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In the last several years, Old Ellicott City has been flooded several times. Last night was the worst – worse even than when we got 2 feet of rain in a month a few years back. Why, then, was this the most devastating flood in EC’s 150 years of record keeping?

First, a quick disclaimer. I’m a hobbyist, not a hydrologist. That said, I don’t think anything I say will be objectively incorrect – an over-simplification, perhaps, but it should be pretty near to the truth. The reason why EC flooded is specifically related to rain rates. Here’s some data from the NWS last night:

906
NOUS41 KLWX 311619 CCA
PNSLWX
MDZ505-506-312030-

Public Information Statement
National Weather Service Baltimore MD/Washington DC
1216 PM EDT Sun Jul 31 2016

…Historic heavy rainfall Saturday in Ellicott City…

Extremely heavy rain fell Saturday evening in Ellicott City,
Maryland. Thanks to rain gauge data from Ellicott City, which is
provided by Howard County to the National Weather Service, we have
detailed information on how quickly the heavy rain fell.

The following table lists the rain that was recorded by this
gauge. Note that the gauge reports in increments of 0.04 inch:

DURATION AMOUNT TIMEFRAME
—————————————-
1 minute ..0.20 from 7:51pm-7:52pm
5 minutes ..0.80 from 7:50pm-7:55pm
10 minutes..1.44 from 7:50pm-8:00pm
15 minutes..2.04 from 7:46pm-8:01pm
20 minutes..2.48 from 7:44pm-8:04pm
30 minutes..3.16 from 7:36pm-8:06pm
60 minutes..4.56 from 7:30pm-8:30pm
90 minutes..5.52 from 7:00pm-8:30pm
2 hours…..5.92 from 6:45pm-8:45pm

The storm total at Ellicott City was recorded as 6.50 inches.

The nearest point precipitation frequency estimates in NOAA Atlas
14 come from Woodstock, which is approximately five miles away.
Based on this data, the precipitation amounts with duration 10
minutes to 2 hours statistically have a less than one tenth of
one percent (less than 0.1 percent) chance of occurring in any
given year.

This data is preliminary and is subject to correction.

This, folks, is insane. 2 inches in 15 minutes is an 8 in/hr rate. That rivals some of the rainiest places in the entire world. Though it has been dry, it is simply impossible for the ground to absorb that kind of rainfall that quickly. Think of your house’s downspouts. They collect water from your entire roof in gutters. The gutters funnel all of the water into a 3 inch wide downspout. You may have a 1000 square foot section of roof collecting into a downspout whose area is less than 1 half a square foot. If the rain rate is sufficient, you’ll back up that downspout and the water will cascade over your gutter. It’s even worse if you have several gutters joining together, both because it provides even more water to your downspout and also because the turbulence of that confluence inhibits the ability for the water to make smooth forward progress to the egress.

Something very similar happens in Ellicott City.

Drainage basin in the immediate vicinity of Old Ellicott City.

Drainage basin in the immediate vicinity of Old Ellicott City.

Here, you have a few dozen square miles of hilly terrain seeing rain rates of upwards of 8 inches per hour. All of this is funneled into a steep walled channel; the Tiber River running along Main Street, Ellicott City. This “downspout” dumps into the Patapsco on the far right hand side of the map – from there it has a much wider and more mature track on its way to the Harbor. But the confluence of these several tributaries around Old Ellicott City leads to a turbulent choke point. They water can’t drain fast enough. It overflows the banks.

Why did this much rain happen? Well, now you get into murkier territory. First, dew points were in the 70s. That, simplistically, means that there was a ton of moisture in the air. Why was there a ton of moisture in the air? You can keep rolling it back from one cause to the next, from heat waves to wind directions to ocean temperatures and on and on.

The safest thing to say is that every so often things like this happen. They happen in a lot of places. We got 4 inches of rain in two hours 2 miles easy of Old EC, and it didn’t really bother anything here as our drainage patterns are different. Every so often, that heavy rain happens in the wrong place and something catastrophic occurs. What is noteworthy about this particular event is its locality. Yes, we’ve been aware for days that heavy rain was expected in the area. But no one can predict this outlier event. One particular place got very unlucky.

End of objective fact and onto disputed ground.

Many climate models predict that more heavy rainfall events are expected under global warming conditions. This is VERY tricky to pin down, particularly when focusing on one locality compared to another. Some places will dry out, others will get wetter. It is, however, pretty well predicted that we’ll see heavier max rainfall events (again simplistically) because warmer oceans and atmospheres can hold more water. Let’s say that, under the paradigm of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries (the lifetime of Old Ellicott City), you’d expect by random chance to see an event like this once every 200 years. The global warming models might now be suggesting that you’d see an event like this once every 100 years, or 50 years, or 20 years. It doesn’t mean that any one storm is “caused by global warming”. It means that the witches brew that can spawn an event like this over some random swath of land will be available more often. More dice rolls means more snake eyes.

This is all still very controversial. In fact, I’ll say another controversial thing: I don’t know that global warming is a net negative to the planet. We may, in 50 years, have a globe that is more verdant than previously if examined broadly. The problem is that we’ve built our infrastructure in the previous few centuries (or longer in other places) given a particular climate paradigm, and that paradigm is changing. Maybe Manitoba will be the world’s breadbasket in 50 years, to the great benefit of some…while Oklahoma will be absorbed into the desert. Sucks for Oklahoma, benefits someone.

How do we adapt to our brave new world? I said something similar when Katrina destroyed New Orleans. To rebuild a city situated below sea level in a area prone to massive hurricanes is irresponsible. But here we are. The Army Corp of Engineers did what they could to reduce the possibility of disaster, but it’s still likely in our lifetimes. Same goes for Ellicott City. They can, will, and probably should rebuild. But it’s going to happen again, unless the overall dynamics of the fluid flow through the area are fundamentally changed. How does one do that? You got me! Dams upstream? Dredge both the Tiber and Patapsco? Or, maybe you abandon the lower floors of buildings? Do you move the location of parking lots? Even the best case might turn a once in 20 years disaster into a once in 100 years disaster. Given enough time and real estate, it is impossible to prevent every scenario.

