAD THEIR ROOFS BLOWN OFF. THE ROOFS WERE NOT CLIPPED
TO THE STRUCTURES. THERE WAS EXTENSIVE TREE DAMAGE. SEVERAL CARS
WERE SHIFTED BY THE FORCE OF THE WIND. THE TORNADO LIFTED BRIEFLY.
THEN THE SECOND AREA... APPROXIMATELY A HALF MILE NORTH OF THE FIRST
AREA...WAS ONE-THIRD OF A MILE LONG AND 250 YARDS WIDE...CENTERED ON
THE PERRING PARKWAY SHOPPING CENTER IN PARKVILLE.  EVIDENCE OF THE
TORNADO INCLUDED RETAIL PROPERTY SURVEILLANCE CAMERAS WHICH SHOWED
DEBRIS BLOWING IN DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS...TREES AND LIGHT POLES
FALLING IN A CONVERGENT PATTERN...EYEWITNESS REPORTS...AND LEAF
SPATTER ON ALL FOUR SIDES OF AUTOMOBILES AND STRUCTURES.

"WITH THE SPEED OF THE STORMS MEASURED AT 70 MPH...ALONG WITH A
DAMAGE PATH OF 5 MILES FROM THE THUNDERSTORM...IT IS
DETERMINED THAT IT TOOK ONLY 4 MINUTES FOR THE MACROBURST TO
ACCOMPLISH ITS 5 MILE PATH OF DAMAGE.  WITHIN THIS 4 MINUTE
TIMEFRAME...THE EF-1 TORNADO WAS ON THE GROUND FOR LESS THAN 1
MINUTE.

"THE STORM PREDICTION CENTER IN NORMAN OKLAHOMA...IN CONJUNCTION
WITH THE BALTIMORE/WASHINGTON WEATHER FORECAST OFFICE...ISSUED
A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH FOR THE REGION AT 12:06 AM EST
WEDNESDAY.  A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH IS ISSUED WHEN
CONDITIONS ARE FAVORABLE FOR DAMAGING THUNDERSTORMS.  THIS
ADVANCE NOTIFICATION WAS APPROXIMATELY 90 MINUTES PRIOR TO
WHEN DAMAGE OCCURRED IN BALTIMORE CITY AND BALTIMORE COUNTY.

"THE BALTIMORE/WASHINGTON WEATHER FORECAST OFFICE ISSUED A
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING FOR BALTIMORE CITY AND COUNTY AT
1:04 AM EST WEDNESDAY MORNING.  A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING
IS ISSUED WHEN WINDS OF GREATER THAN 58 MPH ARE EXPECTED.
THIS WARNING PROVIDED APPROXIMATELY 32 MINUTES OF LEAD TIME
PRIOR TO WHEN THE DAMAGE OCCURRED IN BALTIMORE CITY AND
BALTIMORE COUNTY.

"RECEIVING LIFE SAVING WARNINGS AT NIGHT CAN BE ACHIEVED WITH A
NOAA WEATHER RADIO...WHICH CAN BE SET TO ALARM ONLY FOR LIFE
THREATENING WATCHES AND WARNINGS FOR YOUR PARTICULAR COUNTY.
FOR MORE INFORMATION...VISIT WWW.WEATHER.GOV/NWR

"THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE BALTIMORE/WASHINGTON WEATHER FORECAST
OFFICE WOULD LIKE TO THANK THE BALTIMORE COUNTY OFFICE OF HOMELAND
SECURITY AND EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT...THE BALTIMORE CITY MAYORS OFFICE
OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT...THE BALTIMORE COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT...
THE BALTIMORE CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT...AND THE MARYLAND EMERGENCY
MANAGEMENT AGENCY FOR THEIR ASSISTANCE IN THE SURVEY."
Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:22 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Tornadoes
        

Windstorm recalls 1973 tornado blocks away

News of the violent windstorm that struck neighborhoods in northeast Baltimore and Parkville early Wednesday caught the eye of Mark Adams, who recalled a similar storm that struck just a few blocks away in June 1973. Here's Mark:

"I lived with my parents on Loch Raven Blvd. in those days in a semi-detached house. I remember Wind damage Baltimorethis because we had adjoining neighbors, Max and Carol Haenel, who had the most discreet terrier I have ever known. I used to feed him when they were on vacation.

"The dog's name was Scruffer. This dog never barked. I thought he was mute. Max lived as a single man in an apt. before he married. He explained to me that dogs were prohibited in his old complex so he trained the dog to never bark.

"One day, the skies were getting strange as they do in Baltimore and old Scruffer started barking. It was the only time I heard him bark over a period of several years.  Later that night we watched the news reports of a tornado hitting Deanwood Road, near the old Loch Raven Kiwanis' pool. Scruffer was alerting us to the danger. My guess is the old tornado site is about 3,000 - 4,000 feet, as the crow flies, from the site of yesterday's damage."

Mark's memory is pretty good. I asked Sun librarian Paul McCardell to search our files for a storm matching Mark's description. The clip he found was a story published June 17, 1973. It describes a tornado that struck the Hillendale area of Baltimore County at about 5:45 p.m. on June 16.

"There was a brief moment of calm, followed by powerful winds and an intense rainfall," The Sun reported. "Many persons watched through windows of their homes in horror as trees fell and roofs were ripped apart."

"'I felt a little pressure and then I saw the roof disappear,' said Sam Flannery, 27, who lived on the top floor of the three-story Pelham Wood Apartments, at 33-35 Dowling Circle."Utility damage Baltimore

Dowling Circle is located about three-quarters of a mile north, and across the county/city line from Fleetwood Avenue, where some of the worst damage was done Wednesday morning. The Sun's account continued:

"Mr. Flannery, his wife and two friends were drinking beer after a round of golf when they heard wind rattling a chaise lounge on the balcony. Mr. Flannery said he looked out the window and saw what seemed to be the start of the twister."

"'I saw wind form a funnel 30 to 50 feet in diameter. It was swirling around,' he said. and everyone ran toward the bathroom for safety when the roof flew off."

The story goes on to relate that the entire roof was lost from the Pelham Woods apartment building, rendering 15 apartments unlivable and showering the neighborhood with debris. The power was out across the area. Two young men in a car on Loch Raven Boulevard near Dean Street found themselves airborne when the tornado struck. Their car flipped upside down and flew over the median.

"'The best way to describe it is the scene from 'Wizard of Oz' when Dorothy was knocked unconscious and everything was spinng,' said the passenger, William Doyle, 23, of the 5900 block of Yorkwood road.' Both men were treated for minor injuries at St. Joseph Hospital and released."

