Wednesday, February 13, 2008

UNCERTAINTY CERTAINLY WON FOR SOME

WED 2/13 7:15 AM: That was quite a not so "n-ice" surprise. As all of us in areas affected by ice have discovered, quite possibly the most miserable conditions I think are when you have a glaze of ice with water on top. What could be more grueling early in the morning than to scrap ice off your vehicle in pouring rain? That sure was a blast. But thankfully nearly all area schools provided extra time to pull it together this morning, except of course for Anne "What-in-the-heck-is-an-Ice-Storm-Warning?" Arundel County. If you have time, consider letting us know in the comments how your commute turned out, I'm curious to know just how slippery if was on side streets and the like. As for this evening's snow burst, uncertainty continues to rule the future as some refreezing of standing water seems likely, followed by a dusting of snow on top. I could see this turning into another round of delays Thursday morning.


TUE 2/12 10:00 pm: The Ice Storm Warning will be in effect until 7AM Wednesday, and there is potential for .25" to .50" of ice accretion on untreated surfaces. Even if temperatures warm above 32, school districts have to make the call at 5 AM and conditions are likely to be as bad as they are currently. I've reviewed regional temperatures, and the surface and boundary layer cold air seems well entrenched.
NOTE: Comments are all the way at the bottom of next post.
MARYLAND'S DEPT OF TRANSPORATION INTERACTIVE ROADWAY WEATHER MAP

Ice Storm Cometh 2-13-08

The extent of this Ice Storm Warning is a telling indicator that everyone, from the pros to the amateurs, underestimated the staying power of low level cold air. Almost inexplicably so, the warm air aloft has not been able to mix to surface levels as quickly as everyone believed it would. Almost as if the weather remembered what it was doing a year ago today (ice storm, ahem) and just pulled out those old programs and ran them again.


WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR SCHOOLS WEDNESDAY? I'm going to go out on a limb here and say the range of uncertainty is too large to ignore. Think about how quickly this surprised us all. Now let's consider Wednesday morning. Suppose your county roads have improved enough to allow for smooth traffic, but sidewalks and parking lots are still ice covered. Perhaps a delay would be the best route, give 2 more hours for air temperatures to warm enough that melting will take care of the problem for you. However, uncertainty calls that decision into question because a second storm system developing Wednesday is likely to turn any remaining precipitation back over to snow. You'd be in the very unforgiving position of having called a delay, followed by an early dismissal. The NWS has already hinted in discussions that another advisory may be needed starting tomorrow afternoon. If you throw in the potential for power outages, roads and bus routes blocked due to downed trees and branches, and slick conditions hampering road crews the opporunity to clear those areas...

...thus, I don't think it is wishcasting to project the following...

CLOSED: Baltimore City and County, Anne Arundel, Howard, Carroll, Frederick, Harford, Montgomery, Loudon/Northern Virginia, Fairfax
2 HOUR DELAY: Cecil, Prince Georges, DC Schools, Eastern Shore Schools


Let me know what you think in the comments, make sure you vote (in my poll) since it's still the Potomac Primary, and include your observations especially status of ice on your powerlines. Most of all, everyone be safe, I don't want to see your name next to "Breaking News: Weather enthusiast electrocuted while taking pictures in ice storm."

"BUT WHEN WILL IT BE...AND HOW WILL I KNOW ?"
Michael W. Smith: "Somebody Love Me"
-from the 1995 Album Change Your World


If the question is: "When will Maryland observe the next plowable snowfall?"

The answer: not before February 16 for the I-95 corridor, with the first chance over President's Weekend, followed by another opportunity between the 22nd and 28th.

TUE 2/12 INSERT: The latest expansion of the NWS Winter Weather Advisory may raise hopes of school delays on Wednesday, but that probability will not be known until 5AM tomorrow when we see what temperatures end up...whether they rise overnight or not. Regardless of the outcome, I'm sure the uncertainty will prompt many of you to spend the evening speculating on it. Rest assured, I'll be right there with you, speculating away myself.

How will we know: Once the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) turns negative AND the Pacific-North American Index (PNA) turns positive, there is an opportunity for the right combination of air masses and many other factors to deliver a traditional mid- to late-February storm. However as you know a lot has to happen in the right order. One promising sign that winter will strike back in the Eastern U.S. is that interior temperatures in Alaska of late have been near -70 F. While it may seem a real stretch to connect remote Alaskan cold to a mid-Atlantic snowstorm, it is not in dispute that this cold air will make it's way south eventually.


