Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Par For The Course: A Very Nippy Vermont New Year's Eve

It seemed like through the 1980s, 1990s, and early part of the 2000s, one of the nippiest cold waves of each winter would hit on New Year's Eve, putting a chill on the festivities.
Bundle up if you're going to First Night
It's going to be a cold one.  

Or, failing that, we'd get some freezing rain, making the walk home particularly challenging for those who imbibed in the Champagne.

However, the past four New Year's Eve celebrations brought relatively mild, calm weather to Vermont, so maybe the frigid end of the year pattern changed?

Nope.

It's going to be a cold one for anyone venturing out to First Night in Burlington, or to other celebrations across the North Country this evening.

New Year's Eve is dawning cold, with temperatures across most of northern New York and northern New England within a few degrees of zero.

It'll only make it into the teens today, and a few snow showers will dust the ground. The snow won't amount to much--less than an inch pretty much everywhere.

As the parties really get cranking this evening, temperatures will dip back down into the single numbers. A stiff northwest breeze will make it feel like it's in the single numbers or teens below zero.

Not to be a killjoy, but don't rely on the booze to keep you warm. Alcohol might give you a warm feeling, but it actually makes it easier for you to get cold if you've got it in your system.

Hot chocolate, anyone?

For those ambitious enough to participate in Burlington's First Run 5K race on New Year's Day, or even worse, the frigid New Year's Day dip into Lake Willoughby in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom, be prepared for the chill.

It's not going to get even as high as 10 degrees as we welcome 2014.

So far, it's been a tougher winter this year than we've grown accustomed to in recent years, and I don't see any signs that's going to change soon.

Forecasters have backed off on the possibility of a snowstorm on Thursday and Friday. The storm will go more to the south and east than first forecast, so we'll only get some light snow at the end of the week.

It'll stay cold through Saturday, with highs not clearing 10 degrees and nighttime lows below zero.

It might warm up somewhat Sunday and Monday as some more snow arrives (It's not clear yet how much snow will come then)

After that, another subzero cold snap looks like it wants to come in.

Anyone waiting for a January thaw will just have to keep waiting.




Sunday, December 29, 2013

Another Really Complicated Storm In Full Swing In Vermont

What is it about this winter and weird storms in Vermont, anyway?
The National Weather Service's take on how
much snow will fall in tonight's storm 

Just about every kind of weather is going on now, with heavy, wet snow socking parts of central and southern Vermont, some rain in the low elevations, and sharp differences in weather over short distances.

Kind of like what happened during that ice storm a week or so back, huh?

Central and southeastern Vermont, particularly in the high elevations, are in for more than six inches of heavy, wet snow tonight. That means more power failures will come as the weight of the slush caves in trees and power lines.

This, when not everybody has gotten their power back after the damage from last week's ice storm.

Today, there was some melting of the ice, which caused branches that were weighed down by ice to snap back upright, taking some power lines with them, Vermont Electric Cooperative spent much of Sunday dealing with 1,000 or more power failures that kept getting repaired, only to be undone again by shifting and falling tree branches.

Another odd thing is going on in northwestern Vermont. A shallow cold front, ahead of the main cold front sagged into the northern Champlain Valley, causing the kind of bizarre, intense temperature contrasts we had last weekened.

At one point late this afternoon, it was 42 degrees in Burlington and 23 degrees about 30 miles to the north in Highgate. That means more freezing rain is likely in Franklin and Grand Isle counties, which don't need more ice.

Luckily, the heaviest precipitation with the storm will miss the far northwest, so the freezing rain won't come down hard. It will be enough to make the roads ridiculously icy, but probably not enough to cave in more trees and powerlines, except in those few areas where the ice didn't melt off trees over the weekend.

This storm is going to be a quick one, with that 6, 7, or 8 inches of snow piling up in the southeastern half of Vermont in just a few hours, ending late tonight. It looks like northwestern Vermont will only get a dusting to two inches.

Late tonight, or very early tomorrow morning, an Arctic cold front comes in with sharply falling temperatures, snow showers and wind. With a flash freeze due with this, the Monday morning commute will probably be icy and joyless.

Sorry about that.

In many recent winters, we've gotten used to cold waves that last only a day or two, but this one will go all week. Each night will get below zero, and some days will barely crack zero for highs. It looks like Wednesday and Thursday will be the chilliest days of this episode, with many Vermont towns possibly getting down to 20 below.

There are some hints we might get another coastal storm around Thursday or Friday. Usually, it warms up a bit during these storms, often into the 20s, but if we do get this one, it won't get warm. It would be a very cold snowstorm, with temperatures staying in the single digits.

Stay tuned on that storm. Let's just get through tonight's first.




Thursday, December 26, 2013

Winter Hanging Tough In Vermont With More Snow Than Forecast

I see from my holiday perch in Yankton, South Dakota (where it was a tropical 39 degrees as of noon) that winter is really having tough back in Vermont.
WCAX-TV says this police cruiser rolled
over in slippery conditions this morning
on Interstate 89 in Williston. 

Snowfall so far today in Vermont has amounted to as much as four inches, and might end up as deep as eight inches in some of the western slopes of the Green Mountains.

Hey, at least it's snow, not more ice, and it's fairly fluffy, so it's not adding much to the weight on the ice-encrusted trees.

Still, reports filtered back to me that there were a lot of crashes on Vermont roads and highways this morning. Remember, people, an inch of snow can be just as slippery, or even more slippery than several inches.

From all I can tell, winter is going to hang around for awhile, so get used to it. Temperatures might finally rise above freezing briefly Friday and Saturday afternoons, which would be good to finally get some of that ice off the trees.

As long as the trees are weighted down and as long as the wind blows, we could lose more branches, trees and powerlines, so if the ice melts off a bit, that's a good thing.

It looks as if a couple of Arctic cold fronts will come through late this weekend or early next week, ensuring more bouts of subzero weather at night and bone chilling days for awhile.

Forecasters are watching a potential coastal storm Sunday or Monday. It looks like it might move far enough off the coast to keep Vermont out of the heaviest precipitation, but these things are sneaky.

