If you're driving in western Maryland today you may have some trouble with wind and flooding. There's a flood warning for the Monacacy in Frederick until Thursday morning. According to the National Weather service:
"AT 10 AM WEDNESDAY THE STAGE WAS 17.8 FEET. * FLOOD STAGE IS 15.0 FEET. * MODERATE FLOODING IS OCCURRING AND MODERATE FLOODING IS FORECAST. * ...THE RIVER WILL CONTINUE RISING TO NEAR 18.6 FEET BY EARLY THIS EVENING. THE RIVER WILL FALL BELOW FLOOD STAGE OVERNIGHT"
Also in Frederick there's a wind advisory until 10 p.m. with gusts up to 55 mph at elevations above 1,000 feet.
Looks like Central Maryland will be in the chute again as stalled weather systems to our east and west conspire to channel a few more days of tropical moisture, showers, rain and thunderstorms this way.
With nearly 20 inches of rain in the bucket since the beginning of August, forecasters are saying we should prepare for as much as another 3 to 6 inches in the next few days. And the I-95 corridor could see the worst of it, if you can believe some of the forecast models.
"The model consensus for the axis of heavy rain fall is near the I-95 corridor, with west to east variability of this axis ranging from just east of the Blue Ridge to the Chesapeake Bay. Rainfall totals of 2 to 3 inches with isolated amounts of 4 to 5 inches are possible within this band, whichis enough to produceflash flooding," said National Weather Service forecasters in Sterling, Va., in this morning's forecast discussion.
Flash Flood Watches are in effect for the entire Western Shore, from Frederick County east to the bay and south to the Potomac. "The best chance for the heaviest rain will be near and east of the I-95 corridor," the watch said.
UPDATE, 11:30 a.m.: A Flash Flood Warning was issued for portions fo Frederick and western Carroll counties as heavy rains crossed the area with rain rates of up to an inch an hour.
Eric the Red, a professional meteorologist in Baltimore and frequent contributor here, said this rain event won't compare with that from remnants of Tropical Storm Lee earlier this month, but he had this analysis to offer:
"Stalled upper-air low to our west and a stationary high to our east puts us between two spinning pinwheels, pulling all sorts of tropical moisture into our area. The problem with this forecast is there is no easy-to-identify trigger mechanism (no stalled front or tropical storm) ... so we're left with a ton of moisture, high rainfall potential, but nothing to grasp in terms of where this rain will fall. This is readily apparent in the models, which all have heavy rain falling, but they are all over the place as to where."
Wherever is falls, he said, "This rain will come down in torrents ... so be prepared to deal with street flooding and all the other fun that comes with this. Throw in the 10-15" of rain that has fallen over the past 2-3 weeks, and you can see why we're under a Flash Flood Watch."
For the record, August ended with 10.38 inches of rain at BWI-Marshall Airport, the fifth-wettest on record for the city. Through midnight last night, the airport had received 9.57 inches. Three more inches this weekend would make this the wettest September on record for Baltimore, beating the 12.41 inches in 1934.
We've had more than a foot of surplus (above average) rain since Aug. 1.
After the water level at the Conowingo Dam seemed to be leveling off, or coming down, the Exelon Energy Corp. said this afternoon they may have to open up to three more flood gates (from 41 to 44) tonight to deal with a surge of water coming down the Susquehanna.
That raises the issue of when the river will crest, or whether it already has. Here's how the river has been behaving at Conowingo since the flood began. What do you think?
Here's a pretty impressive rainfall map from the National Weather Service, showing estimated totals from Monday afternoon through 11 a.m. Friday. The Newburg area of southern Chalres County looks like the winner ... or loser... with more than 15 inches of rain. The estimates are derived from radar returns and ground measurements. The political boundaries are hard to see, but click the map and it will enlarge.
The mayor of Port Deposit, Md. has ordered a mandatory evacuation of the town starting at 8 p.m. Thursday as waters continue to rise on the Susquehanna.
"All residents of Main Street should prepare to evacuate," the order said. "A shelter has been established at Perryville High School on Perrylawn Avenue. You are encouraaged to take an emergency kit with you. Some suggested items are non-perishable food, water, a battery powered or hand-crank radio, extra flashlights and batteries, a change of clothes, and medications."
The dam's owners, the Exelon Corp., said 32 of the dam's 53 flood gates were open at noon Thursday. "We are preparing to open up to 50 gates within the next 48 hours when the dam crests at about Saturday morning at 6 a.m.," said company spokesman Bob Judge.
It would be the first time since Tropical Storm Agnes in 1972 that Conowingo has opened 50 crest gates, he said.
The gates are likely to remain open "at least through Monday" as waters begin to fall, he said.
The epic rainfall that has hosed Central Maryland since Monday continued overnight. And it's not over yet.
The three-day total at BWI had reached 6.67 inches by midnight. We've had 5.74 inches here on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville. But some locations have seen even more than that in just the past 24 hours.
The map at left is AccuWeather.com's Doppler radar estimate of rain totals for the 24 hours ending at 6 a.m. Thursday. No scale was provided, but you get the idea.
Somehow, it was not a record. BWI reported 3.40 inches of rain Wednesday. The Baltimore record for a Sept. 7 is 3.84 inches, set in 1934.
Many roads are closed this morning by high water or fallen trees. The WeatherDeck, and the four developments around us, were an island last night, blocked by high water from all directions. I - and perhaps 100 of my neighbors - didn't get home to our families and pets until the waters receded at 10 p.m. And I'm told by police that at least one of the exits is blocked again this morning by a fallen tree.
And forecasters say the relatively narrow plume of tropical moisture being channeled our way from Florida by the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee is still aimed right for us. (That's Hurricane Katia swirling off the coast.)
