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August 31, 2011

Katia nearly a hurricane; Gulf storm brewing

Tropical Storm Katia is now producing top sustained winds of 70 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center, and it is expected to reach hurricane force tonight - just the second storm this season to become a hurricane.

Meanwhile, another storm is brewing at the west end of the Island of Cuba. That one is expected to strengthen in the Gulf, but forecast models are all over the place in their predictions of where it might strike land.

Katia was located this afternoon 1,285 miles east of the Leeward Islands. It was moving to the west-northwest at 20 mph. Forecasters expect it will stay on that course for the next 48 hours and slow a bit. One of the forecast models has Katia reaching Cat. 3 status by late Sunday or Monday.

The storm is moving along the south side of a large high-pressure system over the Atlantic. When it reaches the southwest side of that clockwise circulation, it is forecast to begin a turn to the northwest and eventually north. Just how close it gets to the East Coast by that time is the big question for Katia. Here are some of the model projections.

Mid-Atlantic residents should also be watching the disturbance cranking up at the west end of Cuba. That storm remains pretty disorganized, but forecasters have raised their estimate of its chances. They now give it a 30 percent chance of becoming a tropical storm in the next 48 hours.

The big question for this one is where it will turn for land. The models are all over the place (see map above). Some take it toward Texas. Others turn it north and east toward the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic states. If it comes this way we'll likely get another big dose of rain.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:31 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: History
        

Chickens died in Delaware, not Maryland

The Maryland Department of Agriculture said it was mistaken Tuesday when Secretary Earl "Buddy" Hance reported, in his preliminary assessment of crop damage due to Hurricane Irene, that 30,000 Maryland chickens had perished. It turns out the deaths occurred in Delaware's portion of the Delmarva Peninsula.

"In Maryland, we had no chicken mortalities during Irene," said Maryland Agriculture Department spokeswoman Julie Oberg. The Delaware chickens died when a chicken house flooded, she said.

Delmarva produces over 600 million chickens a year, the industry says. Proportionately, at least, "even that 30,000 is relatively small," Oberg said.

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:54 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Notes to readers
        

Clouds may obscure Thursday's space station flyby

Space Cadets! The International Space Station will be passing over Baltimore shortly after 8 p.m. Thursday evening. It's predicted to be a very bright pass, but the weather forecast isn't very promising, so this is a web-only alert.

ISS/Heavens-AboveNWS/Sterling is forecasting "mostly cloudy" skies tonight. But on the off chance that they're wrong, here's the scoop on the flyby.

Look for the ISS to appear in the northwest at 8:20 p.m. EDT, as the station and its crew fly over the central Great Lakes. It will look like a bright, moving star. If it blinks or has multiple, or colored lights, it's an airplane. Keep looking.

It will fly through the bowl of the Big Dipper, rising to 61 degrees above the northeast horizon (about two-thirds of the way from the horizon to the zenith (straight up) at 8:23 p.m., as it passes over central New Jersey.

From there the ISS will pass very close to the bright star Deneb, in the constellation Cygnus, the Swan. Deneb is part of the Summer Triangle, an asterism in the shape of a right triangle. The other points of the triangle are Altair and Vega.

FInally, the station will move off to the east-southeast, disappearing over the Atlantic at 8:25 p.m.

(MAP: Heavens-Above.com)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:57 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Sky Notes, Sky Watching
        

A wet track for the Baltimore Grand Prix?

At the end of a week of deep blue skies, the folks driving the Indy cars in the Baltimore Grand Prix races this weekend may have to contend with some rain on the track. And those in the stands will need to pack rain gear. 

NHC/NOAAThe forecast from the National Weather Service forecast office in Sterling, Va., say there's a 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms on Saturday, with a 30 percent chance through Labor Day Monday. Temperatures, at least, will be ideal, in the low-to-mid 80s. Skies, between the showers, will be partly sunny.

The issue will be a slow-moving cold front that's forecast to approach the region through the weekend. Showers and storms will crop up ahead of the front, which won't clear the area until late Monday, if the predictions from Sterling prove accurate.

The forecast is much the same for Ocean City, except that the front won't begin to affect the weather there with showers and storms until Sunday. So Saturday may be your most reliably sunny day at the beach. 

One other issue in the 7-day forecast this morning is a disturbance in the far western Caribbean. For now, the National Hurricane Center is giving it only a 10 percent chance of becoming the next named tropical storm within the next 48 hours. 

The thinking is that the storm, if it develops, may move to the Gulf Coast and then north along the frontal boundary into the mid-Atlantic by Tuesday. If so, we might see some serious rain by Tuesday or Wednesday next week. "Something to keep an eye on," forecasters said.

The satellite image above shows the Caribbean disturbance near western Cuba. The swirl at the extreme right is Tropical Storm Katia, also on forcasters' worry list this morning.

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

Surfing for crazies only in Tahiti

Regulars were calling it an historic day of surfing in Tahiti yesterday, an off-day during the Billabong Pro competition. Twenty-five-foot surf, and tubes big enough to hold a school bus made it a day only for daredevils towed to the reef by personal watercraft. Enjoy.   

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:30 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

Irene's wind hurt crops, rain helped

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Hurricane damage to cornThe weekly USDA “Weather & Crops” report is in. Irene had an impact on Maryland’s croplands, some good, some bad. The crop reporter said, “Still assessing crop damage from Irene. Corn was mostly affected by winds. There is also a large amount of standing water in fields.” Pasture in “poor” or worse condition fell from 32 percent to 27 percent; corn from 37 to 36 percent, soybeans from 25 to 20 percent. Topsoil rated “short” or “very short” of water fell to 15 percent from 30.  

(SUN PHOTO: Isabel crop damage, Doug Kapustin, 2003)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition
        

August 30, 2011

Irene killed 30,000 Maryland chickens

Maryland Agriculture Secretary Earl "Buddy" Hance has released a preliminary accounting of agricultural losses from Hurricane Irene. The casualties include 30,000 chickens. Here's Hance:

Maryland chickens"High winds and excessive rain caused loss of power, flooding, and tree and limb damage across most of the state. Southern Maryland and the Lower Eastern Shore, however, sustained most of the damage, primarily on drought-stricken corn fields where wind flattened the crop in many places, making it difficult to harvest.  The remaining sweet corn was severely blown over and may not be recoverable, but we believe this will impact a small amount as most has been harvested.

"Overall Maryland livestock fared well with no significant loss.  For the poultry industry, the Harim Group reported that the storm killed about 30,000 birds in Maryland. There were no other reports of bird loss or significant structural damage.

"Soybeans fared well and the moisture will help the crop.  About 100 acres of watermelon were destroyed and another 100 acres sustained damage severe enough to be reported as a loss. About 600 acres of string beans may be unharvestable.  There was no impact from the storm west of Frederick.

"The Farm Service Agency will further assess damages to agriculture – crops, livestock, conservation – and we should have a better indication of those estimates later this week. Farmers who experienced hurricane damage are reminded to stay in close contact with their crop insurance agents."

(SUN PHOTO: Doug Kapustin, 2007)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:28 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Watch Irene from space in NOAA animation

Here's what Hurricane Irene looked like from NOAA's GOES satellite, up until Saturday's landfall. For an updated version, click here.

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:53 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

Tropical Storm Katia likely to be hurricane in days

Tropical Depression 12, as forecast, became Tropical Storm Katia overnight. And forecasters at the National Hurricane Center say she will reach hurricane force by late Wednesday or early Thursday.

Looking farther down the road, forecast models have Katia reaching Cat. 3 ("major") hurricane strength by the weekend.

For now, Katia poses no threat to land. At 11 a.m. the NHC put the storm 630 miles west southwest of the Cape Verde Islands off West Africa. The highest sustained winds were 45 mph, with more strengthening expected as the storm gets better organized.

Katia was moving to the west northwest at 18 mph, a course that was expected to continue for at least 48 more hours.

Forecast models show the storm eventually approaching the Bahamas. One then curves it to the north before reaching the East Coast of the U.S.  

Here is the latest advisory for Katia. Here is the forecast discussion. And here are the forecast tracks.

NOTE TO READERS: Thanks for reading the Maryland Weather Blog! We had 248,000 page views last week, second only to Raven Insider.  

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:06 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Hurricane Irene rain and wind maps for Maryland

Here are the wind and rain maps for Hurricane Irene, just released by the National Weather Service regional forecast office in Sterling, Va. Click to enlarge.

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:46 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: By the numbers, Cool pictures, Hurricanes
        

Two-thirds of BGE's Irene outages repaired

I just took a look at the latest numbers from BGE on how the restoration of electric service is going. Looks like their own crews, contractors and mutual-aid crews from Midwest and Pa. utilities have restored service to about two-thirds of all the customers who lost power during Irene.

The utility reports on its website (at about 10:20 a.m.) that of the 743,000 outages they faced from the storm, about Power outages Baltimore500,000 have been repaired. Some 243,000 customers were still waiting for their lights to come back on.

Hardest-hit were Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties. In Baltimore County, 234,278 customers lost their power at some point during the storm. That's 63 percent of the total that BGE serves there. In Anne Arundel, 176,045 customers lost their lights. That is 74 percent of the total. I'm not sure if the total double-counts those who lost their power more than once. But it gives you a sense of the scale of the damage. 

Of course, if it's your power that's still out, that's still 100 percent of the outages that remain to be cleared up, and you're still looking for the first bucket truck to show up. Keep in mind that it only makes sense for the utility to first tackle the line breaks that affect the most customers. If your lights are out because a tree fell in your back yard, and your neighbors were unaffected, you will be waiting at the end of the line. That's only fair. Inconvenient to say the least. But fair.

The 743,000 total is close to 50 percent more outages than the company planned for, and equal to 58 percent of the entire system of 1.3 million customers. Company officials said before Irene struck that they were planning for up to 500,000 outages in the BGE service area, but were prepared to expand the response if needed. Turns out it was needed.

(SUN PHOTO: Jeffrey F. Bill)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:21 AM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Hurricanes move like leaves in a stream

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Irene hits NYCChuck Grene, in Westminster, writes: “When the hurricane [Irene] was over North Carolina, it was traveling 15 mph. But when it got to New York, it was going 28 mph. What forces determine the speed of a hurricane?” Hurricanes move with the air currents around them. In the tropics, Atlantic storms drift westward in the gentle trade winds, usually around 15 mph. But as they curve north, they hit mid-latitude (west-to-east) winds. They may stall or loop in weak currents, then accelerate in strong ones. The fastest forward speed ever recorded for an Atlantic hurricane was the Long Island Express, in 1938, which went ashore at 60 to 70 mph.

(PHOTO: Spencer Platt, Getty Images)

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:00 AM | | Comments (0)
        

August 29, 2011

Was Irene hyped? Fall short of its billing?

In the last two days I've heard some commentary about Hurricane Irene suggesting that it somehow fell short of expectations; that it was hyped by the news media beyond what was warranted.

Hurricane Irene damageSo what's going on here? Are the news media at fault for printing (and broadcasting) strong warnings about the dangers posed by the storm?  Are the hurricane forecasters at fault for getting something wrong in their forecasts? Did emergency managers overdo their warnings?

Do they all run a danger of somehow "disappointing" people in a way that will make them less responsive to future storm warnings?

Or is it a bigger hazard to life and property if we (forecasters and media) risk underplaying a storm's potential ? Wouldn't that, too, encourage more people to try to stay in place instead of preparing for the worst and getting out if instructed to ?

Finally, was this storm really a dud?  It seems like millions of outages, trees down on cars and homes, schools closed, businesses shuttered, historic flooding in New England, estimated damages upwards of $10 billion, and 20 people dead could hardly be deemed anything but awful.

Your thoughts?  

(PHOTO: Irene damage in Connecticut. Bertina Hansen, Hartford Courant)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:34 PM | | Comments (18)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Tropical Depression 12 forms in the Atlantic

A new tropical depression has formed in the eastern Atlantic Ocean. Forecasters expect it will become Tropical Storm Katia later today, and strengthening to hurricane force by Thursday as it steams to the west-northwest in the mid-Atlantic.

Tropical Depression 12, as it's being called for now, was located this morning about 395 miles south southwest of the Cape Verde Islands - off West Africa - putting it in a class of storms known as Cape Verdean Hurricanes. They are the ones that tend to pose the greatest threat to the East Coast as we move into the peak of the hurricane season. The map above shows where the various forecast models take it in the next few days.

Here's AccuWeather.com's Henry Margusity on the storm's prospects.

TD12 is moving south of a high-pressure ridge in the mid-Atlantic that will keep it from curving north for a while longer. Forecasters are saying that, while the ridge will weaken some in the coming days, it is expected to restrengthen, "which should result in a continued west-northwest motion..."

Here is the latest advisory on the storm. Here is the forecast discussion. And here is the forecast storm track

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:11 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Hurricane as economic stimulus?

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Hurricane IreneIs there a good side to a storm like Irene? Peter Morici, a business professor at College Park, says yes: Pre-landfall estimates of the storm’s potential damage run to $30 billion. But reconstruction will yield “at least” $7 billion in new, direct private spending. Add higher values of rebuilt property, and other “multipliers,” and he figures there’s about $29 billion on the plus side. “The total effects of natural disasters on the scale of Irene are not large two years down the road,” he argues.

(PHOTO: AccuWeather.com)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:00 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Hurricanes
        

August 28, 2011

Irene's winds topped 70 mph on Western Shore

The National Weather Service's forecast office in Sterling, Va. has posted top wind gusts during Irene's passage across its coverage area west of the Chesapeake. Looks like Calvert County recorded some of the worst conditions on our side of the bay:

Top sustained winds:  56 mph, Calvert Cliffs.

Top wind gusts:  73 mph, Cobb Island buoy; 72 mph, Calvert Cliffs, Chesapeake Beach, Gaithersburg

Top rain total:  12.96 inches, West Plum Point, Calvert County; 12 inches, Perry Hall

OTHER WIND DATA: SUSTAINED WINDS

Point Lookout: 43 mph

Middle River:  42 mph

Solomons:  41 mph

GUSTS:

Bay Ridge:  69 mph

Highland Beach:  68 mph

Solomons:  68 mph

Patuxent River:  64 mph 

North Beach:  64 mph

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:03 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: By the numbers, Hurricanes
        

NWS: Maybe no landfall in Md. for Irene

Well, it sure felt like a hurricane struck Maryland last night, but Steve Zubrick, science officer at the National Weather Service's regional forecast office in Sterling, Va. says maybe not, officially.

I asked him whether Irene's visit in Maryland last night qualified as a hurricane landfall in the state. That would be huge news, because the National Hurricane Center currently recognizes just one - in all the time they've been keeping records - as a Maryland landfall. (We're checking to verify which one that was.)

Here's what Steve said:

"We'll have to check on the historic record of landfalls in Maryland. However, preliminary thinking is that Irene's center did not make landfall in MD.

"The definition says that the center of circulation (eye) of the system has to cross the coastline...and preliminary indications are that the center of Irene stayed offshore of MD.

"Later assessments might change that view, but for now, be aware that the NWS has not recognized landfall of Irene in MD, even though there were certainly impacts (see
our latest Public Info Statement product for details).

"The NWS so far is recognizing [two] landfalls for Irene, one in North Caroline near Cape Lookout on Sat. morning; the other at Little Egg ... Inlet in NJ earlier today (Sunday)."

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:43 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Worst of Irene's winds may hit Mt. Washington (NH)

Weather observers on top of Mt. Washington (in New Hampshire), say they're already seeing the effects of Tropical Storm Irene. But the strongest winds are not expected until tonight. Their forecast calls for winds to gust tonight to more than 100 mph, and perhaps as high as 130.

Here's their report:

Mt. Washington Aug. 13, 2011"Hurricane Irene will make its way northward into New England today, producing torrential rains and very windy conditions atop the higher summits. Irene will make landfall along the Connecticut coastline this morning, but will spread bands of heavy rainfall well in advance of its center. The periods of rain will become progressively heavier as the day wears on and Irene's eye comes extremely close to a direct pass over the White Mountains.

"Intense thunderstorms are often imbedded within the structure of a tropical cyclone, so rumbles of thunder and dangerous lightning are not out of the question as well. Wind speeds will pick up quickly through the day, gusting near hurricane force by afternoon. Winds are predicted to drop off around dusk as Irene's calm eye perhaps makes its way overhead.