Stay tuned to updated forecasts later this week. We could, maybe, get another surprise storm.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Icy Calm Christmas After The Chaos

Several thousand homes and businesses in Vermont have no power this Christmas Eve morning as crews continue struggling to restore power lost in the weekend ice storm.
This photo by Ryan Mercer of the Burlington (Vt)
Free Press shows the damage and challenges
from the ice storm in Cambridge, Vt.  

Here's hoping everyone gets their power back soon, but it might be a couple days yet for a few people.

It really was the worst one in Vermont since 1998, in my opinion.

The ice remains on the trees, and there's some risk of more power failures and falling branches as a result, but it won't be as bad as Sunday or Monday.

Also, the weather will be calm and pretty normal for the rest of the week. Christmas Eve and day will be quite cold. Many Vermonters will wake up to subzero temperatures Christmas morning.

I really hope there's antifreeze in Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer's snout.

At least the parts of Vermont that have snow on the ground will have a white Christmas. It's a crusty, icy, brittle, decidedly non powdery, bad snowball making snow, but you take what you can get, I guess.

And there's no big storms coming for awhile. Little disturbances will zip on through as they come in from the west, dropping bits and bursts of light snow and flurries on Vermont's landscape.

I'm reporting live from Yankton, South Dakota, where there are only patches of snow on the ground. It's below zero here this morning, but it is supposed to snow a little this afternoon for a white Christmas in the Great Plains.

Merry Christmas to all!!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Latest, Very Weird Storm Raises More Concerns About Global Climate Change

I'll get the caveat out of the way first. One storm on one small area of the planet -- in this case the eastern half of the United States--doesn't prove or disprove climate change.
Think the ice was bad in Vermont? Here's what Toronto lAdd caption

Yet, so many aspects of this storm fall into the the scenarios many scientists predict in a warming world that it makes you wonder.  This essay is unscientific, in that I have no empirical evidence this storm was influenced by climate change. I'll leave that to the real scientists.

As of early Monday morning, the storm had departed but was still causing real trouble in Vermont.

About 11,000 people, mostly in the northwestern third of Vermont, still had no power. Some flooding was continuing. I noticed North Williston Road at the Essex Williston town line was closed by Winooski River flooding early this morning.

Ice remains on the trees, threatening more damage and power failures this week.

The storm that iced over much of Vermont and caused weirdness and havoc throughout the eastern half of the nation and southeastern Quebec makes me uneasy.

Let's count the ways:

Heat:

Obviously, the most direct connection to global warming and weather events is heat. And some of the warmth along the United States East Coast was incredible.

Augusta, Georgia reached 83 degrees, a record high for the entire month of December. Savannah, Georgia and Norfolk, Virginia tied their December records.  Usually, during the rare events when a December temperature record is broken, it's near the beginning of the month. But this occurred toward the end of the month.

Equally impressive as the fact that some East Coast cities broke their record highs before dawn on Sunday. Almost always record highs are broken during the peak heat of the day, like mid-afternoon.

True, it's cold in the Northern Plains, near 20 below in fact. But that's not unusual for late December, really. Near 80 degree heat in Virginia is.

Moisture:

An amazingly huge stretch of the United States, from the Deep South to New England, experienced flooding. Some of the precipitation totals were incredible for December. We're talking nine inches in a day or two in places in and near Kentucky.
Flooding in Ohio from this weekend's storm.  

At least five flood deaths were reported in Kentucky. 

Such rainfall totals sometimes happen in the summer, when heat can allow huge amounts of moisture to accumulate in the atmosphere.

But in wintry December, such huge rainfall totals are almost unheard of. And heavy rain fell in such a wide area, making this more impressive.

According to many climate scientists, the generally warmer world would allow storms to hold, and drop more moisture, leading to increased chances of extreme rainfall and severe flooding.

Ice:

Destructive ice storms have always happened ane always will. But the odd thing is how widespread this ice storm was. It went from Texas, all the way up through the Central Plains, into the upper Great Lakes, much of southeastern Canada and northern New England.

You wouldn't think something like a lot of ice might be a sign of global warming. And this storm, of course, may or may not be. But, global warming does not mean winter would be canceled. It'll still get colder in the winter no matter how the climate changes.

But the massive amounts of moisture and warmth running up and over the top of winter cold air masses, like what happened in this storm, causes ice.

You think Vermont was bad in this storm? Go to Toronto, Canada.  Close to half a million people in southeastern Canada had their power cut by the ice.

Some neighborhoods have so much tree damage you'd think a very strong tornado rolled through.

Tornadoes

Speaking of tornadoes, some formed in the Deep South with this storm system. One twister killed a person in Arkansas. While December tornadoes aren't unheard of, they're rare.  And the clash of winter's cold and more warmth than normal has seemed to cause an uptick in tornado outbreaks in the late fall and early winter in the United States.

Could climate change be causing a secondary tornado season during the end of some years? The jury is still out on that one, but it's possible.

New storms

With the increased clash of warm and cold air, possibly caused by climate change, overall storm systems might be getting stronger. The storm that battered the United States and southeastern Canada is forecast to reorganize and regenerate in the North Atlantic, and lash Great Britain and northwestern Europe with strong, damaging winds on Christmas.

Meanwhile, a new storm formed along the original storm's trailing cold front in the southeastern United States. That new storm is causing renewed flooding on parts of the Southeast, and will cause another ice storm in parts of New Hampshire and Maine.

Summary

Again, all this isn't proof of climate change. Big storms form and are influenced by immense number of factors, most having nothing to do with climate change. But did the phenomena that caused this storm get nudged somehow by climate change?

It's worth looking into, just to understand whether we should worry about such things or not.



Sunday, December 22, 2013

Worst Of The Vermont Ice Storm Now Until Early Afternoon

As of 5:30 a.m. sleet and freezing rain continued in much of northern Vermont as the peak of the ice storm of 2013 arrives.
A web cam grab from WCAX-TV in South Burlington, Vt
shows plenty of ice on the trees before dawn Sunday  

The heaviest precipitation was getting under way at that hour  and will continue until late morning in many areas.

There's even some sleet and freezing rain thunderstorms in northwestern New York as of early in the morning.

