Wednesday, March 7, 2007


March 7 Clipper O'Luck


She was offered Donuts & Hot Chocolate but refused to stop working

Little Miss Foot working diligently to clear the van of the paralyzing .4 inches of snow that gripped the greater Dundalk area on this historic.. okay enough sarcasm. It is a nice little snow though. She was offered donuts and hot chocolate but resisted, saying: "I have to finish first." (Yes, Daddy did also help and not just take pictures.)

In a desperate attempt to corral together some evidence that supports why many schools in the Baltimore Metro area are closed, as well as central Pennsylvania, I have gathered the following from reader input:

1. POLITICS & SAFETY: I was as hugely surprised as the rest of you this morning. I glance out the window at 5:15 and thought.. "Well it did arrive a bit earlier, guess Tom Tasselmeyer won that one." Then I was just stunned to see a region-wide sweep...I mean everyone from Cecil County west and south to Anne Arundel. My only reasonable explanations are:

a) "Reaction" to the February 13 event, where the radar looked very ominous, a Winter Storm Warning was plastered across the region, but the snow started in the 7 o'clock hour. This led to the early dismissal situation later that day. I am curious why so many large districts decided simply to close outright as they did in the February 7 clipper, instead of go with a 2-hour delay, which would definitely allowed road crews time to work and traffic to warm up pavement.

b) This snowfall started earlier, (I'll admit MUCH earlier than I ever expected given low dewpoints), and by 4AM some roads were noticeably slick and hazardous. This was likely the scientific basis for the closing, although I agree with one of our commentors that it would have been possible to navigate in a dusting.

2. SCIENCE: This may still win the day, because despite whatever the pundits say, you're going to see the magic of Climatology and Astronomy today. Today's sun angle is the equivalent of early October, which is to say, quite strong. Luck was a lady last night, as had the snow arrived when I expected it (in the mid-morning) I would not be writing this right now and you'd be at school or work blissfully going about your daily life never fully able to appreciate this sun angle thing. In fact, the sun is poking through our clouds in Dundalk as I write this.

So why did all this happen? My theory is that a couple factors conspired in a short period of time to delivery a second lucky 7th of the month for those of you in school systems.

A) Warm air advection at mid-levels helped moisten the atmosphere at just the right heights to allow dendritic snow growth. This overcame low surface dewpoints.

B) The combination of this moist onshore flow with a rapidly moving clipper into a region where a sharp temperature contrast existed over short distances (upper 20's in DC, lower 50's in extreme southern Virginia) enabled the low pressure to tap some Atlantic moisture in enough time to harness the cold air in the early morning hours, as indicated below:

March 7 Clipper Surface Temperatures

C) Arrival of the Arctic front on Monday sufficiently chilled the ground and atmosphere allowing overnight temperatures to drop low enough over 2 days to enhance the famous "fluff factor" that occurs when a relatively light amounts of moisture are injected into a dry air mass. Liquid-to-snow ratios with this event will probably end up around 15:1 due to this effect.

Indications are a weak coastal Low will form off the Del-Mar-Va, enhancing snowfall this afternoon across the I-95 corridor from DC to Philly, as well as eastern Maryland and Delaware. "Enhancing" meaning if this occurs, it will help to verify the snow advisory call of 1-3" across the central Maryland and Chesapeake Bay region. This is evidenced by recent 3-hour pressure falls as shown below from the UNISYS Weather Analysis site.

March 7 Clipper 3-Hour Pressure Falls

3. HISTORY: If this is any guide, then we are in a geometrically regressing pattern of decreasing snow accumulation closing criteria. February 7 = 2 inches..closed. March 7 = .35 inches..closed. (Granted it is still snowing of course, but just for entertainment purposes, consider this possibility) that the percentage decrease in accumulation from 2/7 to 3/7 is 87%. By that ratio, the next snowfall of .045 inches should be enough to close schools. This analysis is posted for the purpose of demonstrating that I truly do have too much free time and really should move on to making my day more productive from this point forward.