"However, as Irene passes north of the region and begins to transition to an extratropical storm, winds will pick up tremendously, gusting well in excess of 100 mph--perhaps as high as 130 mph--in the wee hours of Monday. Temperatures will take a nose dive as well as the winds sharply shift towards the west and pull in chillier air, with overnight lows dipping into the upper 30s. Rain will taper to showers by daybreak, and come to an end early tomorrow, with the summits emerging from the fog tomorrow to reveal mostly sunny skies.

"Irene's fury will be in full force today, dumping as much as 6-8" of rain atop the higher summits. Tropical cyclones generally do not generate particularly significant wind events on Mt. Washington. However, Irene will be in the unique state of transition between tropical and extratropical system as it passes over and to the north. Should this transition occur quick enough, wind speeds will be on the higher end of the forecasted numbers, perhaps even a bit higher, as a tremendous pressure gradient forms. However, a slower or later transition will translate to less formidable wind speeds tonight. Nevertheless, at minimum, overnight winds will regularly gust in excess of 100 mph. However, the potential is there for a much more significant wind event."

(PHOTO: Mt. Washington Observatory, August 2011)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:15 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Irene downgraded to a tropical storm

Hurricane Irene, the first hurricane of the 2011 Atlantic season, the first "major" (Cat.3 or higher) storm of the season, and the first to make landfall on the U.S. mainland since 2008, has been downgraded to a tropical storm.

The National Hurricane Center said at 11 a.m. that Irene's top sustained winds have fallen to 60 mph. The center was located 10 miles west of Danbury, Conn., moving to the north northeast at 26 mph. Irene was headed for northern New England later today, and then on to Quebec and Labrador.

All warnings have been canceled for the Chesapeake Bay, and the Hurricane Warnings on the coast have been downgraded to Tropical Storm Warnings.

Atlantic storms

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:14 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

NWS: Storm surge no longer a worry

Now that Irene has gone by us, and winds have swung around to the west northwest, the danger of damaging storm surge from Hurricane Irene - to the extent it ever was a real worry - is past, according to the National Weather Service. 

"I would venture to say, yeah, for Baltimore Harbor and the Western Shore ... [storm surge] will not be too much of an issue now," said meteorologist Kevin Witt, at the weather service's regional forecast office in Sterling, Va.

Tides at AnnapolisAlthough city officials and many regular folks worried that Hurricane Irene might deliver the kind of destructive, 8 or 9-foot storm in the Upper Chesapeake we all remember from Tropical Storm Isabel in 2003, a big surge was never in the forecasts for this region. Unless your property is vulnerable to flooding caused by rain, most of the sandbags deployed Saturday probably were wasted.

That's because Irene tracked well east of the bay. That meant the wind out of the south, on the cyclone's east side, was blowing over the ocean, not up the bay. Isabel, by contrast, passed to the west of the bay, putting the south winds directly onto the Chesapeake, driving water north and into the bay's creeks and rivers.

Witt said there does remain some risk of high water today on the Eastern Shore of the bay, as the west or northwest winds at 30 to 35 mph slosh water toward the east.

So rather than a storm tide, Witt said, "we're looking at more of a blowout tide," where west northwest winds blow water out of the bay, producing stunted high tides and unusually low low tides. You can see the wind effects on the tide chart, above, for Annapolis. The Saturday morning high tide was more than a foot below predictions. 

The prospect is much the same for the ocean beaches, where west northwest winds will begin to calm the waters. "Later this afternoon, east coast tides and waves will be coming down," Witt said.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:58 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

New tropical storm forms; Jose poses no risk here

There's a new tropical storm on the maps. Fortunately, Tropical Storm Jose is well out in the Atlantic, and he's headed north. This is likely a "fish storm." Winds from Hurricane Irene are creating wind shear that will probably do Jose in within 36 hours, forecasters say.

At 8 a.m., Jose was located 115 miles southsouthwest of Bermuda. It has top sustained winds of 40 mph, and it's moving to the north at 16 mph. The Bermuda Weather Service has posted a Tropical Storm Warning for the island. They're expecting tropical storm winds and rain totals of 1 to 3 inches.

Here is the latest advisory on Jose. Here is the forecast discussion. And here is the forecast storm track.

a href="http://weblogs.marylandweather.com/1314533643.html" onclick="window.open('http://weblogs.marylandweather.com/1314533643.html','popup','width=565,height=460,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0'); return false">View image

Looking farther upstream, hurricane forecasters are watching another tropical wave that they're giving a 40 percent chance of becoming a named storm in the next 48 hours:

"SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS ASSOCIATED WITH A TROPICAL WAVE LOCATED A
FEW HUNDRED MILES SOUTH-SOUTHEAST OF THE CAPE VERDE ISLANDS ARE
GRADUALLY BECOMING BETTER ORGANIZED.  ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS
APPEAR CONDUCIVE FOR DEVELOPMENT OF THIS WAVE DURING THE NEXT
COUPLE OF DAYS AS IT MOVES WESTWARD AT 10 MPH. 

"THIS SYSTEM HAS A MEDIUM CHANCE...40 PERCENT...OF BECOMING A TROPICAL CYCLONE DURING
THE NEXT 48 HOURS
."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:15 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

More than 11" of rain in Southern Maryland

The first numbers are starting to come in for Hurricane Irene's impact on Maryland, and Southern Maryland seems to have been hit hardest on rainfall.

BWI-Marshall Airport is reporting 4.6 inches of rain at 7 a.m. The heaviest rates were between 1 and 2 a.m., when 2.14 inches fell. Top sustained wind velocity was 30 mph, with gusts to 51 mph. The low barometer reading was 29.02 inches at 3 a.m.

The instruments at Ocean City Municipal Airport stopped reporting at 9 p.m. Not sure why. But the town's Office of Emergency Management issued a release this morning noting a rain total of 12 inches. Top sustained winds overnight were blowing at 60 mph, with gusts to 80.

With daylight, Ocean City officials were assessing damage at the resport. For now, the access routes onto the island remain closed until the damage assessment is complete and unsafe conditions secured.

Hurricane Irene made its second landfall at 5:35 a.m. near Little Egg Inlet, N.J., according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Winds were clocked at 75 mph. The barometric pressure there was 28.36 inches.  

Here is a tally of rain totals for Maryland west of the bay, from the NWS/Sterling.

Here are some statewide 24-hour rain totals for Maryland, from the CoCoRaHS Network:

Denton, Caroline:  11.55 inches

Leonardtown, St. Mary's County:  11.35 inches

Easton, Talbot:  11.34 inches

Hollywood, St. Mary's:  10.11 inches

Bishopville, Worcester:  7.71 inches

Elkton, Cecil:  7.10 inches

Waldorf, Charles: 6.55 inches

Hamilton, Baltimore City:  4.54 inches

Catonsville, Baltimore:  4.30 inches

Columbia, Howard:  3.61 inches

Taneytown, Carroll:  2.54 inches

Frederick, Frederick:  0.97 inch

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:22 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: By the numbers, Hurricanes
        

Irene's aftermath: Be careful with candles, generators

Generator stormFROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

With all the rain and wind and water around, it’s hard to think much about fire danger today. But the Maryland State Fire Marshall’s office is reminding us all to think hard about it.

Use flashlights, not candles. And if you must use candles, put them on stable furniture and in tip-proof holders. Keep them away from kids and pets and flammable materials.

Using a generator today? Let it cool before refueling, and don’t run it in the house or garage. Carbon monoxide kills.

(SUN PHOTO: Karl Merton Ferron, 2003)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

August 27, 2011

Is this all there is?

Maybe it doesn't look so bad to you out there. Maybe you're ready to get out on the road and have a look around, or head for Gramma's house with the kids. Here's meteorologist Eric the Red's take on what's ahead for Maryland as the sun goes down and Irene heads our way:

"The rain and wind we are getting now are nothing compared to what is in store, so don't be lulled into thinking this is it.

"BTW, before I start, it appears that Irene is going to track right up over the coastline.  This is a very bad Irene at 4 p.m. Saturdaytrajectory for the beach towns of MD, DE, and NJ.  The silver lining is Irene did not intensify before making landfall today. 

"However, due to the storm's large size, lack of wind shear (winds aloft buffeting the storm), and a track that takes it in close proximity to water and over low-lying land masses, Irene will be slow to weaken.  AllI can say is thank God this thing didn't deepen the way models had projected.

"The core of the winds and heavy rain will approach from the south this evening, reaching the Baltimore metro area between 7 and 10 pm.  Winds will increase out of the northeast to 40 mph sustained, with higher gusts, and peak during the late-night and early morning hours... (~ 5 am). 

"The center of Irene should be just north of Ocean City, MD by 5 am, sparing that town an untimely peak storm surge (with high tide ~ 7 am).  Rain should cut off rather rapidly after 8 am on Sunday, but the winds will be much slower to diminish.  While the intensity will be less, the winds will finally die down late Sunday afternoon.

"Rain will be heaviest on the Eastern Shore and the counties immediately adjacent to the Chesapeake Bay, where 4" to 8" of rain is likely, with 12" totals possible closer to Irene's center.  Rain amounts will diminsh notably as you head west from Carroll into Frederick County, MD, but showers from Irene will reach well into WV and western MD nevertheless."

By the way, just got a call from BGE's Rob Gould. He says the utility at 6 p.m. had about 13,000 outages, mostly in the southern end of its territory, with 6,000 more already restored. But the night is young. "The storm has yet to really hit us," he said.

Great. Where's my flashlight? 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:42 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Flood Warning issued for Lower Shore counties

Flood Warnings have been posted for the Lower Eastern Shore counties of Maryland, including Worcester, Wicomico, Somerset and Dorchester. The northern section of Accomack County on Virginia's Eastern Shore, is also included.

The warning means that flooding is imminent or already occurring. Heavy rainfall had already dumped 2 to 4 inches on the region. Another 5 to 8 inches on top of that is expected before Hurricane Irene departs on Sunday. The NWS says:

"EXCESSIVE RUNOFF FROM HEAVY RAINFALL WILL CAUSE FLOODING OF SMALL
CREEKS AND STREAMS...HIGHWAYS AND UNDERPASSES. ADDITIONALLY...COUNTRY
ROADS AND FARMLANDS ALONG THE BANKS OF CREEKS...STREAMS AND OTHER LOW
LYING AREAS ARE SUBJECT TO FLOODING.

"DO NOT DRIVE YOUR VEHICLE INTO AREAS WHERE THE WATER COVERS THE
ROADWAY. THE WATER DEPTH MAY BE TOO GREAT TO ALLOW YOUR CAR TO CROSS
SAFELY. MOVE TO HIGHER GROUND
."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:01 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Hurricanes, Watches and warnings
        

Irene's rain finally reaches downtown B'more

The rain has finally started in downtown Baltimore. There is a whopping 0.01 inch in the bucket at The Sun's weather station at Calvert and Centre streets at 12:40 p.m. Winds are averaging 7 mph, but our anemometer is pretty sheltered.

Before the storm slides off to the northeast tomorrow, we're expected to get between 5 and 6 inches here, with winds gusting as high as 49 mph. Wallops Island, Va. has already clocked in 5 inches of rain.

Anybody going to the State Fair?

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:39 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

City hurricane robocalls run all night

Feeling a little groggy this morning? Maybe you can blame it on one of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's Hurricane robocalls.

It seems the automated phone calls the city began making to several hundred thousand residents Friday afternoon were supposed to stop at 9 p.m. The mayor's recorded voice reminded constituents that Hurricane Irene was on the way, and urged them to stock up on food, water and Stephanie Rawlings-Blakeemergency supplies in case of prolonged power outages.

It was a fine plan, until the computer server doing the work neglected to shut off at 9 p.m., as officials had directed. It apparently ran all night, until someone discovered the problem after 7 a.m. Saturday, and pulled the plug.

City spokesman Rico Singleton apologized, and described the issue as an "equipment malfunction." But whether it was a hardware glitch or a programming error, residents who were awakened in the middle of the night by their phones - and the mayor's voice - probably aren't very happy with the city this morning.

Lynn McLain, a northwest Baltimore resident in her 60s, whose phone rang at 4:17 a.m., never did get back to sleep. "Had it been an emergency evacuation, I could see calling. But I don't see calling to tell you you need to get canned food ... I hung up after the canned food."

"I felt myself thinking, 'What did this cost, as a taxpayer?' I also thought, 'She's going to lose more votes that she's going to get from this phone call.' ... Is it even a function of government to call and tell us to buy canned food? Get the TV stations to make an announcement," McLain said.

Singleton said the city plans to rely, in the future, on less disruptive text messages and email for such calls. But  not everyone uses those technologies. For critical alerts, he said, robocalls may still be utilized.

Did you get the call? Your thoughts?

(SUN PHOTO: Jed Kirschbaum, January 2011)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:05 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Irene is onshore in NC; top winds now 85

The core winds of Hurriane Irene have come ashore near Cape Lookout, N.C. Top sustained winds are reported at 85 mph, about 10 mph above the tropical storm threshhold. The storm continues to move to the north northeast, across Pamlico Sound, on track to put move the center along the Delmarva coast by 8 p.m. Saturday night, according to AccuWeather.com

Irene is still a large, dangerous storm, capable of unloading tremendous rain and wind on the region. But it is continuing to weaken. The National Hurricane Center says satellite imagery show the storm cloud tops are warming on the western side, and rain bands on the southwest have dried up some. That means dry air from the southwest is being dragged in toward the storm's core, disrupting its energy system.

But Irene isn't through with us yet. Cape Hatteras instruments have clocked  sustained winds of 59 mph, with gusts to 84. A storm surge of 4 to 8 feet is still forecast for the mid-Atlantic coast and the Lower Chesapeake Bay. Later today the beaches will see large and destructive waves.

The real story of this storm may well turn out to be heavy rain and flooding. Forecasters are still predicting  6 to 10 inches of rain, with isolated totals up to 15 inches. On the Western Shore, Baltimore and Central Maryland are still forecast to get 2 to 5 inches of rain, with 6 to 8 closer to the Bay.

Carroll County has been added to the Flash Flood Watch. Here's part of the NWS/Sterling foreacst discussion:

"HIGHEST EXPECTED RAINFALL FROM IRENE OVER SRN MD...THOUGH EAST-WEST ORIENTED RAIN
BANDS MAY CREATE STRIPES OF HIGHER AMOUNTS UP AND DOWN THE WESTERN
SHORE OF MD. LOCALLY HIGHER AMOUNTS BETWEEN 4-6 INCHES...THOUGH
MOST AREAS IN THE FLOOD WATCH WILL RECEIVE BETWEEN 1-3 INCHES.
EXTREME EASTERN PORTIONS OF THE COUNTIES BORDERING THE CHESAPEAKE WILL
SEE AMOUNTS IN THE 6-8 RANGE AND TAPERING OFF SUBSTANTIALLY WEST OF
I-95."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:08 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Irene weakening, but still a threat

The core winds of Hurricane Irene were coming on shore on the eastern portions of North Carolina at daybreak Saturday. Top sustained winds have fallen to 90 mph, but Irene remains a dangerous storm, and is forecast to remain a hurricane when it reaches the Delmarva coast later today, and for

Irene track

its second landfall on Long Island and New England on Sunday.

Ocean City and the Delmarva resorts should be prepared for sustained winds of 55 to 65 mph to night, with gusts to 85 mph.  Rains on the Shore will total 6 to 12 inches, with some locations seeing as much as 15 inches. That's two or three months' worth in 24 hours. Expect disruptive and destructive flooding.

On the Western Shore, including the Baltimore area, forecasters have kept a Tropical Storm WarningSatellite Irene in effect. They predict tropical-storm-force winds to begin by early Saturday evening. Plan for sustained winds of 35 to 45 mph, with gusts to 65.

And there will be plenty of rain. A Flash Flood Watch remains in effect from noon Saturday through Sunday morning. While the streets may be dry this morning, forecasters warn that we'll see rainfall totals of 2 to 5 inches during the storm, with some higher totals - 6 to 8 inches - along the Western Shore of the Chesapeake.

The best news is that the storm surge in the Upper Chesapeake Bay is not expected to exceed 1 to 3 feet. By comparison, the destructive surge during Tropical Storm Isabel in 2003 was 8 to 9 feet.