Windows were blown out as far as half a mile from the center of the destruction.Baltimore storm damage

"One witness said the funnel passed over his home about 100 to 200 feet in the air. 'There was lumber and all sorts of debris, and it suddenly just dropped everything over a two- or three-block area," The Sun reported.

Fire, Civil Defense and Red Cross personnel responded to search the area for injured victims and gas leaks and to provide assistance. In the end only two people were reported injured by the storm, the newspaper said. "In addition, a woman who arrived home to find the roof of her apartment gone and her son missing went into shock, officials said." Her son turned up safe and later joined his mother at the hospital.

A photo published with the article showed a long row of three-story apartment buildings on Dowling Circle, with heaps of broken roofing material in the yard. It could have been taken yesterday. 

(SUN PHOTOS: Bottom: Julie Scharper. Top two, tree downed and utility pole snapped on McLean Boulevard at Westfield, Frank Roylance)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:36 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Tornadoes
        

El Nino stoked our snow, Mexico's rain

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

February blizzard 2010Jeff Brauner, in Baltimore, recalls that while Baltimore got heavy snow last winter, western Mexico saw rare, heavy rain. He suspects something more than El Nino was at work in the Pacific: “What was that extra factor?” I’d argue that Mexico’s rains and our snowstorms were both fueled by El Nino, which shifts the sub-tropical jet stream, and sends its storms across northern Mexico, the Gulf and up the East Coast. A strongly negative North Atlantic Oscillation then provided the cold air needed here to turn the rains to major snowstorms.

(SUN PHOTO: Karl Merton Ferron, Feb. 10, 2010)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:00 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition
        

November 17, 2010

No decision tonight on "tornado"

Cars moved by winds in Baltimore 

The National Weather Service won't be making a determination until sometime Thursday on whether the wind storm that struck northeast Baltimore early Wednesday was a tornado. Here's the statement issued this evening:

"THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN STERLING VIRGINIA HAS COMPLETED
AN INITIAL GROUND DAMAGE SURVEY FROM MORGAN STATE UNIVERSITY TO
CARNEY IN THE BALTIMORE AREA. THIS AREA SUSTAINED DAMAGE DURING
THE EARLY MORNING HOURS OF WEDNESDAY NOVEMBER 17.

"THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IS AWAITING ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
AND IS CONTINUING ITS INVESTIGATION OF THE STORM DAMAGE. A FINAL
STORM SURVEY REPORT IS EXPECTED TO BE ISSUED ON THURSDAY."

Meteorologist Brandon Peloquin said the team that surveyed the damage Wednesday is waiting to review more photographs, and to match up the damage they saw to the radar signatures recorded as the storm passed through early Wednesday morning.

"They'll put everything together tomorrow, make a determination and send out a final [public information statement,] and give all the details," he said.

It was hard for a layman to determine on the ground Wednesday whether all the extensive damage we saw was caused by rotating or straight-line winds. But it was easy to see they must have been powerful winds. Some residential structures were completely de-roofed. Large trees were broken or knocked over. A large board was hurled through the air and pierced the roof of a house like an arrow. Parked cars had been lifted and moved into each other.

That's the kind of damage the Enhanced Fujita Scale looks for in EF-2 tornados, which pack winds of 111-135 mph.  I have no idea whether this was a tornado, but based on the Fujita criteria, the winds must have been blowing that hard. 

(SUN PHOTOS: Julie Scharper. Above: Cars moved by winds; Below: Homes de-roofed))

Homes de-roofed in Baltimore

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:25 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Tornadoes
        

Wind damage pictures

 

Photos of damage from this morning's severe storm are starting to roll in. Check them out here and share your own here.

An early morning storm damaged a fence at the Dutch Village townhouse complex. Baltimore Sun photo by Jed Kirschbaum.
Posted by Kim Walker at 11:06 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Tornadoes
        

80 mph severe storm hits Parkville area

storm.jpg

The National Weather Service is trying to determine whether the severe storm that felled trees and damaged homes in the Parkville area was in fact a tornado. The survey crew is on the scene to analyze the data and look for evidence -- the direction trees fell, for example -- and make a determination later today, he said.

Read continuing coverage here. 

Posted by Kim Walker at 10:20 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Tornadoes
        

November 16, 2010

Weather gloomy for Leonid meteor shower

The annual Leonid meteor shower is expected to peak in the hours before dawn Wednesday. But the weather forecast is pretty discouraging for those who might have been willing to get up before dawn (or stay up late tonight) to watch.

The Leonids occur every year around this time as the Earth, in its orbit around the sun, passesLeonid meteor/NASA through the dusty debris cast off by Comet Tempel-Tuttle during ITS orbit around the sun. As the planet plows through the dust, like a car through a swarm of bugs, the dust grains smack into the atmosphere, vaporizing and heating the gases until they light up in a bright trail.

The Leonids have a history of some spectacular "storm" years, with hundreds of meteors per hour as the Earth moves through some especially thick clouds of comet dust. But this is not expected to be one of those years. Counts are likely to be average, around 20 an hour in dark (and clear) locations.

It would have been a pretty good year for this shower, with the waxing moon setting several hours before the peak hours before dawn. But the forecast calls for rain showers and possibly some thunderstorms overnight.

There's some chance skies could clear in time; the forecast for Wednesday has improved, calling for mostly sunny skies eventually. But it will pay to check the sky before you throw on your clothes to go out and watch.

If we do get lucky, look for a dark place to watch the show. Urban light pollution will wash out all bu the brightest meteors. The meteors will appear to radiate away from the constellation Leo (the direction of the Earth's current motion along its orbit), high over head in the hours before dawn. So you can spread out on the grass or stretch out on a lounge chair and look in just about any part of the sky.

And, while Wednesday morning is the peak, there may well be more straggling Leonids to see on Thursday morning. Same instructions. Doubtful forecast.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:29 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

More rain tonight, windy Wednesday

This morning's showers and sprinkles will shift into higher gear this afternoon as the storm moves up the Appalachians, and the rain becomes heavier and more widespread. Forecasters out at Sterling say there could be a few thunderstorms east of the mountains, but none is expected to be severe.

East southeast winds will keep the bay water from draining south, raising the risk of minor coastal flooding on the Western Shore during the afternoon or evening high tides.

We've recorded almost 0.2 inch of rain so far here at Calvert and Centre Streets. Forecasters say we could see as much as an inch before this all blows over. Here are some other overnight measurements from around the area, thanks to the CoCoRaHS network:

Takoma Park:  0.28 inchMt. Vernon in rain

Odenton:  0.26 inch

BWI-Marshall:  0.23 inch 

Severn:  0.20

Towson:  0.18 inch

Jacksonville:  0.17 inch

Ellicott City:  0.17 inch

Columbia:  0.15 inch

Belair:  0.10 inch

Reisterstown:  0.09 inch

As the storm accelerates into southern Canada early Wednesday, our rain will end. Winds will pick up as the cold front moves through behind the storm. Forecasters expect northwest winds with gusts to 20 and 30 mph Wednesday. Gale-force winds are possible on the Chesapeake. This wind will likely end much of the fall color display for our region.

