Wednesday, January 17, 2018

After Rain And Flash Freeze, We Can Relate To This Guy

A coupel stills from a Virginia man's epic slip and slide
For the past week, this video has been making the rounds, truly a viral one.

The security camera footage shows a guy setting off to go to work in the morning. Looks like he's headed toward his vehicle to start the daily commute.

But it's been chilly, and there's been a bit of freezing rain. Enough, apparently, to make the start of his day unhappy.

The man's wife, Kelly Bonser Besecker, spotted the video on their home security camera system in Virginia, and just had to post it on Facebook. The rest, as they say, is viral video history.

As of last Friday, the Facebook video had been viewed 52 million times with 1.2 million shares.

Besecker reports her husband, Tim Besecker, is uninjured, at least physically. He told the Washington Post that this is not his first spill, but it was, apparently, his most dramatic.

He also told the Washington Post that, with another spell of cold, possibly icy weather in the forecast, he's going to be more generous when he spreads the rock salt. Here's the video:

This Year's Southern Winter Kind Of Like A Northern One

Look closely and you can see snow dusting the roofs in
the New Orleans French Quarter as dawn broke this morning. 
Boy, the southern United States is having a rough winter!

True, a rough southern winter is not nearly as bad as a so-so northern winter, the kind we experience here in Vermont. But we're tough and can handle it.  

They're not used to it down there.

And it's quite a mess today from Texas to North Carolina. This is the third time this winter the Deep South has shivered in a frigid winter storm.

The storm that dumped snow, freezing rain and sleet across Texas and Louisiana yesterday kept moving east and eventuallty north, leaving record cold temperatures in its wake. The storm is leaving most of the roads in the South impassable, too.

From Shreveport to Jackson, to Birmingham to Atlanta, on up to Raleigh, nobody's on the roads. Well, almost nobody. The few that ventured definitely risked life and limb. In Austin, Texas, a man died when his vehicle plunged 30 feet off of an icy overpass.

If you cherry pick the examples of what's going on down there, it's pretty incredible in spots.

The Pensacola, Florida Bay Bridge was completely iced over, something you rarely see in northern Florida: Even rarer: There was Arctic sea smoke on Pensacola Beach. That's something you see much further north, like in New England. It's basically steam created by the difference between the relatively warm water and the frigid air.

We also had the spectacle of seeing snow dust the roofs in New Orleans this morning. New Orleans had its coldest morning today since 1996 at 20 degrees. Houston reported the same - with a low of 19 degrees.

Atlanta looked pretty frozen and white
from the air this morning 
The storm is moving north, as noted, and could dump up to 10 inches of powder on parts of North Carolina before the end of today.

As forecasters had expected, the snow extends north into New England today, where we can handle of snowstorm of two to 10 inches.

(Northwestern Vermont is being spared, with just light snow and flurries, though patchy dense freezing fog is causing black ice and poor visibility in parts of Vermont's Champlain Valley.)  

If you wanted warm weather, you would have done well to head to central Alaska. In Fairbanks, where low temperatures in the 20s and 30s  below zero are quite common this time of year, it was above freezing, with a very rare rain coming down earlier today.

It still looks like the weather pattern is about to switch to one that is less topsy turvy. It's going to be in the 60s across the winter storm zone in the South by this weekend. Meanwhile, in Fairbanks and other places in Alaska, the temperature will go well below zero by this weekend.

In other words, all will be right with the world. At least the weather world.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Wide Ranging Storm Putting The Brakes On Much Of The United States

Shreveport, Lousiana woke up to a snow whitened city
this morning, which doesn't happen all that often down there. 
Most of the southern and eastern United States is suffering through a winter storm that on paper would not seem like that big a deal, yet it is.  

That's mostly because the storm is affecting a lot of people who have little experience with winter weather. Plus the storm, though not particularly strong, is affecting a wide area where lots of people live.

Winter storm warnings, watches and winter weather advisories this morning extended from Texas to Maine. Impressive, considering no area other than parts of New England are expecting more than six inches of snow.

A huge area of the South is being affected by this, though, and there is a mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. These are areas that don't get a lot of winter weather.

Except this year, of course. This is the third time this winter that snow and mixed precipitation has gummed up the South. Some cities, like Houston, have now had measurable snow twice this winter, the first time snow has happened twice in the same winter since 1987.