Just as I finished writing this post at about 5:45 a.m. Sunday, thunder and lightning has been reported from Colchester, Vermont. I'm sure other parts of Vermont are getting thunderstorms.

Don't be surprised in northern Vermont if you see lightning or hear thunder amid a downpour of sleet and/or freezing rain.

That increased amount of sleet that I said last night might be possible in some parts of the ice storm zone materialized, cutting down the amount of ice that has accumulated on trees and powerlines in some areas. (sleet bounces off things, freezing rain accumulates heavy, damaging ice on power lines and trees)

So far, the heaviest accumulation of ice is in the St. Lawrence Valley of New York, where there have been many reports of fallen trees and power lines.  It hasn't been too bad in Vermont just yet.

As of 5:30 a.m. Sunday, about 1,300 homes and businesses were without power in the Green Mountain State. That's quite a few, but not nearly as bad as it could be. However, it will probably get worse, maybe much worse, as the morning wears on.

According to the National Weather Service in South Burlington, the layer of cold air in the valleys has gotten thicker overnight, allowing rain from the warm air way up above to freeze on the way down, rather than waiting to freeze on contact with trees, powerlines, roads and sidewalks.

That means there's been more sleet, as I noted, and not as much freezing rain. However, as that band of thunderstorms with heavy precipitation comes in from New York, the layer of cold air will likely thin. Which means when the downpours arrive, they might be more freezing rain than sleet, which is NOT what we want.

Expect reports of power failures and tree damage to Vermont to increase quite a bit this morning as the sleet wanes and the freezing rain increases.

By the way, I REALLY have to hand it to the meteorologists at the National Weather Service in South Burlington. The intense changes in temperature over very short distances and changes in elevation basically made forecasting this storm with any kind of accuracy almost impossible.

But so far, the Burlington NWS have done a fantastic job predicting this mess.  The level of accuracy, given the strange setup of this storm is wild. I, for one, am incredibly impressed.

Another glimmer of hope is the possibility of briefly above freezing temperatures this afternoon and Monday afternoon. That would melt some of the ice off the trees and powerlines, making further damage later in the week if it gets windy less likely, and making it a bit easier for power line repair crews and tree guys and gals to fix some of the damage.

Flooding is still a concern today. There's already a flash flood warning in parts of the central Adirondacks. The warm air up in the mountains is melting snow, and it's pouring up there, so water is rushing down. There's some nasty ice jams in Adirondack rivers, and some flooding is happening.

Similar flooding, probably on the minor side, is certainly a possibility today in Vermont, especially in the southern half of the state.

So hunker down this morning. Even if it's sleet, not freezing rain where you are, the roads are TERRIBLE. Don't drive anywhere.

Also, if the power goes out, do us all a favor and check on your elderly neighbors especially. You don't want them getting cold. It could be deadly.

As I noted, I'm watching this storm from afar, as I drive cross country to South Dakota to visit relatives.
I'm leaving Cleveland soon, where as of 5:30 a.m. it was  56 degrees and windy enough so that I heard a tree branch or two crack outside the hotel this morning.

I'll be driving into some freezing drizzle and snow in Illinois and Iowa today. Oh, joy.

Elsewhere in the nation, last night's tornadoes have ended in the South, but flooding continues in the Ohio Valley. It's really warm on the East Coast, away from northern New England. It was 70 degrees (!!!) in Washington DC as of 2 a.m. Sunday.

Anyway, back to Vermont. The storm should wind down tonight. An Arctic cold front will go through later Monday, setting the stage for a very cold Christmas. It'll be below zero almost everywhere in Vermont Christmas morning.

After that, it will warm up a little, but not exactly get toasty. The best news is, I don't see signs of any other big storms the rest of the week.

We've had enough anyway, don't you think?






Saturday, December 21, 2013

Saturday Night Update On The Vermont Ice Storm

I'm writing this from Cleveland, Ohio, as I make a stop on the way to South Dakota for the holidays. As we drove across New York, Pennslyvania and Ohio today, it rained all the way. The rain was torrential around Cleveland.
A utility truck that was party of a convoy of several, as seen
through a rain-streaked windshield on the New York State
Thruway near Utica, N.Y. Saturday afternoon.
The trucks appeared to be heading toward
the worst of the ice storm in the St. Lawrence
Valley of northwestern New York.  

That of course, does not bode well for Vermont, as all the rain we hit is a conveyor belt of moisture riding up from the Gulf of Mexico, through the Midwest and on into northern New England.

As is obvious in the Champlain Valley, it's cold. That conveyor belt of moisture is also carrying record warm temperatures northward, but when it reaches Vermont, that hot air is undercut by that cold air draining into the Champlain Valley.

With temperatures approaching 50 a few thousand feet overhead, and temperatures in the 20s in the valley, the table is set for that long awaited ice storm.

The rain falling from the warm clouds overhead will freeze on contact as it lands in the chilly, subfreezing Champlain Valley.

This evening, there's a bit of a lull going on. There's a weak spot in the conveyer belt of moisture now, so precipitation is light. It'll really get going later tonight as that blob of heavy rain I experienced in Cleveland moves toward Vermont.

So far, ice accumulation in the Champlain Valley has been between a quarter and a half inch. That's almost enough to start bringing down branches, trees and power lines.

There haven't been many reports of damage yet, but the problems will start after midnight and continue well into Sunday.

Some areas of the Champlain Valley, especially up near the Canadian border, might still catch a bit of a break, but that possible break is a HUGE maybe. It's possible the layer of cold air hugging the valley might get thick enough at times to allow the freezing rain to mix with or briefly change to sleet.

Sleet is yucky, of course, but at least it doesn't cling and freeze to trees and power lines, so that could reduce the amount of ice that piles up. But don't count on that sleet to save the day.  It's just a possibility.

The St. Lawrence Valley of New York State should end up getting the worst of it. There were already reports of ice damage there by Saturday afternoon, and tonight's freezing rain will make things much worse.

The rain and freezing rain should start to taper off Sunday afternoon. A new storm forming along the weather system's trailing cold front might set off a little bit of mixed precipitation in southern and eastern Vermont on Monday.