A clipper system moving in Thursday afternoon could drop some rain and snow showers in higher elevations to our west, but forecasters say we should see only broken clouds and colder temperatures, with lows in the 30s again by Friday and Saturday nights.

(SUN PHOTO: Mount Vernon in rain, Frank Roylance)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:36 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

November 15, 2010

Wintry, or just cold and damp for Thanksgiving?

If this forecast proves accurate, you read it here first. If not, forget I even mentioned it.

Forecasters are beginning to talk about a surge of arctic air into the mid-Atlantic states next week. Just add water and you could have some unpleasant weather for the holiday week, especially if you're traveling north and west of the mid-Atlantic states.

It's still a week away, and things can change, of course. But here's what's being tossed out there at the moment.

Eric the Red, a professional forecaster from Baltimore who has been a wintertime contributor here NWS 8-14-day temperature forecastsince last winter's blizzards, sees a negative shift setting up in the North Atlantic Oscillation. It's a pattern of barometric pressure in the Atlantic that can bring cold air into the Northeast. If a nice, wet coastal storm happens by during one of these shifts to a negative NAO, it can produce snow.

Here's what Eric said earlier today:

"Last winter, I went on and on and on and on and on and on... about the "blocking high" over the northern Atlantic (negative phase of the NAO) and the slam-dunk cold weather that accompanied it.  Well, we got it comin' again. 

"Models show a very strong blocking high beginning to develop over the northern Atlantic during the latter half of the upcoming weekend, and then have it moving slowly west toward the Davis Straight next week ... If this plays out the way it is depicted, arctic air that is bottled up in Canada would begin to push south and east.. and reach the Mid-Atlantic next Weds or Thurs (Thanksgiving), and then set up shop for a spell.

"The million dollar question is whether we'll see any storms developing in the southern branch of the jet stream, and it's way too early to get into that at this time. So, our first taste of winter is still a week or so away, but we could go from late-spring to mid-winter temperatures rather rapidly just in time for the Holiday."

The National Weather Service's 8- to 14-day outlook predicts colder-than-average temperatures moving into the region from the northwest (blue on the map), and above-average precipitation chances just to our north and west. Maybe that's just a recipe for a cold rain.

Here's what AccuWeather.com is saying. "We are watching the weekend after Thanksgiving for a potential snowstorm in the Northeast, but right now, it is a little early to tell if it is coming or not."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:47 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts
        

"Amazing" mid-Nov. weather pauses for rain

Forecasters at the National Weather Service forecast office in Sterling said it clearly enough this morning: "Our stretch of amazing mid-November weather finally comes to an end tonight."

Sun ginkgosMore than a week of dry skies, with highs in the 60s, ended this morning with morning fog, and the promise of rain for the next couple of days. Dense fog on the Eastern Shore - not uncommon in the fall - caused school delays in several counties. And here on the Western Shore, we're stuck with our own share of patchy morning fog and gray skies.

The cause is the approach of a cold front, and the arrival of increasing moisture from the south and west to replace the very dry air and high pressure that has dominated our weather for so long. That has raised dew points, hence the fog and clouds. 

The front is now somewhere in Western Maryland, where some locations are seeing light rain. We may break through to some blue sky today before the front and the rain finally reach us early Tuesday. It will arrive along with a storm brewing today in the Gulf Coast states.

Forecasters aren't entirely sure yet where its track will take it. Some computer models send it east of the Appalachians, and off the coast to Cape Cod. Others (apparently more likely) send it north from the Gulf and west of the mountains, then down the St. Lawrence River.

Either way, though, we're likely to see rain late Tuesday into Wednesday. Forecasters at Sterling are describing it as light to moderate, with gusty winds, especially over the bay. Rain totals could top an inch in some locations. 

Behind that we should see winds pick up from the northwest at mid-week, bringing drier air, higher pressure, cooler temperatures and perhaps some flakey stuff in the western mountains. The weekend looks sunny, with highs in the mid-50s. 

(SUN PHOTO: Frank Roylance, The Sun's ginkgos, from the newsroom)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:25 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

November 14, 2010

Space Station over Baltimore tonight

ISS/NASAFROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Space Cadets! Clear skies tonight should give us a great view of the International Space Station as it cruises directly over Baltimore just before dinner. Look for a bright, star-like object rising above the northwest horizon at 5:45 p.m. EST as the ISS passes over Lake Michigan.

Zipping along at 17,500 mph, it will pass over Baltimore at 5:48, close to the bright star Deneb, in the constellation Cygnus, the Swan. From there, it races southeast over Ocean City and out to sea, disappearing at 5:51 p.m.

(NASA PHOTO)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:00 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition
        

November 13, 2010

Can you recall B'more's "Winter Without Snow"?

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Snow BaltimoreA few wintry nuggets from NWS meteorologist Jared Klein’s latest dive into Baltimore’s record books: The average season’s snowfall from 1971-2000 was 18.2 inches. Last year was Baltimore’s snowiest, with 77 inches, but the “Winter Without Snow” was 1949-50, with only 0.7 inch. Last February was the snowiest month since 1892 (50”), followed by February 2003 (40.5”). On average, we get an inch or more of snow on 5.8 days per year. We see a 6-inch storm four times in five years, and a foot or more once in six years.

(SUN PHOTO: Jerry Jackson Feb. 10, 2010)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition
        

November 12, 2010

More dry weather; NE winds bring minor flooding

Skin drying out? It's no wonder. We're looking at 26 percent relative humidity (and dropping) here at The Sun's weather station as high pressure continues to dominate our weather.

It's beautiful, of course. Sunny skies are forecast to continue here right through Saturday, and Sunday should still be mostly sunny even as moisture begins to work its way into the region from the southwest. High temperatures will remain 5 to 10 degrees above the norms for this time of year - in the low 60s, rising to the mid- to upper-60s by Sunday.

But there are a couple of flies in the soup. First are the persistent northeast winds, which have been pushing the Chesapeake's waters onto the Western Shore of Maryland. The National Weather Service has issued a Coastal Flood Advisory for the counties on Central Maryland's bay shore. High tides could run as much as two feet above predicted levels, causing some minor flooding.

HERE ARE THE TIMES OF THE NEXT HIGH TIDES
FOR A FEW LOCATIONS FROM NORTH TO SOUTH...
ON THE CHESAPEAKE BAY...