At 5 a.m., Hurricane Irene was 35 miles south of Cape Lookout, N.C., moving to the north northeast at 14 mph. Top sustained winds were blowing at 90 mph. It is a Cat. 1 storm.

Here is the latest advisory on Irene. Here is the forecast storm track. And here is the forecast discussion.  

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:14 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Six aftershocks since Tuesday quake

Mineral aftershocksFROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

What hurricane? I’m still thinking about earthquakes. Seismologists have recorded six aftershocks near the Mineral, Va. epicenter of Tuesday’s magnitude 5.8 tremor. A magnitude 2.8 shake followed the initial quake by less than an hour. There were two more Wednesday, and three Thursday, ranging from 2.5 to 4.5 on the Richter scale. Small shakes are common, even in the East. There were two (2.5 and 2.8) Thursday near Malone, N.Y., and one near White Sulphur Springs, W. Va.

(MAP: USGS)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Earthquakes
        

August 26, 2011

Tropical storm winds felt in N.C.

The National Weather Service says tropical-storm-force winds are now being felt on the beaches of North Carolina as Hurricane Irene approaches Saturday's landfall. Observers at Folly Island, N.C. have clocked a wind gust to 55 mph.

Top sustained winds have fallen again, to 100 mph, but Irene is still a Category 2 storm. The Irene satellitestorm is still moving due north, at 14 mph, and is now centered 300 miles south of Hatteras.

Irene's core winds are expected to approach the coast tonight, and over the beaches on Saturday before heading north toward Delmarva. The storm's center will pass over or near the Delmarva coast on Saturday night. Here's more from the National Hurricane Center:

"STORM SURGE WILL RAISE WATER LEVELS BY AS MUCH
AS 4 TO 8 FEET ABOVE GROUND LEVEL OVER SOUTHERN PORTIONS OF THE
CHESAPEAKE BAY...INCLUDING TRIBUTARIES...AND THE EASTERN SHORE OF
THE DELMARVA PENINSULA.  THE SURGE WILL BE ACCOMPANIED BY LARGE...
DESTRUCTIVE...AND LIFE-THREATENING WAVES.

"IRENE IS EXPECTED TO PRODUCE RAINFALL ACCUMULATIONS OF
6 TO 10 INCHES...WITH ISOLATED MAXIMUM AMOUNTS OF 15 INCHES...FROM
EASTERN NORTH CAROLINA NORTHWARD THROUGH THE MID-ATLANTIC STATES
INTO NEW ENGLAND THROUGH MONDAY MORNING.  THESE RAINS COULD
CAUSE WIDESPREAD FLOODING AND LIFE-THREATENING FLASH FLOODS.

"SURF...LARGE SWELLS GENERATED BY IRENE ARE AFFECTING PORTIONS OF THE
COAST OF THE SOUTHEASTERN UNITED STATES.  THESE SWELLS WILL CAUSE
LIFE-THREATENING SURF AND RIP CURRENT CONDITIONS."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:24 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Talbot, Caroline now under Hurricane Warning

Talbot and Caroline counties on Maryland's Eastern Shore have been added to the Hurricane Warning zone. All counties farther south on the Maryland portion of Delmarva are already under Irene prepareHurricane Warnings.

That's not a guarantee that hurricane conditions will develop Saturday in these two northern counties. The probabilities are put at up to 11 percent. The probability for Tropical Storm conditions have risen, however, to 75 percent.

Nearer Baltimore, we're getting reports that local grocery stores are being hit hard by residents seeking to load up on supplies in case they're stuck without power, or cut off by downed trees and flooded roads.

The Giant Foods store in Hunt Valley was said to be cleaned out of bottled water. Whole Foods in Mt. Washington was "picked clean... of everything," according to our reporter.

What are you seeing out there? Are you stocking up? Is this the summertime equivalent of a snowstorm run on the stores? 

(PHOTO: Preparations in Morehead City, N.C. Steve Nesius, Reuters)

 

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:54 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Irene weakens a bit, still on course

The National Hurricane Center at 11 a.m. reported that Hurricane Irene has weakened a bit, with top sustained winds slipping from 110 to 105 mph. But thew storm is expected to move across or just offshore from North carolina's barrier islands on Saturday.

From there Irene is forecast to move north northeast toward Delmarva, passing over the beaches or just offshore. The resort is under a Hurricane Warning, and is expecting sustained winds of 70 to 90 mph, with gusts to 105 mph by Saturday night.

Baltimore remains under a Tropical Storm Warning, with winds forecast to reach 31 to 36 mph Saturday night, increasing to 36 to 46 mph, with gusts to 60 mph.

Irene Fortunately, it looks as though the city and other Western Shore communities will see a modest storm surge of just 1 to 3 feet overnight into Sunday, compared with the 8 to 9 feet during Tropical Storm Isabel.

Irene was located 330 miles south southwest of Cale Hatteras, moving north at 14 mph. That motion was forecast to begin a shift to the north northeast on Saturday. Hurricane winds extended 90 miles from the center, with tropical storm-force winds still 290 miles from the center

North Carolina beaches were expecting a storm surge of as much as 6 to 11 feet. In the Lower Chesapeake, the surge is predicted at 4 to 8 feet.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake today said Baltimore's emergency services are ready for the storm, and she urged Baltimore residents to be sure they're ready, too.

"Even if Baltimore is not in the direct path of Hurricane Irene, high winds, rain and a storm surge can cause flooding and downed power lines throughout the city," she said. "We have been monitoring the storm all week long, and we are taking the necessary steps to keep the city safe. It is absolutely vital that every resident is prepared for whatever Mother Nature throws our way."

In Annapolis, Mayor Joshua J. Cohen declared a State of Emergency and urged all residents in low-lying areas to evacuate their communities by Saturday afternoon. Annapolis High School is being opened as a shelter at 4 p.m. Saturday for those who cannot find shelter with friends or relatives.

Both mayors said they will open city garages for residents who need to move their cars to high ground. Parking will be free for those residents.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:44 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Still at the beaches? You need to leave

I know, it's a beautiful day, and you want to stay in your beach chair. Maybe you'll ride out the storm and snap some pictures of the cool waves.

Don't. Pack your stuff, batten the hatches and leave. This is a serious storm coming your way tomorrow. If you don't care about yourself, think of the people who love you, and those who will have to try to rescue you or recover your remains.

Here are some forecast items to think about:

1. Irene's top sustained winds are forecast to reach 120 mph when it makes landfall on the Outer Banks Saturday.

2. Barrier Islands from North Carolina to Ocean City are under evacuation orders.

3. Hurricane Warnings are posted from Hatteras to Sandy Hook, NJ. Flash Flood Warnings or Flood Watches are posted for Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey.Irene satellite

4. Forecasters expected 6 to 10 inches of rain, with a potential for 12 inches, during Irene's passage.

5. Flooding is the biggest single cause of death in hurricanes.

6. The forecast track takes the center of Irene right up the beach line to New York.

7. Waves will begin building tonight, reaching 12 to 15 feet Saturday through early Sunday.

8. The storm surge will be 4 to 8 feet in southern portions of the Chesapeake Bay and on the ocean side of Delmarva.

9. A State of Emergency has been declared in Maryland and Virginia.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:34 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Baltimore now under Tropical Storm Warning

Hurricane Irene, packing 110 mph winds, heavy rain and a 4 to 8-foot storm surge, continues to bear down on eastern North Carolina, southeastern Virginia and Maryland this morning. Hurricane Warnings now stretch from North Carolina to New Jersey, including the Maryland and Delaware resorts.

Baltimore and the entire Western Shore of Maryland - and the Eastern Shore inland from the beaches, are under a Tropical Storm Warning. Tropical storm conditions are now expected by Saturday from Baltimore, Howard and Montgomery counties, south and east.Irene severity

The National Weather Service forecast office in Sterling, Va. says winds at BWI-Marshall Airport will pick up Saturday afternoon, with sustained winds increasing to 24 to 29 mph Saturday, gusting to 34. Saturday night, winds will increase to between 37 and 47 mph, gusting to 54 mph.

The Western Shore region should also be prepared for 6 to 8 inches of rain through Sunday, with more to the east. Up to a foot of rain is possible on the Lower Eastern Shore. A Flash Flood Watch was posted for the entire Western Shore. 

A storm surge of 4 to 8 feet was predicted for southern portions of the Chesapeake, its tributaries, the Eastern Shore and Delmarva. The beaches will see large and destructive waves.

"Now is the time to rush to completion preparations for the protection of life and property," forecasters warned. "Evacuate if directed to do so by local officials, or if your home  is vulnerable to high wind or flooding." Here's more:

"MINOR TO MODERATE DAMAGE IS LIKELY TO MANY MOBILE HOMES...
ESPECIALLY THOSE THAT HAVE CANOPIES...AWNINGS...OR CARPORTS.
POORLY CONSTRUCTED HOMES MAY SUSTAIN MINOR WALL DAMAGE AND PARTIAL
ROOF REMOVAL. OTHER HOMES MAY HAVE MINOR ROOF AND SIDING DAMAGE.
SOME LOOSE OUTDOOR ITEMS WILL BE TOSSED AROUND AND MAY CAUSE
ADDITIONAL DAMAGE. A FEW POWER LINES WILL BE KNOCKED DOWN
RESULTING IN SCATTERED POWER OUTAGES. SOME LARGE BRANCHES OF
HEALTHY TREES WILL BE SNAPPED. MOST NEWLY PLANTED TREES AND SHRUBS
WILL BE DAMAGED OR UPROOTED."

At the 5 a.m. report, Hurricane Irene was located about 400 miles south of Cape Hatteras, moving north at 14 mph. Top sustained winds had eased a bit to 110 mph. Some restrengthening was possible, and the storm was expected to pass near or over the Outer Banks Saturday, at Cat. 2 or 3.

Here is the forecast for Ocean City. Here is the latest advisory on Irene. Here is the forecast discussion.  

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:52 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Forecasts, Hurricanes
        

August 25, 2011

Irene's impact looking worse

Hurricane Irene continues to strengthen, and forecast storm tracks are trending closer to the mid-Atlantic beaches. All signs for this storm appear to be looking worse Thursday afternoon, instead of better.

Irene risksAdd to that the saturating rains we've been getting Thursday from an unrelated line of thunderstorms, and we're being set up for serious flooding once the real rain gets here with Irene this weekend.

Ocean City has already issued orders to evacuate the island.

AccuWeather.com forecasters say Irene has the potential to topple a great many trees and power lines, damage roofs, siding and windows. High bridges may be closed due to high winds. Air travel and high-profile vehicles will be affected. Flooding, too, will close roads. The greatest cause of loss of life in hurricanes is inland flooding.  

The weather service says there is a 5 to 10 percent chance of a storm surge in excess of 7 feet at Annapolis, and from Edgewood to Middle River.

BGE storm officials are planning responses to at least 100,000 power outages, with options to expand the effort to deal with several hundred thousand. Some 500 repair workers from the Midwest are already in town ready to go to work to help BGE crews put the system back together.

AccuWeather.com is saying "there is potential for the worst hurricane impacts in 50 years along the northern part of the Atlantic seaboard as Irene plows northward." The company's forecasters are predicting winds of 30 to 40 mph for Baltimore, with gusts of 50 to 70 mph, with 4 to 8 inches of rain. "Conditions will be much worse on the Eastern Shore, where full hurricane effects can occur."

At least one forecast model is bringing the storm up the western side of the Chesapeake Bay, the worst scenario for Baltimore and other communities along the Western Shore becuse it would mean a damaging storm surge up the bay. Think Tropical Storm Isabel in 2003.

Storm track IreneMost models are predicting that Irene will make landfall in the Outer Banks region - instead of passing offshore as yesterday's forecasts suggested. From there, it would track north and slightly east, following the Delmarva and Jersey beaches before slamming into New York, Long Island and charging on through New England.

But if you think Central Maryland will escape because we're well west of all that, consider this: Irene is a huge storm. Hurricane winds (73 mph and up) extend outward for 70 miles from the Center. (Annapolis is 89 miles from Ocean City as the crow flies.) And tropical storm force winds (39 and up) reach 290 miles from Irene's core.

Here's UMBC Prof. Jeffrey Halverson's take on Irene. It's not a pretty picture.

The National Hurricane Center forecasters do expect Irene will begin to weaken as it hits colder waters and wind shear on its run north to the Outer Banks. At some point they said in this Irene satelliteafternoon's forecast discussion, "southwesterly shear is forecast to increase, which will likely start weakening process. However, since Irene has such a large and intense circulation, it will probably be rather slow to weaken."

The National Weather Service forecast is forecasting Irene's showers and thunderstorms will arrive in Baltimore by Friday night, intensifying on Saturday. Tropical storm conditions are possible at BWI by Saturday night, with a 90 percent chance for heavy rainfall, with 1 to 2 inches possible on top of what may have already fallen. Expect lots more in heavy rain bands.

Tropical storm conditions are possible Sunday, too, but the storm will be departing rapidly as the day unfolds. Next week looks sunny and seasonable. For the cleanup.

Ocean City may see hurricane conditions on Sunday. Officials there have pulled the trigger on an evacuation. 

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

Eric the Red, a professional meteorologist and frequent contributor here, said, "I think it is now safe to say we should expect major impacts from this storm, starting Saturday evening, at its worst Saturday night into Sunday morning, and then diminishing rapidly during the day Sunday... Folks, this is the real deal."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:59 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Hurricane Irene marches closer

Hurricane Irene is continuing its march toward the East Coast. The Category 3 storm strengthened Wednesday, and its top sustained winds are near 115 miles per hour, and even more power is expected today and tonight, the National Weather Service said in an advisory this morning.

Right now, the storm's hurricane-force winds extend 70 miles from the center, the NWS said, and the tropical storm-force winds swell out 255 miles.

As the storm moves over the Bahamas, it's expected to drop 6 to 12 inches of rain in addition to its life-threatening rip currents and waves, the NWS said.

For Marylanders, the biggest worry is still the storm's coming deluge of rain -- and the flooding it may bring with it.  Read the latest on Maryland preparations here. And find a list of resources here.

Posted by baltimoresun.com at 6:55 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Rain helps pasture, soils; too late for corn

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

CornRain last week gave a boost to Maryland crops for the second week in a row. The latest USDA Weather & Crops report quotes a Maryland crop reporter: “Heavy rains on [Aug. 14] … The rain was too late for most corn, but soybeans responded. Alfalfa and pastures have also responded to the rain.” Pasture rated “poor” or “very poor” dropped from 53 to 32 percent; corn from 41 to 37 percent. Topsoil rated “short” or “very short” of moisture fell from 46 percent on Aug. 14 to 30 percent.

(SUN PHOTO: Linda Coan, 2000)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition
        

August 24, 2011

Biggest worry from Irene? Big rain, flooding

As forecast, Irene has strengthened today, with top sustained winds now blowing at 120 mph. The National Hurricane center says conditions are favorable for some further strengthening, and Irene could become a Cat. 4 storm in the next day or so.

But for Maryland, wind may not be our biggest worry as Irene approaches. Forecast models are predicting a potential for tremendous rain as the storm moves up the coast - as much as 11 or 12 inches of rain is predicted to fall this weekend just off the coast. It would take only a slight shift in the storm track to bring that kind of rain onshore.

And even if the computer's prediction proves accurate, the rain totals forecast for the Delmarva Peninsula still come in at 8 or 9 inches. And for the Western Shore, totals come to 4 to 5 inches.

The forecast map was sent to me by Prof Jeff Halverson, out at UMBC. "This is a very potent dynamical set-up for huge rainfall."

"It looks like areas to our north and east are in for a monster soaking this weekend," he said. "The morning models have Irene merging with a trough in the jet stream (crossing the Great Lakes on Saturday), and I suspect a potent coastal front will develop. This is looking more and more like a Floyd-type extra-tropical transition, but shifted further north than in 1999. Things are looking very wet from NJ north through Maine. The models have us right on the edge of this heavy rain shield, but I would not be surprised to see it back-build further west."

floyd1999trk.gif

Hurricane Floyd (track map) swept up the coast in September 1999. Its storm track looks almost identical to Irene's, but a tad farther west, running right up the coastline from the Outer Banks to New York City, then charging inland over New England.Floyd flooding 1999

Floyd's wind and rain cut off electric power to almost half a million Marylanders, and many waited days for service to be restored. That triggered an order from then-Gov. Parris Glendening for regulators to investigate the utilities' emergency response plans. (BGE officials said Wednesday they are already monitoring Irene, and "taking proactive action to ensure it is prepared to aggressively respond to widespread and extended power outages should they occur.")

