Saturday, January 31, 2004

SAT 1/31 AM UPDATE: SHE’LL BE COMIN’ ‘ROUND THE MOUNTAIN WHEN SHE COMES

With the passage of time, all the area NWS Forecast Offices, have lit up with Special Weather Statements galore. But there is still lots of disagreement as to what this storm will do, even among Accuweather forecasters.

Favoring colder solutions: NWS Baltimore, Richmond, State College. Both say this storm will primarily stay a frozen event, with abundant sleet and snow mixed with freezing rain at times. See the statement below posted early this morning.

BAL/DC NWS forecast site: http://www.erh.noaa.gov/er/lwx/

Favoring warmer solutions: NWS Philly, New York. Both say that enough warm air will surge in to change any precip over to rain in most metro areas along the Mid-Atlantic coast. But they also contend that areas N and W of the metro will stay mainly snow.

PHL NWS forecast site: http://www.erh.noaa.gov/er/phi/

All forecast offices have now recognized the error in the computer modeling. Than even with a high of 36 in DC on Sunday, you are not going to eliminate 5 inches of snow pack in one day. The GFS is finally recognizing this with the most recent computer simulations, and has adjusted it’s projections accordingly. So with each passing 6 hour period, the overall look of this storm is trending colder.

I am also working to add some images postings, as well as comment and feedback features on the site, so you can verify my information for yourself if you wish.

SO WHAT’S THE BOTTOM LINE WITH THIS STORM?

A high parked in New England will slowly slide east over the weekend, and continue to funnel cold into and around the Appalachians. Hence the title for today “she’ll be comin’ ‘round the mountain.” This is a classic set up for a major winter storm of the kitchen sink variety… a concept called “cold air damming” is when dense cold air gets trapped at the surface because it has filtered into all the nooks and crannies of the Piedmont and Coastal plain (think anwhere east and south of Harrisburg). A storm moving up from the south does warm the air, but at upper levels first. So the precip falls through the cold air, starting as snow in the north, sleet in the south. As the storm approaches, the sleet goes to freezing rain, and possibly rain. As the storm passes to our east, the return flow brings in colder air, turning everything back to snow. That is the overall scenario I see because the low is projected to track a little closer to us than the last storm.

WHAT ABOUT SCHOOL?

Monday – open all day, no problems anywhere.
Tuesday – all BAL and PHL metro area schools closed due to significant ice.
Wednesday – Easily a 2-hour delay for most schools due to snow on top of ice. However, if snow amounts are higher (at least 4” overnight in Baltimore) they will close again.
Thursday – back to normal, no problems except for some leftover icing.

HERE’S THE PRELIMINARY CALL… I will refine this on Sunday.

In the Baltimore metro area:
Monday – Clear in the morning, but clouds increase all day. High 35. The precip looks like it will hold off now until later in the evening. Overnight, sleet and snow will begin, accumulating an inch or two.

Tuesday – By daybreak, you will see a snow, sleet and freezing rain combo depending on where you are. South of BAL, more sleet, north of BAL, more snow. It will persist and become heavier all day, growing into a significant ice storm with perhaps ½ inch of ice by end of the day. This is not the mist-glaze you had last week. There may be a brief period where it is all rain/freezing rain but I doubt the ground will warm up enough.
High just barely above 32 in the south, less than 32 in the north.

Tuesday night – Northwest winds will bring in cold and and turn everything back over to snow. How quickly that happens dictates how much snow. Northern BAL area could see 2-4”, the city on south more like 1-3”. But remember that will be falling on a THICK layer of ice. Overnight low around 20.

Wednesday – Clearing and sunny but remaining cool, highs maybe 35 but with the snowpack and NW winds, it may end up being colder than that. Weds night everything freezes up solid. Daytime high around 35.

DISCLAIMER: There is the potential this storm produces more snow and less ice if it tracks just a tiny bit more to the east. Amounts in that case are going to be closer to a 6+ range for the Baltimore area.

In the Philadelphia metro area:
Monday - Clear in the morning, but clouds increase all day. High 34. The precip will hold off now until probably after midnight.

Tuesday – by daybreak, snow and sleet will have begun, and NW of the city, it will likely stay all that for most of the day. Due to more warm air present with this storm, snow amounts will be held down from a crippling snowstorm because of the sleet factor. Totals will be in the 4-8” range but there is likely to be a layer of ice under all that. The precip will continue all day, and end as snow showers late in the evening.