The main culprit behind such a lack-luster winter has been the extremely strong La Nina, with water temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific running 2 or more degrees below normal C across large areas. This influences the development of a persistent high in the northern Pacific. The end result creates an overall unfavorable environment on the U.S. East Coast for big and frequent snowstorms like was seen in the winter of 2002-03 when a weak El Nino was observed instead. I'll post some graphics of these two ideas, because the differences in water temperature anomalies between this winter and 02-03 are quite revealing, and help explain a lot behind what drives certain types of winters. In conclusion, I do believe the Mid-Atlantic will see a 6" snow event sometime between February 20 and March 5, but beyond that the chances of a good snow will all but disappear as increasing sun angle begins to influence our regional climate once again.

51 comments:

Julee said...

One can hardly even recognize this season as "winter." Shall we just plant the petunias and call it a day?

Do La Ninas occur several years in succession, or do we FINALLY get a REAL winter next year?

mkgerst said...

I'll keep my fingers crossed. I have to say though, I love that song!

ANDY Southern York County, PA said...

Ever changing forecasts for Tues and Wed. Could get VERY icy for a lot of us by the afternoon. Think the cold has been underplayed a little with this one. Still hoping for snow in the future, but for now an ice storm is more interesting than rain and at least something to talk about!

Allison said...

Mr. Foot - the forecast is calling for snow tonight! Is there any hope that this will cause a delayed opening in either the city or the county?

Prospero said...

Well, considering tomorrow is Primary Election Day in Maryland, and Virginia, then ... no.

Allison said...

Shoot! I forgot about that. I work in a private school, and we do what ever is more severe in either the city or the county. Needless to say...I'm going to work today.

Mr. Foot said...

Sorry Allison, but it is the statistically snowiest week of the year. True to form, something is brewing for middle to late in the Pres Day Weekend. Hmmm...is that a 5 year anniversary storm I smell?

snow lover said...

already a good dusting on the ground. On accuweather it says that the storm may develop on the coast and give snow to the I 95 corridor. I think that of will snow longer then expected because it would take so much for it to rain.

Prospero said...

Allison,

Hopefully your school DID close. I saw many private schools closing; hope you had your day.

Not even a dusting here at White Marsh. Already voted before the weather turns nasty.

Mr. Foot said...

Lots of surprises lurking out there in the 3-5 day range. Trying to extract some idea of what is pending for the weekend. I'm not placing a lot of confidence in the current system turning into a snow switcheroo for the Mid-Atlantic. Most areas from Philly on south will see a changeover to rain. The primary low tracks right over us and I am doubtful there's enough energy to spawn a secondary that whallops the coast. That storm probably will form, but too far east in the Atlantis and too late to do anything serious except for some beach erosion. Lack of blocking in the North Atlantic allows for a progressive pattern, so the systems can just keep on moving through. Also, the NAO is strongly positive, a sure fire indication storms will not deliver big snow to I-95 anytime soon.

So at least enjoy today, and we can hope that things align better for a PD weekend event.

Julee said...

Quite a revised forecast on the NOAA site. Now saying that the change-over to rain might be held off until 7 a.m.
It's already slippery out there ... BE CAREFUL EVERYONE!

Andy, nice to see that you're out of your burrow!

Mrs. Burke said...

So Mr. Foot .... my husband is at a dead stop on 95. Apparently it is quite a mess out there. Let's hope the temperatures stay lower, and everyone can sleep a little later tomorrow. Not that I'm being greedy or anything, but delayed openings make me smile!

I would be happy to have this week look like it did last year!!

Mr. Foot said...

Thanks for the heads up Mrs. Burke. Info like that is useful, as long as your husband gets home safe. Has anyone traveled toward Edgemere? How are the bridges and overpasses. My wife thinks the roads are not that bad and I need ammunition to prove her theory wrong (or to provide her with egg for my face).

snow lover said...

It looks like forecasts are pointed toward more ice then expected. Ice always scares the county. And their is snow in the forecast wensday afternoon

Mrs. Burke said...