The rain totals map above shows the heaviest amounts smack on top of the Susquehanna River watershed, so we can expect to see historic flooding in Harrisburg, and serious worries for communities as far downstream at Port Deposit in Maryland. Here's some of the thinking from AccuWeather.
Rising water on the Susquehanna River is forcing the owners of the Conowingo hydroelectric dam to open more floodgates, raising the risks of flooding downstream in the town of Port Deposit. Twelve gates were reported to be open Wednesday morning.
Exelon spokesman Bob Judge said the company is considering opening between 18-20 gates between now and Friday, based on the high level crest predictions.
The spill hotline, at 1-877-457-2525, said as many as 30 gates could be opened during this event.
At 14 gates, Rte. 222 into Port Deposit would be closed between the town and the dam because of spot flooding. At 18 gates, residents on west and north sides of Main Street will experience flooding in basements. At 21 gates, back yards will flood and at 25 gates residents face decisions on whether move out under an optional evacuation.
Judge said Exelon has notified the town. The river is forecast to crest around 6 a.m. Friday.
(SUN PHOTO: Conowingo flood gates open in September 2004 during runoff from Tropical Storm Ivan. Karl Merton Ferron)
The slow-moving remnants of Tropical Storm Lee continued to unload on Maryland Wednesday morning, pushing rivers ands creeks toward flood stage, inundating many roadways and slowing the morning commute to a crawl.
Barely a week into the new month and already the airport has seen nearly a full 30 day's worth of rain.
With Lee's remains stalled to our south and west, Maryland is on the receiving end of wet, tropical air flows from the Gulf and the Atlantic. Forecasters said Central Maryland can expect rain to continue in showers and thunderstorms through Monday, with probabilities declining slowly from 100 percent today and tonight, to 30 percent by Monday.
Adding to our misery, Hurricane Katia, while still more than 450 miles east of Delmarva and not expected to make landfall here, is still funneling dangerous swells onto the coast and moist tropical air to help fuel the rain forecast here for the weekend.
The past 24 hours have seen more than 3.3 inches of rain in White Marsh, with more than 2 inches in places as widespread as Leonardtown in St. Mary's County, Elkton in Cecil, Williamsport in Washington County, and St. Michaels in Talbot. All these data are from the CoCoRaHS Network.
BWI-Marshall Airport is reporting 3.27 inches from Monday morning through midnight last night, 3.43 inches in all, with more to come through Monday. The average for September is 4.03 inches, Baltimore's rainiest month.
A Flash Flood Warning was posted for Baltimore City and Central Baltimore county through 12:45 p.m. Wednesday as heavy rain bands crossed the region, dropping a quick inch of rain.
Flash Flood Watches have been in effect for days, and will remain in effect at least through Wednesday evening. Forecasters said heavy showers and scattered thunderstorms stoked by the remnants of Lee are capable of adding 2 to 3 inches to the rain totals today. Some locations could see 5 inches. Forecasters said:
"VERY HEAVY RAIN MAY CAUSE RAPID RISES IN CREEKS AND STREAMS, AS WELL AS SIGNIFICANT PONDING IN URBAN AREAS. DO NOT DFRIVE THROUGH ROADWAYS COVERED WITH WATER."
"THE THREAT OF HEAVY RAIN WILL PERSIST THROUGH AT LEAST THURSDAY, WITH A CONTINUED RISK OF FLASH FLOODING."
Rivers and creeks are rising quickly. The U.S. Geological Survey is forecasting that the Potomac River at Point of Rocks, Md., which stood at 1.2 feet Wednesday morning, will crest Friday at 31 feet. Flood stage is at 16 feet.
The Susquehanna, at 3.6 feet this morning, is forecast to crest Friday at 23 feet. Flood stage is 17 feet. And the Juniata River, in south-central Pennsylvania, stood at 3.7 feet Wednesday morning. It was forecast to rise to 27 feet by Friday, five feet above flood stage.
The National Park Service declared a "Flood Emergency" Tuesday morning along the C&O Canal National Historic Park, describing what's coming as "what could be one of the top ten major floods in our area."
Areas of the park were being closed, including campgrounds, boat ramps, visitor centers and day use areas. Portable toilets were being emptied and closed on Tuesday.
"Visitors are being asked to refrain from entering the park and respect all safety barriers. There is a risk of being swept away by swift water or becoming stranded along the towpath as the waters rise," the park service advised. "Therising water will be carrying extremely hazardous debris, trees and man-made objects."
(SUN PHOTO: Frank Roylance. Main Street Ellicott aCity video from dreed876, courtesy of Sarah Angerer)
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?
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:
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)
The National Weather Service is also reporting flooding in Dundalk, a road closing in PG County due to flooding, and more of the same in Anne Arundel: on Mountain Road at Catherine Avenue, and north of Laurel.
A stranded vehicle was reported in Harford County north of Edgewood. (Wish I could provide exact locations, bu the NWS reports are pretty vague.) Howard County was a little more precise, with a report of street flooding on Rte 1 at North Second Street northeast of Laurel.
Radar shows what forecasters predicted. There are heavy showers and thunderstorms moving toward the Baltimore area this afternoon.
One forecast model (see clickable map) says they could dump as much as 4 to 7 inches of rain on some locations. But even if that's an outsized prediction, we're almost certain to see several inches at least. Here's what Eric the Red is seeing this afternoon:
"This afternoon and eve ... we appeared primed for a round of potentially torrential downpours. Storms are popping up on radar out ahead of the main event. Models vary greatly ... with the GFS coming in with a modest 0.50 inch ...The WRF, however, is totally jiggy with this storm, and has a forecast of 4 to 7 inches of rain for this afternoon and tonight... They both seem a little (or alot) under/over done, but if I had to lean, I'd go toward the higher end. A 1 to 3-inch rain event seems like a good bet, with locally higher totals."