Wednesday – Clearing and sunny, some melting as highs just touch 32.

In Central PA (including Johnstown, Altoona, State College)

Monday: Cloudy most of the day, some light snow late in the evening. Highs in the upper 20’s.

Tuesday – snow all day for you powderhounds. Accumulating 6 – 12” by evening.

Wednesday – clearing and sunny but cold. Highs not breaking 30.

AFTER THAT?
Yes, Virginia there is ANOTHER ONE COMING for Thursday night into Saturday.

Friday, January 30, 2004

FRI 1/30 MIDDAY UPDATE:

BALTIMORE NWS ISSUES SPECIAL WEATHER STATEMENT FRI AM

RICHMOND, PITTSBURGH, NEW YORK NWS IN LINE WITH THE FORECAST ON THIS SITE... PHILLY IS STILL LAGGING BEHIND AND HEDGING THEIR BETS.

Here is the Baltimore NWS statement. I am sorry it is all caps. That's how they do it.

...A WINTER STORM IS POSSIBLE MONDAY AND TUESDAY...

A DEVELOPING STORM SYSTEM OVER THE SOUTHERN PLAINS WILL MOVE
NORTHEAST INTO THE OHIO VALLEY BY MONDAY. AT THE SAME TIME A
SECONDARY AREA OF LOW PRESSURE IS EXPECTED TO DEVELOP OFF THE SOUTH CAROLINA COAST MONDAY NIGHT AND MOVE TO THE NORTHEAST. COLD ARCTIC HIGH PRESSURE WILL PROVIDE A SOURCE FOR COLD AIR TO THE MID ATLANTIC THROUGH THE MIDDLE OF NEXT WEEK.

LATEST INDICATIONS SUGGEST PRECIPITATION DEVELOPING LATE MONDAY AS THESE AREAS OF LOW PRESSURE CONTINUE TO MOVE CLOSER TO THE AREA. THERE IS STILL UNCERTAINTY AS TO THE EXACT TRACK OF THIS STORM. AT THIS TIME...THE STORM IS EXPECTED TO TAKE A TRACK OVER FAR EASTERN NORTH CAROLINA TOWARD THE DELMARVA PENINSULA. THIS WOULD SUGGEST A WINTRY MIX OF PRECIPITATION BEGINNING LATE IN THE DAY ON MONDAY AND LASTING THROUGH EARLY TUESDAY. IF THE STORM TRACKS FURTHER EAST...SNOW IS MORE LIKELY...IF IT TRACKS FURTHER WEST...RAIN IS MORE LIKELY.

IT IS FAR TOO EARLY TO PRECISELY DETERMINE THE TRACK OF THE STORM
AND THE TYPE AND AMOUNT OF PRECIPITATION EXPECTED. THIS SYSTEM WILL HAVE ABUNDANT MOISTURE...SO A SIGNIFICANT PRECIPITATION EVENT IS POSSIBLE. LATER FORECASTS WILL BE ABLE TO MORE PRECISELY DETERMINE THE TYPE AND AMOUNT OF PRECIPITATION.

Some quick translation:
"Abundant moisture" there is at least 1 inch of liquid with this storm. That means about 10 inches of snow under the right conditions at 30 F.

Part of the confusing signals you are getting from everyone (Accuweather, NWS, Weather Channel, etc) is that half the computer models are overlooking the fact that due to the cold air this weekend, the snowpack will remain in place over much of the area. That will in turn keep temperatures low, allowing cold air to stay in place until Monday. Those models have all the snow evaporating by Sunday afternoon, which AIN'T gonna happen with air temps around 27 F on Sat.

The other half of the models are recognizing this snowpack issue, as has the Baltimore NWS. That's why they are coming out great guns on this. The overall thinking on this site is for a colder situation setting up, which will produce higher snow totals, though it will be a heavy wet snow due to the increased amount of moisture with this storm than the last one.

Let me add to the storm preparation ideas from this morning:


1. Get rid of that ice. For homeowners...any remaining ice that is clogging your sump pump outlets, clear it out. Remove ice buildup from your downspouts and gutters if possible. Maybe you can mark the storm drain or sump pump outlet with a tall piece of wood, a coat hanger with a ribbon on it or something. Then you won't have to go digging around to find it in a big pile of ice-frozen snow.