Ginkgo trees BaltimoreHAVRE DE GRACE...2:04 PM AND 2:51 AM...
BOWLEY BAR...11:43 AM AND 12:29 AM...
FORT MCHENRY BALTIMORE...10:51 AM AND 11:38 PM...
ANNAPOLIS U.S. NAVAL ACADEMY...9:21 AM AND 10:08 PM...
CHESAPEAKE BEACH...8:04 AM AND 8:51 PM...
SOLOMONS ISLAND...7:00 PM AND 7:13 AM...
POINT LOOKOUT...6:10 PM AND 6:23 AM...

Then there is the longer-range forecast, which calls for a cold front to approach from the west by late Sunday and stall to our west. Then, forecasters expect a low to form along the Gulf Coast and travel up the front, bringing us an 80 percent chance for rain by sometime on Tuesday.

(SUN PHOTO: The Sun's ginkgo grove, Frank Roylance)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:49 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Double-digit snow is rare here in La Nina winters

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:Blizzard 1996

If forecasters are right, and we’re entering a moderate to strong La Nina winter, the statistics suggest we should expect above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation in Central Maryland from December through February. Seasonal snow totals at Baltimore in strong La Nina years since 1950 have averaged in the low teens. Other forces can change the script. But we’ve had only two double-digit La Nina surprises, says NWS meteorologist Jared Klein: a 22-inch blizzard on Jan. 6-8, 1996, and a 15-inch storm Jan. 25, 2000.  

(SUN PHOTO: Kenneth K. Lam, Jan. 8, 1996)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Winter weather
        

November 11, 2010

Mystery aircraft over Reisterstown

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:NOAA Altair

Doug Warner, in Reisterstown says.This summer/fall I have seen a drone-type aircraft fly over the area west to east. They’re a shiny silver color with a pusher engine. Any idea where they’re from and where they’re going?AAI Corp. in Hunt Valley, makes several unmanned aerial vehicles for the military and NOAA. But AAI says UAVs are not allowed in civilian airspace. Other possibilities? There are one-man ultra-lights with pusher motors. And some radio-controlled models are nearly as big as some military drones.

(NOAA photo)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:00 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

November 10, 2010

New from Sterling: Top B'more snowstorms

Last year's blizzards buried Baltimore. But the storms also exposed problems with the way the Baltimore-Washington Forecast Office in Sterling, Va. was measuring, classifying and ranking snowstorms for the region.

They have since worked through the problems, revisited the data, and posted a new system of ranking the biggest storms. All three of last winter's blizzards made the top 10 for two-day storms in Baltimore.

Let us know what you think of the new rankings.

While we're at it, here's more on how Maryland has fared in past La Nina Winters like the one we're heading into this year. Forecasters say they're expecting a "moderate to strong" La Nina to prevail in the Pacific this winter. 

Baltimore

Top Ten 1-, 2- and 3-Day Snowfall Totals (inches) on Record at Baltimore, MD

(Snowfall record dates back to 1892)
 
3-Day
Date
2-Day
Date
1-Day
Date
1)
26.8
26.3
23.3
2)
26.6
25.0
22.8
3)
26.5
24.4
21.9
4)
21.3
22.5
21.8
5)
12.0
22.0
17.0
6)
10.8
20.3
16.4
7)
10.5
20.0
16.0
8)
10.5
19.5
15.8
9)
10.3
18.0
15.5
10)
10.1
15.5
15.5
Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:51 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: By the numbers
        

Sunny skies, starry nights, lovely moon

Can't think of much to say about the weather this week in Central Maryland. There's nothing but sunshine in the forecast until early next week. That stubborn storm spinning off the New England coast has sent a few clouds across our skies this morning. But with high pressure dominating, we're not likely to hear any complaints.

NASA Images EarthshineIn addition to the warm sunshine and blue skies, we're enjoying really clear, starry nights this week, too. If you missed Tuesday evening's slim crescent moon, you missed a beautiful sight. Just three days past "new," the moon was a Cheshire Cat's smile in the southwest around dinnertime.

And if you looked closely, you could see the faint glow of "Earthshine" on the portion of the moon's disk that was not catching direct sunlight. Earthshine occurs during the first days after a new moon, when sunlight reflected off the Earth illuminates - faintly - the portion of the moon in shadow. 

Think of it: Light from the sun streams across the 93-million-mile gulf between the sun and Earth, bounces off the day side of the planet, back across 240,000 miles to the "night" side of the moon, then back again to our eyes. And we see Earthshine. 

Pretty cool.

Anyway, it's a great week to spend some time outdoors in the evening. There's the moon, maybe some Earthshine for another day or two, Jupiter - still a gleaming beacon high in the south in the evening - and loads of stars.

Take the kids outside with you. Mine are all grown up but they still notice things in the night sky. My daughter texted me last evening to tell me about the crescent moon. Drop back here and share what you're seeing with the rest of our readers. Maybe it will get some of them off their Barca-Loungers and outdoors under the night sky.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:33 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

November 9, 2010

Volcanic ash cuts short Obama visit

 Merapi ashfall

Worries that volcanic ash drifting across Indonesia might ground Air Force One have forced President Obama to cut short his visit to the Indonesian capital of Jakarta today. His departure was moved up by two hours.

Images of the ash leave no doubt that this is a serious eruption. It has killed 130 people and forced 300,000 more to flee. Airline schedules in the region have been disrupted by cancellations. Airborne ash sucked into jet engines can cause damage and shut them down.  

(PHOTOS: Reuters) 

Merapi ashfall

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:40 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Phenomena
        

Mystery missile launch off L.A.

There's no official word yet from the Pentagon, but people in L.A. are talking about what looked like an offshore missile launch - perhaps from a submerged submarine - Monday evening around sunset.

A show of force during President Obama's Asia trip, perhaps? Whatever it was, it made for some spectacular video:

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:05 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Phenomena
        

Recovery helped boost electric demand

It wasn't our record-setting heat alone that explains the region's all-time peak in demand for electrical power this summer.

The PJM Interconnection, the outfit that manages the production and distribution of power across the grid in Maryland, parts of 12 other states and the District of Columbia, said that after adjusting for the record heat, a reviving economy added another 1 percent to the jump in highest electrical demand.

"It may seem like a small increase, but it's consistent with expected effects of economic recovery," saidSummer heat Baltimore Michael J. Kormos, PJM's senior vice-president for operations. "It's also a significant change from the reduction in peak demand experienced in 2009, and is the largest increase in weather-adjusted peak demand since 2006 when we recorded our all-time peak."

Peak demand is defined as the maximum demand over one hour. It's the mark that power production facilities must be built to supply, and it is typically reached in summer because of the region's demand for air conditioning.

