Wednesday, December 24, 2008

1 comment:
And Winter Came
Newly released title song from Enya's 2008 holiday album.

December 24, 2008: The recent two-week period has all but taken our breath away with coast-to-coast storms of ice, snow, wind, torrential downpours, thundersnow, tornadoes and winter weather in the most unlikely places. From a blanket of white on the beaches of Malibu to New Orleans to Las Vegas, some of us are left wondering if the best way to see a White Christmas is to head for the place you would least expect there to be snow! This year, Mother Nature sure has made it clear that the winter solstice is a time not to be taken lightly.

December 21, 2008: Seattle. Two Seattle residents enjoy impromptu sledding on Denny Way in Capitol Hill as the city kicks off winter with the most snow in over a decade. Photo credit: Mike Kane/Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Visit the storm gallery.

December 18: 2008: Las Vegas. Palm fronds buckle under the weight of a rare pre-season snowfall that was the most since February 1979. Photo credit: Robert LaRocca, who features more delightful pictures of this event on her Real Estate blog.

December 11, 2008: New Orleans. Charter school kindergarden students and their teacher revel in the first December snow they've ever seen in their lifetime, as the last measureable snowfall was December 2004. Heart-warming to see that something so short-lived can bring such wild smiles to children in such a weather-torn city. Photo credit: The New Orleans Times-Picayune, which features an article and gallery of the blanketed Big Easy. Some areas just a few miles from the city received a much heavier blanket (6-8 inches!) as seen below:

While this photo journey around the country may temporarily lift spirits of snow-starved East coast powderhounds, you are no doubt left wondering: When will we join the fun?
North America snowcover on the first day of winter:
North America snowcover 12-22-08
The encouraging indications I glean from this map are that:
1. For the first time since December 1971, Canada has snowcover coast-to coast. 2. Nearly half the continental US also reported measurable snow. 3. The albedo (reflectivity effect) of the white ground will chill the boundary layer of air, allowing for a large scale "recharge" of cold air to develop over the next 3-4 weeks. If that air remains locked in Canada, and the U.S. begin to experience a January thaw, I believe this will set the stage for a very cold and stormy period for the Midwest from mid January well into February.
So for those of us waiting to see "white in the winter night," your time to join in the fun is coming , it just may take a while for all the atmospheric dynamics to align just right. Until then, I might as well admit that I use songs from Enya on continuous play as a coping strategy during snow droughts. You couldn't tell though, right? Since I'm not ready to break this cycle of co-dependency, I have posted once more below for your holiday viewing pleasure our theme song from Enya's new album, And Winter Came:

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

lyrics and a single from Enya's And Winter Came

December 25, 2008: For Christmas Week, I have updated this post with a newer version of the music video I thought you might enjoy. This recently released single from Enya's new winter album is truly a heart-warming masterpiece of the simple things that make this time of year memorable and filled with anticipation. The lyrics and melody captured for me what it means to not only "honor the holidays" of all religions but to always observe the real reason behind the season.

If you are reading this, (while listening to the music), then you are likely among the nostalgia-smitten folks who on a Saturday night in early December felt that stirring inside upon discovering that it was actually snowing! and it stayed on the ground! These are the kinds of people who start playing Christmas music before Thanksgiving, and get all giddy when the calendar finally turns to December. They gaze longingly at Currier & Ives engravings, wondering when they'll ever see a wintery evening like that. Yes, I am one of them, so I can speak with authority on this subject. Our anticipation is so great we'll fall for any mention of it anywhere. At least once a year, we're hoodwinked by the oldest trick in the book, when someone pulls a convincing exclaim of "Look, it's snowing!" (complete with finger pointed at the window), followed by "Ha ha, made you look!" Then, some of us can't even think straight the first time it really is happening. Almost ritual-like, we go to the window, mouth agape - and then just walk out the front door - without a coat or even the thought of one. It's not enough to just see it, you have to go out and feel it, smell the pristine crispness of the air, and hear how it's falling seems to dampen out all the imperfections and busyness in this life- even if for a few moments.

You know the feeling, because there's something so refreshing and invigorating about snow falling right where you are. Although we all grumble at times about what it means for travel, when handed the surprise, I know some of you collar up the dog and go for a brisk walk. Others throw open all the drapes, brew a cup of Mocha and sit back to drink in the view of this pleasant gift from God's creation. For some of us, the feeling may not be joy, but rather sadness as snow this time of year can also reignite pain we thought had been extinguished. However, we all take a first glance outside at that first real snowfall, and feel a brief but collective sense of peace.

Who hasn't seen children of all creeds and colors instantly immerse themselves in the joy of a new snowfall, acting as if this moment was divinely fashioned just for them? The arrival of each newly fallen snow should reassure in our hearts the truth that God still loves us as his children, despite all our weaknesses and blemishes. Seeing "white in the winter night" last Saturday reminded me that despite the pain and conflict of this world, God covers all of us with a blanket of white, so he can share with us the purity of his love. Experiencing that love is so much more valuable than the gold, or the candlelight, the green or the mistletoe. While those time-honored traditions make the season special...what's better than any gift or intention, is the meaning behind "white in the winter night that everyone remembers."

It's because we have all felt the joy of seeing snow for the very first time, and maybe once, secretly believed it was sent especially for us. Truth be told, that snow was intended for you, in the same way God intended to send a helpless infant named Jesus to Earth 2,000 years ago to save all of us. Now that's what everyone remembers, and I hope you will too.

During this holiday season and in the winter to follow, I wish upon you and your family an opportunity to revel in the serenity of snow falling wherever you may be. When that time comes, perhaps you'll also hear a distant choir singing "Glory...Glory.....Glory" and know in your heart that the real glory of God is that he always has, and always will love you.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008



THU 12/17 UPDATE: The current US Hazards Assessment shows potential for a variety of significant winter events this weekend across two-thirds of the country, just in time for the arrival of... winter. Like it or not, most of the U.S. has entered a long duration period of cold and stormy weather that will extend into Christmas weekend.

If you are unable to view this site due to server issues at your place of work, please bookmark the text-only version: During a high-impact event, I realize many of you prefer to check for updates during the workday, so text of recent posts will be published at this alternate location.