Later, he added, "Some of these [storms] will likely be severe, with strong winds and/or hail. There's also the risk of a small tornado."
Indeed, the National Weather Service this afternoon posted Severe Thunderstorm Watches until 9 p.m. for all of Central Maryland, and a Flash Flood Watch until 6:45 p.m. for all the northern tier of counties from Washington east to Harford. One to three inches of rain are predicted with the storms.
What are you seeing? Leave us comments until the computer goes under.
The flood watch posted earlier today for Maryland's Western Shore has become a Coastal Flood Warning, with water along the bay and tidal creeks expected to rise 1 to 2 feet or higher at high tides tonight and Wednesday, enough to cause minor to moderate flooding.
In Annapolis, which has seen flooding at the usual low spots around the City Dock in the past week, Mayor Joshua Cohen has reminded residents and business owners that sandbags will remain available for the next few days, until the flood threat finally goes away.
Cohen said the high tides could rise 3 feet or more above normal levels as persistent southeasterly winds keep water bottled up in the upper bay.
The sandbags are available in two locations: the 2nd Street Pumping Station in Eastport, and at Mills Liquors and Market House at the City Dock.
The Coastal Flood Warning is in effect from midnight tonight until noon Wednesday. Coastal Flood Advisories remain in effect before and after those times, and until 6 a.m. Thursday. Here's more from the NWS on tide times:
"HERE ARE THE TIMES OF THE NEXT HIGH TIDES FOR A FEW LOCATIONS FROM NORTH TO SOUTH... ON THE CHESAPEAKE BAY... HAVRE DE GRACE...10:30 PM AND 11:07 AM... BOWLEY BAR...8:08 PM AND 8:45 AM... FORT MCHENRY BALTIMORE...7:17 PM AND 7:54 AM... ANNAPOLIS U.S. NAVAL ACADEMY...5:47 PM AND 6:24 AM... CHESAPEAKE BEACH...4:30 PM AND 5:07 AM... SOLOMONS ISLAND...2:39 PM AND 3:16 AM... POINT LOOKOUT...2:26 AM AND 2:43 PM...
"NOW ALONG THE POTOMAC RIVER... ALEXANDRIA...9:13 PM AND 9:25 AM... INDIAN HEAD...8:41 PM AND 8:53 AM..."
Much of Maryland is also under a Flash Flood Watch as showers and thunderstorms capable of dumping 1 to 2 inches of rain approach the region later today. The watch is in effect until 2 a.m. Wednesday.
There's a flood watch until 6 p.m. for Carroll; central and eastern Allegany; extreme western Allegany; Frederick; Washington.
Rain will average a half and one inch, but will be heavier during isolated thunderstorms, the National Weather Service said. With saturated ground and high creeks and streams, there is potential for flooding.
Meanwhile, the Baltimore area is also due to get some rain and thunderstorms today through 8 p.m. See more details from the National Weather Service. There's a chance of showers on every forecast this week through Sunday with the exception of Thursday.
The water is still rising on the Susquehanna River. Exelon Power Corp. has opened 26 to 32 flood gates on the Conowingo Dam, making for a pretty spectacular sight, with almost 300,000 cubic feet of water charging through the dam each second. (the median for this time of year is 48,700 cf/s). Here's the (clickable) hydrograph for Friday afternoon.
The river below the dam was just below flood stage Friday afternoon. Flood stage is 23.5 feet, and the water was at 23.3 feet at 2 p.m. The forecast from the National Weather Service predicted the water would continue to rise through the night, climbing to 27.3 feet before nightfall before cresting at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
Might be worth a drive up to have a look. If you have some spectacular photos, email them to me, and we'll post 'em.
There was a Flood Warning in place for the Susquehanna below the dam. Above the dam, at Harrisburg, the Flood Warning said the river was expected to rise above the 17-foot flood Friday this afternoon, and keep rising to a crest of 21.3 feet Saturday afternoon:
"THE RIVER WILL FALL BELOW FLOOD STAGE BY SUNDAY BEFORE MIDNIGHT. AT 21.0 FEET...HOMES ON BOTH BANKS ARE AFFECTED BY HIGH WATER. THIS IS THE APPROXIMATE LEVEL OF ROUTES 11 AND 15...UPSTREAM OF THE MARKET STREET BRIDGE."
Heavy rainfall - more than 2.5 inches so far at The Sun's weather station - has put the Jones Falls ove rits banks in the usual locations in the Meadow Mill area at Union Avenue, and near the Smith Avenue Bridge in Mt. Washington.
Shops and businesses forced to evacuate include the Whole Foods, Starbucks and the Framin' Place. So far, authorities said no residences were threatened, and there have been no reports of injuries or water rescues.
Here's a look at the scene in Mt. Washington from Sun reporter Scott Calvert:
The dry, crisp, clear air that made the quarter moon so sharp in the sky just before sunrise today will give way on Thursday to increasing clouds and a significant rainstorm.
Forecasters out at Sterling are expecting 1 to 2 inches of rain here late Thursday into Friday as a storm system now over the southwestern states moves east along the jet stream and crosses our region on Friday. There's even a chance for thunderstorms breaking out Friday morning southeast of wherever the low finally decides to track.
That's a lot of rain. The National Weather Service has issued a Flood Watch for Garrett County, in extreme Western Maryland, in effect from Thursday afternoon through Friday morning. Out there. forecasters expect 1 to 1.5 inches of rain to be augmented by an additional half-inch of snow melt. That could flood streams and creeks and low-lying areas.
