Monday, January 26, 2004

Welcome to Foot's Forecast

(January 26, 2004 - Dundalk, MD) This weblog has been created out of the increasing demand of many students and teachers in Dundalk, MD and others around Baltimore County who want to know "what's really going to happen" with the next big storm or major weather event, whether it is a snowstorm, hurricane, tornado, etc.

Whenever a significant weather event threatens the I-95 Corridor (from DC to Boston), I will post my take on the storm from time to time, based on the analyses conducted by my 10th grade Earth Science students at Dundalk High School. 

You can bet that when a big storm is on the table, we will be keeping you up-to-date sometimes hourly, other times every six hours depending on the status of the storm. For teachers and students...analysis of big winter storms will only be given if there is a risk of school being closed. If it looks like a weekend event, we probably won't go into great detail unless the event is a big storm.

I will post some background items about my forecasting experience and why I feel qualified to do this. But in general, before a forecast is posted on this site, we do a thorough analysis of all "computer model data" that is generated by the National Weather Service. This is the same information that all TV forecasters use, including AccuWeather and The Weather Channel. 

Everyone's forecast is simply "their take" on how they interpret the computer models. So this will not be a rubber stamp of what other forecasters are saying.

We will give credit where it is due, if we are basing the forecast on, or agreeing with a specific meteorologist or weather media outlet. But there will be times when it seems like we go way out on a limb when everyone else is hanging close to the tree. As time goes by, you'll see why. So don't take this as a location for "hype" on storms. The intent is not to get everyone all excited about every snowflake that falls. 

The purpose of this site is to give you, the weather enthusiast, a detailed but direct overview of "what's really going to happen" without drowning you in meteorological gobbly-gook. (Like my poor wife gets 24/7) You are welcome to email your thoughts and ideas on my forecast, but with all due respect, I will probably not answer most messages, as the extra time gained by a snowday or two will be spent with our new snow angel of a daughter.

I'll likely pick one or two of the most poignant emails that have good questions and post answers to them.

One more purpose in doing this is to help people understand the weather better so they can make informed decisions about what they do with their day. In addition, I hope that you will consider the important aspect of safety inherent in any weather situation. I hope this site helps to save lives and prevent injury during weather events.

So enough with the background...on to the forecast.


Storm #1 : Forecast (issued on Thu 1/22) for Baltimore was 5-10" by Monday 1/26 noon. Results: a general 4 to 8 inch range throughout the BAL area, from 5" at Dundalk High School to 8" in Reistertown, Baltimore County.

Storm # 2 : BAL area....sleet and freezing rain arrives Monday evening, becoming intermittent and heavier overnight. How much? A light glazing of ice by Tuesday mid-morning with snow mixed in at times. N and W of BAL (Owings Mills, Towson, Hereford, etc) expect less ice and more snow.. around 1" by Tues mid AM. In PHL area...same time frame, same amount of ice but less snow.

Storm # 3: All that will be intermittent Tues afternoon, changing to all snow by late in the day. Then the last storm kicks in... bringing heavy snow from Towson, MD on north into PHL and up to NYC. South of Towson, less snow, more ice and some rain from BWI on south. Time frame? Snow, ice combo will become steady overnight Tue into Wed, but it will end as snow for everyone from DC on north. Could see some quick bursts of heavy snow early Weds AM. Snow, ice, etc will end Weds around daybreak but clouds and cold will linger until after noon. You will probably see the sunset Weds PM. How much? 2-4" in Baltimore, 3-5" in northern parts of the county. In PA.. 4-6" in Chesco and more significant than that as you head north.

By Thursday AM... cold and lots of re-freezing of all this everywhere, but the sun will be out finally. Temps this whole time will hang at or below freezing, with a few spikes above 32 for a few hours from Dundalk on south.

The whole situation is so complex that it would take another couple paragraphs to explain WHY I think this is what will happen. So just trust me for now.

What about school?

TUE: I predict most of Baltimore Metro area (incl BCPS, HCPS) will be closed. Chesco schools will be closed. Temps are so low and will stay around 20 F that everything is already re-freezing and will continue to do so overnight. Everything goes farther downhill Tuesday, so I think BCPS and HCPS will not pull a 2-hour delay only to find we have to go home early anyway.

WED: Depending on how much snow falls, BAL metro area could see a 2-hour delay or be closed if there is more ice and snow than we expected. Chesco schools will be closed due to more snow than BAL.

THU: I think most schools will be open by this time.

FRI: Looks dicey... more details posted below.

When's the next big storm?

Something big is brewing for late in the weekend.. depending on which computer model you believe. There are a bunch of them, but the three main ones I analyze are called:
1. The European... a computer program designed by meteorologists in Europe, basically.
2. The GFS...National Weather Service's main forecasting program... stands for Global Forecast System
3. The UKMET... designed by England's weather service agency.

Anyway, The European and UKMET are both calling for a big storm to develop in the Gulf of Mexico by this Saturday, and run smack into a huge dome of cold high pressure heading south from the upper midwest. The jet stream is projected to "ride up the coast" so the pieces would be in place for a major event next Sunday into Monday... tons of gulf moisture, plenty of cold air, snowpack on the ground.

HOWEVER... these models have a tendency to OVERDO things this time of the year because they have difficulty resolving major interactions of very cold air and very warm air all at the same time. So just be patient and don't go ballistic on me if I backpedal on this storm over time. I like to give the computer models at least 3-4 days of consistent "runs" (when they show the same storm pattern developing over and over again for the same time period) before I will go in a make a forecast for a particular day.
So stay tuned... you can bet you will get the latest and greatest if this storm comes true.

That's all for now, the baby just woke up we think, and I have to shave off a 4-day beard. Next update sometime later tonight (MON 1/26).

Mr. Foot

MON 1/26 early PM update:


Computer models are in agreement that enough warm air will have filtered in to the I-95 Corridor that any precip in BAL on south will start as light snow in the AM BUT will change to rain quickly. Accumulations will probably stay light with this one.. maybe 1-3" . In PHL however, it will take longer to changeover to snow and you folks (Paoli, Frazer, etc) might be looking at a couple inches.

What about school Friday?
BAL area... maybe a delay if the timing is right. Closed? Doubtful.
PHL area... all y'all probably will get at least a delay if not closed

But you can no doubt see the setup taking shape for the potential weekend storm... once the Friday low moves off the coast, the counterclockwise flow (called return flow) around the backside will drive in much colder air for Saturday and Sunday. The low will leave a cold front trailing behind it into the Gulf, which becomes the genesis of the next storm. So again it is always in the timing. If the high moving into the midwest is too strong, it may block the storm from moving north and all we get are flurries. If the high allows the storm to slowly intrude... then it could be a situation like last February.. a long duration storm with "significant accumulation." For all you weather nerds out there... "significant" is the National Weather Service's technical term for when they expect 4 or more inches of snow in a 12-hour period.

Now back to my french toach for lunch and my grades...

Mr. Foot

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