It’s a difficult question. Last night was not the passage of a massive tropical system. It was a random summer storm. It could happen again tomorrow or not for 60 years. It’s nearly impossible to have predicted this, even two hours before it happened. Evacuations, once we could tell it was going to be a huge problem, would have put more people in cars during the 20 minutes when the river rose 20 feet. In a way, it’s merciful that we had zero warning because a half an hour warning would have led to people trying to save possessions and instead getting caught in the torrent.

Regardless of the causes, the whole thing leaves me sick to my stomach. Maryland is a state full of transplants, like myself, yet Old Ellicott City is a historically anchored area, full of character, history, and life. I have relationships with antique people there, my favorite bar is there, I’ve been there in the depth of winter and the heat of summer. My rehearsal dinner was there. We just brought the girls to the train museum two months ago and were in the caboose when a train rumbled down the tracks. It was a great experience in a great place, and I know that place is hurting now. I’m personally pretty bummed out today because in some way that place is also part of me. I do know that we’re supposed to stay away for awhile as emergency crews and those trained in this sort of catastrophe do their work. But I won’t stay away forever. Old Ellicott City will be back and I’ll be back there soon enough. History is shaped by events like these; last night is now part of Old EC’s history.

DSCN0985_cc_crop_ed

Clock, now gone

 

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Weather

I’ve probably posted my Weather Links before. Today, thanks to Carlos, I added a new one, an awesome Vectorized Wind Map. Even if you’re not a nerd, click on that, you’ll think it’s pretty sweet.

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The Weather

With my family’s subscription to Accuweather’s Pro site recently lapsing (it was never worth the money, now more than ever), I’ve compiled a set of roughly equivalent links on my site. This is geared toward Maryland, though most of the radars will work well for anywhere if you input a different location.

Meanwhile, if anyone has any other weather resources that they think are useful, pass them my way, I’ll add them.

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Lee Katia

I haven’t chimed in on the two headed Lee-Katia monster yet because none of the models (or forecasters) have any idea what to do with them. Lee is spinning circles around southern Louisiana. People like Doomsday Joe Bastardi continue to say that it’s thisclose to starting to strengthen again, but since he’s been wrong about it for the last 48 hours, I don’t believe that forecast. I continue to not see Lee as as big a threat as people are saying.

As an aside, I’m convinced that some weather forecasters develop a sort of “recent disaster bias”. I’m not sure how to explain it exactly, but if there was recently a disaster (such as Irene), they see the predictions of the storms immediately following as more dire than they would see them if they weren’t just shown an example of a disaster. It’s like watching a violent movie, then visualizing scenes of violence all around you as you walk around in real life. Anyway, I think this effect is tainting people.

The real rub in the forecast is how Lee, a cold front, and Katia interact. Lee is scheduled to merge with the cold front and get pulled Northeast sometime in the next 1-4 days (highly uncertain, see). Some are saying major flooding problem – me, I see the storm as being comparatively dry at the moment. I’m sure we’ll get a few inches of rain, but disagree with Henry “Storm Bias” Margusity’s calls for doom on the scale of Irene. Unless…Katia makes it far enough west and follows Irene’s same track. Now THAT would be a disaster of unprecedented proportions.

Most models show Katia heading west, hitting the front somewhere between NC and 300 miles east of NC, and then bouncing back NE. It all depends on how Lee and the front work together. It’s all very complicated. I don’t think we’ll have a good forecast on it until Thursday. And hopefully I’m out of the country by then.

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People do not, generally speaking, keep things because they believe that they will use them again. People keep things because they remind them of their past. Things root people – they prove and validate their existence; they provide a map, a trail, sign posts. Whatever I am now, this is who I was or who I could have been before I was. Time passes, but the past is fixed and immutable.

To some, the thought of an unchangeable past is a millstone about their necks. To others, it is a reminder of dream dashed, hopes left unfulfilled. In either case, there is a steady consistency to the past; it is yours and can never be taken.

I went home to Goshen for about 30 hours on Monday and Tuesday. The water having subsided, I helped move several tons of saturated furniture and assorted boxes – decades of the past, submerged, ruined, erased. Some of it was mine, some my brother’s, some my mothers, but most my father’s.

On one hand, the past is already dead and gone. You can never return to it, you might watch it in hindsight as an observer, but you may never again live in it. On the other, the past is encapsulated in the present. The past lives forever in the person, scribed permanently across time and space, locked and frozen into every scare or line on the brow. The past already happened, died, and decomposed into the present. Physical things might remind one of the past, but they themselves do not own it. The past was not thrown away with the couch and mattress; so long as there is a future, there will always be the past, feeding and anchoring the present.

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Irene Whatever Number It Is

I’ve been writing a lot at work, on Twitter and on Facebook regarding the storm. We’re definitely looking at a major deal for the east coast, and I happen to believe that it’s organizing in such a way that it’s going to strengthen over the next 24 hours. It’s 115 mph now (with a central pressure indicating it’s stronger than that) – I feel pretty decent about it getting to 125-130 mph with pressure dropping below 940 mb sometime in the next day. I’ll let you know if I disagree with this forecast at any point.

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Irene 4

All right peoples, here’s the latest. First off, check out this article, comparing this track to previous ones. I posted my current forecast in the bench logs at work, but it looks an awful lot like Bob’s path, though I speculated that the eye would hit the Outer Banks (but not the potent eastern eyewall). Otherwise, it looks pretty much dead on. For reference, a couple of days ago, I was suggesting it would be like Floyd’s track.

Last night, I suggested that the NHC’s forecast intensity for nowish was too low. It was – as we speak the storm is 120 mph, though it’s done strengthening for the next 12 or so hours as it goes through an eyewall replacement cycle.

Cutting to the chase. Here in Maryland, I see sustained winds 35-40 mph at times late Saturday night. We might see a gust of as high as 60 mph during some particularly violent rain band. It will otherwise be generally breezy, say 25-30 mph. The models have halted their eastward retreat from the coast – in fact, the latest round, while remaining nearly the same with respect to North Carolina, have actually pulled the track westward back over Rhode Island.

I’m not feeling very confident about the baseball game we’re taking my father to on Saturday night. Would have been fine if we did the day game. The good news is that once it starts raining, we can just leave – it’s not gonna get any better once it goes downhill.

I’ll have more tomorrow – the track will be largely fixed by then.