2. For apartment dwellers.. pay close attention to the downspouts if you have a porch. Knock off those icicles as the heavy wet snow will tend to weight them down even more and pull the downspout off.

3. Think about your plans for next Monday-Wednesday. Developing a Plan B now will help avoid stress later. Remember, a heavy wet snow requires a lot more effort on the part of everyone to clean up... from shoveling to plowing to snowblowers.

And lastly, we are not talking about a blizzard or the end of the world or the largest storm in 10 years... but just a hefty amount of dense, wet, unpleasant to shovel snow.

Another update late tonight or early Saturday.

Happy Friday!







FRI 1/29 EARLY AM: HERE SHE COMES A-JUST-A-WALKIN DOWN THE STREET SINGIN' DOO-A-DITTY-DITTY-DUM-DITTY-DOO

Although today through Monday will remain cold, it will be sunny and dry. I suggest you take the time this weekend to take care of a few things before "SHE" comes a walkin down yo' street Monday afternoon:

1. Clear away snow and ice from storm drains now. It will be back-breaking to have to do it later once this storm dumps on top of the last one.

2. Check your gutters. Knock off the icicles and try to get your gutters clear of snow if possible. The combined weight of the ice plus a heavy wet snow will likely pull some gutters down.

3. Gas up your snowblower, and restock on salt if there's any left anywhere.

4. And yes, be sure to get plenty of milk, bread (for the storm) chips and salsa (for the Superbowl).

So, now that I've gotten the hairs standing up on the back of your head, let's move ahead to the storm situation.

HOW THIS STORM WILL DIFFER FROM THE LAST ONE:
- The snow will be heavy and wet and there will be a lot more of it.
- Temperatures will not be as cold, ranging from 25 to 35 instead of 15-25
- The storm may not last as long, but it will take longer to clean up.
- There will be less freezing rain and sleet and more snow and rain.
- It will not arrive soon enough to give you a Superbowl recovery day :(

ALRIGHT ALREADY! WHAT'S THE FORECAST?
(This is valid from Baltimore to Philly, and includes Central PA)

SATURDAY: Cold and sunny. AM Low in the teens, High 27. Colder north.

Superbowl SUNDAY: Partly cloudy and a little warmer, AM Low 24, High 35.

MONDAY: Here's she coming a just a walkin down the street....AM Low around 30, High 36.

The day starts cloudy. It'll be one of those times when you can "smell" the snow in the air. By noon or perhaps early afternoon, the precip will start as a mix of snow and rain as temps are just above freezing. That mix may persist for a few hours into the evening as temps drop. During this time, a low in the lower Tennessee Valley will give way to a Low developing near South Carolina. BINGO! That's where the powderhounds WANT a Low to form for big snow here. Once that low gets going, the mix will turn to snow overnight, and... you guessed it... turn heavy. In the BAL area.. the mix will hang longer, in PHL, it will turn to snow sooner.

TUESDAY: Once the southern low gets cranking, it will draw in colder air on it's backside. All the area NWS offices are privately saying they expect this return flow changeover to occur by early Tuesday morning. This would set the stage for a classic Nor'Easter, as this storm will be LOADED with moisture feeding in from the Pacific Jet, the Gulf and the Atlantic. So it goes berzerk dumping snow all day Tuesday and maybe into the night.

WEDNESDAY: Clearing by morning or maybe sooner...and get this, not as cold. Temps are looking to rebound to normal, which for BAL and PHL is in the upper 30's for highs.

SNOWFALL FORECAST:

Monday afternoon: The mix will produce a slushy inch or so.

Monday night: A couple inches are likely, mixed with sleet at times.

Tuesday: In the south (BAL) anywhere from 4-8 inches and probably more.
The amount of sleet and rain is what may keep amounts low. But I think there is an equal chance that the storm trends colder. If so, amounts of 6-12 are not out of the question, In the north, (PHL) 6-12 inches and probably more. For all our Central PA friends, get ready for at least 12 inches.

WHAT ABOUT SCHOOL?

Monday: Though the rain/snow mix may start before school is over, I think we will squeeze out a full day.

Tuesday: All Baltimore and Philly metro area schools closed as well as Central PA schools.

Wednesday: If amounts are 8" inches or above, BAL schools will be closed.

Thursday-Friday: School open all day.

AND THEN there's ANOTHER one coming next weekend.