Some 750 trees fell in Baltimore alone during Floyd. Severe flooding struck in Crisfield, Elkton and North East. The governor later applied for federal disaster assistance for 11 counties. The largest damage estimate was $1.3 million in Harford County.

There were sewage spills, 255 roads were closed by flooding or downed trees. One death in Maryland was attributed to the storm.

Are you ready? Here's a preparedness guide from the Maryland Emergency Management Agency.

(SUN PHOTO: Bottom: Floyd flooding, Karl Merton Ferron, September 1999)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:00 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

How big was Tuesday's quake?

If you've never experienced an earthquake before - and most people on the East Coast haven't - Tuesday's shaker was HUGE. It shook things that aren't ever supposed to shake, and rattled us in every sense of the word. We will all remember where we were when it struck, and we may never experience anything like it again in our lifetimes, at least not in Maryland.

But earthquakes certainly do occur in the Eastern United States. Small ones are rather common. Damage 1886 Charleston quakeMaryland's most recent one was just last summer. And there are some very big ones in the history books. So how does Tuesday's quake fit into the picture?

Charles F. Richter, of the California Institute of Technology, didn't develop his earthquake magnitude scale until 1935, so any rankings for earthquakes before that are estimates based on anecdotal reports of the shaking, and written damage accounts. (On the scale, each whole number increase reflects a 10-fold increase in measured amplitude, or shaking, and an energy release about 31 times the power of the previous whole number. 

The U.S. Geological Survey says the 5.8 quake near Mineral, Va. on Tuesday was nearly as strong as the estimated magnitude 5.9 shaking in May 1897 centered in Giles County, in southwestern Virginia. The Giles County quake is regarded as the strongest on record for Virginia. That makes Tuesday's quake the strongest Virginia earthquake in 114 years.1886 Charleston quake damage

Much like the Mineral quake, and many Eastern earthquakes, the Giles County quake was felt far from the epicenter  - from Pennsylvania to Georgia, and from the Atlantic to Indiana and Kentucky, according to the USGS. The walls of old brick houses were cracked, bricks broke off chimneys, and clear springs turned muddy. Aftershocks were felt in June, September and October of that year.

But the Mineral quake was a long way from being the strongest to strike the East Coast since we began keeping records. That distinction goes to the Great Earthquake of 1886, the one that nearly leveled Charleston, S.C. (photos) That one is estimated to have been a magnitude 7.3 on the Richter Scale.

The Charleston earthquake was felt strongly in Baltimore, as were the New Madrid, Mo. quakes in 1811-1812. 

Tuesday's earthquake occurred in the Central Virginia Seismic Zone. The strongest quake on record there before this week was an estimated 4.5 shake in 1875. So yesterday's event can be said to be the strongest there in 136 years.

(PHOTOS: USGS)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:27 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Earthquakes
        

Irene forecast track edges eastward

There are plenty of uncertainties still, but hurricane forecasters have nudged their forecast track for Hurricane Irene just a bit more to the east. If that holds up, it could mean this will be more of a coastal storm for the Maryland and Delaware resorts. And for the Western Shore, at least, that NHC Irenewould spare us an Isabel-like storm surge up the Chesapeake Bay.

That's not to say Central Maryland would escape Irene's wrath entirely. We can still probably expect some heavy rain over the weekend. And because we've been getting more rain lately, and are expecting more from a cold front due here on Thursday, weekend rain from Irene will fall on soils and in streams already full of water. And that raises the risks of flooding.

Here's Jeffrey Halverson, associate professor of geography and environmental systems at UMBC, on the rain potential:

"Big storms like Irene, even while along the coast or offshore, can circulate Atlantic moisture inland well in advance of the actual storm center. Moderate to heavy rain may actually begin spreading up the East Coast 24-36 hours ahead of the storm. The models are certainly presenting this scenario."

At 11 a.m., Irene was located about 285 miles southeast of Nassau, moving to the northwest at 12 mph. Top sustained winds were clocked at 115 mph, making Irene a "major," Category 3 hurricane.

Hurricane-force winds were expected in the Central Bahamas by Wednesday night, and in the northwestern Bahamas on Thursday. Storm suges of 7 to 11 feet above normal tide levels are possible in the Bahamas, along with large and dangerous waves. Rainfall could total 6 to 12 inches in the Bahamas.

The center of the National Hurricane Center's "cone of uncertainty" for Irene's future path turns her gradually to the northwest and then north in the next two days. That would take Irene ashore in the Outer Banks region of North Carolina. Mandatory evacuation orders are already up for Okracoke Island.

The current path would place the storm at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay by 2 a.m. Sunday. Forecasters at the National Weather Service regional forecast office in Sterling, Va., say Irene will arrive there as a coldfront crosses Maryland from the northwest. As the moist tropical air runs up against the cold front, it would trigger heavy rain in Central Maryland.

The impact at the beaches will depend on Irene's strength - it's forecast to be a Cat..1 hurricane at that stage - and how close she comes to the shoreline. But those at the beaches can expected heavy rain, wind and surf. Here's a (clickable) map of the wind forecast for Sunday. It shows strong winds on the Lower Eastern Shore and the lower bay.

The NWS forecast office in Wakefield, Va., is saying that tropical storm conditions are possible for Ocean City Saturday night and Sunday. Here's part of their morning forecast discussion from Wakefield:

"AT THIS POINT THE LATEST CONSENSUS TRACK WOULD SUGGEST A PERIOD OF
STRONG POTENTIALLY DAMAGING WIND AND HEAVY POTENTIALLY FLOODING
RAIN (MAINLY NEAR AND ALONG THE COAST) FROM FRIDAY NIGHT
(PRECEDING BANDS OF SHOWERS) THROUGH SATURDAY INTO SATURDAY NIGHT
BEFORE LIFTING TO THE NE SUNDAY."

Here is the latest forecast advisory for Irene. Here is the forecast track. And here is the National Hurricane Center's forecast discussion.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:00 AM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Forecasts, Hurricanes
        

Which is the coolest month of summer?

Late summer MarylandFROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

John Polyniak, in Lake Shore, writes: “Hi Frank. Summer starts in June and ends in September. Which month is hotter on average?

The average temperature for June in Baltimore is 72.4 degrees. The average for September is 67.8 degrees - 4.6 degrees cooler.

And if you think about it, it makes sense. Summer begins at the summer solstice, June 21, when sun angles are highest and daylight is longest. By Sept. 23, we’re receiving almost 3 hours less daylight, at lower sun angles.

(SUN PHOT: Doug Kapustin, Sept. 26, 2007)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:05 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

August 23, 2011

Yes, that was an earthquake

The tremor occurred at about 1:51 p.m. It was given a preliminary magnitude of 5.8, centered about 35 miles northwest of Richmond. We are evacuating our building, but leave a comment and we will post when we return.

UPDATE, 6:30 p.m.: Well, we're back, and nearly the entire newsroom is working quake-related stories. I've just filed one on the geo-science behind Eastern quakes, with help from Jeff Halka ant the Maryland geological Survey and Michael Scott, a professor of geography and geo-science at Salisbury University.

It turns out today's quake was the largest on record for Virginia, and one of the largest ever felt in Maryland. It was also the strongest of five so far today around the globe of magnitude 5.0 or higher.

The others included a mag. 5.3 in Colorado, and three others in the Fiji Islands of the Pacific; on the Kashmir/India border; and in Papua, New Guinea.

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:01 PM | | Comments (29)
Categories: Earthquakes
        

Irene may spoil your weekend

What is it about these storms that begin with the letter "I"? Remember Isabel in 2003?

Well, forecasters at the National Hurricane Center say Hurricane Irene appears to be headed our way this weekend. They stress that track forecasts this far in advance can be off by 200 or 250 miles. But the computer models still seem to be in close agreement about this one.

Irene forecast trackThey're predicting landfall late Saturday or early Sunday somewhere near the North Carolina/ South Carolina border. It would be the first hurricane landfall on the U.S. mainland since 2008.

From there, Irene seems likely to continue moving north.

Her track after landfall will be of critical importance to Central Maryland and the Eastern Shore. A curve toward the east would put the Baltimore-Washington area on the more benign west side of the storm's center. That would mean less rain and wind, with winds shoving water down the bay.

But a northward track to the west of the Chesapeake Bay could be expected to blow water up the bay, raising the dangers of a large storm surge and destructive coastal flooding. Think of how storms like Hazel in 1954 and Isabel in 2003 producing severe coastal flooding along the bay shores.Floyd rain 1999

UPDATE, 12 noon: The latest National Hurricane Center track forecast still shows Irene approaching the Chesapeake Bay by daybreak Sunday. The center of the "cone of uncertainty" puts the storm at the mouth of the Chesapeake - still at Cat. 1 hurricane strength - by 8 a.m.

At noon Tuesday, Irene was a Cat. 2 hurricane, packing top sustained winds of 100 mph. It was located about 70 miles south of Grand Turk Island in the Bahamas, moving to the west northwest at 12 mph. Forecasters said Irene could reach Cat. 4, with sustained winds above 131 mph, by early Friday morning. It is thought likely to be a Cat. 3 storm at landfall in North Carolina early Sunday morning. 

Earlier post resumes below.

The official forecast doesn't sound too dire. The NWS/Sterling is calling for highs in the low 80s, with the chances for showers and thunderstorms rising from 50 percent Saturday to 60 percent Saturday night. The probabilities slip to 40 percent Sunday and Monday.

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

AccuWeather.com says Irene's forecast track looks most like Hurricane Bertha, which struck near Wilmington, N.C. in July 1996 and caused tremendous damage along the nearby beach communities of Wrightsville and Topsail Beach. Twelve people died and property damage was estimated at $270 million.

In Maryland, a much-weakened Bertha delivered plenty of rain and wind, and caused widespread power outages. But there was little serious damage, even at Ocean City.

Hurricane Floyd, in 1999, also followed a path similar to that forecast for Irene. It dropped 14 inches of rain on portions of Maryland, and produced winds of 50 to 70 mph. There was a 2 to 3-foot storm surge in the bay. Three Marylanders died and 250,000 lost electric power.

Isabel's path was quite different. It made landfall in North Carolina and drove inland toward West Virginia. Rainfall in Baltimore was not extraordinary, but the counter-clockwise winds around the storm's center drove water up the bay, causing some record storm surge numbers, with tremendous damage around the Inner Harbor, Fells Point and other bayshore communities such as Bowley's Quarters.

Here is the latest advisory on Irene. Here is the forecast discussion.

There's more below from Prof. Jeffrey Halverson, Associate Professor of Geography and Environmental Systems at UMBC

(Top: NWS, Irene forecast track. Bottom: Floyd, 1999)  

"My assessment of Irene this morning is that the storm remains a threat to the Baltimore region.  The
good news is that the models seem to be trending toward shifting the center of the storm to the east
of our region.   This would keep the really high winds over the Bay and Eastern Shore.  And the models
seem more progressive with the storm - moving it away quicker.   The bad news is that with the storm
possibly hugging the coast, this could help maintain its intensity, as part of the circulation is still able
to draw warm, humid air off the Gulf Stream.  A more intense storm means more intense winds,
across the board.  And the models such as GFS still churn out very heavy rain to the right of track.
Should the storm track just along the western side of the Bay, serious storm surge could develop in
the Bay's headwaters.   There are still so many uncertainties and many of these hinge on the storm's track, size and intensity as it approaches North Carolina.  I've laid out some possibilities here, but bear in mind
that track forecast errors are 200 miles on Day 4, and 250 miles on Day 5...and our skill at predicting
intensity change is not very high.   This one is going to have us on pins and needles for days to come. - Jeff"

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:43 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Forecasts, Hurricanes
        

Hurricanes made August 1955 Baltimore's wettest

Hurricane Connie BaltimoreFROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Linda Tanton, of Baltimore, asks: “I see we had 18 inches-plus of rain in [August] 1955. Was that [Hurricane] Connie or Hazel?”  Hazel struck the previous October. August 1955 was Baltimore's wettest month by far, with 18.35 inches of rain - nearly half the city's annual average. Blame Connie, a minimal hurricane that dropped almost 10 inches here in 72 hours. Three days later, the remnants of Diane unloaded 2.3 inches more. By Aug. 31, other storms had added almost 5 more inches.

(SUN PHOTO: Light Street looking north during Connie-related flooding. Albert Cochran, Aug. 13, 1955)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition
        

August 22, 2011

Dry, breezy and sunny until ...

Sunday's storms marked the passage of the cold front that has brought us this bright, sunny and dry weather for the bulk of this week.

The high-pressure system pushing in on north winds will mean very pleasant weather for the mid-Atlantic through Thursday morning. Chances for some showers and thunderstorms return Thursday afternoon with the next cold front, and those chances will grow through the weekend as Hurricane Irene approaches.

NHC/NOAAThe National Weather Service regional forecast office in Sterling is predicting highs in the low 80s Monday and Tuesday. In between, overnight lows may dip into the 50s Tuesday morning, and the 60s in the cities. By Tuesday night, Wednesday morning, we could record some lows in the 50s in the urban corridor, too.

In the meantime, forecasters along the East Coast are watching the progress of Hurricane Irene. Some additional weather balloons will be launched this afternoon at Sterling to support the effort. For now, here's what the local forecasters are saying:

"With most of the medium to long-range  guidance taking Irene roughly up the Atlantic coast from the Florida peninsula to New England, will watch the progress and trends in the coming days. Irene, according to latest runs of these models, may affect the easternmnost sections of the [forecast area] Sunday into Monday of the coming weekend, early next week.

"The synoptic pattern over the Great Lakes, New England under this type of scenario would give the tropical system a bit of an opening to make this northerly trek up the coast..."

AccuWeather.com is predicting landfall Saturday night in the Carolinas.

Word to the wise: If your sump pump is ailing, or your storm drains are clogged, this week will be a great time to get them fixed and ready to flow.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:55 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Sunday storms were hit-or-miss, again

Woke up and heard all this talk about trees down and outages in the region due to Sunday's storms. But all we had out on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville were a couple of brief morning showers. The rest of the day was humid, but mostly rain-free. 

Oh, we heard some thunder, in the distance. But no rain to speak of beyond the morning showers.

It was another day of hit-or-miss storms across Central Maryland. The Sun's weather station, at Calvert and Centre streets, shows 1.72 inches. BWI-Marshall Airport reported 0.99 inch.

Here are some of the totals, from the CoCoRaHS Network:

Columbia, Howard County:  2.00 inchesBWI Precip August

Catonsville, Baltimore County:  1.91 inches

Laurel, PG:  1.66 inches

Columbia, Howard:  1.64 inches

Severn, Anne Arundel:  1.34 inches

Jarrettsville, Baltimore County:  1.17 inches

Hamilton, Baltimore City:  1.06 inches

Pasadena, Arunde:  0.88 inchBWI Temps August

Crofton, Arundel:  0.85 inch

Towson, Baltimore County:  0.49 inch

Bel Air, Harford:  0.40 inch

Salisbury, Wicomico:  0.25 inch

Taneytown, Carroll:  0.06 inch

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:32 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: By the numbers, Events
        

Hurricane Irene poised for sweep up the East Coast

The first hurricane of the 2011 Atlantic season was leaving Puerto Rico and moving toward the AccuWeather.comnorthern coast of the Dominican Republic and Haiti Monday morning.

And if Hurricane Irene follows the forecast storm track, it can be expected to steer a bit more to the north later this week and threaten the east coast of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. Miami forecasters are predicting tropical storm conditions there by Thursday. AccuWeather.com is forecasting landfall late Saturday in the Carolinas.

And at least one forecast model is predicting a very heavy rain/wind/surf event for the mid-Atlantic coast early next week. 

Top sustained winds at Irene's center were blowing at 80 mph, making this a mid-range Category 1 hurricane for now. But some further strengthening is expected in the next few days.

NHC/NOAAHurricane Warnings have been dropped for Puerto Rico and nearby islands, replaced by Tropical Storm Warnings.