Friday: Wintry precip stays out of central Maryland, with exception of areas along PA Boundary, northern Harford and Cecil. Most of PA will experience snow and sleet mixed, changing to freezing rain then rain, and by nightfall turning back to light snow before ending. Central and Northern PA into New York including the city should receive heavy snow with amounts ranging between 6 to 12 inches.

Saturday: Not much of a rose between two thorns, as scattered light freezing drizzle is expected in PA, with mixed light rain/sleet in MD. As evening approaches, a high pressure system in New England will wedge in cold air at the surface in advance of the next system. Light ssnow moves in overnight across most of West Virginia, central and western MD, Northern VA.

Sunday: Everything goes. Most of us in the Mid-Atlantic from west Virginia to New Jersey and everywhere in between will wake up to snow, mixing with sleet as the day progresses. A large area from the Philly suburbs south to Washington will experience a long duration period of light snow, sleet and freezing rain from mid-morning to early evening. There may even be a lull of saving grace for travelers Sunday afternoon, as a secondary low forms off the DelMarVa coast. Precip may end briefly as rain before colder air filters in behind the secondary, turning any remaining moisture over to light snow Sunday night.

Monday: Whatever fell on Sunday will have frozen over with overnight lows reaching the upper teens. This has potential to cause school and travel delays Monday morning. Temperatures may never climb above 32 across the region, and cold north winds will prevent melting. It'll be one of those rough "gotta scrap off the car" type mornings.

WED 12/17 UPDATE: The New England ice disaster was the start of several rapid fire storms occuring every few days, preceded by false warmups, followed by progressively colder conditions. Dare I say it, but if snow accumulates from any of these storms, the temperatures going into early next week will be cold enough to provide many of us with that elusive, highly-sought, nostalgic, holiday weather-related event. The Sterling, VA NWS is already beating the storm drum with this in their discussion:
For archival purposes, what was originally said on Thursday, 12/11/08 regarding the upcoming pattern:
" I have reason yet to "just believe" in the potential for a major snow and ice event for the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast corridor before December ends. Although I originally targeted the first week of December as the likely period, a slowing of the pattern progression has delayed this possibility by 2-3 weeks. That places the next period conducive for measureable, significant snow (greater than 4") or ice (greater than 1/4") to December 17-25."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008



NWS Baltimore-Washington 12-16-08

Maybe marginal temperatures this time will allow the forecast to more closely match reality, as last time both the NWS and I ended up with bungled calls. The last winter weather advisory for the Baltimore-DC Metro area didn't yield much. The difference this time? Cold air is at the helm, whereas last time, on going surges of warm moist tropical air aloft kept the cold air restricted to Pennsylvania. As you can plainly see from the radar to the is apparent the cold air is winning this battle. I will wait for evidence on the ground from your observations before I make a call. The oddity of this round of advisories is the text discusses a changeover of rain to freezing rain and snow, yet the NWS point-and-click forecasts for towns across the area show tonight's forecast to be plain rain. Check back around 9PM for a call on schools.

12-16-08 Radar

Based on my analysis of the "Nowcast" links, where I can perform a quick assessment of storm dynamics, it DOES NOT appear this will be a surprise ice storm for the Baltimore Metro region. Nor does it seem likely places like Southern Balto County, Howard, Anne Arundel or Montgomery will get any school delays out of this. Hereford Zone, Harford and Frederick might be the only ones this time. We have a classic "over-running" situation, (strong cold 1038mb high to the north, precip running over the cold air) but alas the surface/boundary layer cold air is too marginal this time. Sleet/freezing rain are "latent heat release" events, that tend to keep the temperature right at or just above 32. By contrast, snow is an evaporative cooling event, which pulls heat out of the atmosphere and thus chills it, thereby making the environment around the snow falling more conducive to producing additional snow. Despite your expectation of falling temps tonight, I think whatever they are right now will be exactly that by sunrise. That radar loop will look just about the same come morning I'll bet. A delay for all of BCPS could only occur if slightly more than half the county reporting areas observes slippery conditions by 5AM, which I doubt.

However, next week the drumbeats have already started on a major winter weather event taking shape for Saturday-Sunday. This looks to be the big kickoff I've been indicating for some time (just off on the timing!). More details about that Wednesday.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

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12/11 UPDATE: Forecast: New Orleans: Snow. Baltimore: Rain.
Are current anomalies indicators for the upcoming winter pattern?

I thought you might appreciate (or be jealous of) this unusual radar from the Southeast today, and powderhounds will no doubt wince at these hard facts: NWS reports accumulations of 2 to 8 inches throughout central and southern Louisiana. Here's "ground truth" proof. Scroll to end of the post for more details and links to news sites reporting on today's pre-season freak snow.

My analysis and forecast for the Northern Hemisphere seasonal pattern from December 1 to January 15. I realize the graphic below may be hard to read, so for those with unfiltered access to flickr, a copy of the image is available here. I will also post a written explanation of this graphic in the event you wish to use this as a teaching tool for your students. This approach enables climate teleconnection watchers to do exact comparison of the forecast versus the actual, as by the 15th it should become clear if this pattern I have laid out is developing or not.

The graphic above is why I have reason yet to "just believe" in the potential for a major snow and ice event for the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast corridor before December ends. Although I originally targeted the first week of December as the likely period, a slowing of the pattern progression has delayed this possibility by 2-3 weeks. That places the next period conducive for measureable, significant snow (greater than 4") or ice (greater than 1/4") to December 17-25. That does not automatically mean I am alluding to a white Christmas, so do not interpret this as a signal to activate false hopes. As you will read later, I am a lifelong skeptic of ever seeing the aforementioned highly-sought after winter weather event occur on a specific date so tied into our contemporary holiday lore. Not to dash you out of the snow, but my next essay in progress is titled: "Blame it on Dickens and Sunspots: The inconvenient truth about white Christmases." For now, you'll have to live vicariously through this video montage from the Polar Express, and ask yourself if you "believe."


Certainly, the folks along the Gulf coast must still believe, because it seems that if you want real measureable snow these days..forget Baltimore, Washington or New York. The place to find that wintery white stuff is in the usual spots, like Houston, Jackson, Miss. or New Orleans. Just take a look at the current NWS US watch and warning map. notice where the Winter Storm Warnings are? Yeah, where you'd expect them this time of year: Southeast Louisiana, southern Mississippi, places that are so accustomed to snow, it probably did not even make headlines. (Oh wait, that's in the alternate universe Ice Age version).