The Summer of 2010 saw a record-high peak in electric demand across the PJM region, reaching 203.7 million megawatts. That broke the previous record of 203.4 million megawatts, set in 2005. It was 37 percent higher than the average summer peak. 

It was the hottest summer on record for Baltimore, averaging 79.3 degrees for the months of June, July and August. That broke the previous record of 79.1 degrees, set in 1943. The city also suffered a record 59 days of 90-degree weather in 2010, and tied the record for the number of 100-degree days (7). 

(SUN PHOTO: Lloyd Fox, July 22, 2010)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:47 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: By the numbers
        

November 8, 2010

Tomas spares Haiti, but cholera still a threat

Hurricane Tomas passed to the west of the crowded Haitian capital Port au Prince over the weekend, mostly sparing the vulnerable earthquake resettlement camps. But local and international authorities continue to worry about the effects of heavy rains on the still-smolderingTomas flooding Haiti cholera outbreak.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said the center of Hurricane Tomas passed through the Windward Passage between Haiti and Cuba, keeping its most intense winds focused on the westernmost regions of Haiti. It has since moved north and east into the open Atlantic and merged with larger weather systems, losing its tropical characteristics.

The Haitian government reported eight storm-related fatalities, and thousands of people displaced by flooding.

Cholera has killed more than 500 people in Haiti in recent weeks, and sickened more than 7,700. Storm-caused rains and flooding could help spread the bacteria and lead to more infections. Cholera spreads when contaminated water gets into food and water supplies. Severe diarrhea and vomiting can lead to dehydration, organ failure and death within hours.

(PHOTO: Thony Belizaire, AFP/Getty Images)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:16 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

A sunny week ahead, highs near 60

The coastal storm that is pounding New England today could throw some clouds our way as the counter-clockwise circulation around the center pulls moisture down from the north, around the Flowers and sunshinewest side of the storm. But otherwise the mid-Atlantic states are looking at sunny skies and seasonable temperatures right through the weekend.

The forecast from the NWS in Sterling, Va. calls for highs at BWI-Marshall to be in the upper 50s to near 60 degrees all week, with overnight lows in the upper 30s or low 40s.

But with the coastal low, and a high-pressure system to our north and west, we will be in the chute for stiff winds until Wednesday. Forecasters say sustained winds will run 15 to 20 mph, with gusts to 25. Humidities are falling, too, but fuel moisture is said to be enough to keep us out of any wildfire danger. There are small craft advisories up, however, for the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake, and for the tidal Potomac River.

There are no mentions of rain anywhere in the 7-day forecast.

(SUN PHOTO: Frank Roylance)

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

UV reflectors seem to be cutting fatal bird strikes

The accumulation or avian carcasses this fall on The Baltimore Sun's pedestrian bridge over Centre Street seems to be way down.

Sun bridgeIn years past, as many as a dozen birds would die each autumn in collisions with the bridge's glass walls. Their feathery bodies would lie on the ledges for months until maintenance personnel could get out there to scoop them up. It made for a pretty ghastly stroll into work from the parking garage each morning

Some of the birds would not die right away, and we would watch as the stunned and broken songbirds slowly expired. It's likely more fell to the street and never got counted. Others may have been temporarily stunned, and eventually flew off. 

Apparently, the critters simply cannot see the glass. They see the bridge and its (interior) railings as a place to rest. Or, perhaps they see The Sun's grove of ginkgo trees through the glass and try to fly through for a rest in the branches. 

When the problem was brought to The Sun's managers, they responded by purchasing ultraviolet-reflective decals. When applied to the glass, the manufacturers said, the stickers would alert the birds to the presence of the glass, and they would veer away.Sapsucker fatality

So far, so good. Most of last year's fatal collisions occurred in October, during the fall migrations. By the end of that month, we were approaching 10, if I recall correctly. This year, through the first week of November, we can count only three fatal collisions. One actually occurred late in the summer - a white dove or pigeon with a blue band. A second - a sapsucker (photo), I suspect - died early in the autumn. A sparrow fell late in October.

But, so far at least, that's it. It seems as though the application of the UV decals has saved a few of the millions of birds that die in collisions with buildings each year. Our thanks to The Sun managers and maintenance employees who made it happen.

I'm told the Wisconsin Humane Society is selling window decals. You can even build your place with bird-safe glass, if you can afford it.

(SUN PHOTOS: Frank Roylance)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:26 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Phenomena
        

November 7, 2010

Poor Md.: four NWS forecast offices, none here

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

NWS Sterling forecast office 1996The predictions for 3 to 5 inches of snow in Garrett County this weekend came from the NWS forecast office in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Tiny Maryland has been chopped into four regions by the weather service, and all four get their forecasts from out-of-state. Garrett County’s come from meteorologists in Pittsburgh. Counties from Allegany to the Chesapeake get theirs from Sterling, Va. The Upper Shore counties are served from offices in Mt. Holly, N.J. Predictions for the Lower Shore come from Wakefield, Va.  

(SUN PHOTO: Barbara Haddock Taylor, Sterling forecasters in 1996)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition
        

November 6, 2010

Morning's a little brighter on Standard Time

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

ClockIt’s that time again – time to turn your clocks back an hour and capture a little more morning daylight under Eastern Standard Time. The switch occurs at 2 a.m. Sunday, giving us an extra hour’s sleep. But it also means we repeat the 1 o’clock hour.

Ever wonder how officials deal with important things that happen between 1 and 2 a.m., like crimes? “Honest, officer! I was home in bed at 1:15,” says I. “Sure you were, Frankie,” growls Officer Krupke. “Daylight or Standard?”  

(SUN PHOTO: Robert K. Hamilton, 2004)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition
        

November 5, 2010

2 to 5 inches of snow due in W. Maryland tonight

Here's how the National Weather Services put it. Need I say more? (Garrett County is also included in a similar advisory issued by the Pittsburgh forecast office.)

Here's a look at conditions on I-68 at Keyser's Ridge. Welcome to Winter, Maryland!

NWS SnowEXTREME WESTERN ALLEGANY-HIGHLAND-PENDLETON-WESTERN GRANT-
WESTERN MINERAL-
INCLUDING THE CITIES OF...FROSTBURG...FRANKLIN...BAYARD...
MOUNT STORM...ELK GARDEN
1009 AM EDT FRI NOV 5 2010WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY NOW IN EFFECT UNTIL 1 AM EDT
SATURDAY...

THE WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY IS NOW IN EFFECT UNTIL 1 AM EDT
SATURDAY.

* PRECIPITATION TYPE: SNOW.

* ACCUMULATIONS: 2 TO 5 INCHES.