A couple inches of snow was all it took to shut down some Interstate highways in Louisiana on Monday.  The governor or Alabama declared a state of emergency - all because of the one to three inches of snow expected there.

I know, I know, one to three inches of snow up here in Vermont is considered a great big yawner, but to Alabama, without snow clearing trucks and such, it's awful.

Actually, this storm in the Deep South will drop less snow on the region than the one that hit down there on December 8. But this one will be worse because it's colder down there than it was in December. Snow back then hit road pavement and melted. This time, the snow is hitting the pavement, then freezing.

Snow with this system extended into the Midwest,
conttibutting to this wreck in Indiana. 
This storm is going to consolidate into a nor'easter off the East Coast. It's still not going to be the Storm Of The Century, not be a long shot, but southern and central New England in particular will get a fairly decent dose of snow out of this.

This decent snowfall will get southern Vermont, too. Which is good for them, because they largely missed out on the snow that northern sections of the state received this past Sunday.

During the day Wednesday, most of Massachusetts, far southern Vermont and New Hampshire and parts of Connecticut can expect four to eight inches of new powder from this storm. Not a huge deal, but enough to disrupt travel a bit. And give the ski areas a bit of a boost.

As you keep going further north here in Vermont the snowfall totals will diminish. Expect maybe four inches or so Wednesday around Rutland, maybe two inches or so near Burlington, and as little as an inch by the time you get up toward St. Albans and Plattsburgh, New York.

I noted yesterday and cold air is ending for us and won't come back anytime soon. In fact, the chilly air pretty much everywhere east of the Rockies is about to ease as the pattern shifts for a while into one that favors warm air in much of the nation. Warm for this time of year, anyway.

People in the South who aren't so enthused about the snow and sleet today can look forward to temperatures in the 60s by the weekend. Up in the northern Plains, which has been under siege with wind chills in the minus 40s for the past few days, are getting a break, too.

Frigid Grand Forks, North Dakota, for instance, which was 17 below with a wind chill of minus 32 this morning, can expect a high of 37 degrees above zero by Friday.

We're going to get another thaw here in Vermont, too. Bad news for winter sports people, but good news for people who want a break, and are sick of spending a zillion dollars per second heating their homes.

This next warm spell doesn't look as intense as last Friday's. I doubt we'll get into the 60s, that's for sure. But this one will last longer. It'll get into the 30 by Friday, and likely 40s in many places around the North Country Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

After that, it will probably turn cooler, but not frigid. In fact, many forecasts indicate we've got not more Arctic air to talk about in Vermont through the end of January.

However, I will not make any promises about February.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Somewhat Wintry, But At Least The Extreme Weather Is Gone, For Now

Just a small section of an enormous ice jam along the
Missisquoi River in Swanton, Vermont Sunday. Only
light snowfalls and moderating temperatures this week
mean the situation at least probably won't get much worse,
but rain early next week could complicate things. 
Here in Vermont and the rest of New England, we can look forward to a week that, at least, won't have super extreme weather.

Oh sure, it will be wintry, and some areas might get a moderate snowstorm, but that's par for the course for January.

The bar is set low. If we can get through a few days without something bizarre happening in the weather, we can take that as a plus.

You probably noticed you woke up to another cold morning. Most of the North Country was below zero this morning, with Saranac Lake clocking in at 24 below as of 5 a.m.

This isn't as cold as the weather we had at the beginning of the month, so take heart in that. Also, this morning is the chilliest weather you'll see in more than a week, at least, so that's good too.

An Alberta clipper type storm is heading in from the west. It's destined to cause a widespread area of snow, with ice and sleet to the south, covering an area from the Great Lakes to Texas to New England.

Few places in this vast area will get enormous accumulations, but in the South it doesn't take much to create real headaches. Winter storm watches and warnings are up for parts of Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama because of this.

The clipper will weaken as it heads east, transferring its energy to a nor'easter that will develop off the Northeast Coast.

"Nor'easter" strikes fear into the hearts of some, but don't worry, this one isn't going to be the epically big "bomb cyclone" or whatever you want to call the huge type of storm that hit back on January 4.