Addendum:
So much for fixed – everyone has shifted the track 30 miles WEST last night. People like Doomsday Bastardi are calling for a track on a line from NC to Albany, which blasts the entire coast. All of this still puts us here in MD to the west of the center of the storm, on the weaker side, and 100 miles on the weaker side. But it could be 5 mph more vigorous all around than I last mentioned.

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Irene 3

First off, Irene is showing a more and more easterly track. I’ve always been east of the official guidance, and the NHC is still lagging. Now, it’s looking like a grazing blow on the Outer Banks, followed by a landfall in Cape Cod. To me, that means not much at all for my location in Maryland.

By the way – the most recent satellite picture shows a pinhole eye emerging. Irene is 90 mph now – I expect a burst of intensification, a major burst, over the next 24 hours. NHC says 110 mph in 24 hours. I’ll go for 125 mph. I think it’s gonna wind up. We’ll see.

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Irene 2

Everything is shifting slowly eastward in the track of Irene – in fact, some models are missing the US entirely. The National Hurricane Center is lagging on their forecast a little bit. If they knew about my momentum rule, they’d be able to fix it early. At this point, to miss the United States entirely would put some egg on the faces of all those models who were so bullish for the last week.

Whereas the NHC shows a landfall in the middle of South Carolina (with a track up the east coast that would take the bulk of the remnants over Maryland), I’m thinking it’ll be east of this. I’m thinking Wilmington, NC, re-emerging near Norfolk, with a path that curves along the US coast, skimming easternmost Long Island and making a second landfall on Cape Cod.

Irene is enormous right now, and also quite disorganized. If she can pull herself together, she’ll be a beast – if not in max wind speed, at least in total power. I think she will. I have no reason to doubt the NHC’s assertion of Category 3 – though I’ll say 125+ mph instead of 115 mph. By the time it gets to Cape Cod, I could see it as a 70 mph storm.

Needless to say, this one needs to be watched.

Addendum:
The NHC is now forecasting essentially what I was saying yesterday. Here’s the track, with the only difference being that they make this more of a problem for Maryland than I was, by tracking it further west after landfall. Oh boy…

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Irene is Familiar

I was going to title the post “Me, Myself, and Irene”, but I got an overwhelming sense that I’ve already used that title. I don’t think I have, upon searching for it. I have, however, posted on Irene before. Last time, she went out to sea. They re-use the same names every 7 years, unless the storm causes a sufficient amount of damage or generates enough casualties, at which time they take it out of the rotation. 6 years ago at the end of this month was Katrina, and you can bet that you won’t be seeing that name attached to a hurricane again.

Meanwhile, the tropical season has had a large number of named systems, all of which have been exceptionally weak. In a lot of ways, it seems like a “cook the books” scenario, where the NHC is naming storms to 1) validate their prediction for the yearly total or 2) validate the predictions of some global warming models. Whatever the case, it’s a bit excessive, though only one or two of the storms didn’t pass the eye test, so I won’t protest too much.

As for this year’s Irene…
I see Irene has being a hurricane in a day and a half, right before it smashes into Hispaniola and is disemboweled. The models are shifting the track progressively north, so I think it will emerge as a minimal tropical storm and then slide just north of Cuba. Once it hits the Gulf Stream, all bets are off, particularly if it continues to slide north and picks up a larger stretch of it. I’d predict landfall in Georgia (and most of the models do), but it looks like only 6 hurricanes have done that since 1854, with only two in the 20th century (David in 1979 as the last). It’s a rare track since hurricanes tend to start to curve away near the coast, and it’s tough to curve into that concave shape. I’ll guess that it’s going to be more like Gaston in 2004, at least for the landfall and thereafter. Intensity is anywhere from non-existence to 130 mph, so I won’t venture a guess yet. Those islands can really gut a storm.

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Emily the Tropical Disaster

Not in the sense of destructive capacity either. Now tropical depression Emily continues to look ragged and exposed. She’s been ragged, disproportional and weak for her entire trip across the Atlantic and through the Caribbean – and nothing at all has changed.

It’s been a very lackluster tropical season thus far, and there’s no real signs of it heating up. Still, peak season is 5 weeks away, and 5 named systems by now certainly isn’t a bad numerical showing. Once you take into account the cumulative strength of the storms, however, you see that they are all weak, and some could be accused of being declared only to cook the books for climatological purposes. I’m not sure how many of these would have been flagged as a tropical system before the days of satellite, when a storm had to be bad enough to be noticed before it was classified officially.

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Really quickly. I think that global warming is a real thing. I have no idea how it is impacting worldwide weather. Since it is driven by the physics of a massive system, and follows the laws of thermodynamics in particular, weather is a statistical science.

Strong hurricanes occur, not because of “global warming”, but because they are bound to occur occasionally. Only with vast quantities of data can one discuss anything related to causality. These days, however, when there is an increase in severe weather, people tend to attribute it to Global Warming. There may be some truth in that – more heat means more energy, more energy, one might think, means more high energy storms, like hurricanes and tornadoes. Without getting too much into it (I only go so deep on the topic), there is a lot more to it than a simple 0.5 degrees = 8% more tornadoes. For instance, a warmer arctic means less cold air to mix with the warm air from the gulf, leading to less tornadoes. Or, changes in global temperatures might change global wind patterns. These wind patterns may increase the wind shear over the tropical Atlantic. It is possible that global warming might even decrease the total number of hurricanes – a prediction that has been made by some.

A few quick topics.
1) Never say that a single event is caused by global warming. The world’s most powerful tropical system occurred in 1979, when everyone was talking about global cooling (Typhoon Tip). The 1930s had the most drastic drought in recent history for the United States – to blame Texas droughts on global warming is scientifically irresponsible. If we had 1000 years of data, we could say that “droughts are more likely to happen when the global temperatures are warmer”, but that’s about it. No single event is ever “caused” by global warming. It’s far too complicated a system for that.

2) The event that I’ve heard most often as associated with global warming is extreme rainfall events. Scientists that that global warming will increase the number of flooding rains. Interestingly enough, people attribute major snow falls to global warming as well – the principle is the same, more moisture is evaporated, and it’s still cold enough to fall as snow.

3) Here’s a chart of strong tornado frequency as a function of year. You’ll see that it doesn’t change much. If anything it has decreased. This year will be a major spike in the graph, but it is not attributable to global warming.