Fantastic .... a day of planning and grading in the comfort of your home is PERFECT!

bell86 said...

Now we are in an ice warning with 1/4" inch of ice. They say temps are predicted to stay below freezing until early morning. I'm wearing my pjs inside out and backwards. Yeah -- maybe no school tomorrow!!

photofreak65 said...

Here's hoping for a delay if we can't have the day off. A little extra sleep would be perfect! I just got an alert from WBAL and we're under an ice storm warning. the temps are still pretty low. I live in Northern Balto Co and the salt trucks are out in force here. Not Hereford though.

Mrs. Burke said...

Well, according to my husband, he said there was a major accident about every 2 miles on 95 on the way home. He also said a fender bender about every 1 mile. He said it was incredibly slick on the sidewalks too. On top of that, he left JHU APL near Columbia, at 4:25 and got home at 6:30! Interesting . . .

Pretty stinkin' cold here in "Nottingham."

snow lover said...

outside of reisterstown it Is 26.2 and freezing rain cars covered and sidewalks slim.

snow lover said...

wait it is 25 idon tsee how the temps will rise 7 degrees overnight

Julee said...

I just looked online at our weather station stats at Hereford Middle School and it's 23 there, 28 here in Pikesville.
An hour ago, it was 22 at HMS and 27 here.
Everything here is ice-covered and shiny.

Kyle said...

I just discovered this blog last week and I really like it! I'm also tracking the ice storm here in Odenton, MD. It's a dangerous 32 degrees right now and I'm concerned that it's going to break the freezing mark. I moved here recently from Indianapolis where I've already missed four big snowfalls, so I'm really yearning for one here in MD!

Prospero said...

27 degrees in White Marsh with precip. Everything has a glaze, and the grass is crunchy.

Mr. Foot, please update us about situation around Edgemere (if possible).

bell86 said...

It's a sheet of ice outside right now in White Marsh. Everything is glazed a lot with ice. If this keeps up with icing, I can't imagine buses being out on time tomorrow morning.

snow lover said...

wait it is 25 idon tsee how the temps will rise 7 degrees overnight

PriceW said...

http://www.weather.com/outlook/recreation/ski/local/USMD0400?from=search_city

i go to Calvert Hall, but i used to go to Hereford Midde...Im gunna be really mad tomrrow if HEREFORD ZONE has off!...but anyway, i was wondering if there was a chance a school closing tomrrow?

snow lover said...

it looks like the ice storm warning until 7 am will cause at least delays. It looks like a lot of ice bands coming.

Mr.S said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mr.S said...

Location: AA County. Well at 8:34pm it is still sleeting. We have a complete layer of ice on our deck out back, cars, and sidewalks/ streets. I'm not sure of the exact temp.

Mr. Foot said...

Look what happens... I go out for an hour with my wife to enjoy a cup of coffee, and return to an Ice Storm Warning. I figured, eh...not much is going to happen, Stormin' Downplay Norman said it'll all change over to rain with temps warming to above 32 by 9 PM.

And here we are at 8:56 in Dundalk. The temp has not moved outside of 30 F since 4 PM. I know it's splitting hairs, but when I left at 6:45, things seemed to be marginally freezing up, with a temp of 30.8. I come back at 8:30, temp is 30.2, and there are icicles on everything.

That was the giveaway to me. Before I even got in the house, I had a feeling something had gone wrong. Icicles means the air temp is not above freezing, for if it were they could not form.

SO..what does this mean for Wednesday?

If we use Dundalk as the bellweather location, given that it is 30 F and serious freezing rain here, I can only imagine what it must be like north of the beltway, to say nothing of the vast northern expanse of Baltimore County.

I'll organize a post haste on the situation for tomorrow.

Please continue to add your observations, they are very revealing about conditions in the area.

And welcome to the group, kyle. Here's hoping we can get a thumper in MD for you soon.

Russ L said...

well tom this one snuck up on me!! I was reading somethings about this storm on the accu-weather blog sites but never gave it any thought! I swear I think weather goes around the world in a cycle--remember this time last year an ice storm hit the area on valentine's day? I was w/out water for three days because of a water main break. I hope this year it is not electricity!!!!

Kyle said...