So in between the SuperBowl commercials, keep flipping back to the Weather Channel and check this site all weekend for frequent updates.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, January 29, 2004

THU 1/29 EARLY AM : IT'S JUST ANOTHER DAY FOR YOU AND ME IN PARADISE

I hope you can recognize the titles of these songs, I try to select songs from a wide range of musical interests. This is one is from Phil Collins.

For all you powder(ice?)hounds out there... things are coming your way. Maybe the song this morning should be Frank Sinatra's "I'll do it my way."

I have been closely watching the computer models on our next big storm. They complete a new run every 6 or 12 hours. Each run has become consistently colder and wetter. What that translates into is the forecast is turning from what WAS a more rain and less snow to what IS looking like more snow and ice and less rain. The BAL NWS is way out in front on this, they have definitely snagged first place on their analysis of the whole situation. Here's a snippet of their analysis, posted early Thursday morning:

"MEDIUM RANGE MODELS AND ENSEMBLES ARE STILL WORKING OUT THE DETAILS
WITH THE NEXT SYSTEM EARLY NEXT WEEK. EACH SOLUTION APPEARS RATHER
WET FOR THIS REGION...JUST WITH DIFFERENT TIMING. AND WITH A COLD
AIRMASS IN PLACE...THIS COULD BE A RECIPE FOR A SIGNIFICANT STORM.

IF CONSISTENCY AMONG GUIDANCE INCREASES...MAY HAVE TO ISSUE A
WINTER STORM OUTLOOK TOMORROW TO GIVE A HEADS UP TO EMERGENCY
MANAGEMENT OFFICIALS BEFORE THE WEEKEND."
.

Remember... the term significant implies 4 or more inches of snow in a 12-hour period, or 6 inches in a 24 hour period. So if the models remain consistent for the next 24 hours, I'll be issuing a first call on accumulations by Friday 1/30. At present, the "liquid equivalents" with this storm are well above the 1.0 inch range, so that will make for a lot of precip.

So I'm sure the powderhounds out there feel that it is going to be another (couple days) in paradise...Oh I can just hear them howling now!




Wednesday, January 28, 2004

WED EVENING 1/28: WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND

It looks like the pattern we just saw with the Mid-Winter 1-2-3 punch may repeat itself next week. Oh I know you are just thrilled to pieces. Here is the first call…This forecast is valid for all locations from BAL to PHL.

FRI-SUN: Just light snow to give you a Happy Friday on 1/30. A little heavier in the afternoon, maybe 1" at the absolute most. No early dismissal. Behind that cold air filters back in, return flow on the high pressure that settles in over the weekend will recharge moisture from the Gulf, as a new system dropping down from the Rockies encounters that moisture. It may take a while for this storm to take shape since the high it is running into will be strong at first, which tends to slow down these storms. This weekend it will be cold, cold, cold everywhere. In BAL, highs on Saturday not breaking 30, Sunday just around freezing. Colder in PHL. At least it will be sunny.

By MONDAY, a low will be moving up the Tennessee/Ohio Valley. Some computer models show cold air holding in place over the northeast, others show it departing. But either way, a warm push of air will be moving in at upper levels, so all this may start as rain, sleet and freezing rain AGAIN. The onset of this looks to be Monday night… which means the precip could start as something frozen, but as things warm up on Tuesday… it will probably change to rain. This is a pattern similar to what we just say… the first low moves sort of through the Tennessee Valley.. but due to the blocking high in Canada, it cannot “cut up through the Lakes” as the last storm did. That means it will get closer to us, bringing (sadly) the warm air closer to us. And yes, Virginia, there is a chance this storm will move slow, with multiple lows taking their good old sweet molasses in January time to roll up the Tennessee Valley and then to the coast.

TUESDAY: Precip starts frozen overnight Mon, and it is all in the timing. I think it will change to rain early to mid morning, rain for the day, and then as the second storm slowly takes shape and draws in colder air, it will change back to snow Tuesday night. That’s when the any snow will occur. How much? Too early to say. Overall this will be a wetter storm, with less snow and more rain and ice. How about some estimates based on computer model analysis of available moisture with this storm… 3 inches? Likely. 6 inches? Possible. 9 inches? Not impossible but not likely. Remember the minimum amount to close school in Baltimore area schools is usually about 4 inches occurring from late evening to early morning. The problem with this one is that it will START as rain and change to snow. Central PA folk will get mostly snow as usual…3-6” is likely the minimum for you. PHL NWS is already jumping on the rainstorm bandwagon while the surrounding offices (RIC, BAL, etc) are hanging back with a wait and see.