"A FLOOD WATCH MEANS THERE IS A POTENTIAL FOR FLOODING BASED ON CURRENT FORECASTS. YOU SHOULD MONITOR FORECASTS AND BE ALERT FOR POSSIBLE FLOOD WARNINGS. THOSE LIVING IN AREAS PRONE TO FLOODING SHOULD BE PREPARED TO TAKE ACTION SHOULD FLOODING OCCUR."
No flood watch yet for Central Maryland. Our streams look pretty depleted after a relatively dry winter, and we have less snow on the ground than Garrett. So perhaps we'll get by without a flood risk.
The forecast for BWI-Marshall Airport calls for clouds to begin increasing Thursday after a sunny start to the day. Warm, moist air will begin to move in from the south, riding up and over the cold air at the surface. Rain should start by evening.
Forecasters are calling for a half- to three-quarters of an inch in Central Maryland Thursday night, then another half-to three-quarters of an inch on Friday before the rain ends by noon. Temperatures Friday night will drop below freezing, leaving us to tread carefully on the resulting ice. Northwest winds gusting to 35 mph will make the night even more interesting.
The weekend forecast offers sunny skies and highs in the upper 40s on Saturday, then increasing clouds on Sunday as the next rain storm moves in Sunday night into Monday.
Officials at the Susquehanna River Basin Commission say loss of system funding would cut off data used to forecast flooding along the river, and to manage the withdrawal of water by regulated water users. Those users include Marcellus shale gas development projects and, in times of drought, the Baltimore water system, which serves the city and surrounding suburbs.
"In a time of tight budgets and with the country determined to get its fiscal house in order, everyone understands the need to curb spending," said the commission's executive director, Paul Swartz. "But eliminating funding for this proven system risks loss of life and property, and leaves Susquehanna basin residents, communities and businesses vulnerable. Is that a prudent financial decision?"
The $2.4 million needed to keep the system of stream and river gauges operating has been provided until now by "congressionally directed funding," or "earmarks." But the Senate has passed a two-year moratorium on the practice.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat, has been a key supporter of the funding on the Appropriations Committee, said she was "disappointed" in the situation. But she added, "it is unlikely that congressionally designated projects will be funded in the near future."
In a release, Swartz said the forecast and warning system "provides the National Weather Service the critically important data necessary to issue flood warnings. The system is extremely cost-effective, providing a 20-to-1 benefit-cost ratio."
Funding for the system this year is coming through the "continuing resolutions" that Congress has passed in lieu of a FY 2011 budget. The current resolution expires on Mar. 4. Without a new earmark for the system, it would not be funded in FY 2012, either.
River basin commission officials said they intend to work to secure some sort of "bridge" funding to keep the system working through September 2012. They also hope to have the funding included in the President's budget for FY-2013. "That is exactly where funding for the system belongs ... Congress has carried the burden of funding the system for too long," Swartz said.
"It is not a question of whether flooding will again occur in the Susquehanna River Basin, but rather when it will occur, and how severe it will be," he said. "I pray it will not take the devastation of another flood event for us to once again learn the wisdom of the adage that 'an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.'"
The warning system was established 25 years ago to protect the 1,100-or-so flood-prone communities in the basin, which stretches 444 miles from upstate New York, through Central Pennsylvania to Maryland. Here's more on how the river forecast system works.
(SUN PHOTOS: Port Deposit (top) and Conowingo Dam, 2004; Karl Merton Ferron)
Schools in Harford and Baltimore counties have announced they will be closing early Thursday due to the heavy rain. They cite "deteriorating weather conditions" and "The continued accumulation of standing water" on local roadways.
Carroll and Cecil have also announced early closings.
Okay. I get it. We don't want our children to be out there on the roads when some low spots are covered or closed by high water.
So does it make sense to then actually send them (and their parents and caretakers who will have to pick the kids up and get them home or to another safe place) out into those very conditions? Wouldn't it be better to keep them safe at school?
The rain is forecast to continue, and the flooding could get worse. But it's not exactly the same as accumulating snow. What do you think?
Heavy, peristent rain across the region is bringing small stream and creeks to their brims, while waters are rising to flood stage along the Potomac River, the Monocacy in Frederick County and other rivers.
BWI-Marshall has tallied more than 3 inches of rain so far from this storm. We have 1.6 on the gauge here on the WeatherDeck. Drop a comment and let us know what you're seeing.
The National Weather Service has posted Flood Warnings from Garrett County east to the Chesapeake, with more rain expected. Here is a bit of this afternoon's Forecast Discussion from Sterling:
"...THE FLOOD WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 515 PM EST FOR URBAN AREAS AND SMALL STREAMS IN BALTIMORE CITY...BALTIMORE...NORTHERN ANNE ARUNDEL...HOWARD AND CARROLL COUNTIES...
"AT 219 PM EST NATIONAL SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR CONTINUED TO INDICATE AN AREA OF HEAVY RAINFALL ACROSS THE BALTIMORE METROPOLITAN AREA. ADDITIONAL RAINFALL AMOUNTS UP TO AN INCH ARE POSSIBLE.
"A FLOOD WARNING MEANS THAT FLOODING IS IMMINENT OR HAS BEEN REPORTED. STREAM RISES WILL BE SLOW AND FLASH FLOODING IS NOT EXPECTED. HOWEVER...ALL INTERESTED PARTIES SHOULD TAKE NECESSARY PRECAUTIONS IMMEDIATELY."
The National Weather Service is also reporting flooding and closed roads on Route 77 near Cunningham Falls, near Thurmont in Frederick County and in Elkridge. Roads have been closed, also, in parts of Loudon County, Va., and Hampshire County, West Virginia.