4) Here’s a chart of hurricane frequency as a function of year. You cannot trust the total numbers of hurricanes on those charts prior to the 1960s. Before satellite, a storm that was a minimal hurricane for a day in the central Atlantic was not tallied. As we change the way that we capture the data, the numbers are bound to change as well. I believe that “intense” hurricanes (Cat 3 or greater) are more reliable, as they were unmistakably big events in the olden days as well. It seems as though the number of intense hurricanes has increased slightly, as predicted by global climate models. This chart came from here if you want a scale.

I still really don’t trust hurricane numbers from the olden days very much, even big ones.

All of this to say: the tornadoes this year may, statistically, have been exacerbated by global warming. We can speculate that, but the evidence cannot possibly exist to show us that. They were not caused by global warming. This would have been a major outbreak in 1850 as well.

However…
Just because it’s impossible to have enough data to make a claim that the weather has changed for the worse because of global warming doesn’t mean we should ignore it until the results are in. I honestly don’t believe we’ll have enough data for that for another 200 years. It’s WAY too long to wait to do something. I support global warming initiatives because common sense says that polluting less is better than polluting more. The burning of fossil fuels has been around for a while – as a society, we tend to advance our technologies as time passes.

And so on, I have to go back to work.

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Get the Ark

Because we’re in for a ton of rain the next few days. At least today. Yikes.

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Born in the USA

I know we don’t like CNN. I know Anderson Cooper – bad guy, liberal conspirator. Still, I don’t see too many holes in this investigation of Obama’s birth. I’m not the sort of person that enjoys playing the race card – it’s not really mean to play, generally speaking. Still, when it comes to Obama, when it comes to the litany of laws being written to prevent future Manchurian candidates, it really wreaks of racism. The birther controversy is one of the most obnoxious in recent memory. Ignorance is bliss. I always found it amusing how John McCain actually was born outside of the country, but no one dug into that…

Meanwhile, be on the lookout for some severe weather Wednesday-Thursday around Maryland way (and elsewhere). We’re in line for some nasty storms. At least, the potential exists.

Addendum
I woke up this morning (Thursday) halfway through one of the first legitimate uses of the emergency broadcast system that I’ve ever heard. I’m pretty sure it was for York County, PA, but I’d say that we’re in for an interesting day – if not exactly where I live, nearby. Team Hanna was here for dinner last night, and we identified a tornado on radar near Marriotsville – then had it confirmed by the NWS. Hoping to find another example to show Michael, we went to Alabama and saw the monster that tore through Tuscaloosa and Birmingham on radar. Nothing like having and EF4 tornado handy when trying to show an example of a hook echo and the tornadic doppler signature.

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Just Like Home

Jen and I were supposed to go to Seattle tonight. We’re not, as the eastern seaboard is shutdown. Newark closed at 3 PM, and though we spent 6 hours on the phone, we couldn’t reschedule anything. Instead, we’re in Goshen, with a blizzard warning. An hour or so ago, we suited up – for weather an awful lot colder than the 18 degrees it is out there. With a high insulation to cold ratio, we stayed outside for a while. I got Jen to go to the Intermediate school, on top of the hill across the street, with me. Then, after a few minutes of shoveling (that was almost unbearably hot), Steve, Jen and I embarked into the woods (Dad would catch up later). We went all the way to the water tower, hitting some of the high points along the way. In the meantime, the real snow had started, quickly adding to the 6 inches we already had. It’s an inch an hour now, probably 7 inches on the ground. Wind hasn’t wound up yet…but it’s a nice winter day, the sort that you go to NY to see.

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Hermine

Newly formed TS Hermine is headed for the Texas/Mexico border. It looks like it’ll get there by about midnight…and I’d bet it gets there as a rapidly strengthening hurricane, way up from it’s currently 50 mph winds. Developing storms are always nastier than weakening storms of the same rated strength. It could be a lot nastier than people think.

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Earl Again

Accuweather’s Doomsday Joe Bastardi pegged Earl’s track within a handful of miles from a week out, one of his finest predictions ever. He said 100 miles from the Outer Banks, 100 miles from Cape Cod last Saturday-ish when all of the models threw the hurricane 300-500 miles further east. He then successfully resisted his typical urge to predict the worst case scenario – though he did make an absolutely batty prediction that Earl would gain 40 mph of windspeed after yesterday’s eyewall replacement cycle – and as a result, he’s got one of the best long-range predictions he’s ever made. Kudos to him.

Earl will gradually decline as it gets accelerated to the NNE. We might see some rain from this in my part of MD – there are rain bands making it as far west as Annapolis already. I see NYC as a blustery place on Friday Night/Saturday. They aren’t even guaranteed rain either, though I think they’ll get some. Steve’s Block Island location will see some legit tropical storm conditions for a few hours tonight, but I’m seeing a 40 mph sustained with gusts to 60 mph sort of scenario. Maybe an inch of wind driven rain. Nantucket should be in the western eyewall (whatever’s left of it) but I bet they don’t get a hurricane force sustained wind measurement. I’ll say worst sustained wind will be 70 mph for Nantucket (with far eastern Cape Cod similar). I’ll say that someone, somewhere in Nantucket or the Cape will read a gust of 90 mph. It’s a big, old, storm – there will be a couple of substantial gusts left in there.

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Earling

I’ve been watching Earl intently, even intensely over the last few days. My previous post is being borne out. I, like everyone else now, think it’s going to be very close to Hatteras, then close again to Cape Cod. It could make landfall on both, running amok up the east coast in between. I don’t think there’s much in store for here in MD, but on the beaches, look out.

And Steve’s friend’s wedding on Block Island…just hope they don’t evacuate. Looks like it’ll pass by Friday night – Saturday should be a nice day…let’s hope it’s not a nice day to sweep chunks of roof off the road.

Addendum 9/1/10 10 PM
It looks awesome. It can be 145 mph at the next advisory. I didn’t expect that sort of regrouping.

I still don’t know how close to the outer banks this is going to get.

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You Can Call Me Earl

I see Danielle ending up out to sea. But keep your eyes on TS Earl. It’ll be something like 7 days before you really have to start paying attention, but keep an eye on it. It feels like it won’t get pulled out to sea so readily, though the odds certainly are still stacked against it.

Now, something else may happen closer to home between now and when Earl makes it this far west, but for now, Earl’s got the best shot.