Looks like the NOLA Times-Picayune is reliving their inner childhood, because when you see "white in the 'not-even-winter-yet' night in a place like "Southtown", there's no better way to describe it than simply with the headline of: "It's Snowing!" 9:30 AM update: The editors have since changed that to "Snow falling throughout the metro area"




The current Baltimore/Washington watch & warning map shows the counties shown in purple-blue are under Winter Weather advisories from 4AM to 11AM Friday 12-11-08 (in addition to Flood Watches overnight). As you know, the counties shown in green have only flood watches at present. Based on past trends, and road conditions, I expect this Friday morning:

NO DELAY: Howard County. They have no days/hours built into the calendar, surface air cold is marginal, temps will remain above freezing, most of their paved surfaces are in suburban environments than more rural Carroll County. However Ho Co is under a Winter Weather advisory. If you are a teacher or student there, I suggest setting the alarm and just let go of any idea you're in for a delay. The same applies to Baltimore City, Anne Arundel County.

2 HOUR DELAY: Counties of Baltimore, Harford, Cecil, Carroll, Frederick. Rationale: Higher terrain and more than 1/2 of their geographical area will be affected by winter weather conditions in the crucial time from 4AM to 7AM. While accumulation on roads is unlikely, a quick burst of snow could easily produce many slippery spots. Sun angle has no bearing on this event, nor does surface temperatures. The deciding factor will be a short period of heavy wet snow that hinders visibility. I suspect these counties may have to wait until they see "ground truth" that the NWS forecast is verifying and what road conditions present at 5:30 A.M. So you had better SET THE ALARM regardless and tomorrow morning, closely monitor your news station (or radio if in the car). Last winter a 2-hour delay decision was changed to closed after I left the house, and though I have very little distance to travel, that was not the case for untold hundreds of teachers and parents who learned of the closing upon their arrival at schools.

CLOSED: Highly unlikely any of these counties will see the conditions that prevent school for the entire day, with temperatures remaining above freezing across Maryland except for far western areas.

New Orleans Snow Note: My overview of the Surprise Dixie Storm was moved back to draft status so I can add more pictures and clean up the formatting. Will re-post this Friday with my winter analysis writuep.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


Looking for snow in the near future?

As of December 8, all I can say is there soon may be...
Believe 3

from Saturday, November 29:

SAT AM UPDATE: I hope our tranquil Thanksgiving was enjoyable for you and your family, and gave you time to get "tanned, rested and ready" by Sunday, as we are heading full force into this season's first region-wide winter storm. However, coastal dwellers in the I-95 corridor will have to live vicariously through their interior Pennsylvania counterparts this time. This is yet another repeat of the storm dynamic the Northeast has had over the past 2 years: shallow fingers of cold surface air lodged in valleys over-ridden by warm moist air aloft. From Washington to Philadelphia and their metro regions, the cold layer is thin and will be scoured more quickly, turning a brief Sunday morning snowfall over to rain. The "kitchen sink" region will setup in the 219/220/99 corridor in western and central Pennsylvania from Johnstown to Altoona to State College. This area will see precip begin by dawn as light snow, and progress through the morning to sleet and possibly freezing rain depending on surface temperatures. North and west of this area should see mostly snow, but amounts will be limited to less than 4 inches until return flow in the storm's wake restarts the lake effect machine on Monday.

For the remainder of the Mid-Atlantic, east of I-81, morning snow mixed with sleet will prevent significant accumulation, but be enough to make roads challenging in the mid and late morning. Thus, if you are traveling Sunday, as I will be, my suggestion is to get on the road soon after sunrise when the precip will be light. I do not advise waiting to leave until you see a changeover to, as by then you'll have to negotiate a lot more slushy, slippery conditions and the bulk of holiday travelers returning home.

Passage of the primary low into western Pennsylvania, and the coastal low through Del-Mar-Va will change all precip over to rain by Sunday night - squashing any possibility of Maryland schools being closed on Monday, although some interior PA districts may have delays due to refreezing Sunday night.

Euro 0Z Mon 12-1

This current European model projection for 7PM Sunday night supports my adage for these types of storms: "The primary low stays stronger longer." A 990mb low in Ohio will track across Pennsylvania, enhanced by upper level short-wave energy while a weaker secondary low moves through the southeast. Also to note is the lack of a surface high to resupply with cold air. In this scenario, no high and the separation between the two lows will prevent this system from cranking into a widespread coastal snowstorm.

I believe the setup of this storm finally reveals the true indications for December's weather patterns: the deep 850 mb trough in the midwest (pointing to a negative NAO), the Pacific/western ridge (leading to a positive PNA), and a new reserve of cold air, while not extreme, is beginning to reload in northern Canada. The next section focuses on my forecast and analysis for December into January, and over this weekend will be adding graphics and links to support the discussion.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


(Before Thanksgiving? Probably not. First week of December? Most likely.)

For those of you experiencing intermittent display of the links, text and graphics, this is the super basic version you can use to mark your calendars:

Storm #1 potential: For next Tuesday into Thursday, (11/25-27) the European and GFS are hinting at coastal redevelopment of a clipper. Not the best setup for Mid-Atlantic snow, and more probable that interior western sections of Pennsylvania and upstate New York get the snow while the coastal areas get a cold rain. The silver lining is that at the very least the passage of this storm will deliver another round of cold air for Thanksgiving weekend.

Storm #2 indicators: As many of you have already gleaned this snippet from earlier posts, let's get right to the point. If current trends continue, (10 day duration of below-normal temps, the Greenland block, neutral or slightly negative NAO, among other factors) I expect a significant region-wide season-opening multi-precip type storm in the period December 1 - 5. Too early to say if this will be all snow, but I would suspect most of the Mid-Atlantic will see a variety of snow, sleet and possibly even freezing rain depending on surface temperatures when the storm takes shape.