Lots of Marylanders noticed it. A few sent me emails asking why the tides in Maryland during June and early July seemed so persistently high - from a few inches to a few feet at times, with some minor coastal flooding. I said it was likely a combination of astronomical effects, and persistent wind and weather patterns.
Well, I was mostly right.
Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration noticed the persistently high sea levels, too, and set out to find the explanation. On Monday, they issued a 40-page report on the phenomenon, which blames it on a combination of (ta-da!) "steady and persistent Northeast winds," and a weakening of something called the Florida Current Transport.
"The ocean is dynamic and it's not uncommon to have anomalies," said Mike Szabados, director of NOAA's Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services. "What made this event unique was its breadth, intensity and duration."
The report's executive summary notes, as I did, that high tides in the latter part of June coincided with a "perigean spring tide." That's when the moon is at perigee (nearest to Earth), and aligned opposite the sun in a "new moon" phase (June 22), which causes higher-than-average "spring tides." Those factors amplified the tides, the report said.
But such astronomical factors are included in the forecast tide levels. What occurred was well beyond those predictions. And it was wind and current that really made the high tides notable.
In June, winds from Cape Hatteras to the Gulf of Maine had a persistent northeast component, the report said. That drove ocean and bay waters to the southwest, piling it up against the east-facing shorelines, raising sea levels and holding them higher than predicted levels, even during the times of low tides.
South of Hatteras, winds were mostly out of the southwest. The high sea levels observed there, the report found, were not the result of winds, but of a slackening of the Florida Current, which flows through the Florida Straits and feeds into the Gulf Stream. And when the Florida Current relaxes, the coastal sea levels along the Southeast Atlantic coast rises. When the Florida Current picked up again in mid-July, sea levels returned to normal.
"The June-July 2009 anomaly is unique," the NOAA scientists concluded, not because the Northeast winds and the Florida Current were at remarkable extremes, but because the two in combination created conditions that affected the entire U.S. East Coast, from Maine to Florida, simultaneously.
And the stretch from the Carolinas to New Jersey -including Maryland - were where the two forces overlapped to create the most extreme effects.
There has been nothing like it, over such a broad geography, the report says, in any spring/summer period since at least as far back as 1980.
Winds out of the east and southeast are driving water up the Chesapeake Bay and holding it there. And that's the recipe for minor coastal flooding. The National Weather Service has posted a coastal flood advisory all along the Western Shore from Harford to St. Mary's County, effective from 10 this morning until 6 a.m. Wednesday.
Residents along the shore can expect tides to run 1 to 1.5 feet above forecast levels, and as much as 2 feet at high tide. Here are the upcoming high tide times for several locations:
ON THE CHESAPEAKE BAY... HAVRE DE GRACE...4:46 AM AND 4:21 PM... FORT MCHENRY BALTIMORE...1:08 PM AND 2:25 AM... ANNAPOLIS U.S. NAVAL ACADEMY...11:38 AM AND 12:55 AM... SOLOMONS ISLAND...8:30 AM AND 9:47 PM... POINT LOOKOUT...7:40 AM AND 8:57 PM... ALEXANDRIA...3:04 PM AND 3:37 AM...
NOW ALONG THE POTOMAC RIVER... INDIAN HEAD...2:32 PM AND 3:05 AM... GOOSE BAY...10:38 AM AND 11:11 PM... WICOMICO RIVER NEAR COBB ISLAND...6:25 AM AND 7:07 PM...
Nope. It's not tornadoes. Not even hurricanes, at least not their high winds. It's flooding. And more than half of those flooding deaths occur when people try to drive through high water.
The National Weather Service has declared this week to be Flood Awareness Week. Not that we've had enough rain since September to flood a street. But we will again, someday.
For now, as a public service, we are posting the weather service's renewed warning to us all: Turn Around. Don't Drown. (That's TADD. Government loves acronyms.) Here goes:
TADD IS A NOAA NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE CAMPAIGN TO WARN PEOPLE OF THE HAZARDS OF WALKING OR DRIVING A VEHICLE THROUGH FLOOD WATERS.
WHY IS TURN AROUND DONT DROWN SO IMPORTANT?
EACH YEAR...MORE DEATHS OCCUR DUE TO FLOODING THAN FROM ANY OTHER SEVERE WEATHER RELATED HAZARD. THE MAIN REASON IS PEOPLE UNDERESTIMATE THE FORCE AND POWER OF WATER. MORE THAN HALF OF ALL FLOOD RELATED DEATHS RESULT FROM VEHICLES BEING SWEPT DOWNSTREAM. OF THESE...MANY ARE PREVENTABLE.
WHAT CAN I DO TO AVOID GETTING CAUGHT IS THIS SITUATION?
FOLLOW THESE SAFETY RULES: MONITOR THE NOAA WEATHER RADIO, OR YOUR FAVORITE NEWS SOURCE FOR VITAL WEATHER RELATED INFORMATION.
IF FLOODING OCCURS, GET TO HIGHER GROUND. GET OUT OF AREAS SUBJECT TO FLOODING. THIS INCLUDES DIPS, LOW SPOTS, LOW WATER BRIDGES, ETCETERA.
AVOID AREAS ALREADY FLOODED, ESPECIALLY IF THE WATER IS FLOWING FAST. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO CROSS FLOWING STREAMS. TURN AROUND DON`T DROWN
ROAD BEDS MAY BE WASHED OUT UNDER FLOOD WATERS. NEVER DRIVE THROUGH FLOODED OADWAYS. TURN AROUND DON`T DROWN
DO NOT CAMP OR PARK YOUR VEHICLE ALONG STREAMS AND CREEKS, PARTICULARLY DURING THREATENING CONDITIONS.