Flooding seems as it it will be another problem with this weekend storm. Already, Vermont Emergency Management reported some high water around Hancock and Rochester

It's been in the 40s up in the mountains all day. And while some low level cold air is bleeding more to the south, it will still be warm enough in many mid and high elevations to support downpours with no ice. The downpours and the melting snow could send torrents of water down the slopes and cause some river flooding

Like I said this morning, any flooding will fall far short of the destruction from Irene, so that's good. But there might be problems with closed roads, flooded basements and that kind of trouble.

I hope any power failures don't last into Christmas. Not only would that be a bummer for the holiday, but it will also get very cold. I mean below zero cold by Christmas morning. That would freeze up the pipes in any heatless house.

By the way, this storm overall is a bizarre one. It makes you wonder what's going on in the atmosphere. It has brought record heat to the East Coast, including a reading to 72 degrees in Washington, DC.

And tragically, it has brought a tornado outbreak to the South. Such tornado outbreaks are rare in the United States in late December.

There has also been a destructive ice storm in Oklahoma and Kansas.

Even worse, this is probably among the wettest storms, if not THE wettest storm the eastern half of the nation has ever seen in December. Some towns in the Ohio Valley have had four to eight inches of rain, even more in a couple spots. That's impressive for the normally wetter summer months, but such rainfall in a day or two in December is unheard of.

Naturally there is catastrophic flooding going on in many areas.

As bad as this storm is turning out for Vermont, you can see it could be much, much worse. Because it is much worse in many parts of the country.

Ice Storm Warning Northern Vermont: Stay Home Sat. Night, Sunday

The advertised big ice storm is here in Vermont and will get worse Saturday night and Sunday.
Latest National Weather Service ice forecast puts the worst
of the ice in northern New York and northern Vermont
(Click on the map to make it bigger and more readable)  

Light sleet and freezing rain caused a bunch of problems on Vermont's roads Friday afternoon and evening with lots of cars reportedly off the road. There were a lot of fender benders too.

There is a lull in the precipitation this Saturday morning, but roads remain icy.

Then the real show begins this afternoon and continues through Sunday morning.

There will be huge differences in what happens in northern Vermont in this storm over the space of just a few miles.

An ice storm warning is up for the Champlain Valley and all of northern Vermont within 30 miles or so of the Canadian border. That's the area where freezing rain will make roads almost impassable, and bring down trees and power lines.

A few places in the Champlain Valley, parts of northern New York and Vermont might have extensive tree and power line damage, but it's hard to pinpoint which towns this might happen to in advance.

Up to an inch of ice might accumulate, definitely making this the worst ice storm since 1998, as I've said. (As I've also said, it won't be as bad as 1998)

Given the complex array of temperatures over short changes in distance and elevation, some towns will be very iced in, others won't.

For instance, since there's warm air aloft, you might find yourself stuck in freezing rain misery in a valley location them climb a few hundred feet up a nearby hill and it's just rain, without  the ice

There is a chance that the far northern Champlain Valley and far northern and northwestern New York might have sleet mix in during the heaviest period of precipitation. That's actually a good thing. As unpleasant as sleet is, it doesn't stick to trees and power lines nearly as much as freezing rain, so that could help minimize the impact of the ice storm.

But don't count on it.  There will be subtle changes in temperature and wind during this storm. A change of maybe only one degree or a brief wind shift could really change the scenario in any given location from rain to ice to sleet, or whatever.

It'll be mostly rain in the southern half of Vermont and in the higher elevations, so it won't be so bad there.

However, it will rain so hard that flooding is possible Sunday in those locations.

What worries me the most is temperatures after the storm. On Christmas Eve night, temperatures across northern Vermont will probably fall well below zero. If the power is off, so is the heat. I worry about people in cold houses, freezing pipes, that sort of thing.

With the roads iced up and destined to get worse later today, people in the ice storm warning zoone should just basically sit at home and ride it out. Definitely a bad time to drive out and do your last minute Christmas shopping.

I'm making my escape from St. Albans, Vermont early this morning on a holiday trip to South Dakota, so I'll watch this storm from afar and hope for the best.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Icky, Icy Vermont: Ice, Rain To Continue Through Weekend

Well, it's certainly unpleasant in Vermont's Champlain Valley late this Friday afternoon. As expected, some cold air at low levels is bleeding into the valley, causing temperatures to drop below freezing.
This National Weather Service map
shows a high probability of at least a quarter inch
ice accumulation in northern Vermont.
(Click on the map to make it bigger,
easier to read)  

Meanwhile, it's still warm a few thousand feet overhead, so we've got a nasty mix of freezing rain and sleet out there.

It's not coming down particularly hard, but it's more than enough to ice up the roads. It's slow going out there. If you don't have to drive this evening, don't bother.

This is Round One of icy, rainy big storm I've been advertising.

I'm sticking by my prediction this could, maybe, be the Champlain Valley's worst ice storm since 1998. However, I do want to emphasize it won't be nearly as bad as the 1998 disaster. 

It's still kind of uncertain who will get the most freezing rain and how long it will last in one particular area. Southern Vermont is pretty safe from the ice. There might be brief mixes, but it will be mostly rain.

The northern Champlain Valley looks to have the best chance of a big ice accumulation in Vermont. It could well be enough to bring down trees and power lines by Sunday.

But it's still extremely unclear how much of the Champlain Valley might sneak above freezing for a time during the storm. It would be good if it does, because it would minimize the ice accumulation.

New York's St. Lawrence River valley seems to be even more at risk than areas near Lake Champlain for a big ice storm. Areas near Massena, New York might end up being the bullseye for worst of the ice.

It's really tricky to judge whether Vermont's Northeast Kingdom will get much ice. Cold air seeping south from Canada will easily drain into the Champlain Valley, undercutting the warm air aloft so that freezing rain can form. But in the Northeast Kingdom, it's unclear how much cold air will come down.

Mountainous areas of Vermont and New York will poke up into the warm air sitting atop the subfreezing air in the deeper valleys. So up in the mountains, I do expect quite a bit of rain but not all that much ice.

No matter what comes out of the sky --- rain, freezing rain and/or sleet,-- there's going to be a lot of it. This storm has incredible amounts of moisture with it. One computer model has the Burlington area getting the equivalent of three inches of rain in three days.