The atmospheric indicators of these two potential events will be closely followed, so I encourage your reactions and speculation as we look to nail down the details over the 10 days. Analysis of the indicators and more in depth discussion will be added to posts below.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008



Polar Express

Think of it this way: You're having January in November, so this train of cold pain will be at the station a while. Temperatures across the region this week and into next will average 10 to 15 degrees below normal (since 56/35 are the climatological average temps for this same period). That serious early season imbalance portends a stormy situation brewing for the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast going into the first week of December. The occurence of this week's cold blast event on the heels of the early November and mid-October warm spells will throw the atmospheric pattern out of balance for the next 6-8 weeks. That means we will soon again see major weather events occuring "out of season." I foresee this pattern producing an early December snowstorm that could close schools for one day or more, similiar to the Dec 4-5, 2002 season opener.

Below-normal temperatures throughout the East now expected beyond Thanksgiving could prematurely drain a portion of the current supply of cold Canadian air. The culprit for this mid-winter preview is the presence of the Greenland block, as shown in this Accuweather graphic above. A sprawling High pressure dome in the mid and upper atmosphere over Greenland both forces the polar jet southward, and blocks the easy escape of this cold air once it reaches the Eastern seaboard. That provides a 10-day to 2 week period for the ground to sufficiently harden and freeze. The block in conjunction with a persistent 500 mb upper level trough over the Eastern U.S. will funnel clipper after clipper toward the coast, reinforcing the colder air. Are you seeing how this would play out? As this pattern begins to decay after 2 weeks, in the December 1-5 timeframe, the Mid-Atlantic would be left with a frozen ground, plenty of stale cold air at the surface. Introduce a reinvigorated southern jet stream with warm moisture over-running the cold surface, and we have the makings of a kitchen-sink major winter storm with all your favorite fixtures... snow, sleet, freezing rain, blowing and drifting snow. Arriving around Wednesday, Dec. 3 at say 10 pm would be great timing for all you out there in education-land, wouldn't it?

The bad news is this scenario, were it to be realized, also results in losing all your beautiful snow by Christmas with highs by then in the 50's and 60's. Then January turns into this bland, gray, rainy month with temps in the 40's. My analog season as the most notable example is 1989-90, which featured the famous White Thanksgiving of 1989 across the Northeast, followed by a brutally and snowy cold December and January. I was at Penn State Altoona then, and remember clearly the huge warmup in late February to early March 1990 with temps soaring into the 80's, only to see snow and frigid temps return later in the month.


It Is Time

You knew that I could no longer ignore the arrival of the winter's first Polar Express. I knew you’ve been checking to see when the next post would be coming. But we all agree that as Rafiki from the Lion King would say: "It is time" to launch our snow-speckled journey up the long and challenging mountain that will be the winter storm season of 2008-09.

The pattern I saw developing in October is playing out, as referenced by the original prediction posted in the comments on October 26. The bold was added today to emphasize the key projections.

"here's what I've thinking about the winter (first half).. it's all about what October does. Our mid month warmup may have sealed the deal for an early start to winter.. if so we may be looking at a region-wide snow day or two before Christmas, similar to Dec 2002.

In addition, I believe north of the PA-MD line you will see snow ON THE GROUND by Thanksgiving, and south of the PA-MD line, there will be a snow-fall event but not a snow-accumulation event before we roast the Turkey.

January is too tough to call yet, as that depends on what November does in my opinion. If Nov is much colder than normal, then January may end up mostly mild with a snap back to cold in Feb."

With that, I'd like to welcome everyone back and hope you will once again join our lively observation discussion in the comments below. Please include your location and state and let the fun begin!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

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Due to recent changes in server security that is affecting how the site is received by some customers, all readers are strongly encouraged to register for the simplified TEXT-ONLY FEED SERVICE shown to the left. If you registered with the FeedBlitz feature introduced last year, be advised that I will discontinue that service at the end of December since it does not deliver text directly into email. You don't absolutely have to switch, and Feedblitz will continue delivering a notice, but I think in high impact weather events you'd rather have a more personalized, current notification of what's going on than a "1 new article!" message.

Thank you for being patient with this change which will provide you with simpler updates more efficiently. Sincerely, Mr. Foot

Monday, November 17, 2008

No comments:
Region-wide school delays are unlikely given the storm's fast pace and limited moisture, but intermittent and strong bursts of snow overnight will produce slippery roads and black ice for the Tuesday morning commute.

Baltimore City and Southern Baltimore County: Light and scattered rain showers briefly change over to snow overnight, but only enough to leave a light coating on cars, untreated sidewalks and unpaved surfaces. Don't bet on any system-wide school delays unless there is an overnight surprise brought on by additional upper-level energy or a slowing of the clipper.

Northern Baltimore-Harford-Cecil: 10PM Monday update: Although the system is moving quickly, ambient low- and mid-level moisture preceding the storm has saturated the atmosphere enough that rain is changing to snow in areas that were not expecting much. As radar is already indicating, front-end snow bursts this evening will be followed by back-end bursts along I-95 from approximately White Marsh then north and east to Elkton in the pre-dawn hours. This may be enough to cause slippery roads in less-traveled and hilly areas, causing a nuisance for early commuters. If this scenario plays out, I can see NWS raising a Winter Weather Advisory for Northern Baltimore-Harford and Cecil, resulting in those schools being delayed 1 hour tomorrow...especially if there is a pre-dawn "snowburst."

Monday, September 22, 2008


Isabel's Landfall 9-18-03

Isabel's landfall along North Carolina coast on September 18, 2003

Although this past week marked the 5 year anniversary of Isabel and it's destructive impact on the Chesapeake Bay region, that storm will continue to serve it's main role: reminding us and preparing us for the "real one" which I believe has yet to arrive. The pattern looming before us in the week and month ahead pose a larger question I seek to resolve each year: Is this the year of a "Hazel-like" pattern? The atmosphere has already left behind clues to it's later intentions...Hanna's recurvature through the Mid-Atlantic, Ike and Gustav both following relatively similar tracks, and now the potential for a coastal crawler this weekend.

For those of you receiving this update via the Feedblitz email service, please know so in the procedure I follow developing situations is to first post an initial update, and then add graphics and supporting details throughout the week.