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Alex

I’m not sure if Hurricane Alex is a boy’s name or a girl’s name. I’ve always sort of liked it as a girls name, probably because of Nickelodeon’s Alli Mack, or whatever her name was. I liked her.

Anyway, the official forecast is for Alex to be a minimal cat 2 storm when it makes landfall at the Mexico/Us border. I like the landfall location, but I think the intensity is underdone. I’ll go out on a limb and say that it hits 130 mph before landfall at some point. It’s too warm down there, it’s getting organized quickly, the shear’s too low…it’s gonna get strong in a hurry, hurry meaning by the end of tomorrow.

Addendum 6/30/10 7 AM
I’m probably about 50 miles too far north. You’d think “gee Eric, you’re 50 mph off and landfall is less than 24 hours away.” Central pressure is down to 961 mb, a solid cat 3 level, and dropping. The winds will follow. 130 mph might be ambitious, but I really think it’ll be into major hurricane (> 115 mph) territory. Just since I couldn’t find anyone predicting within 30 mph of my prediction at the time I made it, I’m sticking with it. Let’s see what happens.

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93L

There’s a tropical wave in the eastern Caribbean right now which should be watched. Some models take it into the Gulf next week as a hurricane. Seems plausible to me.

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Oil

The oil spill of the last month and a half is one of the top-5 worst things that has happened in this country during my lifetime. 9/11 is worse. Katrina is worse, for now. San Fransisco earthquake in the late 80s is similar/worse. What else? Maybe the financial crisis, that’s probably worse. Maybe Andrew or Hugo or Ike. That’s all I can think of…because this is awful. Just awful.

However.

When there are a million oceanic drilling operations in the world, every so often many redundancies will fail and cause something like this.

The issue is occurring a mile underwater. It’s not easy to fix things a mile underwater. It’s not easy to clog your toilet a mile downstream and not before. It’s understandable why they have problems stopping the oil.

Though it’s not understandable that they’ve developed this sort of technology with no viable solution for this particular scenario. Want to make a bet we’ll have a system in place to close this sort of leak at 5000 feet in the next 5 years? We will. Unfortunately, it will have taken the destruction of untold millions of acres of wetlands to spur that development. That’s very unfortunate.

The government/military is not in the business of drilling oil, and hence cannot be expected to have the technology available to deal with this problem. The government should have regulated for this contingency, however. I don’t care that the platform blew up – that’s bound to happen sometimes. I care that there’s no conceivable way to deal with the fissure that’s spilling bagillion gallons of oil into the Gulf.

People want action, but most of the action is implausible. Wanting action does not mean that any particular action is useful. Cleaning those wetlands is going to be next to impossible.

We think of oil in the same way we think of styrofoam, some foreign, manufactured, humanish substance. In truth, this oil is coming from the earth. Sure, we facilitated it, but it’s surely not the first time in history that oil has come from the earth into the ecosystem – this must have happened naturally at some point in the last billion years where life might care about it. The point is, the earth can absorb that which the earth does to itself.

That part of the country is primed for hurricanes this year. Think this is bad now, just wait until a storm surge shoves all this slop 2 miles onshore in a populated area.

I’m not buying BP anymore. I don’t care if they’re scapegoats for a wider problem. I actually think they are desperate to stop this and believe that they are putting forth the appropriate resources to do so. If no example is made, then this will happen again. If a company worth hundreds of billions of dollars can totter from such a disaster, other companies worth that much will think twice about their R&D expenditures.

It’s profitable to research how to get oil out of the ground from 10000 feet deep – it’s less profitable to figure out how to make oil stop gushing into the ocean. You can’t sell ocean oil. But if you lose tens of billions of dollars because of your oilification of the ocean, then you’ll surely think twice before you introduce technologies that you can’t control. My father always said “if you can’t climb up the tree by yourself, then you can’t climb the tree.” The point is, if you can’t get there by yourself, you won’t be able to get down either. Oil companies only work on how to get up the tree, and now BP is stuck, unable to get down.

Obama takes too much responsibility for things. Do you think W ever would have taken any responsibility if something like this happened on his watch? Doubtful. He’d blame Clinton or something.

Addendum
Interested in how this oil slick will be impacted by (and impact) hurricanes?

Check this out

For example…

“I expect that during the peak portion of hurricane season (August – October), the clockwise-rotating eddy that is attempting to cut off from the Loop Current this week will be fully separated from the Loop Current. The separation of this eddy will substantially reduce the possibility that significant amounts of oil will reach the Florida Keys and Southeast U.S. coast, since the Loop Current will be much farther south, flowing more due east towards the Keys from the Yucatan Channel. Oil moving southwards from the spill location due to a hurricane’s winds will tend to get trapped in the 250-mile wide eddy, potentially covering most of the surface of the eddy with oil. Thus we might have a 250-mile wide spinning oil slick in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico for days or weeks after a hurricane. This could potentially have a significant warming effect on the Gulf waters, since the oil is dark and will absorb sunlight, and the oil will prevent evaporation from cooling the waters underneath it. Since Loop Current eddies contain a large amount of very warm water that extend to great depth, they often act as high-octane fuel for hurricanes that pass over. The rapid intensification of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita were both aided by the passage of those storms over Loop Current eddies. Thus the warming of the Loop Current Eddy by oil pulled into it by a passing hurricane or tropical storm could lead to explosive intensification of the next hurricane that passes over the eddy. “

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In Case You Missed Me

A lot of people think that this will be the most active hurricane season on record. For instance, this site – look out if you’re the gulf coast! Oil, oil, everywhere.

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Snow More

Spring starts tomorrow.

Meanwhile, I’ve finally gotten around to editing pictures from the big snowstorm in early February. This was from the first storm, which totaled somewhere over 30 inches. We got something like 16 more a few days later.

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Snowpe

I hate to say it, but we could see some spare snow showers after this storm passes through. Which is weird, because it’s 67 right now.

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Often, I’ll run in the dead of winter with shorts and a t-shirt. Why? Because it’s 55 degrees sometimes in the dead of winter. Everyone else is in parkas.

Today, I ran outside in a long sleeve and gloves. Why? Because it was 47 degrees and windy. I ran by four people in t-shirts.

I have concluded that people could care less about what the weather is actually like, preferring to rely on their impression of the weather last time they were running. January is normally cold, therefore today is cold, since today is in January. Last week was unseasonably warm, therefore today is also unseasonably warm, because I can’t plan for the future and am completely reactionary.