Normally, less than three inches of rain or melted snow falls in Burlington the entire month of December.

All this rain could lead to some flooding, especially across southern and central Vermont.  This will by no means be any kind of Irene-style flooding, but we could see some closed roads, flooded basements, that kind of thing.

It still looks like there's going to be an extreme temperature contrast across Vermont. Temperatures on Sunday could range from near 30 around Alburgh, Vermont to near 60 in Bennington, Vermont, a distance of only 145 miles as the crow flies.

The temperature difference between the two towns is usually not much more than 10 degrees.

This all clears out Sunday night, and we go back to pretty average weather during Christmas week.  Christmas Eve will be the coldest day of the week with highs only in the teens and lows near 0.

It's kind of iffy whether much of Vermont will get a white Christmas. In southern Vermont especially, most of the snow that's now on the ground will melt by Sunday, and prospects of a replacement snowfall by Christmas are kind of dicey.


Worst Ice Storm Since '98 Disaster Possible In Northern Vermont

The forecast is still looking pretty grim, but also really uncertain for this weekend.
There's a good chance there could be
sad scenes like this in northern Vermont
by Sunday  

The first wave of bad weather has arrived as of early Friday morning and will mostly affect northern Vermont, especially up near the Canadian border.

In those areas, wet snow, sleet and a bit of freezing rain could pile up to between 2 to 5 inches by the end of the day.

More to the south, say below a Burlington to Montpelier line, temperatures will probably rise to above freezing for a time today, minimizing some of the problems (It was already 33 degrees in Burlingotn as of 6 a.m.)

However, this afternoon, cold air will bleed south, especially in the Champlain Valley, so commuters around Burlington especially might find themselves dealing with dealing with freezing rain and icy roads as temperatures quickly fall from the upper 30s to the upper 20s.

The real action starts Saturday afternoon and continues into midday Sunday. The storm that's coming is big, really wet and pretty weird.

It'll cause a variety of weather in the eastern half of the nation, including tornadoes, flooding, record warmth, snow and in some areas, including parts of Vermont, a nasty ice storm.

Everything depends on where a stalled weather front sets up, so expect changes in the forecast as we go forward this weekend.  But it looks like Vermont might be screwed with this one.

In northern Vermont, especially in the Champlain Valley and valleys in the northeastern third of the state, chances are high a bad ice storm will hit with this one.

Forecast models over the past day have trended a bit colder in the Champlain Valley with this storm, so the chances of ice have gone up.

Not only will the roads get pretty impassable at times, but there's a high risk of widespread tree damage and power failures that could last for days in some areas.  Now's a good time to get your batteries, stock up on food that you don't necessarily have to cook, and stockpile some water, too.

Ice could easily accumulate up to an inch thick in some areas. That's a recipe for super bad trouble. Already, winter storm watches are up, and an ice storm warning will probably be issued later today.

When there's freezing rain in the valleys, you don't have to go up too far in elevation to find just plain rain. (Freezing rain is caused by rain falling from warm air above a thin cold layer in the valleys. When that rain lands in the cold air, it freezes)

In the mountains, it'll rain hard while some of the valleys ice up. Between the mountain downpours and the snowmelt up there, there could be some flooding, especially in central and southern Vermont.

There could be a really strange temperature range with this storm. On Sunday morning, it's possible that it will be in the upper 20s near St. Albans and around 60 degrees in Bennington.

Such a sharp temperature contrast is a recipe for a bad storm.

I'll be watching this storm from afar, as I will be traveling to South Dakota starting today, but I do worry about the power at my St. Albans house.  Not to mention the trees looming over the house.

I might just have a really terrible mess to clean up around my property when I get back from South Dakota.

Sigh.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Messy, Icy, Icky Weekend In Vermont, But Just How Bad?

The only thing we can say for certain is the weekend's weather in Vermont is definitely going to be on the unpleasant side.
This map shows the probability of ice accumulations
of a quarter inch or greater between Saturday
and Sunday (click on the map to make it bigger)
A quarter inch or more of ice starts to bring down
branches and power lines.  

How exactly that plays out is up for grabs.

The overall scenario is that a boundary between cold Canadian air and unusually warm, springlike air to the south will set up somewhere over or near Vermont.

A series of storms will move northeastward along the front, the strongest of which will arrive Sunday.

There will be plenty of moisture to work with, so whatever comes down from the sky could come down pretty hard. Especially late Saturday night and Sunday.

The question is, what kind of precipitation will be get?

The National Weather Service in South Burlington lays out their thinking in this weekend's forecast, but of course they, and everybody else know the forecast could be a bust, given the tricky weather pattern.

The problem is, there will be a sharp temperature gradient on either side of the front, with temperatures in the 20s in southern Quebec to the 60s around New York City.

Where the front is at any given moment will determine which type of precipitation will fall at any given location in Vermont and surrounding states Friday through Sunday.

Overall, given the colder air to the north, it's more likely to be mostly rain in the south and mostly an icy mix in the north.  That part is obvious.

But as the front wavers back and forth, when will it be snowing and sleeting and icing and raining and when will the precipitation change from frozen to wet and back again?

Tricky, but overall, just plan on difficult driving conditions at any time Friday through Sunday, with the liklihood of trouble increasing the more north you go.  It seems that the best chances of ice and bad roads are early Friday, Friday evening, Saturday morning, Saturday night and again Sunday night.

But don't take that as gospel. Again, it depends on where that pesky weather front is.

The $64,000 question is whether enough ice will build up on trees and powerlines anywhere in the North Country. That's still possible.

The areas that have the best chance of seeing some damaging ice accumulations are in the St. Lawrence Valley in New York, the far northern Champlain Valley in New York and Vermont (most likely north of Plattsburgh, N.Y and Milton, Vermont) and in parts of the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont.

The intensity of the precipitation will vary from time to time and place to place, too. Much of Saturday will probably only feature light precipitation. Saturday night and Sunday morning look to have the heaviest.

In fact, most of Vermont will end up with more than an inch of rain (if you melt down the snow and ice that will be included in this) Some places could get more than two inches. That's pretty heavy for December.