* TIMING: SNOW SHOWERS INCREASE IN COVERAGE THROUGH THE MORNING
  FRIDAY. RAIN MAY MIX WITH SNOW AT ELEVATIONS BELOW 2500 FT
  FRIDAY AFTERNOON. SNOW SHOWERS WILL CONTINUE THROUGH SATURDAY
  MORNING BEFORE TAPERING OFF SATURDAY AFTERNOON.

* TEMPERATURES: LOW 30S.

* WINDS: NORTHWEST WINDS OF 10 TO 15 MPH WITH GUSTS TO AROUND 25
  MPH.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

A WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY MEANS THAT PERIODS OF SNOW...SLEET...OR
FREEZING RAIN WILL CAUSE TRAVEL DIFFICULTIES. BE PREPARED FOR
SLIPPERY ROADS AND LIMITED VISIBILITIES...AND USE CAUTION WHILE
DRIVING.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:29 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Winter weather
        

Verizon weather line temps unreliable

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS: 

Squirt thermometerSue Baker, in Cockeysville, likes to check temperatures on Verizon’s weather line (410 WE6-1212). She got used to BWI being 10 degrees cooler than downtown Baltimore.

Now, it’s more like 20 degrees, she says. “What has made the difference?

No idea. Those readings have been unreliable for years. At noon Monday, Verizon reported 35 degrees at BWI (accurate for 6 a.m.), and 53 downtown (as usual, too warm). The NWS reported 48 at the airport, 49 downtown.

Verizon’s looking into it.

(SUN PHOTO: Amy Davis, 2002)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:00 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition
        

November 4, 2010

Haiti facing hurricane conditions, 5-10 inches of rain

Haiti is under a Hurricane Warning today as Tropical Storm Tomas continues its slow turn in the Caribbean toward the vulnerable island nation. The warning means hurricane conditions - winds of 73 mph or more - are expected somewhere in the warned area late tonight or early Friday. Forecasters have also warned the island to expect a 1- to 3-foot storm surge with "large and destructive waves," and 5 to 10 inches of rain.

At a press briefing this afternoon, National Hurricane Center Diretcor Bill Read said the hurricane-force winds should be limited to Haiti's exposed beaches, and mainly in the form of gusts. The rest of the country will see mostly tropical-storm-force winds, of 39 to 73 mph.

"The predominant threat is the heavy rains," he said, with amounts as high as 15 inches in isolated areas. "Even a five-inch rain can cause significant flash flooding and mudslides throughout the area there."

The wind and rain may find more than a million Haitians in vulnerable tent camps, where they have taken shelter after being displaced from their homes by last January's devastating earthquake.Haiti waits for Tomas The island has also been grappling with an outbreak of cholera outside of the capital Port au Prince. The disease has killed 492 people and sickened thousands.

The World Health Organization has said the epidemic is not over, and that the country should prepare for it to spread into the crowded capital. 

Phil Gelman, the USAID"s Disaster Assistance Response Team Leader in Haiti, said aid agencies have been prepositioning emergency supplies for Haitians and assembling their own supplies to see them through the storm.

The World Meteorological Organization has also been advising Haitians, in French, to get out of vulnerable, low-lying locations and move into sturdier structures. He said surveys in the camps indicated "a lot of people" said they  do have places to go. But he declined to guess how many will be riding out the storm in the open.

Gelman said efforts have been underway to clear drainage canals and "shore up hillsides" in advance of the storm "in an attempt to reduce the vulnerability of these informal settlements.".

Hurricane Warnings have also been posted today for the province of Guantanamo, in Cuba, the southeastern Bahamas, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Tropical Storm Warnings are posted for Jamaica and two other eastern provinces in Cuba. A Tropical Storm Watch is up for the south coast of the Dominican Republic, just east of Haiti on the two countries' shared island of Hispaniola.

NHC/NOAAThe National Hurricane Center said the storm was centered 295 miles west southwest of Port au Prince, moving to the north at 8 mph with top sustained winds of 50 mph. The latest forecast track would take the storm's center between Haiti and Cuba. But that would also place its strongest winds and rains on the east side of the Windward Passage - on Haiti. 

Haitian authorities have urged people to seek safer shelter, and closed schools to reopen them as shelters. But there is little shelter to be had for hundreds of thousands of camp residents. Some have refused to leave without a guarantee of finding a safe shelter. In other parts of the impoverished country, people are living in flimsy homes, along dangerous, flood-prone rivers and on easily eroded hillsides. 

Aid agencies were rushing in emergency supplies, and the U.S. has sent an amphibious ship to the area with 10 helicopters and medical and engineering teams. Read more in the Haitian Times, here.

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

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:40 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Comet Hartley 2 looks like a peanut

Comet Hartley 2 EPOXI

The Maryland-led EPOXI mission to Comet Hartley 2 has downloaded the first close-up images of the comet's icy nucleus, and the 4-billion-year-old object looks pretty much like a peanut. Or maybe a bowling pin.

Snapped just after 10 a.m. EDT Thursday, the photos were downloaded from the spacecraft about an hour later and displayed for mission managers at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Comet Hartley 2California.

The first photos were greeted by shouts, applause and handshakes all around. The project's principle investigator - UM College Park astronomer Michael A'Hearn - and the comet's discoverer, Malcolm Hartley, were both on hand.

The icy comet nucleus, about 1.2 miles long, can be seen in the images, tossing off gas and dust from its sunlit end. The outgassing can also be seen at other locations, even the night side. That's been seen before at other comets, but this is "by far the clearest demonstration of that fact," A'Hearn said.

Hartley 2 "probably loses a meter to a meter-and-a-half everywhere on the surface every time it comes near the sun," he said. At that rate, "it probably won't be around very long."

Scientists said the gas jets are primarily carbon dioxide, with less water in the mix than other comets have displayed. Earlier observations also found millions of tons of hydrogen cyanide gas were also being released. And as the gases escape, they drag out dust grains that make the comet easier to see in telescopes.

A'Hearn said that, to a person standing on the comet, the jets would be less forceful than a firehose. "You would feel it, but it's probably not enough to lift you off the surface," despite the comet's weak gravity, he said.

"Every time we go to [a comet] they are full of surprises," said A'Hearn. "The big differences between them have sort of surprised us ... There must be some fundamental differences in the way they work."

"That could mean they formed in different ways, or they came from different parts of the early solar system," he said. "Or, it could be they evolved very differently.'"

Scientists will try to use the differences they see to better understand how the solar system formed, and what materials and physical conditions prevailed in different places.

"Comets are incredibly important," said Edward Weiler, associate NASA administrator for science. "We know that, way back in ancient history just after the Earth formed, the inner solar system was bombarded with comets."