Don’t get me started on this health care fiasco. Here’s what a learned: everyone believes what they believe no matter what and there’s no point in arguing with them. Politicians don’t believe anything, other than what they perceive is expedient for the next 5 months of their political lives. Neither of those conclusions are earth shattering.

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Next Man Up

Keep your eyes open for a possible storm 3/3.

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Day After Tomorrow

I feel obligated to tell you that a potential blockbuster storm is in the works for the traditional Nor’Easter areas – interior and north of us – later this week. We could get a couple of inches of snow from it. It seems like a mighty complex system, so I’m not going to speculate much further.

Addendum
From my father, jumpstarting the hype machine:
“Here we go again. NWS says ALL OUT BLIZZARD for Thursday into Friday with 1-2-feet for Orange County. Bastardi has one model that puts the bulls-eye between Washington and Baltimore with colder temps than NY and heavier wind, but not as much snow. His analog years are 1969 (Lindsey storm), 1958 and 1888 (the white Hurricane with Warwick measuring 42″). Be ready.”

Addendum
Let the hype begin! Just to be clear – this is a big deal Philly and north and west. This will be a wind maker in Baltimore, with some snow, but I think this is a much bigger deal for Goshen then Elkridge.

Addendum
Here’s your latest snow map. So Genelle, your weekend is in jeopardy. Sheesh.

Addendum
Some predictions:
Somewhere (probably in NY) will see over 40 inches of snow between now and Saturday.
Somewhere in Delmarva will see sustained winds over 50 mph with gusts over 65 mph between now and Saturday.

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Stago Storms

Stacey sent me a text last night asking about the impending weather. I’m a little numb to it now, and it’s not looking like the blockbuster events of the previous few months, so I haven’t really been following. I can tell you that we’re looking at three-ish systems over the next 2-ish weeks. The first one looks like it will be infiltrated with rain for us. The second won’t be a big deal, the third might be bigger. The first is the Monday time frame. I’ll try to look up more on it later.

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Not Much This Storm

We’re not out of the woods yet. There’s a big storm in the works for 7-10 days out. This particular storm, Monday evening into Tuesday, is just a 2-4 job for Elkridge, I think. Lewisburg is probably about the same. Goshen maybe a couple inches more. I don’t think this one is as big a deal…of course we’re not set up to handle snow right now – we have so stinkin’ much on the ground.

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Historicity

From Accuweather’s Elliot Abrams:
“Amazing stats: Philadelphia received just over 44 inches of snow during the first 10 days of February. Since January 1, 1993, a little over 17 years ago, the Philadelphia snow total was 435 inches (including the newest snow). That means in just 10 days the city has gotten more than 10 percent of the total it has received in the last 17 years. When you consider that period includes the January blizzard of 1996 and other big storms (such as March 1993, February 1994, and February 2003), it is apparent that while periods with heavy snow are spectacular, the giant storms are relatively rare. We can go years without seeing a lot of snow in the Middle Atlantic states. The totals for Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia so far this winter have eclipsed the totals for ANY winter season in the nearly century and a half of official record keeping.”

There’s a good stat.

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Life At the North Pole

Check that, the north pole doesn’t get snow like this.

I am going to say this one more time. This is the most insane weather week I’ve ever been a part of. We had 30+ inches of snow Friday into Saturday, and now we’re probably another 15 inches of wind driven powder into storm #2, a mere 5 days hence. 40 miles away from us, it has been doing nothing for hours, but we are stuck in this tremendous band of snow. It’s 21 degrees. The barometric pressure has been before 29.00 inches all day long. Winds are sustained to 20 mph, gusting to 40. We have 3 feet of snow everywhere, 6 feet in places, probably more. After a valiant effort, snow removal crews have given up. This is a battle that cannot be won. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to make it into work tomorrow either.

BWI is at something like 75 inches of snow so far this year, which will put us closer to 80. We’re 30 inches away from beating my lifetime’s NY record and that was a spectacular winter by NY standards. I’m just beside myself.

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Squashed

I’d bet on the under for this storm. It was looking pretty wimpy last night and while it’s been cranking for a couple hours now, it ain’t getting to 20 inches, that’s fo-sho. I think that forecasters become emboldened by success. I think they start changing their thinking such that now, eh, 18 inches, no biggie. Well, for around here it is. You can go 5 years without an 18 inch snow, heck, you can go 10 years without one. The fact that we’ve had 2 in one year does mean it’s more likely to have it this year than normal ones (because these are not independent random events), but it is still no mean feat.

Whatever the case, we had about 3.5 inches as of 11 PM last night. Then, over night we got some freezing rain/sleet, which seems to have tamped down that 3.5 inches to 1 inch. Now we have 3 or 4 inches again. I guess that puts our total at something like 6 inches. Maybe 12 is possible. I dunno, I kind of even doubt that, though it is snowing pretty hard right now.

NYC, your fun starts soon.

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Not For Nothin But…

Keep your ears open for Tuesday Night/Wednesday morning. Seriously. How does another 6-12 sound?

But this one is really for NYC – enjoy.

Addendum
I’m getting a little tired of keeping up with all of this. Tuesday night to Wednesday, expect something on the order of 10 inches for my neck of the woods. I’ve got to shovel out the deck this evening…just in time to get the last of the bulk snow out of the way for tomorrow night. I’m looking at a good chance of 7 straight days with shoveling here.

Addendum
I guess something like 12-16 for us here in MD – maybe a bit more north and east of Baltimore. 6-10 for the ‘Burg, 14-18 for NYC with really nasty blizzard conditions.

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Holy Snow

I live in Elkridge.

This is effing incredible. Just insane. I want to confirm that total. I see at least another 6 inches today.

Addendum
Get official totals here.

We’re bombing! The Nor’Easter is starting to crank, and the snow is accumulating heavily again. The real question – does Elkridge officially break 3 feet? My guess? 38 by 8 PM tonight. That’s insane. You could live four lifetimes here on Ducketts Ln and never see that again.

Addendum
Here are some pictures from 10 AM. Insane. We’ve gotten another 4 inches since then.

Addendum 2/6 1330
I think we’re into our last 3 inches here. I see about another 1-2 hours of decent snow, then tapering down. I have well over 2 feet on the ground which includes compression. Best I can tell for the total snow fall so far is 7.5 by 11 PM last night, 21+ more by 10 this morning, 5 more since.