Thanks for the welcome Mr. Foot. I still have faith that a good storm will come before March. As for tonight, the temperature has actually dropped here in Odenton/Ft. Meade by 3 degrees in two hours! There is icing on cars, brick, and patio furniture, but the sidewalks and streets still appear to be mostly just wet. It looks like there's a lull from the ice bands for now, but it appears there's still some moisture on the way from Virginia.

Mrs. Burke said...

It is sprinkling here in Nottingham. The weather pup, Mason, would only sniff the cold air! He wouldn't even dare to put his paw on the back steps!

I need a thermometer. I think my neighbor Tom has one, but it might freak him out for me to be on his front porch looking at it!

I hope your predictions are correct Mr. Foot - that would be pretty groovy.

stephanie said...

I've been reading your blog since last winter and I have enjoyed your take on our unpredictable local weather!

I do have to add in a report from Columbia/Howard - I'll be really surprised if schools are just delayed tomorrow. I commute from DC and it took me about 30 minutes to clear the ice off of my car after skating across the parking lot at the train station.

We had a nice sheet of ice everywhere at 6-7pm and it rained steadily until at least 9pm. It may have stopped now, I can't tell, but my sidewalk looks even more icy than it was a few hours ago.

Mr. Foot said...

For those hoping to get another day to delight in sorting papers at home, here's possible "Icing" on the cake as it were:

From NWS Discussion 1001 PM:

PRECIPITATION WILL CONTINUE TO FALL ACROSS MOST LOCATIONS OVERNIGHT WITH THE HEAVIEST BEING FROM THE BLUE RIDGE EASTWARD. WITH SURFACE TEMPERATURES AT OR BELOW FREEZING...FREEZING RAIN IS EXPECTED ACROSS MOST OF THESE LOCATIONS. A GRADUAL CHANGE
OVER TO RAIN IS EXPECTED FROM SOUTHEAST TO NORTHWEST
OVERNIGHT...MAINLY FOR LOCATIONS SOUTH AND EAST OF THE CITIES.
SURFACE TEMPERATURES FROM THE CITIES NORTH AND WEST WILL SLOWLY RISE CLOSE TO FREEZING BY DAYBREAK.

.SHORT TERM /6 AM WEDNESDAY MORNING THROUGH WEDNESDAY NIGHT/...
-- Changed Discussion --A WAVE OF LOW PRESSURE WILL DEVELOP ALONG THE COASTAL FRONT ALLOWING
FOR MORE PRECIPITATION WEDNESDAY MORNING. TEMPERATURES WILL CONTINUE
TO RISE SLOWLY. ANY LEFT OVER FREEZING RAIN SHOULD CHANGE DURING THE EARLY MORNING HOURS AROUND THE CITIES OF WASHINGTON AND
BALTIMORE...AND BY MID MORNING FOR LOCATIONS NORTH AND WEST.

That last sentence might be it, Mrs. Burke. I read that as saying places like Bel Air, Cockeysville, Westminster would not see temps above freezing to provide adequate melting time until at least an hour AFTER the buses would have to be rolling (8 AM-ish for High School pickup). Furthermore, there would have to be a sharp rise in temp, say 5-6 degrees in a matter of hours, to get .2-.3 in of ice to break up and melt away.

I know it may seem iffy to some of you, but if George Tenet were here, he'd say those magic words:
SLAM DUNK.

Mr. Foot said...

Welcome to the group Stephanie and interesting to hear that Columbia..being more south and west than Dundalk, may have as much or more ice than we do.

I did change my tune on this, albeit not without spending an hour trying to sort out the possibilities and crunch the data.

One last report before I turn in..
currently in Owl Country (that's my school's mascot) it is 31 and we've got nearly .25" of ice already. That stuff ain't be not goin' nowhere fast (as some of my students would say!)

Christopher said...

Here's hoping PSU cancels classes tomorrow! 2 of my 4 I would LOVE to miss!!

Prospero said...

Still around 30 here in White Marsh, and the precip just keeps coming. What is it about this week?

Russ: I hope you don't lose water (or electricity).

Maybe tomorrow we'll get that magic day.

Mr.S said...

AA county Severn at 1130pm - icy as heck!! Our trex deck is a skating rink and all brick and power lines covered . Streets just look wet and we have heard the plows with salt . Hate to say I think it may only be a delay for tomorrow ! Here is to hoping I am wrong !