Many people think the water on Earth, and perhaps the organic compounds that formed the building blocks of living organisms may have originated in comets, he said.

The mission to Hartley 2, and the capture of thousands of photos and other data, constituted the "exploration phase" of the mission, Weiler said. "Now we have the fun part. We have to do the science."

The spacecraft is expected to send back a total of 120,000 images. "Sorting it all out ... will take years."

You can read more about the flyby here. The NASA EPOXI web site is here. The University of Maryland site is here.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:33 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

NWS plans fewer winter weather alerts in Allegany

Hardy Allegany County residents just seem to deal with wintry weather without paying much attention to the stuff, much less caring about how the weather forecasters choose to define it.Snow in Frostburg

But the National Weather Service is acknowledging the frequency of bad winter weather in Western Maryland's mountain stronghold by requiring slightly more dire forecasts before they'll issue winter weather watches and warnings. The change puts the county into the same class as Garrett County just to the west.

Until now, the forecast for Allegany County - and for the rest of Maryland east of there - had to call for 2 inches of snow in 12 hours before the folks in Sterling would issue a Winter Weather Advisory. As of 10 a.m. Thursday, the criterion for Allegany (also Grant, Mineral and Pendleton counties in W. Va., and Highland County in Va.) will be 3 inches in 12 hours.

Similarly, the threshold for a Winter Storm Watch will be a 50 percent chance of seeing 6 inches over 12 hours (instead of 5), or 8 inches over 24 hours (instead of 7). An 80 percent chance would trigger a Winter Storm Warning.

Chris Strong, the warning coordination meteorologist at Sterling, said the thresholds are being upped "due to the higher annual snowfall (and Snow chancefrequency of snowfall) out there, their ability to tolerate light snowfall better, and local government wishes. They haven't seen a climatological increase in snowfall there over the past several years, but this criteria should better fit what constitutes a nuisance and a life threatening event out there."

And it's come just in time. Frostburg is expecting accumulating snow this weekend.

(SUN PHOTO: Doug Kapustin, Frostburg, Oct. 25, 2005)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:13 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Winter weather
        

October was mild; November can bring snow

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS: 

November snowOctober at BWI-Marshall ended 2.2 degrees warmer than average, our eighth such month in a row. Temperatures ranged from 85 on the 11th to 35 on the 30th. Rainfall totaled 2.95 inches, a little below the norm.

In November, our average highs slip from 61 to 51 degrees, and average lows fall from 38 to 31. Freezing nights become the norm. Average snowfall is a measly 0.6 inch, but we’ve had some significant storms – most recently the 6-inch Veteran’s Day Storm, Nov. 11, 1987. 

(SUN PHOTO: Gene A. Sweeney, Jr. Nov. 29, 1995) 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition
        

November 3, 2010

Tomas perks up; Haiti warned

Waiting for TomasAs predicted, Tomas is a tropical storm again, with top sustained winds of 45 mph. For a time earlier today, its disorganization caused some weakening, and it was demoted to a tropical depression. But the storm has revived this afternoon, and a tropical Storm Warning and Hurricane Watch have been issued for Haiti.

More than a million Haitians displaced by January's earthquake remain vulnerable to the elements under tents and tarps in crowded displacement camps.

Tropical Storm Watches are also up now for eastern Cuba, including Guantanamo Bay, the south coast of the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and the southeastern Bahamas.

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center say Tomas was located 300 miles south southwest of Port au Prince, moving to the north northwest at 6 mph. It is expected to continue a turn to the northeast, passing over Haiti as a tropical storm on Friday. The Hurricane Center said:

"REPORTS FROM AN AIR FORCE RESERVE HURRICANE HUNTER AIRCRAFT INDICATE
THAT MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS HAVE INCREASED TO NEAR 45 MPH...75
KM/HR...WITH HIGHER GUSTS.  ADDITIONAL STRENGTHENING IS FORECAST
DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS...AND TOMAS COULD BE APPROACHING HURRICANE
STRENGTH AS THE CENTER NEARS HAITI."

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

(PHOTO: AFP Getty Images, Thony Belizaire)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:33 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Rainy day Thursday; sunny, cold for weekend

Low pressure approaching from the west, and a coastal storm off the Carolinas will combine to bring us a rainy day Thursday in Maryland. Once the bad weather moves off, Saturday and Sunday should clear off, but with below-average temperatures and a cold northwest wind for Sunday's rainy day geeseRavens game.

We should begin to see our blue skies fade to gray late today as clouds thicken. The rain is forecast to move in overnight, spreading across the state from the south and west by midnight. The folks in Sterling are predicting up to a quarter inch by morning, and another quarter- to a half-inch during the day Thursday, and a bit more before it ends Thursday evening along the I-95 corridor.

Behind the storm the air will be colder, with Saturday's high struggling to reach 50 degrees. Showers and snow showers may accompany the northwest winds in the western counties late Friday, with "minor" accumulations.

The weekend should see the skies clear, especially east of the mountains. But temperatures will stay cool, and stiff northwest winds will make it seem colder. The average highs for BWI-Marshall at this time of year are around 60 degrees. But Baltimore will be stuck near 50 degrees this weekend. We won't get back to "normal" until the new workweek begins.

Going to the Ravens game Sunday? Dress for 50 degrees and windy. Staying home? Great day for sitting by the fire with the newspaper.

(SUN PHOTO: Jed Kirschbaum, 2010)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:08 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Tomas weakens, but may still regain strength

A disorganized Tropical Storm Tomas weakened to a mere tropical depression overnight. Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami predict the storm will recover and reach hurricane strength again before reaching land.NHC/NOAA

Still, they're having trouble explaining the weakening, so their confidence in their predictions about the storm's future power is low.

Their track forecast, however, remains unchanged. Tomas is expected to make a turn to the north and track across Haiti:

"REGARDLESS OF THE EXACT TRACK AND INTENSITY OF TOMAS...THE TROPICAL
CYCLONE WILL POSE A SIGNIFICANT THREAT OF HEAVY RAINFALL...
FLOODING...AND POTENTIAL MUD SLIDES OVER HAITI AND THE
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC LATER IN THE WEEK."

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

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:36 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

November 2, 2010

Haiti in peril as Tomas gains strength

Hurricane forecasters say they see signs of strengthening in Tropical Storm Tomas, and the storm is still expected to regain hurricane strength before striking Haiti and the island of Hispaniola late this week.

NHC/NOAATomas on Tuesday morning was located 355 miles south of Port au Prince, Haiti, moving to the west at 12 mph. Top sustained winds were estimated at 50 mph, up a bit from yesterday's reading. Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami said they see an intensification of thunderstorms near the storm's central low, and signs of banding features in some quadrants - both indicators of increased organization.