Hurricane Warnings have been posted for the north coast of Hispaniola. Hurricane Watches are up for the south coast of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Tropical Storm Warnings are in place for Puerto Rico, the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, all of Haiti and the south coast of the Dominican Republic, as well as the southeastern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Five to 10 inches of rain are possible in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Hispaniola as Irene blows by. As much as 20 inches are possible in some locations. Storm surges of 1 to 4 feet are expected, with large and dangerous waves.

Irene forecastThe National Hurricane Center is watching the atmosphere to Irene's north, where high pressure is keeping the storm from curving north into the open Atlantic. Instead, it is being steered west, closer to the U.S. coast.

Computer models differ on how close to the coast the storm will get. But there does appear to be some agreement that it will continue to strengthen. The forecast discussion says:

"IT WOULD NOT SURPRISE ME IF THIS CYCLONE BECAME A MAJOR HURRICANE AT
SOME TIME DURING ITS LIFETIME
"

Here is the latest advisory for Irene. Here is the forecast track. Here is the forecast discussion.

Jeffrey B. Halverson, associate professor of geography and environmental systems at UMBC, is watching Irene's progress. He sent the latest GFS model results (for Monday, left). He said:

"For three days now, it has been portending a significant heavy rain event for the Mid Atlantic, and wind/high surf along the Eastern Shore. The track, heavy rain footprint and slow speed of the storm through the Mid Atlantic continues to look very Agnes (1972)-like."

AccuWeather.com's Alex Sasnowski, said, "It is very possible strong tropical storm or even hurricane conditions will continue to spread up the Atlantic Seaboard.

"If the fats forward motion of the storm continues, it could spread damage, including that of downed trees, power lines and coatal flooding issues, into the mid-Atlantic late this weekend and into southern and eastern New England by early next week."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:35 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts, Hurricanes
        

1933 hurricane produced 10-foot storm surge

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Anyone recall the Chesapeake/Potomac Hurricane 78 years ago tomorrow? It made landfall at Nag’s Head, N.C. Driven inland by high pressure over New England, it moved west of the Chesapeake Bay, driving a 10-foot storm surge up the bay much as Isabel would do 70 years later. Four people driving between Baltimore and D.C. drowned in a flooded Little Patuxent. A train crossing the Anacostia was swept off the tracks, killing 10. Baltimore saw 7.62 inches of rain that day, still a record.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Hurricanes
        

August 21, 2011

Please clean up after your dog

Walking the dogFROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Eating breakfast? Wait an hour before reading further. Colorado State University scientists studying the microbes that blow around in urban environments found a surprisingly diverse collection of bacteria in the air. But the dominant species of bacteria in the wintertime breezes in Detroit and Cleveland come from dog fecal matter. “We breathe in bacteria every minute we are outside, and some of these bugs may have potential health implications,” said CSU biologist Noah Fierer.  

(SUN PHOTO: Nick Madigan, 2010)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Air quality, From the Sun's print edition
        

August 20, 2011

No, Death Valley has not cooled off

Death ValleyFROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Joe Bollinger, in Glen Burnie writes: “One could always count on Death Valley, CA for the highest temperature in the U.S. during the summer… I haven’t seen this site listed this year. Is there still a weather station at Death Valley?” Yes. But the NWS at Las Vegas says construction at the Furnace Creek Visitor’s Center delays afternoon readings until after newspaper deadlines. Once the construction work is done, the Death Valley station should return to our weather page.

(PHOTO: Los Angeles Times, 2003)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:09 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition
        

August 19, 2011

So how small was Wednesday's storm, really?

We knew that Wednesday's downtown thunderstorm was small. The NWS weather station at the Maryland Science Center recorded three-quarters of an inch of rain in about a half hour. We had about the same at The Sun's station at Calvert and Centre streets.

photo.png

But BWI, Martin State Airport, and even private rain gauges in North Baltimore showed no rain at all.

Bob Maloney, director of the Mayor's Office of Emrgency Management, has sent me this radar image of the storm, grabbed from his smart phone screen, it appears. And that storm was REALLY small. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:04 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Phenomena
        

Caribbean storm now Tropical Storm Harvey

The tropical depression in the western Caribbean has finally made it to tropical storm strength, becoming the eight named storm of the season, Harvey. It's not huge, but it's way bigger than playwright Mary Chase's six-foot rabbit of the same name.

Harvey was located this afternoon 155 miles east of Isla Roatan, Honduras. It was moving to the west at 10 mph, with top sustained winds of 40 mph. Additional strengthening is expected before landfall.

The minimal tropicals torm has already triggered Tropical Storm Warnings for the bay islands of Honduras and the coast of Belize in Central America. Tropical Storm Watches are up for coastal Honduras, Guatelamala and the southeastern Yucatan Peninsula. Landfall there is likely on Saturday.

Minimal as Harvey is today, the National Hurricane Center said:

"HARVEY IS EXPECTED TO PRODUCE TOTAL RAINFALL
ACCUMULATIONS OF 3 TO 5 INCHES ACROSS HONDURAS...GUATEMALA...AND
BELIZE...WITH POSSIBLE ISOLATED MAXIMUM AMOUNTS OF 8 INCHES.  THESE
RAINS COULD PRODUCE LIFE-THREATENING FLASH FLOODS AND MUDSLIDES...
ESPECIALLY OVER HIGHER TERRAIN
."

Here is the latest advisory on Harvey. Here is the forecast discussion. And here is the forecast storm track.

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:03 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Arundel got the big rain Thursday

Looks like Southern Maryland and the lower Eastern Shore missed Thursday's rain. This time it was Anne Arundel County that really dropped into the crosshairs of the late afternoon and evening storms, with well over 2 inches in some locations. BWI Airport picked up 1.72 inches, with 1.4 of that falling between 4 and 5 p.m.  

More showers and thunderstorms are expected again late Friday afternoon and evening, with more of the same due right through the weekend. There is a Flash Flood Watch in effect for all of Central Maryland.

Here are some of the local rain tallies, from the CoCoRaHS Network:

Green Haven, Anne Arundel:  2.82 inches

South Gate, Anne Arundel:  2.35 inches

BWI-Marshall Airport:  1.72 inches

Severn, Anne Arundel:  1.44 inches

White Marsh, Baltimore Co.:  1.25 inches

Bel Air, Harford:  0.57 inch

Taneytown, Carroll:  0.47 inch

Towson, Baltimore County:  0.18 inch

Baltimore City:  0.02 inch

The forecast from Sterling says there's a 60 percent chance the storms will resume Friday after 4 p.m., with up to a quarter-inch possible, and another quarter-inch to follow overnight. More rain is possible in thunderstorms. Like yesterday, some storms could become severe, with damaging winds and hail, localized heavy rain and flash flooding.

Rain chances continue, at diminished probabilities, through the weekend. But there's a cold front due to pass through Sunday or Monday. That should clear the air and leave us with sunny weather next week, and seasonable temperatures.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:47 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: By the numbers
        

Night owls! Moon and Jupiter take early A.M. stroll

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Staying up really, REALLY late tonight? If skies are clear tonight, step outside for a look at a striking celestial pair. The moon and Jupiter will be rising side-by-side, in the east, shortly before midnight Friday, climbing higher in the southeast each hour until the dawn fades our view of Jupiter. Moon and planet will appear less than 5 degrees apart – less than the width of your hand held at arm’s length. Jupiter is about 430 million miles out, the moon just 251,000 miles away. For more, see Sky & Telescope.  

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:04 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

August 18, 2011

More late-afternoon storms for B'more suburbs

Late afternoon and we're looking at more showers and storms - some of them severe - for the Baltimore Area.

Like Wednesday's downpour in downtown Baltimore, these appear to be developing along the bay breeze front, where rising air over the land draws in cooler, wetter air from the bay, triggering localized thunderstorms.

There are Severe Thunderstorm and Flash Flood Warnings in effect until 6 p.m. for portions of northern Anne Arundel County. BWI Airport reported 1.4 inches in just the hour between 4 and 5 p.m.

Ditto for parts of eastern Baltimore and Harford counties. Large hail and damaging winds to 60 mph are possible.

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:37 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Phenomena
        

Tropical Storm threat late next week?

Hurricane forecasters and their computer models have begun to take an intense interest in a disturbance in the mid-Atlantic. It's not much yet, but the forecast models are unusually consistent in storm track predictions that would steer the storm toward a path up the East Coast by late next week.

Tropical waveThey're not talking about the storm in the central Caribbean, which is given an 80 percent chance of becoming Tropical Storm Harvey in the next two days. That one is targeting the east coast of Central America.

The growing interest is in another disturbance now about 875 miles west of the Cape Verde Islands. For now, it has just a 10 percent chance of becoming a tropical storm in the next 48 hours. But conditions downstream look better for development.

If this does become the next named storm after Harvey, it would becomeTropical wave satellite Tropical Storm Irene. But what has forecasters so interested so soon are the computer models, which all seem to be taking the storm west and then north along paths that would intersect with the U.S. mainland somewhere between the west coast of Florida and the Carolinas.

If that proves correct, and the storm reaches even minimal hurricane strength, it would be the first hurricane to hit the U.S. mainland since 2008.

AccuWeather.com considered the possibilities and said, "One thing is for sure is that the Atlantic Basin could experience its first hurricane of the season next week. Residents across the Caribbean, the Gulf Coast and the Eastern Seaboard should pay close attention to this tropical wave and how it develops the next few days."

Eric the Red, a professional meteorologist in Baltimore and frequent contributor here, noted the possibilities and said:

"There is so much uncertainty given the fact we're talking about an event that is a week and half away, but it is hard to ignore the models, which have for a 3rd consecutive day more or less portrayed the same scenario.

"The overall idea: As the potential tropical storm moves west, the ridge of high pressure over the central Atlantic will strengthen and build west, preventing it from making a right turn prior to reaching the eastern U.S.. 

 

"At the same time, a dip in the jet stream over the central and eastern U.S. will provide the conduit for any such storm to make that right northward turn as it approaches the southeastern portion of the country.  The timing of this "event" is currently the end of next week... ~ Aug 25-28.

"Most models take the storm toward Florida, and then up through the eastern U.S.  Some runs take it up western Florida, some along the eastern coast... some take it ultimately right into MD, while others into the Corn Belt.  Please do not ask for details at this point... cos there is no way to know.  This is just a friendly FYI."
Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:15 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Rain risk continues through Monday

With warm, humid winds continuing to flow out of the south and southeast, Central Maryland is expected to remain in a period of persistent rain threats through Monday, as a series of Rain chances Fridaydisturbances set off scattered showers and storms. The best chances are focused on the period from tonight through Friday.

The National Weather Service regional forecast office in Sterling, Va. says Thursday will be the hottest day of the period, with forecast highs near 90. Rain chances are put at 40 percent today, rising to 50 percent tonight and 60 percent on Friday (map).  As much as a quarter inch is possible Friday, with more in thunderstorms.

So we can look forward to periods of sunshine, followed by showers and storms, most likely in the afternoon and evening. Some may produce localized heavy rain and flash flooding. Daytime highs will be in the upper 80s at BWI-Marshall Airport.

The next cold front, arriving late Sunday into Monday, should clear the air and deliver a couple of days of sunny skies and seasonable temperatures.

In the meantime, Central Maryland is under a Code Orange Air Quality Alert through Thursday. So breathe as little as possible if you go outdoors. 

Recent rains have sharply reduced the percentage of Maryland experiencing "Moderate" drought conditions, from 84 percent to just under 18 percent, according to the new Drought Monitor Map released this morning. But the portion still rated as "Abnormally dry," which includes the Baltimore metro area, was put at 91 percent, down only slightly from last week's 95 percent. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:40 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Wednesday storm was a downtown event

So where were you during yesterday's torrential rains? "What torrential rains?" you say.  I don't blame you. I can't recall a weather event as localized as the monsoon that struck downtown Baltimore on Wednesday evening.

An almost tropical downpour and gusty winds lashed downtown from about 6 p.m. to 6:30. The rain gauge at The Sun totaled up 0.72 inches in that short time. And it fell in torrents - as high as 6.94 inches an hour at one point. The message scroll on my Davis Vantage Pro2 weather console kept screaming, "It's raining cats and dogs!" Like we couldn't see it outside the window. And to the north, the sky was blue, and the sun continued to shine in the west windows.

"We had an amazing monsoon here in East Baltimore.  Torrents of rain, lashing winds....," said a Rainbow BaltimoreWeather Blog commenter, BankStreet.

"Rich" reported: "I was running from Otterbein to Canton during the worst of it; it came on suddenly.  Just before it broke there were wind gust coming southward towards the harbor that were nearly blowing people (self included) off their feet."

"Heather" was in Fells Point: "I managed to park my car in a dry spot in Fells as it was starting. Waited it out in the car watching the radar on my phone, and it looked like the little bit of storm kept expanding and contracting, hovering right over downtown."

"Matthew" was in the city, north of downtown: "That thing is tiny, i'm on greenmount right at 39th and got nothing."

And, looking at the rainfall maps this morning, it's hard to find any evidence there was any rain at all beyond downtown Baltimore yesterday evening. 

The Maryland Science Center reported 0.75 inch. But BWI-Marshall Airport reported no rain. Martin State Airport reported no rain. Annapolis reported no rain until well after sunset. On the CoCoRaHS Network, Bel Air and Elkton stations reported just 0.08 inch. We had nothing in the gauge out on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville.

The National Weather Service radar estimates showed a maximum of 1.5 inches fell around the Inner Harbor. Did anyone else in Baltimore get a rain gauge reading?

Anyway, the rain was welcome, even if it only cooled the city. And we were rewarded with a spectacular rainbow.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:34 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Storm reports
        

One comet a future threat, another is not

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Comet EleninComets in the news: U.S. astronomer and comet tracker Peter Jenniskens says meteors in an unexpected shower last February may have been debris from an unknown, long-period comet. Also unknown is whether the comet has already passed Earth or is still en route. But it does appear the comet’s orbit could one day be a threat to Earth.

Another comet, Elenin, will pass 22 million miles from Earth Oct. 16, posing no such threat, said NASA comet expert Donald Yeomans.

(NASA PHOTO: by STEREO spacecraft, Aug. 6, 2011)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:05 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Watching
        

August 17, 2011

Terrific rainstorm in downtown Baltimore

Rainbow over East BaltimoreIt's been absolutely pouring in downtown Baltimore since shortly after 6 p.m. There were no warnings from the weather service. There is almost nothing  showing on radar.

But the streets are full of water, the visibility is much reduced in heavy rain and lashing winds. And anyone caught outside will be drenched. 

The instruments at The Sun show almost three-quarters of an inch of rain have fallen, sometimes at nearly 7 inches an hour. 

And now, there is a full arch rainbow over East Baltimore as seen from The Sun building.

"It was just a shower that developed along the bay breeze," said Nikole Listemaa, a NWSRain meteorologist at the regional forecast office in Sterling, Va., The bay breeze occurs when sunshine heats the land, causing the air above it to rise. That draws in cooler air from the bay. The bay breeze collides with the rising air over the land. It rises, cools and its moisture condenses, triggering a thunderstorm.

This one was small, Listemaa said. "Looks like it actually missed BWI airport and probably missed Martin State Airport. It was just one lone shower or thunderstorm that stayed over the same area for a little while."

It was not severe, hence no Severe Storm Warning. There were a few lightning strikes, but not many, she said. Radar estimates  show an inch and a half of rain. "Looks like most of that fell over the Inner Harbor area."

(SUN PHOTOS: Frank Roylance)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:17 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Cool pictures, Events
        

Int'l Space Station over Baltimore this evening

If the clouds hold off this evening, we should get a nice look at the International Space Station as it cruises by north and west of Baltimore.

ISSIf you want to see a 100 billion of your tax dollars in motion, look to the west at 8:26 p.m. EDT. Watch for a bright, steady, star-like object moving toward the northeast as it flies up the western side of the Appalachians. It will pass through the upward-pointing handle of the Big Dipper at about 8:28 p.m., at which point it will be about 500 miles from an observer in Baltimore.

From there the ISS will slide off to the northeast, over New England and New Brunswick, Canada, before disappearing at 8:31 p.m.

There are six crewmembers, including two Americans, on board as the station circles the globe once every 90 minutes. It's moving at about 17,500 mph, currently traveling at an altitude of about 240 miles. 