I'm glad that some of us lucked out today. Those of you in the business community of course still have to face the slick roads regardless, so you are no doubt thankful of the favor handed you by the schools. For those in the schoolhouse (whether students, teachers or administrators) hey..take advantage of the time to get caught up, or at least plan on how you're going to catch up in the time that's left between now and Spring Break. I should also warn teachers, athletic directors and coaches that there is a lot of "March Madness" lurking out there in the 15th-20th time frame and it's not looking pretty. More on that later but let say for now I may have to retract my claim of "That's All Folks" from last month.

Speaking of history, this picture is a special message to all those alumni of true snow country... northwest Pennsylvania, western New York, along the Great Lakes and adjacent areas. Mrs. Foot and her family are originally from Crawford County, PA (one step below Erie County...translation: SNOWY!)

Eat Your Heart Out Crawford County!

The point of the picture is to say that not in 100 billion years would you have this type of situation in Crawford County, PA where Mrs. Foot and her brother (who is now in central Pennsylvania) grew up. Whenever we have these crippling snowfalls in the metropolitan areas, my in-laws love to relate the legend of how back on the farm, the snowplow would come charging down the country road early in the morning. Behind the plow was of course, the school bus. The children would board the bus, and then follow the snowplow to school. At end of the day, same process in reverse. The plow would clear a path out to the farms, with the bus trailing behind, and return the children safely. This happened whether was 12", 24" or more. My wife remembers going to school then with 6 and 8 foot drifts either side of the road.

So this morning I went to Mrs. Foot and woke her by saying: "Week 9." In the darkness from under the covers there was a faint, "uuuh?...pause.. 1-hour delay?" I responded, "I wish." She countered with, "2-hour delay?" I answered, "that would be nice." The covers catapulted into the air, light clicked on, and the formally subconscious Mrs. Foot bolted upright to say, eyes wide as the beltway, "CLOSED???" I gave her the coffee, and quietly excused myself from the room with a smile, as I heard in the background..."Oh I have so much to do, how am I going to do the MSA, oh the laundry, I've got to get to school. And there's that IEP..." So Mommy and the bigger of the Little Foots are off to school, and I am managing laundry and the sleeping Littler Foot. oop, just heard a rumbling upstairs. Free time is over.

As you can see, it's tough down here when we've got to deal with .4 inches like this.


Ed-ETHS said...

Bag, please......turned inside out
: )

Anonymous said...

"I should also warn teachers, athletic directors and coaches that there is a lot of "March Madness" lurking out there in the 15th-20th time frame and it's not looking pretty."

Take it back.. TAKE IT BACK!!! Dont you do it!!! I dont NeedaSnowday then!!!

Mr.B said...

2" here so far. Light snow continues.

Foot's Forecast said...

Yeah ed, How does this work? Maybe I should wear the bag inside out and upside down with the eyes in the back?

8:53 AM..Dundalk 25 F and untreated snow on shaded parking lot and sidewalk beginning to melt.

Mr.B said...

Mr. Foot everything covered up here. No melting. :) 19.7 degrees. waiting for the heavier snow around 11am.

Frank said...

About an Inch in CNJ with a steady light snow.

terpguy said...

Fallston, 0950 local, 22.8F. About 0.7" inch so far.

The only melting here is from the one pass by the salt truck on the "main" road.

Foot's Forecast said...

Verrry small flakes. Still 25 F. My half-covered parking lot continues to melt. Side and main roads from what I can see from here are clear. Hope it keeps up so the Snow Advisory verifies, then won't have to answer so many "Why were we closed?" complaints Thursday.

chip said...

Well, Mr. Foot, my knuckles let me down, I guess. What is the equivalent of a bag for inaccurate knuckles? Should I wear one glove for no reason, like Michael Jackson? Ah well, I shall ponder that over my next cuppa Joe. Seems like .5-.75 inch of fairly fluffy stuff in the Towson area, with very small flakes coming down at 10:00. Enjoy the day off, all you school folks! And I agree about the March Madness reference... please say it ain't so!

Foot's Forecast said...