This one will be more benign. Winter storm watches are up for far southern Vermont and much of Massachusetts because of this one late Tuesday and Wednesday and those watches might be expanded elsewhere in eastern New England.

But this will be a low-end winter storm. Right now, the most affected areas will probably get on the order of four to eight inches of powder. No big deal.

Elsewhere in Vermont, the southern and eastern half of the state could pick up a few inches of snow from this, while the northwest only gets light accumulations.

You'll notice a definite warming trend this week, too. While it's snowing off and on Tuesday and Wednesday, daytime highs will get into the comfortable mid and upper 20s, while nights only get down into the so-so teens.

It'll keep warming up, and it looks like another thaw will be here by next weekend. It won't be 60 degrees again like it was Friday. At least for Saturday and Sunday, there will be little precipitation, too, so that's good for the ice jams that are still plaguing the area.

However, forecasters are watching a storm that could hit Sunday  night and next Monday, which could bring rain. That, in turn, might aggravate any of the ice jam problems that are still lingering across the region.

It's too early to guess how much rain or other precipitation we might get, but it's something to watch out for.

Another note: While the weather won't go off the rails around here, there are some extremes of note elsewhere. One thing that caught my eye happened in Alaska Sunday. They're having a remarkably warm (for them) winter. On Sunday, a weather station in Metlakatia, Alaska, recorded a temperature of 66 degrees (above zero!) marking the hottest January temperature on record anywhere in Alaska.

The town of Sitka, Alaska, reached 62 degrees Sunday, its hottest January temperature on record. These readings were in southern Alaska. While there was no record heat in northern Alaska, the tippy top northern part of the state was still nearly 20 degrees warmer than average and toastier than Vermont was on Sunday.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Clear And Cold, But Ice Jam Flooding Vermont, Northeast Still Big Problem

The Missisquoi River in Swanton, Vermont was re-freezing
Sunday afternoon, adding more ice to an already huge and
destructive ice jam. 
Today has been one of the glorious bluebird winter days here in Vermont and much of the rest of the Northeast.  

Granted, it's pretty cold, with high temperatures in my area in northern Vermont only in the single digits. But there's fresh white powder on the ground, the sky is a deep winter blue. Winds are light, all in all, a very nice winter day.

But for some in Vermont and elsewhere in the Northeast, and in parts of Atlantic Canada, is another day of continuing disaster.

Those ice jams that formed with the mega thaw on Friday, are still there, and in some cases getting worse as rivers re-freeze and new ice adds to the jam.

Here in Vermont, the worst of it continues to be around the towns of Johnson and Swanton, where people are still evacuated. New evacuations are possible around Swanton, as the situation, if anything grows worse along the Missisquoi River there.

Route 78 in Swanton, a major truck route between Vermont and New York just south of the Canadian border, remains closed.  Several houses are still evacuated, and nobody has been able to get in to evaluate the extent of the damage.

A huge ice jam along the Missisquoi River in Swanton, Vermont
was diverting water into this building Sunday afternoon.
I was in Swanton this afternoon, and it appears things might be getting worse. The ice jam is stuck in place.

I'm guessing it's in part because the Missisquoi drains into Lake Champlain. Normally, the ice chunks would flow into the lake, but that part of Lake Champlain is frozen. There's nowhere for the ice to go.

Meanwhile, as noted, it's cold. I could see near downtown Swanton new ice forming on the river, floating down stream then becoming stuck in an ever expanding field of ice.

Granted, this new ice isn't thick or strong like some of the big chunks stuck in the main jam, but this new ice is clearly not helping.

Sunday, the new ice was helping to back up water along Foundry Street in Swanton, and some houses there might need to be evacuated.

Johnson, Vermont is still dealing with ice jam and flooding damage, too. Several buildings were damaged. Water inside the local supermarket was at least knee deep.

In addition to Vermont, ice jams and flooding prompted evacuations this weekend in New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

The storm that caused the heavy rain, record warmth and flooding in New England before the Arctic blast arrived Saturday moved into Atlantic Canada.

They had the same problems up there, perhaps even worse than in the states. Heavy rain, record high temperatures and rapid melting of a deep snow pack caused destructive flooding in New Brunswick and Newfoundland.

For most of the region, there's no big huge storms in the near future. That's the way it looks now. Something still might get going later this week. If it does, it would affect eastern New England and, again, the Atlantic Provinces of Canada.