Kyle GFDL projection 1

My line of thinking for this next tropical system: No Escape. The sprawling High pressure ridge parking over the coastal Northwest Atlantic I believe will lock in a landfall between the Delmarva Peninsula and New England. Depending on the speed, this may occur Friday night or Saturday morning. Once Kyle is officially named, there will be little time let before watches and warnings are issued if the GFDL model projection above is to be believed. (Thanks to alert reader Mr. B for reminding me of the link). As you can see from the model map to the right, two of the most reliable models continue to advertise a northwest tracking system approaching the Chesapeake Bay from the southeast. Combine that with the increased pressure gradient that will develop and tropical or not, we will have ourselves quite the gale along Mid-Atlantic from Friday through Sunday. Should the GFDL scenario play out, this storm has huge implications for significant and prolonged surge, major tidal flooding, beach erosion. I know some of you may feel this feels like more crying for the wolf that was not Hanna, but this track is far more dangerous and warrants early notification and constant monitoring by all coastal interests.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Only A Category 2

9/15/2008: As aerial surveys of Ike's wrath are becoming more available, it is clear Ike was monstrous in unimaginable ways. While the surge was less than the 25 feet predicted, please tell me what else exactly would have been left to scour after the 12-14 foot surge was done?

Maybe scenes like this will help forecaster to avoid phrases like "although the storm is 'only a category two.' or " 'it is now down to a 'minimal hurricane.' "

Regardless of how the hurricane center classifies landfall strength, when you include the forward speed of 12-15 mph on top of 110 mph winds, a person standing on their porch will experience Category 3 wind intensity.

Yes the record books will show that Ike was not a "major hurricane" at landfall. It sure was major for the millions of people who are suffering and will continue to do so for many weeks and months ahead. We encourage those in the safety and calm of the Mid-Atlantic to consider giving to the Red Cross or Salvation Army. In the end, we're all Americans no matter where we live, and next time, we could the ones featured in the photo galleries and blogs.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


The Road To Galveston

Visit these links at the Houston Chronicle for more pictures of Ike's wrath in Texas and the long road ahead to recovery. Sure does help me appreciate and be thankful for what we have. A followup on the storm to be posted later.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Ike in Houston 2

Waves over the Memorial

FRIDAY 9:30 PM. poignant image of waves crashing just below the memorial to the 1900 Galveston Hurricane. With perhaps 20,000 people remaining in the island city right now, it will truly be a miracle if the death toll and final damage bill does not exceed that of Katrina. Consider this: If 8 feet of water has already flooded many densely populated areas, and that is NOT part of the expected 20 foot surge, then this will eclipse the New Orleans Nightmare. Given the catastrophic nature of this entire situation, I think quite likely you are looking at the new Storm of the Century. I believe this image below says it all:

Early onset of flooding in the "seawall city" that has survived 108 years of nature's fury, so far.

Flooding begins

FRIDAY 6:00 PM. With the hurricane's center just under 200 miles from shore, waves and surge have already brought some parts of Galveston under 4 to 6 feet of water. For up-to-the-minute reports on Galveston, Houston and Ike's impacts on the Texas Coast, keep an eye on the Chronicle. You can also see the latest pictures and area webcams. Since this is an ever-changing situation, I will not be attempting a constant stream of updates. Now we just wait and pray for the safety of those in it's path.
Ike Radar 7PM

Ike Radar 6PM Friday

Friday, September 12, 2008

"It's the size of Texas, Mr. President."
- Billy Bob Thornton as the Johnson Space Center Director in Armaggedon,
explaining the width of an asteroid poised to strike the Earth.

Ike from Space

Galveston Landfall

7AM FRI: This modified and enlarged map from the StormPulse tracking site shows that hurricane force winds of possibly 100 mph or greater will encompass the entire Houston metro area, especially considering the NHC official track has shifted again to the right. This already horrific projection is assuming Ike does not increase in intensity from the current landfall expectation of Category 3 at 115 mph. Gusts may exceed 125 mph. If you're inside this zone, prepare for sustained winds at or above 75 mph for at least 10 hours, with a period of 100 mph or higher for a few hours inside that as the center nears the city. It is looking more likely this storm makes a direct hit on Houston and will not pull a "Rita" and shift considerably in some other direction.

It may sound too doomsday to you, but the graphic headline of "Certain Death" reported in the news this morning is the most focused way to sum up this situation for those staying behind to face a 20-foot storm surge. (This warning originates in the NWS text of a hurricane statement for Houston). We are facing a near-catastrophic event which could become the Katrina of Texas in terms of damage and flooding.

Ike Path and Texas Coast Refineries

Regardless of where you live in the continental United States, this storm will be impacting your life in major ways. I know, you've heard that before. The dire predictions of oil and gas barreling upward in the wake of Gustav did not materialize. This time it is different, and 3 years ago I posted extensive information about the impacts of then-Major Hurricane Rita. Neither Gustav, Rita or Katrina actually took a track that is as potentially destructive to our nation's gas and oil production facilities as this one. That's because coastal and inland areas of the southeast Texas house some of our most important petroleum facilities. Ike is currently mirroring the path followed by that of the devastating 1900 hurricane which nearly wiped Galveston off the map, and is still the number one deadliest disaster in in U.S. history. If you've not read the gripping account of that storm in the book Isaac's Storm, check your local library before someone else snaps up the one copy there. Below is an image of what remained in Galveston the last time a storm of this magnitude struck. Not much, as you can see.
Galveston Hurricane of 1900

Let's break it down folks...we're talking about hurricane force winds that will buffet the entire Texas coastline and western third of Louisiana's coast. Winds 75 mph or greater currently extend outwards 120 miles from the center. At present, the overall wind field is actually LARGER than Katrina was at her maximum strength, and to the chagrin of Houston/Galveston, air force reconnaissance aircraft have observed some of the strongest winds (at or above Cat 3 levels) are far removed from the center...100 nautical miles away, in the right front quadrant. It will not matter where this storm lands, it's nasty jaws are as wide as the state it is about to strike. As reported by the Oil Drum, source for the map shown above, this storm will shut in 20% of all U.S. gasoline refining capacity, (which is 5% of the world total) and 96% of all Gulf oil production is already offline, as well as 73% of Natural Gas operations. Please understand that despite these energy-related concerns, what matters most is the safety and security of every single human life in the path of this storm. Down there in all that crawling traffic is someone's grandmother in and un-air conditioned car, or a single mother with children in diapers, or an elderly father in frail health. Tonight and tomorrow, we should be keeping those and more in our prayers.