I think the error here was not consulting the Fruit Cup Model.

Any word from Sparrows Point on what had sayeth the FCM? Or maybe since my free trial period is over, Mr. Peiser is now charging for exclusive access to this feature.

Here's an idea... chip we get you and your knuckles to open Peiser's fruit cup. Then we'll have two independently verified quantitative numerical weather predictors on which to base our forecasts.

Foot's Forecast said...

Special note to hokiehop..

The roads in Dundalk have a special under-macadam heating element that was installed back during the steel heyday to keep pavement clear so workers could make it to the plants without problems on days like today.

(sike..I am making this up.)

I guess my bellwether location is an outlier today, as those of you in the Great Northern Expanse obviously are seeing colder pavement and thus more snowcover.
(Though Pimlico is south of me, right? That's what you get for not living near steelplants I guess! :-)

Coming down heavier here, think the coastal Low will get going soon and keep rates up like this another 2-3 hours before departure begins this afternoon.

I'm off to work my online grad course. Ta ta for now.

Mr.B said...

4" of snow here in good old Greencastle, pa. Heavy snow just about to move in. I should end up with 6" or more. LOL biggest snowfall of the year from a clipper. Can't complain.

Mr.B said...

Mr. Foot I will send you some pics of the snow later.

Foot's Forecast said...

Yes thank you Mr.B for reminding me. Anyone with unique pics of the storm please feel free to email to me for posting in a new site gallery I'm creating with flickr.
Will post for now on the main site itself until gallery is setup.

Also..I'm going to reveal a secret for the moment. I do read Joe Bastardi on Accuweather to get a glimpse of what he sees down the road in long range analysis. However I don't attempt to pass his forecasts off as my own. Were I to do that, some of you would no doubt see what I'm doing.

Point is, Joe is alludding to a March 1956 similarity. Not 58 mind you, 56. Do a Google search for March 1956 snowstorms. There was an event 16-19th whose setup is similar in nature to what we have going on right now. Little clipper, then brief warmup, followed by final blast of Arctic air in middle of the month. Models have already hinted at the possibility of a cutoff low situation in about 10 days from now, but a forecast for this remains elusive at best right now.

This was the March Madness to which I referred in the post. A lot of cold air still in Canada to be flushed out. Has to happen sooner or later. Wouldn't put the shovels away just yet.

Mr.B said...

Snow continues, with 4.5" so far.

Mr.B said...

Mr. Foot.
I sent you some pics.

Mr.B said...

Foot's Forecast said...

Houston we have a problem.

1) Coastal low is forming but does not seem to be "departing" as quickly I thought.
2) Temp contrast between Chesa Bay and SW Virginia is increasing.
3) NWS just raised accums for Baltimore to 2-4"
4) Low in the midwest taking it's time, unless it is not directly associated with this event.
5) Frontal boundary draped across S VA to area where rapid pressure falls are occuring off DelMarVa.
6) Banding setting up along DelMarVa (as we expected it would)
7) While temps in SW VA are in 60's! Warm air is not making much headway beyond that area. Dundalk still upper 20's.
8) I wonder if snow advisory going to be continued beyond 7PM.
9) Overnight lows to go back to around 20. Roads still slick, some refreezing likely.

all this adds up to point #10:

10) I think a delay is on the table for Thursday.

Seems like something is not going as planned, too many variables interacting in ways we did not expect. One would think this is going to be over by 7PM, but I wonder if the atmosphere has another trick yet to pull.

Question for o ye seasoned ones:

Are teachers paid for today, AS WELL AS for the makeup day in the event calendar is extended? How does that work in HoCo versus BaltCo? Any thoughts on this? I've never seen my check adjusted during long duration snow events.

Foot ranch parking lot update:
30 F. 1"-ish. Lot almost completely melted. Was never treated. How are roads in the Great Northern (or Southern) Expanse?

E.H. Boston said...

Do you guys want to spread the wealth please??

Baseball starts March 19th up here in it in jeopardy?

crazedsnowboarder said...