Places that get mostly rain, especially in southern zones, there could be some flooding with this storm.

The storm which might also bring tornados to the Deep South and flooding rains to parts of the Ohio Valley, will move on Sunday night. It'll turn drier, and colder by Monday.

Your best bet if you're traveling this weekend, or wondering if the ice is going to snap your power lines, is to keep looking for forecast updates. The forecasts for up to 12 hours beyond the time your looking at them will probably be pretty accurate.

The forecasts for a day or two out might not be totally right, but will at least give you some hint of what to expect, even if it doesn't turn out exactly as planned.

If you're in Vermont looking for a white, snowy, winter wonderland this weekend free of trouble or ice or rain, though, you're kinda out of luck.




Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Possible Big Icy Trouble For Holiday Travelers In Vermont, Surrounding States This Weekend

No guarantees yet, but the forecast is looking more and more ominous for Vermont and surrounding states this weekend.
The University of Vermont campus in
Burlington, Vt during the Great Ice Storm
of 1998. Here's hoping Sunday's weather
won't turn out nearly as bad as this.  

The forecast for change, but right now there's the potential for a lot of sleet, ice, and possibly flooding rains. Maybe a little snow, too, but not much.

If only the storm would shift a little and give us snow, that would be great. But it's looking iffy.

The weather pattern that's setting up has a lot of similarities to the one which spawned the epic, historic 1998 ice storm in Vermont and New York.

That's not to say it will be as bad as the 1998 disaster; it probably won't be. But there still could be some real trouble brewing, especially on Sunday.

Let's start with Friday, though. The first, and weakest in a series of disturbances will come by with some snow and mixed precipitation. This first round won't be particularly heavy. It will be enough to mess up the roads and cause travel difficulties across northern New England and northern New York.

But there won't be huge accumulations of ice or feet of snow to deal with.

The real problem could come along Saturday night and Sunday. A very warm airmass will park itself in the southeastern United States. Temperatures could go as high as 70 degrees in Washington DC.

The warm air, combined with a huge, huge supply of moisture, will surge toward the north. But at the same time, very chilly air will bleed south from Canada. The cold air will stay down near the surface in Vermont, while the warm air goes up and over the top of the cold air that will be here.

The result of this could be a lot of freezing rain. A weather front will stall nearby, and could focus the icy precipitation over Vermont.  Basically we would be in the battle zone between warm and cold.

This means not only will the roads be wicked dangerous Sunday, there might be enough freezing rain to cave in a lot of trees and power lines.

This won't last as long as the 1998 storm, so it won't be as bad, but it could still get pretty destructive.

Also, if it does manage to get above freezing, which is most likely in southern Vermont, the combination of heavy rain, snow melt and frozen ground could trigger flooding.

But I emphasize: This is just a preliminary forecast. I could be getting worked up for no reason.  Forecasting ice storms is tricky, especially days in advance like everyone is trying to do now.

Maybe the storm won't have as much moisture as we think and it won't rain as much. Maybe it will be warmer than expected and we'll get rain and some flooding, which is unpleasant, but better than an huge ice storm.

Maybe it'll be a little colder than we think, and we'll get more sleet and snow, and less freezing rain than expected. That would be good because though sleet is dangerous on roads, and not much fun to shovel or walk on, at least it's less likely to weigh down branches and power lines until they break.

So stay tuned to forecasts. There's a chance things could get ugly Sunday, but only a chance.

I'll just do my anti-ice dance and hope for the best.




Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Norway Blowin' In The Wind Recently: Fun Video

A strong storm recently hit Norway, causing some pretty hefty wind.  A fun video is going viral of people struggling with the wind at an intersection in the city of Aleslund, Norway.
A REALLY windy day in Norway 

I've seen no reports of anybody getting hurt in this storm in Norway. Some of the people in the video look like they're having fun.

It's been cold here in Vermont, but at least the wind hasn't been too bad.

Imagine how nasty the wind chill would be if the wind was like that experienced by the people in this video:


This Cold December Bucks A Trend Of Toasty Decembers

No doubt it was frigid in northern New England this Tuesday morning. One of the "warm" spots was Burlington, Vermont, which clocked in with a temperature of 9 below, just one degree warmer than the record for the date.
Thick layer of ice on my truck windshield
this morning at a temperature of 11 below.  

Elsewhere, it was as bone chilling as it gets. It reached 32 below in Island Pond, Vermont and 30 below in Canaan, Vermont. There were lots of reports of readings in the 20s below in New York, Vermont and New Hampshire.

As of yesterday, half way through the month, the average temperature this December was averaging 3.4 degrees below normal. Unless there's a huge turnaround in temperatures, this will go down as one of the coldest Decembers in years.

Not that there's much competition. The past couple of decades has brought a series of abnormally warm Decembers to Vermont. Six of the top 10 warmest Decembers on record have occurred since 1996. This is in a record book that goes back to the 1880s.

I found only two cooler than normal Decembers in Burlington in the past 23 years. And the two cool Decembers were only a little below normal.

So not only is it cold this December, we're not used to such early season cold, either.

This week, it will warm up, sort of. Of course it really can't get much colder. Some small storms will blow by, with one this afternoon and evening bringing a dusting to far northern parts of Vermont and New Hampshire, with several inches in the southern reaches of those states.

Something else is coming along Friday, along with a quick squirt of warm air which will bring temperatures above freezing for a day or so. By that I mean upper 30s, so it won't exactly be tropical out there.

Then temperatures will drift downward again, but I don't think we'll see 20s and 30s below again for a couple weeks at least. Or we could hope, anyway.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Big Vermont Snow Dump (But Conditions May Apply)

It's a winter wonderland across pretty much all of Vermont and surrounding areas this Sunday morning as the expected snowstorm turned out to be real, but with a few twists and turns along the way.

The big winners for deep snow were along the east slopes of the Green Mountains, especially west of the Connecticut River Valley. There, more than a foot has been reported in some spots, and it's still snowing.
About four inches of snow had dusted my truck
and driveway in St Albans, Vermont as of 8:30 a.m.
Sunday. Snow was much deeper east of
the Green Mountains.  