(NASA PHOTO: Russian cosmonaut Sergei Volkov works outside the ISS)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:03 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

Caribbean storms show little change

Hurricane forecasters say they've seen little change in that stormy region in the Caribbean. They don't seem to be getting better organized, and atmospheric pressures there have remained steady.

But conditions otherwise remain conducive to development as the tropical wave moves into the northwestern Caribbean, and the National Hurricane Center says there's still a 30 percent chance the disturbance could become the next named storm within 48 hours. That would be Harvey.

The system is moving to the west at 15 to 20 mph. AccuWeather.com forecasters say its most likely landfall would be in Central America.

 

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:27 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

More rain due for Thursday, Friday

Looks like Central Maryland can expect some more beneficial rain in the next couple of days. Forecasters at the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va. say that, after a fine, warm, sunny and seasonable day on Wednesday, the first in a pair of cold fronts will pass through with a 40 percent chance of showers and storms.

BWI rainfall AugustThe first sign of a change in the weather will likely be some increasing cloudiness. As the high that's bringing today's pleasant weather moves off the coast, the wind will shift more to the south, bringing more moisture up from the Atlantic, off the Carolina coast.

Overnight, or by Thursday - the computer models disagree - the first cold front will approach from the Ohio Valley, setting off some showers and storms by Thursday afternoon. A quarter- to a half-inch is possible Thursday, with another quarter-inch to follow overnight into Friday. Ditto for Friday and Friday night. The garden will be happy.

The weekend looks terrific as the low departs and high pressure builds in behind it. Look for sunny skies, lower humidity and temperatures in the mid-80s.

By Monday, forecasters say we'll be looking at the next cold front, which is likely to be more potent than this week's, with a 40 percent chance for more rain. Sunshine returns by Tuesday, with a high for Baltimore of just 80 degrees. This is the weather we were wishing for last month.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:06 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Rainy days helped Maryland crops

Corn crop MarylandFROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Maryland soils and crops have had a good drink since Saturday, according to the latest USDA “Weather & Crops” report. The percentage of pasture in “poor” or “very poor” condition has decreased from 53 percent last week to 47; corn from 41 to 39 percent; soybeans from 37 to 33 percent. A Maryland crop reporter saw little field flooding: “Soil was so dry, it absorbed most of it.” Topsoil moisture has improved, with 46 percent rated “short” or “very short,” down from 80 percent last week.

(SUN PHOTO: Amy Davis, 2006)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition
        

August 16, 2011

Tropical Storm Gert on her last legs

Tropical Storm Gert - the seventh named storm of the 2011 Atlantic season - was still churning up the Atlantic well east of the Delmarva Peninsula on Tuesday. But the storm was moving briskly off to the northeast at 30 mph, and was losing strength.

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center expect it will lose the rest of its tropical characteristics within 24 hours as it encounters cooler waters and begins to interact with a cold front.

Atlantic stormsTop sustained winds were estimated at 40 mph, a minimal tropical storm. There are no surf advisories or rip tide warnings at the beaches, so Gert appears to be too weak and too far away to be stirring things up for swimmers. 

Curious that none of the seven named storms so far have reached hurricane strength. Seven is quite a lot for this time of year, but we seem really overdue for a hurricane. And the storms we have seen are veering away from the U.S. mainland - maybe due to the big, persistent dome of high pressure that has kept the South so hot this summer.

Here is the latest advisory for Gert. Here is the forecast discussion. And here is the track forecast map.

Meanwhile, forecasters are watching another cluster of storms in the eastern Caribbean. It's given only a 20 percent chance of becoming a tropical storm in the next 48 hours.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:44 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Where are Summit Station and Islas Orcadas?

Summit Station, GreenlandFROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Don Torres, in Ellicott City, tracks the planet’s cold spots on our print weather page: “It’s almost always Summit Station, Greenland, and … [in the southern winter] Islas Orcadas…  Would you identify these locations?” Sure. Summit Station is a university research outpost in the center of Greenland. Islas Orcadas is the Spanish name for the South Orkney Islands. By treaty, the islands are part of Antarctica. Both the U.K. and Argentina have research bases there.

(SUMMIT STATION PHOTO)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:02 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Notes to readers
        

August 15, 2011

Perseid shower produces some great photos

I was in Erie, Pa. Saturday morning when the Perseid meteor shower peaked. The skies looked pretty discouraging the evening before, so I slept through the event. Fortunately, not everyone did. And the result was some really cool images.

The first were shot by Mike Hankey, an astrophotographer who lives in northern Baltimore County. He's the guy who, with a lucky break, captured an image of the Mason-Dixon meteor in July 2009. This time he nabbed some Perseids in classic meteor images.

The other remarkable photo (below) came from the crew of the International Space Station, who were looking DOWN on the meteors as they streaked into the outer limits of the Earth's atmosphere. Very cool.

 Perseid meteor from the ISS

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:15 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

More showers and storms ahead

The barrage of showers and thunderstorms we've been seeing for the last couple of days seems likely to continue Monday and Tuesday. But forecasters at the National Weather Service expect the atmosphere will be drying out some, allowing the storms to diminish. Wednesday and Thursday should be mostly rain-free.

Coastal low Blame a low-pressure system that moved slowly out of the Ohio Valley over the weekend. The counter-clockwise spin around the low picked up moisture from an unusually warm Atlantic Ocean and sent a plume of moisture-laden air north. There it ran up onto the mid-Atlantic states, dropping heavy rains that added up totals equal to a month or two of normal precipitation in some spots.

The storm center is moving up the East Coast today, but very slowly. That will leave us to deal with some additional showers and storms this afternoon, tonight and Tuesday. Flash flooding, such as that which submerged cars on Patapsco Avenue and flooded basements in Cherry Hill this morning, also remains a possibility. A Flash Flood Watch is in effect for Baltimore and its suburbs until 8 p.m. Monday. 

But drier air will continue to move our way, gradually easing us toward a sunny, dry day on Wednesday, and again of Thursday. By then, the high pressure that follows this stormy low, will have moved east, putting us once agaion in the return flow, forecasters said. Heat and humidity will rise again, and rain chances will be back for late Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:50 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Showers and storms drop big rain ... for some

Just in, finally, from a pleasant hour on the JFX, watching the rain fall and trickle down the gutter beside the "fast" lane. The mid-morning thunderstorm toppled a tree across all three southbound lanes, just north of the Druid Park Lake Drive exit. Traffic had backed up to just below Cold Spring by the time I arrived. From there to the tree took about an hour. But I had plenty of company. Were you there, too?

The heavy rain caused loads of problems, elsewhere, too. Click here for more

I was out of town for the weekend, but it's clear from this morning's CoCoRaHS Network report that some locations across the region had some huge rainfall numbers. BWI-Marshall Airport was not among them. Although the airport got a nice rinse, the weekend total was just just 1.5 inches. Parts of the Eastern Shore, where the drought has been the most severe this summer, saw a month or more of rain:Lightning

24 HOURS ENDING MONDAY MORNING:

Bishopville, Worcester County: 4.99 inches

Ocean City:  4.40 inches 

White Oak, Montgomery:  3.52 inches

Kingsville, Harford:  3.22 inches

Baltimore City:  3.21 inches

Catonsville, Baltimore County:  2.83 inches

Towson, Baltimore County:  2.29 inches

Bel Air, Harford:  1.92 inches

Columbia, Howard:  1.10 inches

Westminster, Carroll:  0.73 inch

24 HOURS ENDING SUNDAY MORNING:

White Marsh, Baltimore County:  3.92 inches

North East, Cecil:  3.85 inches

Waldorf, Charles:  2.30 inches

Annapolis, Anne Arundel: 2.23 inches

Baltimore City:  1.52 inches

Cockeysville, Baltimore County:  1.15 inches

Columbia, Howard:  0.78 inch

Salisbury, Wicomico:  0.62 inch

(PHOTO: Top: James Willinghan, Howard County, Aug. 14, 2011. Used with permission. Bottom: Frank Roylance, Baltimore Sun)

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:49 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Flooding, Forecasts
        

Int'l Space Station over Baltimore tonight

ISS cupolaFROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Space Cadets! The International Space Station is back in the evening sky. If clouds are sparse enough, there’s a great opportunity tonight to watch it fly directly over Baltimore.

Watch for the star-like ISS and its crew of two Americans, three Russians and one Japanese rise above the southwest horizon at 8:45 p.m. EDT as they fly high over Georgia. ISS will reach the zenith (straight up) at 8:48 p.m. From there it will sail off to the northeast, fading out at 8:51 high over Nova Scotia.

(NASA PHOTO) 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes, Sky Watching
        

August 14, 2011

Why so many cities with travel delays?

Travel delaysFROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Nancy Cantville, in Eldersburg, says something on our print weather page has been bugging her: “I notice that many cities report potential travel delays. I can understand that in winter or hurricane season, but why in the middle of summer?

As any seasoned air traveler has learned, it doesn’t take all that much to cause travel delays.

The list of potential delay triggers, from AccuWeather.com, includes rain, ice, snow, thunderstorms, high winds, gusty winds, cold and heat.

(SUN PHOTO: Jed Kirschbaum, 2006)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:02 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition
        

August 13, 2011

A splash of rain, a peck of trouble on the farm

Crops in droughtFROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

A bit of rain last week put a little more moisture into Maryland’s soil. The weekly Weather & Crops report said 80 percent of the state’s topsoil is “short” to “very short” of moisture, down from 85 percent the week before.

Crop reports, however, remain dire. “Moisture and temperatures continue to limit crop growth and development,” a USDA reporter in Maryland said this week.

Fifty-three percent of the state’s pasture, 41 percent of the corn and 37 percent of soybeans are in “poor” to “very poor” condition.  

(SUN PHOTO: Monira Al-Haroun, Patuxent Publishing, 2011)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:02 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Drought, From the Sun's print edition
        

August 12, 2011

Full moon will dull tonight's Perseid meteors

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

The annual Perseid meteor shower peaks tonight. It’s most everybody’s favorite, thanks to the pleasant summer weather. Some clouds are likely. Worse, many of this year’s Perseids will be washed out by the glare of tonight’s full, Green Corn moon. But it’s still worth a try. Perseids are fast, bright and some leave persistent trails. Get as far as possible from urban lights. Best time to look is 2 to 4 a.m. Saturday. Then you can go home and sleep late.

And here's an online bonus. If you stay out a bit longer, at 4:33 a.m. the International Space Station will appear out of Earth's shadow, high in the northwest. A steady, star-like object, it  will move briskly toward the southeast, passing almost directly in front of the planet Jupiter, the brightest object in the southeastern sky. At 4:36 a.m., the station will fade from view.  

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes, Sky Watching
        

August 11, 2011

Tropics are stirring again

Hurricane forecasters are watching three disturbances in the Altantic, two of which are given a 40 percent chance of becoming tropical storms in the next two days.

The two most likely candidates to become Tropical Storms Franklin and Gert, are in the far eastern tropical Atlantic, near the Cape Verde Islands off West Africa. These "Cape Verde"-type storms are particularly dangerous because they have plenty of time to strengthen as they cross the ocean, and are the ones most likely to sweep up the East Coast and threaten densely populated U.S. territory.

The first was located 750 miles west of the Cape Verde islands. The collection of showers and thunderstorms appeared to be getting better organized, and conditions seemed favorable for more development, forecasters said. It was moving to the west northwest at 15 mph.

The second is farther east, just 275 miles south of the Cape Verde islands. This mass of clouds and scattered storms was moving to the west at 15 to 20 mph.

The third disturbance was located about halfway between the Carolinas and Bermuda, and likely making things messy for any cruise ships passing through the area. It was being given just a 10 percent chance of getting well-enough organized to become a tropical storm in the next 48 hours. And it was headed to the northeast, away from the U.S. mainland.

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:12 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Metro Baltimore near worst on bad air days

On a list of 252 locations in 40 states, ranked nationally by the number of Code Orange Air Quality days so far this year, the Baltimore Metropolitan area comes in with a dismal rank of 17. Only Atlanta, Ga. and 15 places in California did worse. Code Orange means that air pollution levels are considered dangerous for children and other sensitive groups.

The list, compiled by the Natural Resources Defense Council from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data, has East San Bernardino, Calif., as the worst, with 54 Code Orange days between Jan. 1 and Aug. 8 this year.

Atlanta has tallied 28 Code Orange days so far, placing the city in 12th place. Metro Baltimore posted 24 Code Orange days, earning a rank of 17. Houston-Galveston, Texas, with all their petroleum emissions, did a little better, finishing 18th, with 22 Code Orange days. Metro Washington had 20 Code Orange days, and ranked 24th.

Maryland's Eastern Shore ranked 43, with 14 Code Orange days. Western Maryland finished in 142nd place, with 4 Code Orange days.

The best showing on the list was from Woodland, Calif. Woodland actually tied with 52 other locations reporting just one Code Orange day. But it comes last on the list because its name falls at the end of the alphabet.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:47 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Air quality
        

Beautiful end to week, beneficial rain by Sunday

It's hard to find anything NOT to like in the seven-day NWS forecast this morning. We're in line for a couple of beautiful summer days Thursday and Friday. And by late Saturday and Sunday, forecasters are calling for some badly needed rain.

And there are no more 90-degree days anywhere in the forecast through next Wednesday. Maybe it's payback for July. With Wednesday's BWI high of 90 degrees, the season's total stands at 40 days of 90-plus weather. The record is 59, set last year.

We start the 7-day predictions with two gorgeous days in the mid-80s, with loads of sunshine Thursday and Friday, and low humidity. The sky on the drive in this morning was as blue as it's been all summer. We can thank the Canadians for this one.

MushroomLow pressure over Northern Quebec and high pressure over the Midwest are combining to draw cool, dry air down from Canada, clearing our air of both heat and humidity. BWI-Marshall Airport could see an overnight low of just 60 degrees tonight. 

As the high moves our way and on to the east on late on Friday, we'll start to see some increasing clouds, humidity and rising temperatures as winds shift from north to south. And by late Saturday into Sunday, forecasters say we'll begin to get some thunderstorms.

"Best chance in some time for much needed rainfall," the folks at Sterling said in this morning's forecast discussion. "Despite very dry antecedent conditions, heavy rain in short duration brings risk of localized flash flooding, particularly in urban areas and where thunderstorms train."

All this comes ahead of the next cold front. Once that goes by on Sunday, rain chances will slowly diminish, though with some rain chances remaining into Monday. But temperatures will drop below the seasonal norms, to the low 80s and the new workweek begins.

Whatever rain we get  will be welcome. The new Drought Monitor map out this morning shows no change in the extent of drought conditions across the state. Moisture remains normal in less than 5 percent of the state. "Abnormally dry" conditions or worse persist in the rest, with 84 percent of the state, including Baltimore and its suburbs,  in "moderate drought." Another 5 percent, centered on Wicomico County on the Lower Eastern Shore, remains in "Severe Drought."

(SUN PHOTO: Mushroom, Frank Roylance, 2011) 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:08 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts
        

As the world turns, high tides arrive later

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

1952 floodTerri Clayman, in Columbia, noticed that the high tide on the Outer Banks was roughly 50 minutes later each day. “We were surprised that there was such a difference in the times. What is the reason?” 

The moon’s gravitational pull creates the high tides - twin bulges in the ocean, one on each side of our spinning planet.

The moon moves east a bit each day as it orbits the Earth, so it takes about 50 minutes longer, as Earth spins, for your beach to catch up to that same tidal bulge.

(SUN PHOTO: Light Street flooding at high tide after Hurricane Able. Dick Stacks, Sept. 1, 1952)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

August 10, 2011

Virginia wildfire smoke seen from space

If you happened to be in Washington, DC Tuesday, or in Anne Arundel County as I was, you could smell what seemed like wood smoke in the air.  It was smoke, and it was coming from a raging Virginia wildfire smokefire in southeast Virginia's Great Dismal Swamp, blown by a south wind into northern Virginia and southern Maryland.

Today, a new image from NASA's GOES-13 satellite shows that the fire is still burning, but the wind shifted with the front that swept across the state late yesterday. It's now blowing mostly to the northeast.

The fire is called the Lateral West Fire. It was ignited by lightning and fueled by brush and woods dried by drought conditions in the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.