In White hall we have about 3" of snow as of 2:30 but it just started coming down a lot harder than it was before.

wvmommyof4 said...

It is coming down pretty good here. We have about 3.5" and the temp is 23. We had 6 at the lunch table today Julee. My hubby , who is a teacher, was out too:)

crazedsnowboarder said...

up to 4.2" now still snowing, but not as hard

Foot's Forecast said...

From the NWS at 402 PM:


What do you think sports fans? What does tomorrow morning portend?
(Given the state of affairs we were in this morning)

terpguy said...

1648 local
25.5F. Roads just wet.

Thursday AM. BCPS will be late tomorrow.....

...or we won't.

Regards pay: We have 'X' number of "vacation" days at the end of the year, where we aren't in school, but we get paid. If the year is extended due to winter weather, these days are "eaten" into.

('X' is a small number)

E.H. Boston said...

Folks, winter is over here in Boston after Friday.

Looking long range, this time next week many forecasters up here are calling for highs to be around 70.

70's for NYC, PHI, BAL, DC....


But did it ever really least for SNE.

Enjoy your snow today and tomorrow, this time next week will be who has flowers popping and where the trees are budding.

Julee said...

Just back from 11 hours at the hospital with my mother. She had an abdominal operation and SOMEHOW BOTH of her corneas were scratched while in the OR. No explanation. They said it happens a lot. WHAT???!!!!!!!
She wasn't doing well so my family stayed late to be with her. Got out to the parking lot at 9:30 tonight and my car was encased in ice (familiar sight Mr. Foot!). Had to scrape everything. My driver's side window was SO frozen that I had to pay for parking by opening my car door! VERRRRRRRY icy out there!
wvmommy-- Hope you had a FUN day!!!! AND good hot soup for lunch!

chip said...

Slightly itchy knuckles here, so I am saying a 2 hour delay for the HZ, if not all Balmer Counnie. I did wear a glove for part of the day, as penance for my misread. (I admit, it was while scraping cars and shoveling, but that counts, doesn't it?) Cold in the Towson area, well below freezing it seems (gotta get that thermometer!) and there is definite re-freeze goin' on. Bound to be worse in the Hereford Zone. Julee, I am sorry to hear about the difficulties with the medical stuff. Having had scratched corneas myself, I know it's not pleasant. All the best to you all. Looking forward to hearing what Bastardi and Mr. Foot foresee coming in the next week or so. PLEASE say it isn't going to mess up MSA testing!

wvmommyof4 said...

Julee, I am so sorry to hear about your mom. I will pray that she has a quick recovery and that she will be in as little pain as possible.
Berkeley co schools have a two hour delay tomorrow. Our area is currently facing freezing fog with the temp already down to 12.

Foot's Forecast said...

From the Balto/DC NWS at 1012 pm:


Glad to hear your Mom is doing better. At least Momma Nature gave you the day with her free and clear. I see there is some kind of opaque film covering the cars out yonder. I was thinking, "it's not snowing, there's no wind, what could this be? Then I realize the hum-dititiy is 99%! Freezing Fog.

As if we did not have enough p-types this winter. (Snow, sleet, freezing rain, grauple, freezing drizzle, ice pellets, now freezing fog.) Not banking on a delay tomorrow, but let's say I'll be surprised NOT to see one, at least 1 hour if not 2.

More March Madness is menacing in the mid-month, many Marylanders may be moved by the micro-wave of heat my models make up for Monday and much after. Moreover, medium-range meteorological mavens make no mistake about it... March 1956 may very well be removed as the mantle of major maelstroms. Manage your calendar and mark the 16th-19th as a more likely winter weather event, magically for the major cities.

My mind is now mush, thus I will make way for the most important mental makeover of all.. sleep.

Mr.B said...

It is freaking cold here man. -1 degrees.

Foot's Forecast said...

Won't this be a fun morning for everyone. Your car is encased in a sheen of thin ice, it is super cold out there and there's no delay!

That's among the reasons we call it March :::Madness:::

wvmommyof4 said...

I know you all wont believe this but we have no school today!! We will pay for this in June.