Light snow might affect Vermont, but after the wild weather of the past week, it won't be such a big deal.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Flooding, Ice, Blizzard-Like Conditions In Vermont This Saturday Morning

Amy Kolb Noyes posted what appears to be significant
and damaging ice jam flooding in Johnson, Vermont amid
Saturday morning's snowstorm. 
UPDATE: 11 a.m.:

Extensive flooding is reported around Johnson, Vermont due to ice jam flooding.

Route 15 in the area is closed, and photos on social media show flooded buildings amid swirling snow in the Johnson area. An emergency shelter has been opened by the
Johnson, Vermont fire department.

Evacuations are also reported due to ice jam flooding around Swanton, Vermont.

Rainfall Friday was particularly heavy in the Lamoille River basin, which includes the Johnson areas. Nearby Eden received 2.82 inches of rain - an incredible amount for January.

Many other weather stations in and near the northern and central Green Mountains had two inches of rain or more. Between that, and the record warm temperatures Friday and the snowmelt, it's understandable now why the flooding turned out to be worse than expected.

Stay tuned for more details.

PREVIOUS DISCUSSION

It's not every day in Vermont in which there are flood warnings on many of the state's major rivers, while blizzard-iike conditions are hitting parts of the state, and ice is weighing down trees in other parts of Vermont.

Yep, in case you haven't noticed, it's wicked bad out there this morning, as expected.  There are floods, there is zero visibility in snow, the roads are horrendous, and you should just stay home until it gets better later today.

Heavy snow falling on St. Albans, Vermont Saturday
morning, one day after it was 60 degrees.
As of 8:30 a.m. Saturday, it was snowing hard at my house in St. Albans, in northwestern Vermont. Conditions are easily the most challenging they've been since the epic Pi Day blizzard last March 14.

Yes, there's much less snow than that March three-foot epic, but visibility is down to near zero in heavy snow and blowing snow. Snowfall rates now in the Champlain Valley are going at one to two inches per hour, which is a lot.

Roads are practically impassable. Nobody is even trying to make it up the steep hill in front of my house. The wind is gusting to about 35 mph and the temperature is down to 12 degrees. It was 60 degrees just yesterday afternoon. Now, it's absolutely brutal.

The heavy rains and record warm temperatures have led to ice jams on many area rivers, including the Winooski, Lamoille, Mississquoi, Otter Creek and others. Amid all this snow and ice, some Vermont roads are close by the ice jams and flooding, including Route 2 near Montpelier and Route 78 near West Swanton.

There are reports of an emergency shelter opening up in Swanton today, in case some homes are surrounded by ice jams, so it is pretty serious out there.
Hard to see (click on picture to make it bigger, but this
web cam grab from 9:25 a.m. Saturday morning shows
near zero visibility on Interstate 89 in Georgia, Vermont,
with a police vehicle helping a motorist that had
slid off the road. 

The intense snowfall rates in western and northern Vermont this morning will taper off later this morning and this afternoon, so just hang tight until then. It's worth it just to hunker down and wait it out.

Amid the chaos outside, thank goodness the power outages aren't too, too bad. As of 9:15 a.m., about 1,300 homes and businesses were without power, mostly in central and southern Vermont.

The overall forecast remains the same. The snow will taper off and end tonight, save for a few mostly mountain snow showers. We are definitely back to the Arctic deep freeze, with subzero lows tonight and highs only in the single numbers Sunday.

But hey, at least the skiers and winter sports fans got some of their snow back.

Speaking of which, it's still looking questionable during the upcoming Tuesday to Thursday time frame. It definitely looks like it's going to snow, but the computer models, as they were yesterday, are still arguing over whether it will be a lot of snow, or just a little.


Friday, January 12, 2018

Another Day Of Weather Extremes Across Vermont, Northeast And It Ain't Over Yet

Boston Post Road near Enosburg, Vermot covered
with ice chunks and water as the Missisquoi River rises
amid rain and record high January temperatures Friday.
As of late afternoon Friday, we're still experiencing quite an extreme weather day here in Vermont and in the rest of the Northeast.

Flood watches and warnings, and a variety of winter weather alerts remain in play overnight and into Saturday as some truly bizarre weather moves through.