WEDNESDAY: Snow/ice ends, gets cool again. Clearing skies.

THU-FRI: Cold returns as a new storm begin to develop on the heels of the Tuesday storm. This will be your last shot for a while of a traditional big-time Nor’easter that dumps snow and more snow…an I-95 special if you will. This one has the potential to bring 4 or more inches to the DC-PHL corridor.

What about school?

THURSDAY: Many schools will likely have a 2-hour delay. I think BCPS will, but Howard County will not. I’m preparing to go a full day just in case. Already on the list is:
Anne Arundel, Charles, Calvert and several others have already announced a 2-hour delay. As Anne Arundel or Harford goes, so goes the rest of the area.

FRIDAY: Though it looks dicey, I think we will all squeeze in a full day despite light snow in the late morning through the afternoon. The storm is overall lacking in moisture.

MONDAY: No problems. Open all day.

TUESDAY: This is where it gets iffy… history shows us that districts will close on the knowledge that conditions will worsen with an approaching storm. Again, it is all in the timing..if the precip arrives Monday night and the cold lingers longer, we (BAL area) could start with a 2-hour delay and go from there. Whatever is falling will change to snow or sleet on the backside Tuesday night, Colder air returns behind the storm, potentially freezing what is on the ground.

WEDNESDAY: This is the only day I think is at risk for closing. Too many cold scenarios setting up that can wreak havoc with morning traffic.

OH… you want more juicy details on what lies ahead, do you?

Well, we will have to wait until next week before I give a preliminary on the “next, next big storm.”

It’s been a nice, relaxing 3 days off for those of us in Baltimore area schools.
For all the drivers out there, I am sorry you have to deal with it all. Be a teacher instead!
WED AM 1/28 - TODAY’S LESSON: FUN WITH TECHNICAL TERMS

From time to time on this site, when there is a lull in the weather, I’ll take the opportunity to educate you on some of the terms used in the discussions. This way I can help you better understand what other forecasters are talking about when they start using weather gobbly-gook, and put it in a more plain language format. Now don’t think I’m going to turn this into a weather nerd site and use all kind of techno-speak terms all the time. But this is an important glossary you should archive somewhere in case we get a mongo storm and I have to spit out all kinds of terms to explain what is going on. Or if I post a little analysis from the weather service to illustrate a point. So grab a cup of coffee or soda, and when you have some free time, review this glossary of terms. I’ll post two of these a year…. One for winter, one for summer.

1. Computer Models:

GFS: Global Forecast System (primary US Model… not the magazine) that produces
forecasts out to 372 hours (which is 2 weeks)
UKMET: A medium-range weather prediction model operated by the United Kingdom
METeorological Agency.
ECMWF: A medium-range forecast model operated by the European Center for Medium-Range Weather
Forecasting. We call it the European.

Other computer models I use but not as often…
Canadian: Quite simply, the Canadian computer model forecast

ETA: Another large scale forecast model run by the US NWS but for a shorter time frame, usually up
to 84 hours. What ETA stands for I don’t remember.
RUC: Rapid Update Cycle, a numerical model run that focuses on short-term (up to 12 h) forecasts and small-scale weather features.

2. Approximate location codes used by the NWS and featured in our discussions

NWS: National Weather Service
STC: State College
BWI: Baltimore Airport
BAL: Baltimore
AOO: Altoona
IAD: Dulles Airport
PHL: Philadelphia
RIC: Richmond
DCA: Washington, DC
NYC: New York City
BOS: Boston
LGA: La Guardia Airport

3. School-related abbreviations:

BCPS: Baltimore County Public School
HCPS: Howard County Public Schools
MSDE: Maryland State Department of Education
Chesco: Chester County area schools

4. Basic weather terms: (get ready, it's a long list)

HUMIDITY: A measure of the amount water vapor content in the air

DEWPOINT: The temperature to which air must be cooled in order to reach saturation, assuming air pressure and moisture content are constant

SLEET: Precipitation that falls already in a frozen state, often in tiny ice pellets

FREEZING RAIN: Precipitation that falls as a liquid but freezes on impact at the ground

LOW: A disturbed area of air that spins counter-clockwise and has a pressure lower than the surrounding air. A low is usually marked by moisture-laden clouds, wind and precipitation,

HIGH: A calm area of air that spins clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and has a pressure higher than the surrounding air. A high is usually marked by clear, dry air with few clouds. In winter, highs can be very cold, in summer, very warm.

