Hold onto your hat; high wind watch up tonight
Sounds like a wild weekend ahead, with highs in the 70s Friday afternoon, gusts to 50 mph overnight into Saturday, and some whispers about rain and snow Monday into Monday night. Ready? Here goes:
This morning's overcast skies will burn off and forecasters say skies should become at least partly sunny Friday afternoon. That will help bring temperatures into the 70s across much of Central Maryland. The high at BWI-Marshall on Thursday touched 71 degrees. That gave us an average temperature for the day of 56 degrees, which was 20 degrees above the long-term average for the date.
The forecast high for Friday at BWI is 73 degrees. Sterling often shoots low on our warm days, so don't be surprised if we top that.
The real excitement comes late in the day and overnight. The warm air rushing into the region from the southwest and west is doing so ahead of an approaching cold front. The front is draped southward from a strong low-pressure system crossing the Great Lakes today.
As the front approaches and passes through, it will be mostly dry. But winds will pick up. A lot. Sterling is predicting sustained winds in northeast Maryland from 20 to 30 mph, with gusts to 50 mph. Some locations, especially the Appalachian ridges, could see gusts to 60 mph.
BGE is anticipating more power outages from the wind storm. They said Friday the winds "could very likely cause trees and tree limbs already weakened by last month's heavy, wet snow and wind, to fall onto power lines and other electric delivery equipment, causing power outages. BGE has more than 650 employees and contractors on stand-by for restoration work..."
UPDATE: 5 P.M.: The weather service has also issued a High Wind Warning from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, from Allegany County east to Harford, and south to Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties. The warning says we can expect the high winds to reach their strongest speeds between 10 a.m. and 5 a.m. Saturday.
The NWS says: "BE PREPARED FOR POWER OUTAGES...AND DOWNED TREES AND LARGE BRANCHES. ENSURE LOOSE OBJECTS ON YOUR PROPERTY ARE SECURED OR BROUGHT INSIDEA HIGH WIND WARNING MEANS A HAZARDOUS HIGH WIND EVENT IS EXPECTED OR OCCURRING. SUSTAINED WIND SPEEDS OF AT LEAST 40 MPH OR GUSTS OF 58 MPH OR MORE CAN LEAD TO PROPERTY DAMAGE."
And that returns us to the issue of wildfire dangers.
UPDATE, 4 p.m.: The NWS has issued a Red Flag Warning for the entire state of Maryland east of Cumberland. The warning is in effect from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. Saturday. Expect sustained winds from 25 to 35 mph, with gusts betweeen 50 and 60 mph.
"A RED FLAG WARNING MEANS THAT CRITICAL FIRE WEATHER CONDITIONS
ARE EITHER OCCURRING NOW...OR WILL SHORTLY. A COMBINATION OF
STRONG WINDS...LOW RELATIVE HUMIDITY...AND WARM TEMPERATURES WILL
CREATE EXPLOSIVE FIRE GROWTH POTENTIAL"
Relative humidities will be desert-like, between 15 and 25 percent. High winds and dry fuels only add to the danger that discarded cigarettes or careless outdoor burning will ignite a fire that will quickly get out of control.
Temperatures will cool slowly behind the front, holding in the upper 40s to near 50 degrees through the weekend, even under sunny skies. Forecast models show another storm system approaching for President's Day. Forecasters are looking for a 40 percent chance of rain Monday. And with temperatures falling back into the 20s Monday night, some of the models are raising the possibility of the rain mixing with or changing to snow overnight into Tuesday.
"Confidence is low" on that snow thing, forecasters say. So let's not think about that.
(SUN PHOTO: Jed Kirschbaum, 2003)