The least snow came on the western slopes of the Green Mountains, with as little as four inches reported in the Champlain Valley as of 8:30 a.m. (including around my house in St. Albans, Vermont)

Click on THIS LINK for a summary of snowfall totals in Vermont as of 8:30 a.m. Sunday.

The heavy snow on one side of the mountains and the lighter totals on the other side are all due to the same reason.

The storm hugged the coast a little more than forecast, and came a bit more to the north than forecast.

That slightly shifted storm path allowed strong east winds to develop just a few thousand feet overhead in northern New England and New York.

The east winds were forced to rise up the eastern slopes of the Green Mountains. The rising air really wrung extra moisture out of the air, making it snow more heavily in eastern slope communities like Brookfield, Rochester, and Chelsea, Vermont. Each town got more than a foot of snow and it was still snowing Sunday morning.

Those same east winds roared down the western slopes of the mountains, Sinking air tends to dry out, so western slope towns got a lot less snow.

They also got a lot of wind. There have been numerous reports of gusts exceeding 50 mph along the western slopes of the Green Mountains from east and south of Rutland all the way north to Underhill and Cambridge and beyond.

That has caused a lot of blowing and drifting snow in those spots, with really lousy visibility and an inability of road crews to keep drifts off the roads.

Those east wind was starting to diminish and shift into the north as of midmorning Sunday, which will mean snowfall rates will increase a bit along the western slopes for a few hours and diminish along the eastern slopes.

So western slope towns like Underhill, Jericho,  Lincoln and Ripton which got cheated out of deep snow will partly make up for it today, and still wind up with a good 6 to 10 inches of snow.

I noticed in the past hour that snowfall, which was quite light in St. Albans, has picked up a bit. Still, the Champlain Valley will be the big loser in this storm, if you want to call a relative lack of snow "losing" It all depends upon your perspective.

Low elevation towns a little west of the Green Mountains will end up with something like six inches of snow. Not bad, but not a huge dump.

It's going to get COLD again. Temperatures hovered near 20 degrees Sunday morning and will slowly fall through the teens the rest of the day as the snow slowly tapers off this afternoon.

It'll get into the single numbers either side of zero tonight, not make it above 10 degrees in most northern Vermont towns Monday, with wind chills around 20 or 25 below. Then get below zero again Monday night.

The rest of the week looks pretty average, with near to slightly below normal temperatures with bouts of light snow from time to time. There might be a brief thaw Friday as temperatures rise to near or just under 40 degrees.

Then temperatures will fall again, but it's anybody's guess whether another storm will come along next weekend. Computer models have no idea.

A week from now, it will snow, sleet or rain unless it doesn't.  That's the best I can do at this point.




Saturday, December 14, 2013

Frigid Saturday Morning To Give Way To New England Snowstorm

It was below zero across almost all of northern New York and northern New England Saturday morning in the frigid calm before the storm.

Even normally "tropical" Burlington, Vermont got into the act, falling below zero for the first time this winter.
Let it snow, Let it snow, Let it snow. Forecasters
still say Vermont and surrounding states are due for
6 to 10 inches of snow this weekend. 

It really is a classic setup to what promises to be a classic textbook type snowfall across the region.

The cold high pressure system just to our north will force relatively warm, moist up from a storm approaching from the south and over the cold dome of air over us. That rising air will condense out the moisture as snow.

The storm will consolidate into a mid-sized nor'easter that will give us the first widespread snow of the season.

That whole scenario is typical of the way mid-sized snowstorms play out in New England.

Winter storm warnings are flying across most of New England through Sunday.

This won't be a huge storm. Like I said, a typical snowfall for the area. Most spots in Vermont and New Hampshire, along with most of northern New York will see generally six to 10 inches of powder. a few mountains and east facing slopes in the southern Green Mountains could pick up a foot.

A few places along the western slopes of the Green and White Mountains might pick up a bit less than six inches, since those mountains will block some of the moisture the storm will bring in from the Atlantic Ocean.

In some of the mountain passes in Vermont, especially in those western slope areas that get strong winds sometimes, it could get pretty nasty for awhile tonight and Sunday morning. Winds could gust to 40 or even 50 mph in a few isolated spots, like east of Rutland and Middlebury, and maybe toward Underhill and Cambridge.

Those winds would make visibilities drop to zero at times in blowing snow. For most of the rest of us, winds will probably stay at or below 25 mph for most of the storm.

Today, Saturday, is a good time to get your errands done out and about, since it won't start snowing until mid afternoon in southern Vermont and toward evening up north. Sunday, with the snow and blowing snow outdoors, you can sit inside, hot cocoa at the ready, to fill out Christmas cards and wrap gifts.

It'll be a classic Christmas day. Lots of "classics" going on with this storm, no?

As the snow tapers off later Sunday, temperatures will start to fall again. We get another blast of frigid air Monday before temperatures ease up a bit midweek.

The ski areas must be loving this, given it's hitting right before the Christmas holiday. It'll stay cold most of next week, with more snow showers around. There might be a brief thaw around Friday, but it probably won't last long all that long.

Chances are rising that Vermont will have a white Christmas this year.

Friday, December 13, 2013

HUGE Forecast Change: Pretty Good Snow Dump Now Likely In Vermont

Until early this Friday morning, I was unimpressed with the way the weekend storm was shaping up. I thought, judging from early computer models, that the bulk of the snow would go to our south, and much of northern Vermont would get maybe 2 to 5 inches of snow at most.
It might end up looking something like this in
Vermont by Sunday afternoon. Winter storm watch
has been hoisted for the state.  

I was WRONG.

Now that the storm that's eventually going to affect us has come ashore in California, we have better data, the computer models are better able to crunch the data, and now it looks like we have a decent snowfall coming Saturday night and Sunday.

Not a record deep snowstorm, mind you, but decent.

The National Weather Service in South Burlington, Vermont is thinking six to ten inches of fresh powder with this in Vermont and adjacent New York and New Hampshire, with locally more in the mountains.

A winter storm watch is up for Vermont from Saturday afternoon through Sunday evening. 