FRONT: A boundary between two air masses of different density, and thus (usually) of different temperature. A moving front is named according to the advancing air mass, e.g., cold front if colder air is advancing.

RIDGE: An elongated area of relatively high atmospheric pressure; the opposite of trough

TROUGH: An elongated area of relatively low atmospheric pressure, usually not associated with a closed circulation, and thus used to distinguish from a closed low. The opposite of ridge.

JET: The jet stream

WAVE: A low pressure system developing along the jet

SOUTHERN STREAM: The sub-tropical jet steam

NORTHERN STREAM: The polar jet stream

CYCLOGENESIS: Development or intensification of a low-pressure center

DRY SLOT: An area of much drier air that cycles into a departing low, sometimes cutting off precip and lowering snow amounts.

SIGNIFICANT: In terms of snow, the NWS says that term means 4 or more inches in a 12-hour period or 6+ inches in 24 hours. That is also the criteria for “heavy snow”

WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY: When a light to moderate amount of snow or ice will fall in a 12 to 24 hour period. Amounts are usually less than 4 inches of snow, or .25” or less of ice. Code is a WWA.

WINTER STORM WATCH: Issued when conditions are favorable for the development of hazardous winter weather elements, such as heavy snow or sleet, blizzard conditions, significant accumulations of freezing rain or drizzle, or any combination thereof. Watches are usually issued 12 to 48 hours in advance of an event.

WINTER STORM WARNING: Issued when a winter storm is imminent or very likely, including any occurrence or combination of heavy snow, wind-driven snow, sleet, and/or freezing rain/drizzle. Winter Storm Warnings are usually issued for up to a 12-hour duration, but can be extended out to 24 hours if the situation warrants.

BLIZZARD WARNING: Issued when winter storms with sustained winds or frequent gusts of 35 miles per hour or greater and considerable falling and/or blowing snow reducing visibility to less than 1/4 mile. These conditions are expected to last at least 3 hours.


5. Some fun terms: (these are actual weather service terms)

BUST: An inaccurate forecast or one that goes sour over time
POWDERHOUNDS: Vernacular for snow enthusiasts. You are a powderhound if you just want snow all the time, and with every storm. You are disappointed if it is not enough to at least cover the grass.
TURKEY TOWER - a narrow, individual cloud tower that develops and falls apart rapidly in a thunderstorm.
GUNGE: Anything in the atmosphere that restricts visibility for storm spotting, such as fog, haze, precipitation (steady rain or drizzle), widespread low clouds




WED 1/28 EARLY AM: I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW THE RAIN IS GONE

It's looking like a clean sweep for all you out there in schoolyard land. (A clean sweep means all counties in the metro area closed.) Just got the word that my wife can keep on sleepin... BCPS is closed. And now we've just pulled Howard County into the club, so our forecast has nailed this for the third day in a row. Chester County, PA schools (where Mr. Foot and his brother Jeff grew up) are a mixed bag.... some closed, other 2 hours late. Philly schools are open but NYC schools are closed.

Remember that main roads may be clear in a situation like this, but Baltimore County alone has 2,786 miles of roads, many of them back roads, so just imagine the task of salting all those roads way up in Hereford and Owings Mills. Even if secondary roads are fine... the other issues are if the teachers can safely drive to school, and can the kids safely walk to the bus stop. It kinda makes you wonder how they do it in a place like Buffalo... if we go postal down here in BAL everytime it snows.

Yes, the rain is gone and the sun will come out in force today. Everyone has at least 4 days to clean up all this mess before the next round begins.

Preliminary look at the next big storm

FRI-SUN: Just light snow to greet you as you head out to the bus after the bell rings on Friday. A little heavier overnight, maybe 1-3" at tops. Behind that cold air filters back in, return flow on the high pressure that settles in over the weekend will recharge moisture from the Gulf, as a new system dropping down from the Rockies encounters that moisture. It may take a while for this storm to take shape since the high it is running into will be strong, which tends to slow down these storms.