Predictions have Tomas regaining hurricane strength early on Thursday, and making a sharp turn toward the north and then northeast, reaching Haiti by late Friday or early Saturday. 

Needless to say, the Haitian people are unprepared for a hurricane. An estimated 1.3 million people displaced by last January's earthquake remain in makeshift shelters and crowded camps. Tent camp HaitiMinor storms this fall have resulted in deaths, injuries and the destruction of thousands of family shelters. On top of that, the country is fighting to contain an outbreak of cholera outside the capital.

International aid agencies are rushing supplies to staging areas in preparation for the expected storm. But with so many people in the relocation camps, it is considered impossible to move them all to secure shelters during the storm. Preparations include sandbagging, digging drainage ditches in the camps, and distributing tarps and ropes.

Such relief supplies are short, and aid groups say promised earthquake aid, including $1.15 billion from the United States, has not arrived. This has the makings of yet another calamity for Haiti, and we will likely be reading a lot about it this weekend and next week.

The U.S. amphibious warship Iwo Jima was headed for the area this week to offer assistance. Here is the latest advisory on Tomas. Here is the forecast storm track. And here is the view from space.

(PHOTO: Reuters, Eduardo Munoz; tent camp north of Port au Prince)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:39 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

30 at BWI should be low point for the week

The official thermometer at BWI-Marshall touched 30 degrees overnight, marking the first low below the freezing point since March 27.NASA/GSFC

It was 27 degrees out on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville before sunrise, and 36 at The Sun's weather station at Calvert and Centre streets.

Here are some other overnight lows as reported this morning by the NWS:

Washington National:  39 degrees

Dulles International: 31 degrees

Annapolis:  39 degrees

Hagerstown:  30 degrees

Martin State Airport:  32 degrees

Frederick Airport:  27 degrees

Martinsburg, WV: 27 degrees

Ocean City: 36 degrees 

The rest of the week's forecast calls for the overnight lows to moderate to the upper 30s and low 40s, with daytime highs in the 50s. There's some significant rain in the cards for late Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, with as much as a half to three-quarters of an inch possible. But then skies should clear for a cool but sunny weekend.

(PHOTO: NASA, 11/1/10)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:21 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts
        

November 1, 2010

Tomas weakens, but still a threat to Haiti

Tomas, weakened from its former Cat. 2 hurricane strength to a minimal tropical storm, is still expected to regain some of that strength and turn toward Haiti as a Cat. 1 hurricane by Friday Tomasmorning.

The island nation has been advised to monitor the storm. And UN officials said more than a million Haitians are still living under tents and tarpaulins. A half-hour storm in September killed six people, injured 70 and damaged or destroyed the flimsy homes of 10,000 families, according to a wire service report.  Evacuation of the vulnerable quake-refugee camps has been deemed impossible.

The National Hurricane Center said this morning that Tomas was about 420 miles southeast of Port au Prince, Haiti, in the eastern Caribbean Sea, moving to the west southwest at 14 mph. The storm's top sustained winds were just 45 mph.

But forecasters said re-strengthening could begin late on Tuesday, and a turn to the north could come by Thursday as the storm encounters a low-pressure system in the northwest Caribbean. Forecasters estimate a 36 percent chance that Port au Prince will see tropical-storm-force winds within five days.

High winds and heavy rains could be devastating for Haiti's people, many of whom have been living in makeshift shelters since last January's earthquake, Some are also coping with an outbreak of water-borne disease, including cholera.

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

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:32 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Freeze tonight, cool week ahead

Cool, dry Canadian air rushing into the region with building high pressure will keep us 5 to 10 degrees below the seasonal norms early this week. As the high moves off at mid-week, a coastal storm could bring us some rain.

And when the northwest winds resume behind that storm, Maryland's far-western counties could see some SNOW showers at higher elevations. (There, I've mentioned the S word for the first time Frostthis season.)

The overnight lows at BWI-Marshall didn't quite make it to the freezing mark this weekend. The lows Saturday and Sunday were 35 and 36 degrees. The airport thermometer slipped to 33 degrees this morning. We were right around the freezing mark on the WeatherDeck, and I had to pull the ice scraper out of the trunk and clear the windshield before I could head out this morning - another first for this season. 

But it should get colder tonight. Forecasters at the National Weather Service office in Sterling, Va. have posted Freeze Watches again (blue on the map) for all of Central Maryland, from Washington County east to Cecil, south to Charles, Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties, as well as the northern portion of Maryland's Eastern Shore. 

UPDATE, 3:30 p.m.: Much of the area north and west of I-95, (and on the northern portion of the Eastern Shore) which had been under a Freeze Watch tonight, has been upgraded to a Freeze Warning (light blue on the map). That means freezing temperatures are now expected. The forecast calls for lows in the upper 20s to near 30 in that area. Earlier post resumes below.

The overnight lows are forecast to reach the lower 30s in Baltimore and Annapolis, southern Baltimore County away from the bay shore, Prince George's and Arundel. But they could touch 30NOAA/NWS degrees in parts of Northern Baltimore, Howard, Harford and Montgomery Counties, and the upper 20s farther west, in Carroll, Frederick and Washington counties. The lows on the upper Eastern Shore will approach the freezing mark, forecasters said.

A Freeze Watch means sub-freezing temperatures are possible and could kill crops and other sensitive plants.

By Wednesday, as the high moves to the southeast, we'll pick up the return flow. That will mean slightly milder temperatures, in the upper 50s at BWI-Marshall, and increasing moisture. A coastal low is forecast to develop late Wednesday into Thursday, with the possibility of rain spreading across the region. Subtropical moisture from the Gulf of Mexico could drive up rain totals, but most of the precipitation is expected to stay offshore.

By late in the week, we should be looking at more cool, Canadian air arriving on northwest winds "with the potential for upslope snow showers possible Thursday night through Friday night along and west of the Allegheny Front," forecasters said.

(SUN PHOTO: Frank Roylance 11/1/10)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:36 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        
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About Frank Roylance
This site is the Maryland Weather archive. The current Maryland Weather blog can be found here.
Frank Roylance is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. He came to Baltimore from New Bedford, Mass. in 1980 to join the old Evening Sun. He moved to the morning Sun when the papers merged in 1992, and has spent most of his time since covering science, including astronomy and the weather. One of The Baltimore Sun's first online Web logs, the Weather Blog debuted in October 2004. In June 2006 Frank also began writing comments on local weather and stargazing for The Baltimore Sun's print Weather Page. Frank also answers readers’ weather queries for the newspaper and the blog. Frank Roylance retired in October 2011. Maryland Weather is now being updated by members of The Baltimore Sun staff
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