Addendum
Snow’s stopping. I don’t know how much we got. I’ll go ruin the beautiful deck in an hour or so and see if I can get a good measurement. I think we have about 25 inches of snow on the ground. I think that the spotter report of 30.3 at 6AM is inaccurate. It’s possible that he dealt with a drift or exposed just a small patch of land (which will blow in quickly). Who knows, I just don’t think I buy it. Given compression and all that, I think 30 is fair as a total, but not a 6 AM value – we’ve gotten 6 inches of snow since then.

I just went out on a run. The roads are OK, though I ran over 95 and southbound if parked, mostly semis but other poor dolts mixed in. There were a handful of trees down along the road, and let me tell you, it was incredibly beautiful in the woods.

Addendum
This just in! Elkridge’s official number just dropped from 30.3 at 6 AM to 28.5 at 11 AM! That’s more like it! That means about 30 total.

Addendum
2 W ELKRIDGE 38.3 400 PM 2/06
All right, dude’s got some splainin’ to do. 38 is consistent with the 30 he thought he had at 6 AM, but not consistent with the 28.5 he reported at 11 AM. What gives man? Whatever the case, they’re calling us ground zero for this storm. That’s the highest total. I live 3 miles from this guy’s house, and we have 23 inches in several drop sites in the yard, as many as 25 in various points around the community. We have quite a bit of compression, and the bottom 3 inches of snow are very wet, meaning a lot of it as drained down during the storm, but I find it hard to believe that we lost 15 inches through those mechanisms. I think we were closer to the 30 that everyone else reported near here.

Now, we were in the thundersnow zone at 4 AM. Tons of snow was falling during that event. I don’t know how much of it was related to drifting, but I did get 21 inches from 11 PM to 8 AM. In fact, here are my numbers.

2 PM-11 PM: 7.5 inches (shoveled walks)
11PM – 12 PM: 3 inches (did not shovel)
11PM – 8 AM: 21 inches
Shoveled at 10 AM. Did not measure what fell between 8 and 10 AM. Let’s say 2 inches – it was snowing but not horrendously during that time.
10 AM – 3 PM: 4 inches

So, for me, it’s 7.5+21+2+4 = 34.5 inches +/- something

Well shoot. I dunno what to think. I think he’s high. My measurement is right in line with Columbia and Savage. His is 4 inches higher than anyone else except for a completely aberrant Colesville number. I didn’t trust my 21 inches because that was measured on a stretch of ground that I had shoveled. It was between two areas where the snow was higher – my front porch this is, so the middle was about 1.5 feet from higher snow. It’s my experience that snow will fill in holes and tend to equilibrate.

I can get 44 inches in snow drifts, if that helps.

Long story short, I don’t know if they’re going to accept his measurement.

Here are the reports.

Addendum
…HOWARD COUNTY…
2 W ELKRIDGE 38.3 405 PM 2/06
2 N COLUMBIA 33.8 320 PM 2/06
1 WSW SAVAGE 33.0 400 PM 2/06
ELKRIDGE 32.7 625 PM 2/06
1 SE CLARKSVILLE 31.5 530 PM 2/06
1 SSE SIMPSONVILLE 31.1 430 PM 2/06
1 ESE ELLICOTT CITY 30.2 530 PM 2/06
1 N SAVAGE 29.0 500 PM 2/06
1 WNW JESSUP 23.0 515 PM 2/06 AVERAGE DEPTH

OK, I’ll buy Elkridge #2. They got rid of the bonkers 40 in total from Colesville too. Next off the list, the bonkers Elkridge value.

Addendum
Want some history? This winter, with its two headed blizzard monster, is something like a once a millennium event for Baltimore. If only weather followed the same rules as it has since 1870 for 1000 straight years that is.

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Beyond Epic

It is 11:35 and we’re getting buried. I was disappointed with the first 6 hours of the storm, we had only 4 inches at 8 PM. By 11, we were up to 8 inches, with drifting making it difficult to tell. I went out and shoveled the neighborhood – it was just about the heaviest snow I’ve ever dealt with, the bottom 2 inches end up being sopping wet. The wind is picking up, and we’re snowing at 1-2 inch per hour right now. By 8 AM, I expect 16 inches, maybe more. Our official guidance calls for 22.5 now – which is an ungodly number for a computer to put out. Those things are always cautious.

The temps are dropping and snowfall ratios should start climbing. That means the same about of liquid will make more snow. Could we have 20 in the morning? Yup.

Addendum
It’s an hour after the last post. I just helped two cars stranded in front of my house. In the last hour, we’ve gotten between 2 and 3 inches of snow – I had cleared the sidewalk, and now there’s three inches. I’m putting the tally at 11 at 12:15 and going to bed. This is insane. Nothing under 30 is out of the question.

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Blizzarding

Fine fine.

Friday through Saturday. 16+ for Baltimore, 8+ for NYC – it’s another big one. It’ll be bigger for more people than the mauler we got the day before my wedding. Sheesh.

Here’s a reliable source.

Addendum 2/3/10
As far as I can tell, Elkridge has had 30 inches of snow so far this year. Average is somewhere like 20 inches. For reference, average snowfall for Goshen is probably around 40-50 inches.

We’re going to get over a foot Friday into Saturday. I’d say closer to 18 than 12.

Next Tuesday? Stay tuned, but it could be another big one. Could we crack 60 inches of snow this winter? Yup. Stormy, cold pattern have we here.

Check this out.

Addendum 2/4 AM
Remember that thing about the model amounts? They’re up to 16 inches now. I’ve never seen a model make such a bold prediction. If you and I are betting on 18 inches, I’d take the over at this point. Looks like it will start tomorrow around noon and end Saturday around 5 PM. 18-24 for Balto-DC, 16-20 for Philly, 6-12 for LBurg, 4-8 for NYC, 4-6 for Goshen. Something like that.

Addendum 2/4 AM later
Looks like my idea (or “my interpretation of their ideas”) is pretty well supported by the most recent snowfall map from Accuweather’s Henry Margusity. Try to make it more optimized for Elkridge, I dare you.