Houston 6

ALL THOSE BUILDINGS, ALL THAT GLASS. While we focus on the on-shore landfall dangers, the other huge risk when a storm strikes a major population center like Houston or New Orleans is the hugely complicated cleanup task. Exacerbating the process will be a storm surge possibly 20 feet or more, bringing with it dangerous debris and toxic chemicals from the many refining facilities throughout the region. Below is an image I designed based on an interactive feature published in the Houston Chronicle during Hurricane Rita in September 2005, that illustrates the storm surge potential. Click on the image below to see in greater detail the ironies of this graphic: Ike's projected surge of 20 feet versus the 19 feet hypothesized, the fictious landfall date of 9/11 (as opposed to 9/13), and the nearly identical landfall location.

Houston 2

What do you suppose a 14-20 feet storm surge will do to a beautiful place like the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Galveston? Rebuilt after being nearly totally destroyed in the 1900 Hurricane, it is possible that today's storm poses the greatest threat to this symbolic and spiritual center since that fateful September day 108 years ago. With most of the island projected to be underwater and flooding to the eaves of many homes, it is not a surprise the mayor finally ordered a mandatory evacuation of the entire island city. Those who stay do so at their own peril.

Galveston Sacred Heart Church
As time permits, I will be adding additional details, although I realize folks in Texas aren't reading it right now. For those of us along the East Coast, each day we can knock off the calendar in September is a real bonus, but don't think the danger has passed. I am refining a post that dicusses whether or not our neck of the woods faces another storm this month, and what may lie ahead in October. The premise going forward is this: Hurricane season is NOT over and we follow storms in other areas to LEARN about what to do when our time comes, because someday, it sure will.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Ike at 11:00 AM Wednesday 9-10-08

Ike Vis Satellte 1

If you're a resident of the Gulf coast, I'm sure you can identify with this feeling. The other overwhelming aspect of this feeling is not that so many storms have made landfall recently, it's that today..September the climatological "middle" of tropical cyclone season in the Atlantic basin. Historically, today's date is when storms most often form or are already in progress across the ocean. While the frequency of tropical systems slowly decreases as we move forward through the calendar, it does not mean that the number of hurricanes or tropical storms will be less severe or avoid land. If anything, the danger to the East Coast and the Gulf coast is generally highest from now until mid October.. as evidenced by September and October storms of note such as the Great New England Hurricane of 1938, Hazel (1954), Gloria (1985), Floyd (1999), Isabel (2003) and the double crossers Frances and Jeanne (2004).

In addition to an overview of the factors that will affect Ike's path and his eventual landfall, I am preparing a discussion of how Hanna and Ike may have indicated a pattern change for the East Coast going into October, and what that could mean heading into the Fall and potential for winter weather beyond that. It is written and I will try to post it sometime today.


To all Foot's Forecast readers: The site was hijacked Sunday morning 9-7-08 between 9:30 AM and 1:30 PM. Thus the address has been discontinued for now and the entire website can be viewed temporarily on it's original URL: The permanent URL is being changed to but make take up to 3 days for the transition to occur. Please update your bookmarks/favorites accordingly.

For the next day or so, web searches for the site will direct visitors to the .net address temporarily until search engines pickup on the change. So if you forward content from the site to others, please inform them of the new address. The culprint is a company called nuseek which has hijacked many other sites, is widely known on the internet as engaging in fraudulent activity, and has been reported to the FBI by other bloggers. Although the other site address was "locked" the procedure used was a "302 redirect" though I should be able to prevent this with some simple HTML code adjustments. Thanks to the alert readers who saw the problem and notified me right away.

Regarding comments: For added security, everyone will have to use a Google identity/login name and complete word verification (including me!) Now back to the weather...

Sincerely, Mr. Foot

Saturday, September 6, 2008

SUNDAY AM COMMENT: I am working on a summary of ideas looking ahead to the remaining portion of the hurricane season, and whether or not Hanna was a sign of things to come for the East Coast, or just an isolated event. Check back later today or this evening for the full update.

Hanna Radar 9-6-08 3PM

6PM UPDATE: With the center now crossing the Bay and heavy rain bands subsiding across the area, I think you're looking at the grand finale of Hanna for the Chesapeake region, and conditions have begun improving at least in the Baltimore area. As you can see from the radar, Pennsylvania is getting c-c-c-clobbered with monsoonal like downpours. A recent report from Cecil County indicates remnants of the decaying eyewall have moved just south of the area, with a rapid wind shift to the north. In Maryland, expect the strong gusty (but dry!) winds to continue well into the evening as the storm moves to our northeast. Any water that piled up during high tide may be slow to drain out at first, but once the northwest winds work in conjunction with the waning tide, the water will recede quickly.

12PM UPDATE: Analyzing the track, and noticing that NHC changed the projected path, I am thinking Hanna will travel along a line from East of Richmond, across St. Mary's County, to Cambridge, MD to right over Dover, DE. That's starkly different crossing southern DelMarVa don't you think?

8AM UPDATE: The latest radar makes me wonder if this is going to track up and along the WEST side of the Chesapeake Bay, and not through lower Delmarva as currently projected by the NHC. That would have huge implications for the forecast, especially considering that most waterfront property owners along the Bay right now believe this storm is not a major surge threat. Follow the DC-Baltimore NWS discussions to see if they account for it. Remember now, NWS and NHC project tidal surges of 1-3 feet on the western shore. If Hanna tracks along the Bay or west of it, I am saying now those surges COULD be double... 3-6 feet and may flood homes that were expecting little or no water. Until we turn our attention to Major Hurricane Ike, I will keep the main page short so you can post your observations, thoughts and reactions below, and include your location!

Hanna Radar 9-6-08 Accuweather

Friday, September 5, 2008


Hanna Satellite 9-5-08 IR

From the day-after-day weak satellite presentation and lack of noticeable circulation, to this bowling ball of convection that is about to make landfall in South Carolina... Hanna has certainty demonstrated tenacity. Now we wait to see if the forecasted path holds true, and if she indeed does travel mostly EAST of the Bay and NOT UP the Bay. Not landfalling in Wilmington, North Carolina as many of us thought it would, indicates to me that "frictional effects" are taking place. This also means the downstream track might shift westward, which spells serious trouble for the Mid-Atlantic if that starts to happen.