BE ESPECIALLY CAUTIOUS AT NIGHT WHEN IT IS HARDER TO RECOGNIZE FLOOD DANGERS.
We've been watching these flood stories coming out of Iowa and some other very wet places this week. Very amazing and very sad for those affected. But I can't help wondering why we continue to allow people to rebuild in flood plains, when we know they will, eventually, be washed out again. These rivers, and the oceans, are far bigger than we are, they they don't give a whit about our attempts to colonize their ancient territory.
Seems to me there have been some efforts to buy out a few of these places, and rebuild communities on higher ground. But it's clear we don't do enough of it. Instead, we spend our money on (ultimately) futile attempts to hold back the rivers and defy the storm tides. New Orleans is a classic example of a place that should never have been settled. Yet we rebuild, spending billions on levees that break and beaches that wash away, and flood insurance that just keeps on giving.
Consider this from Friends of the Earth:
"In 1966, a report to Congress by the Task Force on Federal Flood Control Policy gave the nation a lesson in flood control: don’t rebuild in high-hazard zones like coastlines and river deltas. This lesson was reiterated in the 1973 Report of the National Water Commission. Both distinguished panels found that despite the enormous flood control expenditures, flood damages were increasing. Both panels recommended that more attention be paid to relocation out of flood zones and called for greater emphasis on non-engineering solutions. There is a growing body of evidence that healthy wetlands, in-tact dune systems and other natural ecosystems reduce storm and flood damage, but far too many tax dollars have been spent to destroy these natural systems to facilitate more development."
FOE makes the argument that global warming will make all this worse. But it's not necessary to invoke global warming here, although there are plenty of people ready to argue that more extreme precipitation and warmer, higher oceans will only increase the frequency of flooding events. Set all that aside. These rivers and shores have been flooding for eons. We're the new element there. And we're only building more costly infrastructure and adding more population to the riversides and coastlines. That's what's costing us so much more each time these events occur. And that's just dumb.
Anybody have any thoughts on this? Should we just help these people rebuild? Or should we help them move to higher ground? Leave the farm fields. Floods are good for them in the long run. But move the homes out of the rivers' path.
But if there's one thing to remember when your world goes under water, it's this:TURN AROUND, DON'T DROWN. The water in the street might look shallow and fordable in a heavy car. But surprisingly little water, especially if it's moving, can strand you, or pick you up and sweep you downstream to meet your Maker. Even in hurricanes, it's inland flooding - not storm surge or high winds - that kills the most people. And most die trying to drive on flooded roads.
The couple in this You Tube video seem to think that driving around, sight-seeing during a flood, with Baby Keller in the car is a fine way to pass the time. It's not. They're fools. And I trust the kids will survive in spite of their parents.
Tidal flooding along the Chesapeake is easing this morning. High water was flooding low-lying sections of Alexandria as southerly winds and heavy runoff from weekend storms piled water into the Cheapeake and its tidal rivers. A flood warning was issued for Alexandria and the District of Columbia.
This tide chart from Annapolis shows how far the tide readings had risen above predictions. But the red line is now falling closer to astronomical predictions. Coastal flooding advisories remain in place for today along the Western Shore of the bay, but should expire this afternoon.
The Susquehanna River, swollen by recent rains and melting snow in Pennsylvania and New York, appears to have crested at the Conowingo Dam, with only minor flooding overnight in Port Deposit. Flood warnings for Harford County have been dropped, but a watch continues in Cecil County, largely because of heavy rains expected late today and tomorrow.
Folks along the river remain on watch. Flooding continues in Marietta, Pa., about 35 miles upstream from Conowingo, but the water is receding. The water levels remain high, but discharge from the dam had slowed by this morning to less than 300,000 cubic feet per second. It is also well below the record daily discharge for this date - March 7 - of 462,000 cf/s in 1979. Here's the discharge graph:
As a pair of potent storms approach the region this afternoon, we all can expect heavy rain through the night and into tomorrow.
Sometimes parking is hard to find. But too often you drive across acres of empty spaces before you settle on a spot. Rain on those empty acres collects pollutants and rushes them into the storm sewers, and on to the Chesapeake Bay.
Purdue University scientists have done some calculating, and they've found that empty spaces in the region they surveyed outnumber actual drivers by three-to-one. Tons of oil and heavy metals are swept off the blacktop when it rains and sluiced into the nearest waterways. Loads of salt are spread each winter to keep the space free of snow and ice, not to mention the fuel burned to shove the snow aside. The result is a degraded environment and more urban flash flooding.
I know there are rules about how much parking is needed for each square foot of retail space. But do some builders go overboard? Could we revisit those rules and see if they could be modified under certain circumstances to reduce the amount of impervious, paved surfaces we build? Could we provide a tax credit, or some sort of incentive for retailers to dig up unneeded blacktop and plant something that would absorb more runoff?
Am I dreaming? Does the WalMart out in Hunt Valley really need parking all the way out to the Light Rail station? Do you have an expanse of parking you drive by every day that is never filled? Leave a comment and nominate your favorite overkill-parking lot. Send me a digital photo and I'll post it.
GPS is a very cool technology. If I had had the dough, I would have ordered my Prius with it. But there is always a need for a functioning human brain to provide backup. A British woman could have used more cranial software recently. The GPS in her Mercedes said there was a road ahead, so she plunged ahead, despite data entering her eyeballs that told her brain the road was under water, submerged by heavy rains.
The water grabbed the L96,000 (that's $188,000; is that even possible?) SL500 and tossed it downstream. The woman managed to escape, was rescued, and ... well, you can read about it here. Take-home lesson: If the road ahead is flooded, turn around, don't drown, no matter what your GPS tells you.