Mr S

ms abbe said...

I've been reading your blog for 3 years now and have also enjoyed it. :) 5:00am and Baltimore County was the first to announce a 2 hour delay! But I hear people sliding around on the roads outside up here in Abingdon. Interesting that even government offices are opening late. Still a possibility for a closing??

Mr. Foot said...

Welcome aboard ms abbe...glad to know you've been with us all this time.

Although I'll bet school personnel will conduct an evaluation at 6:30 on status of conditions, seems less likely this will turn into a system wide closing.

I could see Hereford closing, and rest of the county staying on the delay. We'll know in another hour.

Sorry Anne Arundel, thought you'd get on the team with us.

I do see that Loudon county VA is closed as is Carroll/Frederick as well as Cecil delayed, so those calls worked out well.

bell86 said...

Baltimore County closed...back to bed.

Dave said...

Hello, Mr. Foot.

I have spent around two years browsing your blog and checking it nearly daily during the winter months, hoping for even the slightest mention of a delay, closing, snow, ice, or anything else in the Baltimore County area that could lead to me sleeping in.

I have decided to make use of the time off to sign up and thank you for giving us a knowledgable and concise yet understandable and basic report of what we can expect in terms of weather.

I would also like to congratulate you on correctly predicting the closing and delays of many schools in the surrounding regions.

I think that is enough of an introduction for now.

Incase anybody missed it, Baltimore County and a few others areas decided to close, thankfully.

snow lover said...

mr foot what is up with the snow that is forecasted for tonight.

snow lover said...

mr foot what is up with the snow that is forecasted for tonight.

Mrs. Burke said...

Fantastic, Harford County follow suit with Baltimore. Let's make it like last year, have off tomorrow, and a delay on Friday . . . that would be awesome. Better yet, off on Friday too so I can leave for my president's day vacation to Luray early!!!

The trees are looking mighty bogged down with ice here in Nottingham! It looks like it is raining out there.

Also - my husband even has a delayed opening this morning. That should tell you something, because JHU APL hasn't done that since this time last year!

Happy sleeping late everyone!

photofreak65 said...

Yeah! We closed. Of course the change was made just as I had awakened my high schooler (she would get on the bus @8:30 in a 2 hr delay) I told her to go back to bed - we are closed. she said, "goodnight". It is an icy mess out there. It's 32 degrees right now. The trees and grass are just beautiful. I want to venture out with the camera, but I'm afaid I'll kill myself - plus it's raining hard. Mr. Foot this is a great site. A friend of yours introduced me to this site last year and I've been hooked ever since. This storm is my first comments though. Ok now this day off officially makes Balto Co have 2 days off and 2 hours. But this is built into the calendar. Keep up the good work! I enjoy reading this.

Anonymous said...

Heya Mr Foot... home safely from ORLANDO, where it was just glorious! And, just like last year... A DAY OFF to rest!! Must be Disney Magic!! :)

Mr.S said...

Well Mr. Foot, you were right! I didn't expect this. My only comments are that AA County was open on time, but AA Gov Offices are closed and on Liberal Leave. There is the confusion between living in one county and working in another! I was up and dressed, and almost ready to leave when I heard the delay got changed to a closing. Well here's to a shortened work week! See you on Thursday.
On a side note, sorry to the student from Calvert Hall, noticed no closing/delay for them.

Mr. Foot said...

How weird is this? Welcome back to the 1960's I guess. Thanks for all the nice remarks. I'm going to put your comments in a little followup post. I have a theory on how this came about, so don't go blaming your county systems for a late call. Check back in a few for a quick post on this up above.

Side note: I arrived at my children's daycare at 8:15 and they handed me the phone.. school's closed. My first thought was, "so this is what it was like in the 60's." I have been told all kinds of horror stories of schools being open on time, then suddenly closing when the buses were arriving, and even the reverse of that. In fact a few of you may even know those stories, except for Julee...that would have been before her time, (tee hee hee).

photofreak65 said...

Well, I venured out into my Northern Balto., Co backyard to snap a few pictures.....no way my kids could have gotten down the driveway to get the bus. I stayed on the grass. It was the only way to get traction. Very few cars going by.