The concept is simple: Winds blowing onshore from the right front quadrant are usually stronger, whereas winds blowing offshore in the lower left quadrant are weaker. This disparity of wind in opposite sides of the storm can actually drive the entire system closer to the coast, due to the frictional effect of interaction with the land. Charley in 2004 was a great example of this, which is why he made that sudden right turn and hammered Port Charlotte when many (including me at the time) thought it was headed for Tampa.

So I retire for the evening hoping that you've completed your preparations, and that we will all act in a safe and appropriate manner during the storm. Please post your observations and wind speeds if you know or can accurately tell (say by using the Beaufort Scale!). Tomorrow I may post the chat feature just during the main storm period from mid morning to sunset. I'm not staying up for the 11PM advisory, but would not be surprised to hear she went to hurricane status just as landfall occured.

Hanna satellite image 9-5-08

Formatting note: I realize this is a long post, it's a combo of 2 days. Comments are found at the bottom. Please note your location for more accurate response to your questions.

ABC2 News Hanna Headline 9-5-08

STORM IMPACTS AND PREPARATION. The Red Cross has good details on preparation in the "Spotlight" Box for Tropical-Storm related disasters. The NWS has a list of key actions to take in their official statements. A couple notes about preparation: Make sure tonight you have fully charged all electronic devices, cell phones, little music players. Make sure there is a working phone that does not require AC power. I would also turn your fridge temp down a few notches if you're prone to losing power. Do you have some working light sources? (candles don't count!) Have you checked on elderly or shut-in neighbors? Have you removed all the items from the yard, alley, deck etc that could blow around..trash cans, toys, chairs, umbrellas, tarps? Did or will you park the car away from trees and branches that could fall and blow a hole in your insurance policy? All right, enough said for now on that. Below is a summary of impacts in order of how severe an effect on the Baltimore-DC metro region:

1. RAIN 3 to 6 inches or more in heavier bands that feed off the bay or ocean, all coming inside a 12 hour period. When one of those bands moves over you, it will look like a monsoon and go on for an hour or more. Does your basement flood easily? Are you near a stream that overflows it's banks with every thunderstorm? If so, take precautions today and tonight. Though the ground is very dry, heavy downpours can quickly flood small streams and urban areas. Turn around, don't drown. Stay inside, stay alive. Local storm conditions can change very fast, especially during one of those embedded rain bands.

2. WIND Sustained east to northeast winds of at least 40 mph from late morning until sundown. That's 8 hours of wind-swept rain beating against your house. The kids are going to love it, for the first hour. Then it'll get old real fast. Greater sustained speeds to near 50 mph with gusts near hurricane force in the southern Chesapeake Bay. The entire region will see gusts near 60 mph, but winds will be backing north and then northwest toward evening as the storm passes east of the Bay.

3. DEBRIS The biggest risk to life and property is not going to be downed trees everywhere, but a massive amount of falling limbs and branches which can kill or seriously injure anyone caught underneath. Do I need to post sad but true stories of teenagers who went out to walk the dog during a Tropical Storm to get the point across? Heavy limbs will take out power lines, which end up laying on the ground, covered with other tree debris. Please do not go outside.

4. WATER Unlike Isabel, which sent a constant fetch of southeast wind to pile all the water up the Bay, this will feature a quick hit of wind that may start SE and then back and remain east to northeast. Water will pile up on west side of the bay at first, and then by sundown, as winds shift to the north, it will all be blown out. Inland waterways on the west side, especially in areas that are near to the open Bay will see surges of up to 4 feet temporarily with 2-3 foot waves on top of that.


NWS Advisory Map 9-5-08

Looking only at today's weather across the Northeast, you'd never know the area is about to get slammed with it's first significant tropical system since Isabel in 2003. In my opinion, ABC2 News is the one network in the Baltimore area doing the best job of explaining potential impacts, most notably Justin Berk. His website has valuable information you should review if concerned about this storm. Others might think I'm hyping the storm because their TV news is downplaying it. Well, I remember how poorly the Mid-Atlantic fared in preparation for Isabel 5 years ago, due in large part to the lack of detailed information from the news media and even the Weather Channel. After the storm passed, I was told by students in my school at Dundalk High in Southeastern Baltimore County that they went to bed the night of September 18 thinking a Tropical Storm Warning sounded like "a really bad thunderstorm." I asked why, and they said.. "well that's what the news told us. Just a lot of rain and wind." Some of them awoke at 2AM with water pouring in their first floor windows and coming up through the floorboards. That was from a predicted 2-4 foot storm surge. This website did not exist then, and that storm was the catalyst that led to creating this forecasting venue. I have vowed since that fateful storm that next time, I would get the word out LOUD AND CLEAR.

I hope we've done that, and as family time and children needs permit over the weekend, I will continue hammering away on the importance of NOT UNDERESTIMATING MOTHER NATURE, especially when the HUMAN EXPERTS (National Hurricane Center) have given us fair warning. The latest visible satellite image proves Hanna is getting ready to make her move, as convection is wrapping around the center and winds are gusting at or above 75 mph.


Maryland District closures 2

RATIONALE: Isabel was a stronger storm at landfall, but her track was northwest away from Maryland and through Virginia. The center of circulation never got close to any Maryland county. Virginia on the other hand was pummeled. This time, both states may get equal treatment because Hanna will track through the Bay area counties, and actually closer to Washington than Baltimore. Some districts may be forced to close Monday because road and ground crews will have 24 HOURS or less to clear downed trees, debris and restore power to critical facilities. Isabel caused school closings on Thursday September 16, 2003 when she was making landfall in coastal North Carolina...hundreds of miles away. It wasn't until overnight Thursday into Friday when the bulk of the storm arrived. Then, school and road crews had 2 full days to cleanup. Despite heroic efforts, some districts including Baltimore County remained closed the Monday following the storm. So think about your preparations now... if you lost power or were flooded in Isabel, what would you have done differently? Determine those steps and then implement them today. A lot of people were taken by surprise as to the intensity and widespread damage causes by Isabel. This could actually be worse in terms of wind damage and rainfall. Are you ready?