By MONDAY, a low will be moving up the Tennessee Valley. With cold air in place over the coast (hmm, does this sound familiar?) but a warm slice of air will be moving in at upper levels, all this may start as sleet and freezing rain AGAIN but will turn to snow. And yes, Virginia, there is a chance this storm will move slow, with multiple lows taking their good old sweet molasses in January time to roll up the coast. So think ahead to another potentially prolonged event of freezing precip Monday into Tuesday. More details later today now that Dr. Hairston (our supt.) has given me another day to rest and drive my wife crazy with weather analysis.

You heard it here first folks..."It's gonna be a bright, bright sun shiny day."

Now back to bed.. don't you just love public education!


Tuesday, January 27, 2004

TUE 1/27 EVENING UPDATE: ICE, ICE BABY

What about school Wednesday?
Now I know those of you in school land are all nervous about school tomorrow. So let's look at the facts.
From today...
1. Tuesday 1/27, many MD and SE PA schools (except Philly schools) closed due to light freezing drizzle.
2. They knew the threat of worsening conditions throughout the day.
3. Temps were low to begin with (18 F at daybreak) so everything that fell froze on contact.
4. Given those factors, schools still closed. Now look at the evidence Wednesday...

For tomorrow...
1. Now there is at least .25 to .35 inches of ice all over everything (in BAL and PHL) including back roads.
2. Another 1-1.5" of snow has fallen on all that ice, making driving next to impossible on back roads.
3. Temps are dropping once again and snow will continue to fall until 9-10 pm in northern BAL county.
4. The snow-covered roads look harmless, but they conceal a devilish thick glaze of very slippery ice.
5. Bus stops will be skating rinks, let alone the roads, parking lots, etc. Bus stop safety is a major concern
6. Snow plows are designed to plow just that....snow. They don't work as well on ice.

So the call is...
1. Baltimore County: Closed Wed. Maybe a 1-hour delay Thursday. Open all day Friday
2. Howard County: Closed Wed. No delay Thursday. Open all day Friday
3. Chesco Schools: Most if not all will be closed Thursday, but open all day Thu and Fri

If we can squeeze in one more day off here, I can do some analysis of the situation setting up for late this weekend and next week. Suffice to say we have 2 more major winter storms in line between now and the 10th of February before this pattern unwinds.

(Remember everyone...when I say "we" it implies the I-95 Corridor from Richmond to Boston, and including our friends and family in Central PA.)

Enjoy!

Forecaster Foot
TUE 1/27 AFTERNOON UPDATE: ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL

Well, the ice monster is taking shape as forecasted, but looks a little different than originally thought. As of 3:45 PM there is a WALL of snow moving through northern VA and Central PA, with a batch of freezing rain and sleet below it. This will move into the BAL area by 5 PM and the PHL area by 6 PM. This could be pretty fun as it will become a whiteout for a brief time, with heavy snow just seeming to come out of nowhere, and then end as quickly as it started. Sound familiar?

This is being driven by a vigorous cold front... just like in the summer time. This is a classic summer-like cold front, except the precip is snow and sleet instead of rain. So let me be the first to say that someone from DC to PHL reading this column may hear or get...THUNDERSLEET. How's that for a word you don't use often.

Don't know where the Delmarva coastal low is that everyone was projecting to form. It may come later tonight, but as is discussed in the post below, these coastals form too late and too slowly to affect the land areas to their immediate left.

Summary for the next 12 hours:
PHL.. frizzle (that's freezing drizzle, not Ms. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus) will change to snow for a couple hours, then mix with and change back and forth between snow, sleet and frizzle. Once the coastal does develop, whatever you do have will change back to snow late overnight and become heavy for a short time. But you might hear a roll or two of thunder before it is all done with. School on Wednesday?
Nope.

BAL...frizzle will become snow for a couple hours, accumulating maybe up to 2 inches before switching back to freezing precip. Another round of snow may kick in later tonight as leftover parts of the mid-west low roll in as the coastal is SLOWLY developing. Overnight expect on and off snow showers and sleet, ending as flurries by daybreak. School on Wednesday? Just keep on sleepin.

STATE COLLEGE/ALTOONA...lots of snow for everyone, probably 6" or more. No school on Wednesday.

Jayla has been very good today, napping, watching the movie "Holes" with us and enjoying the pretty glaze on all the trees. Everyone please be careful if you venture out... and take baby steps on the sidewalk in honor of Jayla. We don't want you to slip and fall and become another brick in the wall.