There’s a ton of liquid with this storm. The massive snowfalls will come if the temp drops even a tiny bit. The snowfall to liquid ratio is expected to be about 10 to 1 for my area – so if we get 20 inches, that would mean that 2 inches of precip fell (so 2 inches rain = 20 inches snow). If we are 3 degrees colder, that ratio will change to closer to 15-20 to 1. Now, colder temps pull some of the sting out of these storms, so there’s a limit on the amount of snow we can get, but shoot. Realistically, everything between 12 and 28 inches is still within the realm of possibility.

They do everything in all caps…

..WINTER STORM WARNING IN EFFECT FROM 10 AM FRIDAY TO 10 PM EST
SATURDAY…

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN STERLING VIRGINIA HAS ISSUED A
WINTER STORM WARNING FOR HEAVY SNOW WITH NEAR-BLIZZARD
CONDITIONS…WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM 10 AM FRIDAY TO 10 PM EST
SATURDAY. THE WINTER STORM WATCH IS NO LONGER IN EFFECT.

* PRECIPITATION TYPE…HEAVY SNOW.

* ACCUMULATIONS…STORM TOTAL ACCUMULATIONS OF 16 TO 24 INCHES.

* TIMING…SNOW WILL BEGIN MID-MORNING FRIDAY…AND WILL CONTINUE
THROUGH SATURDAY EVENING. CONDITIONS WILL DETERIORATE RAPIDLY
FRIDAY AFTERNOON…WITH HEAVIEST SNOWFALL OCCURRING BETWEEN
SUNSET FRIDAY TO SUNRISE SATURDAY. THE MOST HAZARDOUS WINTER
WEATHER CONDITIONS WILL OCCUR FRIDAY NIGHT…WHEN THE
COMBINATION OF HEAVY SNOW AND STRONG WINDS WILL REDUCE
VISIBILITIES TO BELOW ONE-QUARTER MILE…PRODUCING NEAR-BLIZZARD
CONDITIONS.

* TEMPERATURES…HIGHS IN THE LOWER 30S FRIDAY. FRIDAY NIGHT AND
SATURDAY…TEMPERATURES WILL BE IN THE MID 20S.

* WINDS…BECOMING NORTHEAST 10 TO 20 MPH FRIDAY WITH GUSTS TO 30
MPH FRIDAY NIGHT AND SATURDAY.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS…

THIS STORM HAS THE POTENTIAL TO BE SIMILAR TO THE 19 DECEMBER
STORM. PLAN FOR SUBSTANTIAL DISRUPTIONS TO TRAVEL FRIDAY AFTERNOON
THROUGH THE WEEKEND.

A WINTER STORM WARNING MEANS SIGNIFICANT AMOUNTS OF SNOW ARE
EXPECTED OR OCCURRING. STRONG WINDS ARE ALSO POSSIBLE. THIS WILL
MAKE TRAVEL VERY HAZARDOUS OR NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE FRIDAY NIGHT.

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Snow Boating

Lots of chatter about the upcoming week. First, we should get something Tuesday night here in Balto, probably a couple of inches. Saturday’s definitely a bigger storm – where it’s bigger and what sort of precip is entailed is still pending. It has a better chance to effect the northlands that the previous storms.

Addendum
Looking like ~4 inches for Elkridge tonight, 3-7 across the area, with higher amounts north and west of the city.

Fri/Saturday is shaping up to be a foot for around here. Models are calling for 16 inches to DC. I’m going to keep it on the low side of all this – 10-14 for DC, 8-12 for Elkridge, 6-8 for Philly, interpolate as necessary. 3 or something in NYC.

Addendum 2/3 AM
I use the momentum rule to augment my interpretations of the forecasts. If the snow totals keep climbing, I make them climb more. By that rule, the numbers listed below are too low by, say 4 inches. This is going to be a big storm.

Unfortunately, the model guidance is also shifting north. Good news for Goshen, but a potential issue for us – if this is rain, even any rain, instead of all snow, those totals plummet. I’ll hold the course for now, but stay tuned.

Timing wise, this is going to have more in Friday than originally specified. I see Friday starting around midday, snowing through most of Saturday.

Keep your eyes open for next Tuesday time frame. This is undoubtedly one of the stormiest patterns we’ve had since I’ve been in MD. This is also a historically cold winter for us. Apparently the southern hemisphere has been warm, better be because the US and Europe are not helping to make 2010 the hottest year on record – a prediction that many in the climate community have made.

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More Snow, Here You Go

Tues/Wed and then next weekend, both possibilities for more snow. Saturday’s could be an extreme event, though it might not be optimized for the mid atlantic. Bastardi, who has been spotless this year, thinks that we’re in for several more weeks of winter, storms, cold and all.

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Weekend Snow

All right, thanks once again to my people at Accuweather, who pegged the blizzard of 2009 from about 8 days out…

Based on what they’re saying, I’m seeing a 8ish inch event (they’re saying 6-12) for Baltimore starting Friday evening, going through Saturday. Things are not looking good for NYC getting much, however – at the moment the snow is slipping to the south, leaving you in the not much to 4 inch range. Be forewarned, Bastardi wants to get you some snow, but the models all took a shift south during the day today.

It’s nothing epic, but the cold that follows will be pretty abnormal. Look for single digit lows in our neck of the woods come Sunday/Monday.

I’m all over it, never fear.

Addendum
Well, we’re right on the edge here in Balto/Washington. It’s looking like NYC is more or less in the clear, maybe a squall or two. Washington is probably 2-8 inches, Baltimore probably more like 0-6. Again, plenty of cold available, it’s just looking like this storm is optimized for NC/VA, not so much for us.

Now there’s a lame prediction, 0-6 inches. Oh well, we’ll see.

Want some snow on 2/3? That’s next in the shute, we’ll see on that too.

Addendum 1/28 AM
I dunno. I think Balto is going to get something. Let’s change the forecast from 0-6 to 2-6. Snow will occur mostly on Saturday.

For whatever it’s worth, little Stevie Furst could get a foot in Raleigh.

The storm track for next Tues/Wed seems to be further north.

Addendum 1/29 AM
Fine fine. 1-3 for DC, 0-2 for us, 12ish for Raleigh, nada for NYC. It’s still a big storm, just not for us.

Also, the bitter brutal cold was going to be related to the snow cover on the ground. Without the snow cover, I’m backing off the single digits too. Be on the look out for 10 degrees though.

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