MARYLAND SCHOOL DISTRICT IMPACT: Text desscription of the Maryland map posted above if you are unable to view it. HIGH RISK (entire system closed) includes all MD counties south of a line from Anne Arundel east to Queen Anne's. MEDIUM RISK (modified closure specifically by individual school or area affected) From Baltimore City and County east to Kent County and North to the PA/MD/DE lines.

FOR COMMENTERS: Please remember to post your location. We would also appreciate having anyone report back on the evening news roundup... or the morning roundup. What are our TV forecasters saying, and do you think they are adequately preparing the public or explaining what precautions should be taken? I hope we do a better job of getting the word out this time.

FOR THOSE UNFAMILIAR WITH TROPICAL STORMS: review the Baltimore-Washington NWS official statements regarding preparing your family and property. No need to flip out, just be prepared and take the storm seriously. Tell your children and students not to go and wander about in the storm, the risk of falling trees, limbs and power lines is the greatest and most immediate threat to people unaware of the dangers associated with a landfalling tropical storm.

Thursday, September 4, 2008


NHC Hanna 5


NWS Advisory Map 9-4-08

The media continues to do the same disservice to you as they did in Hurricane Isabel. I have not seen an adequate explanation yet on what a Tropical Storm Watch/Warning means, other than the official NWS statements. Television meteorologists in the Washington/Baltimore area need to make clear that this is not "just a tropical storm." The public needs to understand that sustained winds of 40 to 50 mph are not something to be brushed off. The last time the Baltimore Metro area was in a tropical storm advisory, many schools were closed 3 days or more. Some people were without power for over a week. Are you ready for that again?

Now that the NHC track and intensity forecast is matching what I've been saying all week, on Saturday the entire Chesapeake Bay region including Baltimore and Washington will experience sustained winds up to tropical storm force (40 mph) for at least six hours, with occasional storm force gusts (near 60 mph). Tornado watches and warnings will be widespread. Plan now to make Saturday a day to remain indoors, and do not let your children wander outside. This will be a fast moving and deceivingly dangerous storm not to be underestimated. Follow this link to view the NHC's current projected path for Hanna this weekend.

WIND IMPACTS: By midnight Friday into Saturday, tropical storm force winds will extend out from the center at 300 miles or more. That means by sunrise winds reaching 40mph will reach Washington, Baltimore, and the entire DelMarVa peninsula. Southeastern Pennsylvania and central/southern New Jersey will see those winds by Saturday mid-morning. Surface winds combined with the storm's accelerating forward speed of 25 mph or greater could produce gale to storm force wind gusts (39 to 63 mph) along the I-95 corridor from Richmond to Boston on Saturday. Numerous tornadoes will occur within embedded rain bands that spiral in from the ocean, and total storm rainfall may exceed 4" but just over a 6 hour period. Divorce yourself right now from the thought that, "Oh, she's going to miss us to the east."

BASICS ON IMPACTS AND PREPARATION.. check back for additions later today.
1. A hurricane watch has been hoisted for portions of the Carolinas. As I suspected, Tropical Storm watches have been extended this evening to include the entire Chesapeake Bay. NWS Baltimore is calling for a 2-4 foot storm surge along the western shore.
2. Sustained winds to 40 mph and occasional gusts above 60 mph for at least 4 hours will down many trees and create hundreds of thousands of power outages throughout the coastal Mid-Atlantic. That includes the Washington and Baltimore metro areas along and east of U.S. Route 1.
3. If you live in an area prone to power outages or small stream flooding, start your preparations now. Though the ground is dry and will soak much of the 3-6" of rain, heavy downpours will create flash flooding along easily flooded areas. Overall, the farther south or east in MD or VA you are, the more direct effects you will experience, and the greater wind/rain damage is possible.
4. Where will your car be parked this weekend? Not under lots of trees, branches or neighborhood power lines I hope. Move it into an open area if possible. Your insurance company will thank you.
5. Teachers, administrators, coaches: If this storm resembles Isabel's impacts, then it becomes more likely that disruptions to the school calendar occur for the early part of next week. For example, in Isabel, Hereford High School in northern Baltimore County was out of commission longer than the county system itself due to an overwhelming number of downed trees. That was well over 100 miles from the actual center of the storm. If Hanna intensifies suddenly prior to landfall, the "weakening trend" will be masked by her fast forward motion, hence a greater potential for wind damage, even though landfall wind speeds will be weaker than Isabel. If you are inside the "cone of uncertainty" on this map, I would plan on taking extra work home this weekend. Interscholastic sports on Saturday is a washout, and expect many community events to be canceled or rescheduled.

LET THERE BE NO DECEPTION ABOUT THE PHRASE "MINIMAL HURRICANE." Ask the residents of South Florida how they felt about minimal Hurricane Katrina when she made her first landfall there before becoming the Louisiana Lasher. I personally have been in two "minimal hurricanes" over the past 25 years, regarding wind speeds at my location. Gloria in September 1985 followed a similar path as is projected for Hanna though farther offshore and produced sustained 70 mph northwest winds in the northern Bay for hours. Gloria was not minimal in any way, making landfall in Long Island with winds of 110 mph. In September 1999, residents from North Carolina to New Jersey will never forget Hurricane Floyd. I can recall like it was yesterday the mad scramble some Pennsylvania school districts went through when students were sent home at the height of the storm. All this from a minimal hurricane that tracked across the DelMarVa, a good 180 miles from Philly. In suburban Philly, we had sustained 50mph winds with gusts to 70 mph for at least six hours and stinging rain blown sideways all day long. In North Carolina is was one of the most destructive storms on record there in terms of catastrophic flooding. In less than 2 weeks, we will be marking the 5th anniversary of the Potomac Prowler.. Hurricane/Tropical Storm Isabel. Memories of that horrible experience alone should make any coastal resident take this storm seriously. Isabel will be the closest comparision to Hanna in terms of the inland wind field, but thankfully not in terms of the massive flooding along the Chesapeake Bay.

Wednesday evening's map from (uses same info as NHC)

StormPulse Hanna 1

NHC Projected path as of Wednesday evening

NHC Hanna 3