By late Tuesday the blaze was only 10 percent contained, and it had consumed 2,500 acres of wild lands. The smoke has triggered a Code Orange air quality alert in the area, including the cities of Norfolk, Hampton and Virginia Beach.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:15 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

Cooler, drier weather on tap

Temperatures across Central Maryland will run below normal for the next couple of days as a cold front clears the air. The front will pass through late today, reinforcing the one that swept past last Mushroomevening with some welcome showers. This time the frontal passage will be dry.

Behind the front, forecasters say we'll enjoy lower humidity as dew points drop into the mid-50s. Daytime highs for Thursday and Friday will hold in the low 80s. Overnight lows will fall to the upper 50s in the western counties to the mid- to upper-60s in the urban and suburban counties. So switch off the AC tonight and open the windows.

But first, we'll have to deal with one more day of near-90-degree weather. Thankfully, humidities are already decreasing, so even 90 degrees will feel pretty comfortable today (Wednesday).

By late Friday, however, the high pressure center that is bringing us this pleasant interlude will move off the coast. That brings us into the return flow, with winds shifting to the south or southeast. And that will bring us a shot of warmer, more humid air off the Gulf and the Atlantic, and increasing clouds for the weekend.

We should expect that will increase our chances for showers and thunderstorms for the weekend. Forecasters give us a 60 percent chance for storms Saturday night, 40 percent on Sunday and 30 percent on Monday. With all the clouds to shade us, daily highs won't change much, remaining in the near-normal mid-80s well into next week.

Recent rains have brought forth a half-fairy-circle of these mushrooms near the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville. Can anyone identify the species?

(SUN PHOTO: Frank Roylance, Aug. 9, 2011)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:24 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Two-digit temperature records rare in July

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Cooling offJo-Ann Orlinsky, in Baltimore, writes: “I have been noticing that during July, the daily records for many days has been 100 degrees or more. I am wondering if there are any days in July where the daily record has not hit 100.”  

When July began, Baltimore had four: July 12th (97 degrees); July 13 (99); July 29 (99), and July 30 (98). Record highs for all the rest range from 100 to 107 degrees.

The July 29 record, set in 1954, was broken this year when BWI hit 101 degrees. Then there were three.

(PHOTO: Jewel Samad, AFP/Getty Images)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers, From the Sun's print edition
        

August 9, 2011

July was fourth-warmest for lower 48 states

cooling off in BaltimoreFROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

July was Baltimore’s hottest month on record. We weren’t alone. NOAA’s entire South climate region – Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas - also had the warmest month on record for any U.S. climate region.

Only seven of the lower 48 states had near or below-average Julys. The average U.S. temperature in July was the fourth-warmest on record, 2.7 degrees above the 1901-2000 average.

But, the Northwest region tied its second-coolest May-July period, NOAA said.

(SUN PHOTO: Jed Kirschbaum, 2011)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers, From the Sun's print edition
        

August 8, 2011

Below-normal temps by 2nd half of the week

Central Maryland could see a few showers and thunderstorms along with 90-degree weather during the next few days as a series of cold fronts approach, and pass through the area. But beyond Wednesday, skies should clear behind the last of the fronts, and our average temperatures will drop just below the long-term averages.BWI Temperatures

We've seen few below-average days this summer. We enjoyed a couple on the 4th and 5th last week. The days' averages were 1 degree below the long-term norms. But before that we have to go back to July 16 to find another "cooler-than-average" day. For the summer-to-date, since June 1, there have been just 13 days that ended cooler than  the long-term averages. We've had just five since July 1.

By Thursday, though, forecasters see the BWI-Marshall Airport high as a mere 84 degrees. And readings should remain in the mid-80s at least through the weekend. The 30-year average high for this time of year in Baltimore is 86 degrees. The beach forecast for the latter half of the week through the weekend looks fabulous.

Any rain we get during the first half of the week will be a bonus. The showers and storms that moved through the region on Sunday were very spotty. We could hear some thunder from the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville, but we never saw a drop. On the other hand, Harford County and points south of Baltimore got a pretty good drink. Here are some totals from the CoCoRaHS Network:

Oxon Hill, PG Co.:  1.22 inchesBWI Precipitation

North Laurel, Howard:  1.02 inches

Havre de Grace, Harford:  0.85 inch

Kingsville, Harford: 0.79 inch

Ellicott City, Howard:  0.49 inch

Baldwin, Baltimore Co.:  0.44 inch

Towson, Baltimore Co.:  0.15 inch

Pasadena, Arundel:  0.12 inch 

And, if anybody's wondering, the tropics look quiet again. The National Hurricane Center last night issued its last advisory on the remnants of Tropical Storm Emily. The storm was located 295 miles south southeast of Cape Hatteras and 555 miles west of Bermuda, moving northeast at 17 mph with top sustained winds of just 30 mph.

There were no watches or warnings anywhere for Emily, and no other storms being monitored.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:03 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

More Hot-in-Baltimore contestants fall in heat

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Tubing the GunpowderHot-in-Baltimore Contest update: Baltimore (BWI) recorded 36 days of 90-plus heat through Aug. 5, 2011. The new total surpasses the annual average of 29.4 days, with many weeks to go before the risk of such weather dwindles to zero.

A few more contestants have been eliminated. The current leader, who guessed we’d see 36 days hit 90 degrees or more all year, is “rubinsjw.”  Through Aug. 5 last year, BWI had recorded 43 days in the 90s. The eventual total was a record 59 days.

(SUN PHOTO: Kenneth K. Lam, July 2011)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Heat waves
        

August 7, 2011

Don't be lulled by lull in U.S. hurricane strikes

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Tropical Storm IsabelIt’s easy to dismiss the risks of hurricane strikes, especially when three years have passed since the last one (Ike) struck the U.S. But the dangers are there every summer, and they’re real. Consider: Eight of the 10 costliest U.S. hurricanes on record have struck in the past 10 years. The third deadliest – Katrina, with at least 1,500 lives lost – was just six years ago. Of the 30 costliest storms, 16 were no stronger than Category 2 hurricanes at landfall, and four were tropical storms.

(SUN PHOTO: Isabel flooding, David Hobby, Sept. 19, 2003)      

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Hurricane background
        

August 6, 2011

How cool is Ft. Meade? And why?

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Several readers have asked me about relatively cool temperatures at Ft. Meade in the summer. Jeffery Gibel says the fort is 7 to 10 degrees cooler at night than the surrounding area: “What gives?” My best guess? Ft. Meade benefits from being downwind from the forest and green space at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Station and the Patuxent Wildlife Refuge. Tree shade and evaporative cooling make them a natural air conditioner surrounded by paved urban heat islands.  

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition
        

August 5, 2011

Solar storm smacks Earth; aurora possible

The biggest solar eruptions to date of the current solar cycle have crossed the solar system and smacked into the Earth's magnetic field on Friday afternoon. The collision of solar particles with the Earth's atmosphere could trigger the aurora borealis, or "Northern Lights" tonight.

"My estimate is we will probably get aurorae in the northern tier of the U.S.," said Brian J. Anderson, a research physicist at the Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Lab near Laurel. "We might be able to see it in the Baltimore-Washington area if it [the magnetic field in the solar storm] turns due south."

Coronal Mass Ejection Aug. 4, 2011That's not a guarantee, he cautioned. "If the magnetic field doesn't cooperate, this thing could be a dud... That happens half the time."

The sun is currently on the upswing of its 11-year solar activity cycle, and after a long, unusually quiet period at the solar "minimum," eruptions of solar particles and magnetic energy are becoming more common.

The website SpaceWeather.com reported that a large sunspot on the sun, numbered 1261, has hurled out three large flares in recent days, the latest on Thursday. The flares were imaged by NASA'a twin STEREO spacecraft. And as the blast of solar particles and magnetic energy, called a coronal mass ejection (CME) sped toward Earth, they were measured by the SOHO and Advanced Compositions Explorer (ACE) spacecraft.

"The first of these events, the plasma associated with it, the magnetic cloud, arrived yesterday at about 6 p.m.," Anderson said on Friday afternoon around 4 p.m. "The second one, the first hint of it arrived about two hours ago. Then the major piece of it arrived about an hour ago" as measured by instruments in geosynchronous Earth orbit and on the ground.

This kind of solar storm, rated a medium-sized "M-class" flare, can set the Earth's magnetic field ringing like a bell, accelerating ions and adding solar particles to the flow of energy around the planet. That can disturb the Earth's ionosphere and disrupt shortwave communications. It can also disrupt or disable communications and GPS satellites and electric grids. The solar blast can expand the Earth's atmosphere and bring down space junk from low orbits, and disturb the orbits of working satellites. It can also raise Aurora seen from Int'l Space Stationradiation levels aboard manned spacecraft and trigger northern lights in far northern and southern latitudes.

Analysts at the Goddard Space Flight Center said the CME has compressed the Earth's magnetic field on the sunward side of the planet to near the altitude of geosynchronous satellites, potentially exposing communications satellites to the solar wind. That could trigger outages. 

"We are seeing enhancement of the electric currents in the atmosphere as indicated by magnetic field readings in polar regions," Sullivan said. There may be more effects noted in the next day or two. "We're in the early stages of this event."

Cloudy skies and high humidity would, of course, make it impossible to observe any aurorae that do occur. But there will likely be more opportunities ahead.

"In a solar cycle there are perhaps 10 or 20 events of this size," Anderson said. "This is not a once-in-a-century type of thing. I'd say it's the first really strong one we're seeing out of this solar cycle."

Anderson is currently engaged in a research project called AMPERE, funded by the National Science Foundation. He is measuring solar-induced electric currents surrounding the Earth, using equipment on board 70 satellites flown by the Iridium satellite telephone system. In time, he said, he hopes the technology can be used to provide commercial interests, such as electric utilities, with site-specific warnings on potential impacts from solar storms.

(PHOTO: Top: Solar Dynamics Observatory, Aug. 4, 2011; Bottom: Aurora seen from Int'l Space Station, NASA/ISS, May 2010))

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:18 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Sky Notes, Sky Watching
        

Emily given "high" chance of re-forming

Emily remnants water vaporThe remnants of Tropical Storm Emily - what's left after her collision with the mountains of Hispaniola Thursday - are given a 60 percent chance of re-organizing into a tropical storm as they drift north toward the Florida coast. Here's what the National Hurricane Center is saying:

"ALTHOUGH THE SHOWER ACTIVITY IS DISORGANIZED AT THIS
TIME...UPPER-LEVEL WINDS COULD BECOME A LITTLE MORE CONDUCIVE FOR SOME DEVELOPMENT ON SATURDAY. THIS SYSTEM HAS A HIGH CHANCE...60 PERCENT...OF REGENERATING INTO A TROPICAL CYCLONE DURING THE NEXT
48 HOURS AS IT MOVES TOWARD THE NORTHWEST AND NORTHWARD AT 15 MPH
."

Miami forecasters are predicting heavy rainfall, gusty winds and frequent lightning this weekend as Emily's remains pass through South Florida. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:17 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

NASA's Juno spacecraft en route to Jupiter

NASA's newest planetary mission, Juno, has launched from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and is reported in good shape as it begins its five-year journey to Jupiter. Juno's goal is to study the solar system's largest planet and learn more about its origins, and its influence on the rest of the planets as they formed some 4.5 billion years ago. 

You can see Jupiter with your own eyes this month. It rises in the east just before midnight and is bright in the southeast all through the predawn hours.

Among the instruments on board is the Jupiter Energetic-particle Detector Instrument (JEDI) built by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory near Laurel. It's designed to measure high-energy particles trapped in Jupiter's powerful magnetic field.

Liftoff came at 12:25 p.m. Here's how it looked:

 

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:28 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Sky Notes
        

Showers, storms this weekend; heat returns

A couple of days of pleasant temperatures and lower humidity will wind up today as the high pressure that brought them moves off the coast. Look for increasing humidity later today and tomorrow, with rising chances for showers and storms, and the return of 90-plus weather for the BWI temperatures Augustweekend and beyond.

The return to hot-and-humid comes as the high moves east, and Central Maryland falls under the return flow on the west side of the clockwise motion of winds around that high. That brings warmer and wetter air from the east southeast. Looks like we'll remain rain-free this afternoon, while rain chances rise in the western counties.

With the moisture will come more clouds overnight, and by Saturday morning our chances for showers and storms climb to 50 to 60 percent for Saturday.  A storm system moving our way from the Plains will reach us by Saturday afternoon, triggering showers, some of which could drop heavy rain, up to a quarter inch in some spots, or more in thunderstorms.

Showers may linger in to Sunday, and temperatures may reach the 90s again. The 90-plus highs will stick around through Wednesday, if forecasters have it right.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:50 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

17 died in Md. thunderstorms 40 years ago

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Flooding Aug. 1, 1971It was one of Maryland’s worst natural disasters, claiming 17 lives. But few remember after 40 years. Bruce Sullivan does. A senior forecaster at the National Center for Environmental Prediction, he said a line of severe thunderstorms formed along a stalled front over Baltimore and Harford counties on Sunday afternoon, Aug. 1, 1971. They dumped more than 12 inches of rain in six hours. Rivers and creeks flooded. Most of the dead drowned. Scores more needed rescue. 

One of the most wrenching stories to come out of the storms was the heroism of Charles H. Schafferman, 26, of Essex. He was a non-swimmer, and he was on crutches from an ankle injury. He nevertheless plunged into floodwaters to rescue at least eight people stranded in the 6500 block of Pulaski Highway. The Navy veteran and tractor-trailer driver was last seen going to the aide of two children trapped on top of a car that had stalled in six feet of water. His body was found at Pulaski Highway and North Point Road after the water receded. He was nominated posthumously for a police department civilian heroism award.

At least four more people died trying to rescue others. They were volunteer firefighters Douglas Mueller, 18; Charles Hopwood, 42, Warren E. Shaffer, 22 and Milton C.R. DeSombre, 49, all from the Cowenton and Bowley's Quarters volunteer companies. They were trying to pull  a car and its occupants to safety in rain-swollen Bean Creek off Route 7 when they were swept into the creek and drowned. The car's driver died, too, but the man's wife and another firefighter were rescued after clinging to a tree for two hours. 

(SUN PHOTO: Aug. 1, 1971)  

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:06 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition
        

August 4, 2011

Thursday's high at BWI a mere 80 degrees

What a difference a day or two make. Two days after the end of our 17-day streak of 90-plus days, Thursday's official high temperature at BWI-Marshall Airport was just 80 degrees.

It is the first time the mercury at the airport has failed to rise beyond 80 since June 20, when the high was 79. There have been just four days that cool since June 1.

Nice.

It can't last, of course. The NWS predicts highs of 87 for the next two days, and we'll likely be back into the 90s by Sunday.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:43 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: By the numbers
        

Emily falls apart over Hispaniola; could recover

The National Hurricane Center says Tropical Storm Emily, which struck the island of Hispaniola Thursday, has degenerated into a tropical low after colliding with the island's mountains. Forecasters said they have not pronounced Emily dead yet:

Emily strikes Santo Domingo"THERE IS STILL A LARGE AREA OF ORGANIZED DISTURBED WEATHER OVER
HISPANIOLA ASSOCIATED WITH THE REMNANTS OF EMILY. THIS ACTIVITY IS
EXPECTED TO SPREAD TOWARD THE WEST-NORTHWEST AND NORTHWEST OVER
EASTERN CUBA AND THE SOUTHEASTERN BAHAMAS WITH SOME POTENTIAL
FOR REGENERATION IN THE NEXT DAY OR TWO."

All watches and warnings have been discontinued. But the storm remains a potent rainmaker, threatening the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Eastern Cuba and the Bahamas with more torrential rains:

"TOTAL RAINFALL ACCUMULATIONS OF 6 TO 12 INCHES WITH ISOLATED
AMOUNTS OF 20 INCHES POSSIBLE OVER THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC AND
HAITI.  THESE RAINS COULD CAUSE LIFE-THREATENING FLASH FLOODS AND
MUD SLIDES.  TOTAL RAIN ACCUMULATIONS OF 2 TO 4 INCHES ARE EXPECTED
ACROSS EASTERN CUBA...THE BAHAMAS...AND THE TURKS AND CAICOS
ISLANDS."

Here is the final advisory for Emily, unless the storm re-generates.