Mr. Foot
TUE 1/27 10:15 AM

OH THE TIMES, THEY ARE A CHANGIN


Updates to the current forecast for storm # 3...TUE NOON through WED NOON.

BAL area... on track with just slightly less than .25" ice starting later today, continuing for most of the day. The big issue is when it all changes to snow. It is a sure bet that with a thick layer of ice that has 2-3 inches of snow on top of it makes for another sleep in day Wednesday to all you out there in school land. There could be a big burst of snow later Tues evening as another front passes. All the TV forecasters have this business going on about "how this is gonna swing down, and that's gonna develop this, and this low will move here, and that moisture will do this..." Time and time again, complex forecasts like that go wrong. Unfortunately for all you powderhounds out there, the likelihood of a huge surprise snowstorm late tonight is limited. We just don't get big snow out of Cape Henlopen Lows. The low will form too late, not energize fast enough, or worse yet, the front swinging through from the west could push the coastal low out to sea too far. That's why the accumulation amounts will stay well below 4", and more like 2"

And I think the snow showers will linger longer on Weds, again another reason for no school Weds.

Did you notice that Norm Lewis of ABC2 News quickly backed off his monstrous 4-8 inch forecast? Even an hour later, I couldn't find any evidence of that forecast anywhere on their website.

PHILLY... lots more snow for you. The NWS (National Weather Service) has good snow amounts but I think you will get less than they are calling. More like 4-6" instead of their 5-10." Why? Because again the coastal low will be forming too far north and too slowly to dump a huge amount on you. We've seen this kind of call fail time and time again... too high expectations for a coastal low to get all this done in such a short time. If you want a 5-10" storm, the low has to form at least as far south as Hatteras or in So. Carolina. The NWS knows this, they just keep forgetting. Wed School for Philly? Fugggettaboutit.

CENTRAL PA.... you have potential for 6" or more as well since this storm will be a 'Cold Cut Combo' (an old menu item at Subway years ago). The remnants of the midwest low right now will feed into the coastal low, so you'll get carryover snow from both events.

WHAT ABOUT THE FRIDAY STORM?

Computer models are slowing down the whole thing... so it looks like the only risk to school is maybe an early dismissal Friday. The BAL NWS is calling for rain, and yet the model they use to forecast with is calling for snow. The upper level 0 degree Celsius line is way far south of us Friday, so don't know why NWS has rain for Friday. The most likely scenario is light snow starts Friday afternoon and continues for a couple hours before tapering off early Saturday morning. Accumulations maybe 1-2" or less.

WHEN'S THE NEXT BIG STORM?

The ideas I posted Mon PM about the late Sunday into Monday storm hold true, but just move them up a day or two, to next Tuesday-Wednesday.

Once this Friday's 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, now projected to develop sometime Sunday into Monday and start rolling up the coast Tuesday. 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.

The cold stormy pattern we (The I-95 crowd) are in is expected to hang tough for at least another 10 days, then a calmer, warmer pattern is projected to set in after about Feb 10. But remember... what goes up, must come down hee hee hee. So the fun and games and days off are not over, in fact they may just be getting started. Oh the times, they are a changin. -- Paul Simon, right?

I will keep a close watch on the potential storm for next week, and once this ice monster moves away and the sun returns, the focus of the blog will be on that storm for the next several days.

As for today, it is another "Day with Jay"... so we are going to curl up and watch a movie and play with Jayla!

Mr. Foot

Monday, January 26, 2004

MONDAY 1/26 5:30 PM

AS THE ARTIST FORMERLY KNOW AS "PRINCE" WOULD SAY... 'LET'S GO CRAZY, LET'S GET NUTS.'

For all the Baltimoreans...I am trying to figure out why Norm Lewis of ABC2 News has suddenly forcasted 4-8 INCHES for Tuesday night. I think that is way, way overdone. Bob Turk and Tom Tasselmeyer both say 1-3" which seems more reasonable. Ice takes a lot of energy out of the atmosphere, which reduces snow amounts. I think Norm will have to cut back on those numbers a bit... maybe 4" max but nowhere near 8. So don't go crazy just yet. Let's allow the models to run a few more times. I'll get back to you on what they say later. For now... the song of the day is "Ice, ice, baby."


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 thing...my 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.

MID-WINTER's ONE-TWO-THREE PUNCH

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:

PRELIMINARY THOUGHTS ON SLOPPY MESS COMING FRIDAY 1/30 and SUNDAY 2/1:

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