Record highs were abundant today across the region, just five days after record cold. As of last report, it got up to 61 degrees in Burlington, Vermont, breaking the old record of 55 degrees set back in 1980.

That's a full 81 degrees warmer than the record low of 20 below set just this past Sunday. Elsewhere in Vermont and eastern New York, there were a few reports of temperatures as high as 64 degrees.

Two more kind of weather geeky observations from today: Dewpoints got into the mid 50s. (The dewpoint is the level the temperature has to fall to fully saturate the air. It's a decent measure of how humid it feels out there.)

A dewpoint of 60 degrees in the summer makes us feel a little sweaty. Dewpoints in the mid-50s, like today, are actually quite common in July here in Vermont. Remember, if you can, one of hose pleasantly warm summer days when you're at the beach and it's sunny and 80 and the sky is blue and the humidity isn't so bad and it's a perfect out for swimming and picnicking and anything else. The dewpoint was probably in the mid-50s on that day you are remembering.

Another indication is something called precipitable water. It's kind of technical, but it's a measure of how much water is in the air that's available to come down as rain or some other form of precipitation.

Precipitable water is usually much higher in the summer than in the winter, since warm air can hold more moisture than cold air. In New England, precipitable water values were at record highs for this time of year.

No wonder. Much of the moisture feed for this current storm is coming straight from the Caribbean Sea. That's a lot of warm, moist air. No wonder the precipitation has been so heavy, and the air has been so warm and humid today.

Everybody in the Northeast is getting heavy precipitation and that will largely continue through tonight, and in some areas, well into Saturday.

One river of heavy rain has been moving today from southwestern New England into central western and central Massachusetts, central New Hampshire and into Maine.

Here in Vermont, the rain hasn't been quite as heavy, but it's still substantial. (Burlington, on top of its record high temperature, today had its wettest January 11th on record. - 0.64 inches of precipitation as of late afternoon and still counting.)

Add to it this warm, humid, which melts snow at the fastest rate possible, and no wonder pretty much all the snow has disappeared from valleys and melted substantially from mountains. And no wonder flooding is a problem.

Now, of course, that long promised sharp cold front is entering the region as of Friday evening.  The cold air will blast in near the surface of the earth first, and the warm air will linger a bit higher overhead.

That moisture feed from the Caribbean is continuing tonight, but will glide up and over that onrushing cold air.

We're still looking at the rain changing to freezing rain from northwest to southeast across the region tonight. Since temperatures will be crashing so fast, any standing water will freeze, too. It's called a flash freeze and you can get why.

Over New York, and the northwest corner of Vermont, the precipitation will be quicker to change to sleet and then snow overnight and into Saturday as the cold air really establishes itself. Which means the forecast is still on track for only relatively light icing from freezing rain tonight,  followed by four to as much as 10 inches of sleet and snow accumulation throught Saturday.

Further south in Vermont, forecasters are still expected a longer period of freezing rain before the sleet and snow come in on Saturday. There still might be enough ice accumulation to cause scattered power failures and broken tree limbs.

If you were planning on traveling anywhere in eastern New York, Vermont or most of the rest of New England Saturday morning, don't bother. Between the ice left over from the flash freeze tonight, the occasionally heavy freezing rain, sleet and snow coming down, increasing north winds, blowing snow and crashing temperatures, it will be downright scary out there.

Things will slowly start to improve Saturday afternoon and night, but the temperatures will keep crashing. falling well below zero Saturday night - somewhere near 10 below.

It'll stay cold during the first half of the week and then start moderating some - but not up to 60 degrees again!

The computer models are still disagreeing about a possible storm sometime around the Tuesday to Thursday time frame. Some of the models keep insisting on a substantial snowstorm for our area, while others are saying, meh! just some light stuff.

Let's just get through this storm and deal with any other problems afterwards. Dizzy yet?

I do have to say what I keep saying: That extreme weather in one location is no proof of global warming or the lack thereof. However, we here in Vermont have had an oddly large number of completely off the rails weather events over the past few years, and they seem to be coming faster and more furiously. Today just added to that growing list.

That seems to be happeneing in many other parts of the world, too. That, trend, of an increasing frequency of bizarre weather events, IS consistent with climate change. I do think this string of oddball weather happenings is a symptom.