(PHOTO: Santo Domingo oceanfront, Erika Santelices, AFP/Getty Images)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:54 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

A break in the weather

It looks this morning like the siege of hot and humid weather we've endured for much of the summer is beginning to break up. Forecasters at NWS/Sterling are calling for these mid-80s temperatures to persist for most of the 7-day forecast, with only a quick poke into the low 90s on Sunday.

But we're going to feel the difference. Eric the Red says the jet stream that had deserted us for more northern latitudes for much of the summer, is beginning to take a dive into the eastern third of the nation as the dome of high pressure and torrid temperatures shifts a bit west.

Rain Saturday"This means cooler weather for us, and perhaps some much-needed rain for some folks. The change will start to take place over the weekend, and be in place by early to middle of next week. It will likely still be humid, but daytime highs will be markedly cooler," he said.

The long-term average high for this time of year (using the new 1981-2010 data) is 86 degrees.

The weather service says this morning's clouds and sprinkles - I think I drove through four separate showers on the way into work this morning - will begin to break up this afternoon as the low that brought the showers moves off the coast. 

Friday will find us in some increasingly warm and humid breezes from the south as a warm front pushes this way ahead of a cold front due on Sunday. That will evolve into widespread rain by Friday night and Saturday. With plenty of moisture in the atmosphere, some of us could see what forecasters are describing as "torrential" rains for Saturday, with a quarter- to a half-inch possible. (See rain forecast map for Saturday, above.)

They're less certain about what comes next. But they're predicting highs in the low 90s for Sunday with some additional showers possible. At some point - Sunday or Monday - the cold front will finally get through, and we'll see some cooler and drier weather for early next week. "It will almost feel comfortable, with highs in the 80s and lows in the 60s, and lower dew points," NWS forecasters said in this morning's forecast discussion.

Whatever rain we get is badly needed. The latest Drought Monitor maps, out this morning, show that 84 percent of the state is now in moderate to severe drought. That's a jump from 23 percent last week.

And it does not look like Tropical Storm Emily will get close enough to throw any showers our way. Eric the Red says the same droop in the jet stream that is changing our weather will likely turn Emily away from the mid-Atlantic and out to sea after it cruises north along the Southeast U.S. coast.

"It may still clip Florida, but no way this thing comes up the coast. So that is that," he said.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:08 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Crescent moon, Saturn and Spica to shine

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Clear skies are hard to come by in Baltimore, in August. But if we get lucky, we’ll have a nice opportunity tonight to see a waxing crescent moon alongside the bright star Spica and the planet Saturn. Look low in the southwest between 8 and 9 p.m. EDT. The moon should be easy enough to find. The bright star just above it is Spica, 260 light years from Earth, the brightest star in the constellation Virgo. Yellowish Saturn, 930 million miles out, stands just to the right of the pair.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

August 3, 2011

New photo technique reveals rocket plumes

Anyone who has witnessed the launch of the space shuttles can't help being impressed by the blinding brilliance of the craft's rocket plumes. The three liquid-fueled main engines and the two solid fuel boosters produce a flame that is almost painfully bright. My reaction every time is that the thing is too ferocious for humans to ride. And yet they do.

And as many times as I've watched launches on TV, the spectacle never comes close to the experience of being there. The flame is muted on the TV screen, just like the thunderous, crackling roar.

The exhaust plume gets washed out in still photos, too, becoming flat and featureless.

But a team of NASA researchers has managed to put together a composite photo technique that can now reveal the contours and details of a rocket plume. Instead of a flat yellow or white, the plume becomes a turbulent storm with ropes of flame and smoke. They tried it out on the final shuttle launch that sent Atlantis into space last month.

Here is a comparison of the new technique (right) and a standard image. Pretty cool. Here's more on how they did it.

(NASA PHOTO: Louise Walker/J.T. Heineck)

Atlantis launch

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:59 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

Biggest threat from Emily may be heavy rain

Tropical Storm Emily was looking a bit disheveled this morning, with no increase in strength and increasing signs of disorganization as the storm approached Hispaniola. Top sustained winds remained at 50 mph.

Water vapor EmilyThe storm's primary threat to the island's people will be heavy rains, forecasters said. Totals of 6 to 12 inches are expected in the Dominican Republic and Haiti today, with some locations in danger of a deluge of up to 20 inches.

"THESE RAINS COULD CAUSE LIFE-THREATENING FLASH FLOODS AND MUD SLIDES," forecasters said.

Tropical Storm Warnings are posted for both countries on Hispaniola, and for eastern Cuba and the southeastern Bahamas, Turks and Caicos Islands. Watches are up for the Central Bahamas.

UPDATE, 2:30 p.m.: Emily's threat has caused several cruise lines to change course and/or cancel stops for some of its ships. Here's more.

There is some chance that Emily will fall apart as it crosses the mountainous terrain on Hispaniola. But it could also reform north of the island and become a concern for coastal interests from Florida to the Carolinas.

Here is the latest advisory on Emily. Here is the forecast storm track. And here is the latest forecast discussion.

And while we're on the subject, the hurricane forecast team at Colorado State University said today they will not be changing their forecast for the 2011 Atlantic season.

"We are predicting the same levels of activity that we were forecasting in early April and June due to favorable Atlantic and neutral ENSO [El Nino/La Nina) conditions in the tropical Pacific," said William Gray.  Continued warm water conditions and unusually sea-level low pressure anomalies in the tropical are also part of their reasoning.

So the CSU team continues to predict 16 named storms, nine of which will become hurricanes. And five of those hurricanes will reach "major" (Cat. 3) strength, if they're right.

They have recalculated their forecast for landfalls by a major hurricane along the US coast. They give it a 70 percent chance, well above the long-term average of 52 percent. They put the chances for a major storm making landfall somewhere on the East Coast, including Florida, at 46 percent. The long-term average is 31 percent.

The National Hurricane Center will post its August forecast update on Thursday.

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

Showers and storms, highs in 80s

Thunderstorms overnight were hit-and-miss, but a few areas were hit pretty hard, with toppled trees and downed power lines for some. The shot below was taken this morning in Original Northwood, and sent in by Sun reporter Gus Sentementes:

"This tree on Eastview Road was lopped by the storm last night. I drove along Loch Raven [Boulevard] today and noticed lots of trees with clipped branches. Were we hit by microbursts overnight?" he asked.

I forwarded his question to the NWS forecast office in Sterling, Va. Chris Strong, the Warning Coordination  Meteorologist there, replaied, "I took a look at radar. It was pretty conclusive that a small downburst hit northern Baltimore City." 

Tree damage Aug. 3, 2011There are more showers on tap for mid-day, and increasing risks for more showers and thunderstorms later this afternoon and into the evening. Some, especially in Southern Maryland, could be come severe, with damaging winds and perhaps some isolated tornadoes in the cards, forecasters said.

 

UPDATE, 2:55 p.m.: BGE says it has restored power to nearly 13,000 customers in the wake of overnight storms. But the company warns that the potential for lightning and gusts to 50 mph in this evening's storms could mean more outages to come later today. "BGE thanks its customers for their patience and understanding," they said. 

 

Earlier post resumes below.

The overnight storms missed the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville entirely. The largest accumulations were in Baltimore City, Baltimore, Harford and Howard counties. There were some significant totals from Wicomico, too, where it is badly needed.

Here are some totals from the CoCoRaHS Network:

Hamilton (Baltimore City): 0.98 inch

Gwynn Oak,:  0.32 inch

Marriottsville:  0.31 inch

Kingsville:  0.22 inch

Towson:  0.22 inch

The overnight storms knocked out power for more than 14,000 BGE customers. The company website said electric service had been restored for more than 12,000 by 11 a.m.

The rainstorms are part of an approaching low pressure and frontal system. By early Thursday the low will have moved offshore, opening the door to high pressure, clearing skies, seasonable temperatures and drier air through Friday.

But then things will warm into the low 90s again for the weekend, with increasing humidity as the next cold front approaches, higher risks for showers and storms. By Monday, the front will have cleared the region, and we'll be in line for more sunny and hot weather early next week.

(SUN PHOTO: Gus Sentementes)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:45 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

It's hot, but summer 2010 was hotter through July

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Cooling off in BaltimoreDon Dobrow, in Baltimore, asks whether this summer, so far, is Baltimore’s hottest. Not yet. Summer 2010 was Baltimore’s hottest. And while last month may have been the city’s hottest July, June 2010 was hotter than June 2011 by more than 3 degrees.

So far (June and July), this summer is averaging 1.4 degrees cooler than last. This summer also trails 2010 on the number of 90-degree days (36 to 30), and the number of 100-degree days (7 to 5) through July.  

(SUN PHOTO: Barbara Haddock Taylor, June 2011)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: By the numbers, From the Sun's print edition
        

August 2, 2011

Last Endeavour crew to speak Thurs. at Hopkins

The last NASA crew to fly the space shuttle Endeavour will speak at Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg Center on Thursday, Aug. 4. The event begins at 6:30 p.m. It is free and open to the Astronauts Hopkinspublic.

Astronauts scheduled to participate include Commander Mark Kelly, pilot Greg Johnson and mission specialist Mike Fincke. Also planning to be here is European Space Agency astronaut Roberto Vittori.

Kelly is married to Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. He has announced that he will retire from the astronaut corps on Oct. 1.

The members of the STS-134 crew landed June 1 at the end of their 16-day mission. They delivered the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-2 to the International Space Station. They also lofted the Express Logistics Carrier packed with equipment to sustain the space station after the shuttle cargo service shut down.

The talk will be held in the Bloomberg Center's Schafler Autiorium. Parking is available in the parking garage off San Martin Drive, behind and adjacent to the Bloomberg Center.

For a campus map and parking information, go to  http://bsun.md/nBsiVI The Bloomberg Center is Building #56, and the parking deck is #58 on the map.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:51 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Science, Sky Notes
        

Emily tracking toward Florida and SE coast

Tropical Storm Emily continues to menace the Caribbean islands of Puerto Rico and Hispaniola today. And looking ahead, the forecast storm track shows the storm moving on toward Florida and the southeast coast of the U.S. by this weekend.

For now, Emily remains a minimal tropical storm, and "poorly organized," with top sustained winds of just 40 mph. It was located about 270 miles southeast of San Juan, PR this morning, with little or no forward movement. The islands of Puerto Rico, Vieques and Culebra, as well as the Dominican Republic and Haiti on the island of Hispaniola, remained under Tropical Storm Warnings. The U.S. Virgin Islands are under a Tropical Storm Watch.

Emily is expected to quit her dawdling and start again toward the west northwest at 12 mph later today. Tropical storm-force winds extend 70 miles from the storm's center. St. Thomas, in the USVI, reported a gust to 49 mph early today.

Some strengthening is expected. But forecasters say several forecast models show Emily dissipating once it reaches Hispaniola. But if not, forecasters predict the storm - still at tropical storm strength - will begin a turn to the north later this week and could track up the southeast coast by Sunday.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:38 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

90s streak could end Wednesday

The long, long stretch of 90-degree weather Central Maryland has endured since July 17 looks like it will come to an end Wednesday. National Weather Service forecasters in Sterling, VA. are predicting a high Wednesday of just 85 degrees at BWI-Marshall Airport.

BWI temperatures July That would cap the streak at 17 days, including Tuesday, the third-longest consecutive string of 90-degree weather for Baltimore since record-keeping began. In all, July delivered 24 days with 90-plus weather, a record for any month in Baltimore.

After another high Tuesday near 95 degrees, with lower humidity, relief will come to us Wednesday in the form of a "potent" low-pressure system and a cold front. It's expected to reach the area after sunset Tuesday, and should deliver some significant rainfall on Wednesday.

The weather service puts the rain chances Wednesday at 50 percent, with as much as a quarter inch possible. Higher totals are possible in thunderstorms. A few isolated storms could be strong to severe, forecasters said.

Daytime highs will remain in the upper 80s through Saturday, if the forecasters have it right.  The 90s could return to the forecast by Sunday, and more showers and storms are possible during the weekend as the next cold front approaches.

Last night's storms brought plenty of thunder, but widely variable amounts of rain to the region. Here are some representative totals from the CoCoRaHS Network:

Havre de Grace:  1.66 inches

Salisbury:  1.17 inches

College Park:  0.81 inch

Easton:  0.55 inch

Baltimore City:  0.38 inch

Sykesville:  0.35 inch

Jacksonville:  0.35 inch

Towson:  0.22 inch

Pasadena:  0.20 inch

Columbia:  0.10 inch

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:00 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Forecasts, Heat waves
        

108-degree reading was not a new state record

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Sun Weather station 7/22/11Jeff Brauner, in Baltimore, understands why the 106-degree reading at BWI on July 22 – the highest ever recorded at the airport – did not constitute a record for Baltimore. That’s because it was 107 degrees downtown on July 10, 1936, before the station of record moved out to the airport in 1950.

But he asks why the 108-degree reading downtown on the 22nd  can’t still be the new state record. That’s because, on that same July 10, 1936, it was 109 in Frederick and Cumberland.

(SUN PHOTO: Frank D. Roylance, July 22, 2011)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Sky Notes
        

August 1, 2011

New tropical storm heads for Haiti, Dominican Rep.

NHC EmilyThe fifth named storm of the 2011 Atlantic season has formed in the Caribbean Sea near the island of Dominica. The forecast track would carry the storm south of the U.S. Virgin Islands and  Puerto Rico, then across the Dominican Republic and Haiti by mid-week.

The National Hurricane Center said Tropical Storm Emily's center this evening was about 350 miles southeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico, moving to the west at 17 mph. Top sustained winds were estimated at 40 mph. Gradual strengthening was expected.

In anticipation of the storm, Tropical Storm Warnings have been posted for the islands of Dominica, Puerto Rico, Vieques and Culebra. Tropical Storm Watches are in effect for the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, St. Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat and Antigua. 

Here is the latest advisory for Emily. Here is the forecast storm track. And here is the NHC discussion.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:30 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

July was hottest July, hottest month ever for B'more

The month just ended was the hottest July and the hottest month on record for Baltimore. And those weren't the only records broken. Here's a rundown from the National Weather Service regional forecast office in Sterling, Va.:

HOTTEST JULY AND HOTTEST MONTH EVER...MONTHLY AVERAGE TEMP OF 81.7F
EDGED THE PREVIOUS HOTTEST JULY/MONTH AVERAGE OF 81.5F SET JULY
2010...JULY 1995...AND JULY 1872.

THREE DAILY RECORD HIGHS WERE EITHER BROKEN...106F ON THE 22ND AND
101F ON THE 29TH...OR TIED...102F ON THE 23RD.

MOST NUMBER OF DAYS IN JULY...OR FOR ANY MONTH...WHEN DAILY TEMPS
HIT 90F OR BETTER...24. PREVIOUS HIGHEST TALLY OF DAYS HITTING 90F
OR BETTER...22...IN JULY 1988 AND JULY 1999.

HOTTEST MONTHLY AVERAGE MAX TEMP FOR ANY MONTH INCLUDING JULY OF
92.9F BEAT THE PREVIOUS RECORD OF 92.5F SET LAST JULY 2010.

A READING OF 106F ON
JULY 22ND TIED FOR 2ND ALL TIME DAILY HOTTEST
TEMPERATURE EVER. THE HOTTEST DAY IN BALTIMORE REMAINS 107F RECORDED
IN 1936 ON JULY 10TH.

A NEW DAILY HIGH MIN TEMPERATURE RECORD OF 81F WAS SET ON THE 22ND.

...INTERESTINGLY...THE JULY 2011 MONTHLY AVERAGE MIN TEMP OF 70.4F
RANKED AS THE 24TH WARMEST OF ALL JULYS IN BALTIMORE...AND WAS ONE
TENTH OF A DEGF LESS THAN THE MONTHLY AVERAGE MIN TEMP OF 70.5F FROM
LAST JULY 2010.


Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:04 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: By the numbers
        

Midwest weather leads to soaring mold counts

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

mold spores EPAFrom the Weather Blog’s “It Could Be Worse Dept.”: Midwest residents are under Dangerous Air Quality Alert, but it’s not for smog. A record-breaking winter for snow, and now record-breaking rains and heat have sent mold spore counts soaring as high as 50,000 per cubic meter.  

Chicago saw 6.86 inches of rain July 23, and 4.37 inches more on Wednesday. High mold counts can trigger allergy and asthma symptoms, and aggravate lung conditions. A bumper ragweed crop is next.

(PHOTO: EPA)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition
        
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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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