With last weekend's raking efforts ruined by subsequent leaf falls, and heavy rain on tap tomorrow as a strong low-pressure system approaches from the Deep South, forecasters are advising Marylanders today to make sure their storm drains are clear of leaves. They're expecting 1 to 2 inches of rain to fall in the next 24 hours, enough to make the creeks rise and cause minor flooding where drainage is poor.
The storm system, thanks to its counter-clockwise rotation, will also be pulling strong winds out of the south or southeast and straight up the Chesapeake Bay. That will blow the water up the bay and hold it there after high tide, causing those tides to run at least a foot above normal. Minor coastal flooding might be the result. Here's how they're running now - already a foot or so above predictions at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday. (Just click on "MD" and then the gauge station of your choice.)
Persistent southeast winds up the bay have prevented some water from exiting at low tide. That, combined with an approaching low pressure system, has prompted forecasters to advise Marylanders to watch for unusually high tides today and tonight - 1 to 2 feet above predicted levels.
Here is how the current tides are behaving. (Just click on Maryland, and choose your favorite tide gauge location.)
With the exception of the lower Susquehanna and Potomac, most rivers in Maryland appear to be falling this morning after cresting near or below their flood stages. Here is a rundown from the National Weather Service. You can check the status of your favorite streams here. Fewer are running at record volumes for the date today. You can almost hear the state's drain gurgling.
Flash flood warnings are posted tonight across most of western Maryland as torrential rains continue to pound the region. Emergency officials were investigating a suspected tornado, which damaged structures earlier this evening down in Chaptico, in St. Mary's County. Voluntary evacuations are also taking place along portions of the bay shore in Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties as abnormally high tides cause minor to moderate coastal flooding.
The heaviest rains - described as "torrential" - appeared to be falling in the Catoctins, according to the weather service. Flooding was expected in Wolfsville, Pleasant Walk, Bolivar and Arnoldtown. Heavy rain was also reported this evening in Rockville, Emmitsburg and Mt. Airy.
"Significant" rises were reported in the Potomac and Rappahannock rivers. Little Falls, on the Potomac, was expected to surpass flood stage by Thursday morning and runoff from the rains flowed out of the tributaries and reached the main stem of the river. The Potomac was expected to rise above flood stage at Wisconsin Avenue in Washington by Thursday night.
Two to 4 more inches of rain were forecast tonight for Prince George's County, including Upper Marlboro, New Carrollton, College Park, Beltsville and Hyattsville (which saw some of the heaviest rain over the past four days -more than a foot).
All that said, it doesn't look - at least from the radar image - that this rain can last long into the morning. The echoes seem to be closing in on our region, with drier air close behind. By this time Wednesday, we're going to be much more focused on rising rivers than rainfall.
Blame the cold front that moved in with the thunderstorms last night. It's predicted to stall over the region today, placing us in the middle of the tracks as wave after wave of showers and thunderstorms roll up the front. The "training" effect will cause rainfall - heavy at times during thunderstorms - to pile up. Creeks will rise and some flooding is expected.
We're likely to remain on the tracks well into next week.
The first thunderstorm struck very early this morning, producing loud thunder and plenty of rain in some locations. We had 0.64 inch on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville - most of it falling sometime around 1 a.m. The official rain gauge at BWI-Marshall clocked just a tenth of an inch between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. The Washington Reagan Airport station reported 0.71 inch between 1 and 2 a.m.
We can expect much more later today and through the weekend. The forecast calls for as much as 2.75 inches in the Baltimore region. Could be more or less depending on where you are, and where the sun breaks through to boil up the humidity and trigger storms. Take the umbrella.
With the full moon approaching, it's a good time to be on the lookout for unusually high tides. And as it happens, with winds from the south earlier today driving water up into the bay and holding it there, high tides have indeed been running about a foot above predicted levels.
The NWS issued a coastal flood statement earlier today, warning of minor flooding in some spots along the western shore and on the tidal reaches of the Potomac River. And they're looking for even more water tomorrow morning as we get closer to Sunday's full moon. (The full moon in June is known as the Rose Moon, or the Strawberry Moon. Nice.)
Here's how the tides are running now in Baltimore. You can click on other stations, too. Pretty clear how much higher the observed tides have been in recent days that the predicted values.
Here are the upcoming high-tide times from the weather service:
ON THE CHESAPEAKE BAY... ANNAPOLIS...3:07 THIS AFTERNOON AND 4:05 AM FRIDAY... FORT MCHENRY...4:45 THIS AFTERNOON AND 5:43 AM FRIDAY... BOWLEY BAR...5:36 THIS AFTERNOON AND 6:34 AM FRIDAY... HAVRE DE GRACE...7:56 THIS EVENING AND 8:54 AM FRIDAY...
ON THE TIDAL POTOMAC... GOOSE BAY PORT TOBACCO RIVER...2:27 PM AND 2:32 AM FRIDAY... INDIAN HEAD...6:21 THIS EVENING AND 6:26 AM FRIDAY... ALEXANDRIA...6:55 THIS EVENING AND 7:00 AM FRIDAY... KEY BRIDGE GEORGETOWN...7:12 THIS EVENING AND 7:17 AM FRIDAY...
NASA's Terra Earth-observing satellite has captured photos of the aftermath of a broken dike in Romania this week. Heavy rains and melting snow in Central Europe have caused flooding along the Danube. The soaking weakened an earthen dike, which broke, flooding farmland and forcing the evacuation of hundreds of residents. That brought the number of people evacuated from flooded land to 16,000.
The National Weather Service has issued coastal flood statements noting the risk of minor flooding - 6 to 18 inches above predicted tide levels - at high tide along the western shore of the Chesapeake today. Northwest winds should blow the bay water southward and resolve the problem by tomorrow. Here's a look at the tide patterns in Maryland. Just click on "MD."
Stiff winds out of the south promise to push water up the bay and create unusually high tides on Friday. The National Weather Service is warning that tidal waters will rise as much as two feet above predicted levels along Maryland's western shore, causing some minor coastal flooding at high tide. Here are some sites with tide forecasts and observations. Watch the water rise without getting your feet wet.
I know, it's hard to imagine. But it's been raining in torrents out in Hawaii, with up to 6 inches of rain. Flash flooding on Oahu is causing some considerable damage. Here's a brief story. And here is a link to some amazing CNN footage. You'll need to look for the link under "Watch Free Video," and click on "Flash flooding hits Hawaii." (NOTE:This video is no longer available from CNN.) The heavy rain now seems to be moving away from the western islands.
The National Weather Service continues to issue flood watches through late Saturday for most of Maryland west of the Bay, Northern Virginia, and eastern portions fo West Virginia. The wet weather arrives with remnants of Tropical Storm Tammy and an approaching cold front. Communities along the Blue Ridge, and to its west, will likely see the heaviest rainfall amounts. Here is the watch issued for our region this morning:
359 AM EDT FRI OCT 7 2005
...FLOOD WATCH REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM 8 AM EDT THIS MORNING THROUGH SATURDAY AFTERNOON...
THE FLOOD WATCH CONTINUES FOR
* THE EASTERN PANHANDLE OF WEST VIRGINIA...MUCH OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA...AND PORTIONS OF MARYLAND WEST OF THE CHESAPEAKE BAY.
* FROM THIS MORNING THROUGH SATURDAY AFTERNOON
* A COLD FRONT WILL APPROACH THE MID ATLANTIC LATER TODAY. AT THE SAME TIME...TROPICAL MOISTURE ASSOCIATED WITH THE REMNANTS OF TROPICAL DEPRESSION TAMMY WILL BE ABSORBED INTO THE ADVANCING FRONT. WIDESPREAD HEAVY RAINFALL IS LIKELY. RAIN WILL CONTINUE TO OVERSPREAD THE REGION THIS MORNING AND CONTINUE THIS AFTERNOON. THE RAIN MAY BECOME HEAVY AT TIMES THIS AFTERNOON AND INTO TONIGHT. THE RAIN IS EXPECTED TO DIMINISH LATE ON SATURDAY.
* TOTAL RAINFALL AMOUNTS IN THE FLOOD WATCH AREA THROUGH LATE SATURDAY WILL BE BETWEEN 3 TO 6 INCHES...WITH LOCALIZED AMOUNTS OF UP TO 8 INCHES POSSIBLE. THE HIGHEST RAINFALL TOTALS ARE EXPECTED TO BE ALONG AND WEST OF THE BLUE RIDGE MOUNTAINS.
* THIS AMOUNT OF RAINFALL IS EXPECTED TO CAUSE FLOODING OF SMALL STREAMS...AND URBAN AND POOR DRAINAGE AREAS. RIVER FLOODING IS NOT ANTICIPATED AT THIS TIME...ALTHOUGH SIGNIFICANT RISES WILL BE POSSIBLE.
A FLOOD WATCH MEANS THERE IS A POTENTIAL FOR WIDESPREAD FLOODING BASED ON CURRENT FORECASTS.
YOU SHOULD CONTINUE TO MONITOR LATER FORECASTS AND BE ALERT FOR POSSIBLE FLOOD OR FLASH FLOOD WARNINGS. THOSE LIVING IN AREAS PRONE TO FLOODING SHOULD BE PREPARED TO TAKE ACTION SHOULD FLOODING DEVELOP.
Heavy thunderstorms stalled over St. Mary's County are dumping copious rains - 3 to 4 inches so far this morning - over parts of the county in Southern Maryland. The National Weather Service has issued flash flood warnings for the area.
7:15 p.m. update: The threat of heavy rains from showers and thunderstorms prompted the weather service to issue hazardous weather advisories for much of the state east of the Blue Ridge, extending into the evening. There is a risk of local flooding
Flooding along the lower reaches of the Susquehanna River was easing this morning as water from heavy weekend rains continued to move down the watershed and into the Chesapeake Bay. Here are the latest advisories from the National Weather Service.
Recent rains have swollen the Susquehanna River and forced the operators of the Conowingo Dam to open more crest gates. 15 of the 40 gates are now open and minor flooding is expected in Port Deposit and Havre de Grace.
You can keep an eye on conditions at the dam with this site from the USGS.
Why is it that people who buy 4-wheel drive SUVs think their cars are amphibious? Jeanne's rains flooded York Road yesterday afternoon at Beaverdam Run in Cockeysville, and Sun photog Gene Sweeney snapped a front-page picture of this knucklehead driving through the bumper-deep water in a silver Jeep. After driving past barriers, I should add. Driving through flooded streets is the most common way of killing yourself in hurricanes and their aftermath. It takes an astonishingly small amount of water to float a car and wash it - and you- into oblivion. Find another route and live to complain about it.
Speaking of Beaverdam Run, the USGS techies were out there on the York Road bridge this morning checking their stream gauges. The instruments reported that the creek rose 8 feet in yesterday's rains. The flow meters in the water jumped from 23 cubic feet per second at 1 p.m. to a 5 p.m. peak of 1,640 cf/s. That's still far short of the record of 3,360 cf/s set on July 1, 1984. Wonder whether our knucklehead would have driven through that.
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