The forecast has changed because now that the computer models can study this further, the storm is expected to grow stronger, and hug the coast more, than previously thought. Previous forecasts had the storm weaker and more out to sea.

Before we get to Saturday night and Sunday's storm, we have other trouble to deal with. This Friday morning, watch out for snow showers and briefly blinding snow squalls on the way to work. They could make the roads quite icy and dangerous.

Also, it's going to get bitterly, bitterly cold as temperatures fall through the teens and single numbers this afternoon, and below zero tonight. It'll be just a few degrees below zero in the Champlain Valley, and close to 20 below Saturday morning in the coldest mountain hollows.

Winter is here, that's for sure!!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Some Snow In Vermont's Forecast, And Snowy Owls, Too!

On this cold Thursday afternoon, clouds are increasing after a bright sunny morning failed to dislodge some pretty deep midwinter cold in Vermont.
Keep your eyes out for one of these guys.
Vermont Fish and Wildlife says unusually high
number of snowy owls reported in the state.  

Temperatures that were within a few degrees either side of zero at dawn had only made it into the low to mid teens across northern New York and northern New England by early this afternoon.

More snow showers and squalls are on the way, which could make for some icy, slick roads and briefly poor visibility again this evening.

Look for a dusting to four inches of snow, depending upon whether you're in the drier valleys or snowier mountains.

The lake effect snow machine, of course, is going full blast off Lake Ontario in New York. A couple places have already reported more than three feet of snow.

The snow showers will continue into Friday morning, so you'll need extra time to get to work on the expected slick roads. Since temperatures will be so low, salt won't work great on pavement, so that would  keep the icy spots on highways.

It's going to turn even colder Friday, with temperatures only making it into the teens and slowly falling  in the afternoon. A gusty north wind won't help.

Friday night will be the coldest night so far this winter. Burlington has a really decent shot of going below zero for the first time this winter, and some of the colder hollows of the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, northern New Hampshire and New York's Adirondacks could get to 20 below or even colder by dawn Saturday.

The expected storm Saturday night still looks to be a yawner, with only 1 to 6 inches of snow forecast.

Preliminary indications are the most snow will be south and east of  Mt. Washington, New Hampshire, in the southeastern half of Vermont, and around the Lake George and Capitol regions of New York.

Or course this forecast could change, so stay tuned.

A WELCOME OWL INVASION:

It's not just snow arriving in Vermont. It's snowy owls, too. The Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife reports an unusual number of snowy owls in the state this month. 

Keep an eye out for them. You're most likely to see them sitting on things like fence posts in open fields, looking for rodents to snack on.

Snowy owls usually hang out up in the Arctic, where they munch on things like lemmings. But when its unusually warm and/or rainy in the Arctic, with a thin snowcover in the late autumn, the population of lemmings crashes, so the snowy owls search far and wide, including Vermont, for rodents to eat.

NOTE TO SNOWY OWLS: If you like voles and moles as snacks,  please come to my property in St. Albans. We have plenty, and you can munch on them all, free of charge. It's a wonderful buffet.  Arrive hungry, please!  

Anyway, you can't prove it, but the fact that so many snowy owls are in Vermont looking for food could be a symptom of climate change, given how it never used to be so warm and rainy up in the Arctic in the late fall. (While most of the nation was shivering last week, it was above freezing and raining in far northern Alaska. First time in memory that's happened in December)

But it is odd the snowy owls have been coming to Vermont so often in recent years.

Bottom line: When you don't need to watch the roads for ice, glance out into the farm fields. You might  see a snowy owl staring back at you.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

"Flurried To Death:" Vermont Winter Settles In

Snow lovers in Vermont and other parts of northern New England and northern New York were probably frustrated with all those snowstorms battering the nation over the past couple of weeks,  but scarcely affecting their winter wonderland.
A snow flurry drifts down onto Lake Champlain off
of Burlington, Vermont last winter. While we
sometimes get big snow dumps, usually we get
our snow in small installments.  

But that's actually typical. Up here near the Canadian border, we're no strangers to big dumps of snow, of course, but usually, the build up of snow is more gradual.

 We're "flurried to death" as I like to say, and sooner or later, this parade of small snowfalls adds up to something winter enthusiasts can all enjoy.

That's the pattern we've settled into now. There were bits of snow Monday and Tuesday and more is on the way. Just not any huge mega-storms.

This afternoon, a strong cold front will come in, flinging off some snow showers and snow squalls, which might be good for a dusting to three inches of new powder, maybe a bit more than that in the mountains

Watch out on the drive home from work this afternoon. With those squalls around, the roads in many areas will go from perfectly fine to slick, icy danger zones in seconds. And those squalls could suddenly drop visibility to zero, which means you might not see that car in front of you coming to an abrupt stop until it's too late. BAM!!!!!

The cold will deepen tonight, as temperatures get into the single numbers and highs Thursday struggle into the teens amid a chilly northwest wind.

More light accumulations of snow will probably come along Thursday night and Friday morning.

You might have heard talk of a nor'easter this weekend, which probably has some skiers and riders salivating up here in northern New England ski country.

And it looks like one such storm might come along, but it doesn't look like a perfect set up for feet of snow. But still, a few to several inches might come along with that, ensuring the snow cover will keep slowly deepening as winter deepens too.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Watch Morons Cause Horrible Accident On Wisconsin Highway

A Wisconsin DOT surveillance camera caught the drama of a major pileup on a snowy highway recently.
One of the Wisconsin crashes caused by
speeders in the snow, Photo by Eric Aspenson
Milwaukee Journal Sentinal.  

As you can see, it's the idiots who decide that driving really fast on snow and ice is the way to go are the cause of the havoc.

They either spin out, hit disabled vehicles, or worst of all, slam into the backs of cars whose drivers have already slowed down, because it dawned on them that flooring it during a winter storm isn't the way to go.

On Sunday, several nasty crashes in Wisconsin and elsewhere in the United States occured on snowy, icy highways. Mostly caused by people in a hurry.

I hope there is some way to ticket and fine the idiots who were speeding on this highway and almost killed a whole bunch of people.  And I would love to hear their excuses as to why they thought they could go so fast.

"Oh, ice is slippery?"
"It's the DOT's fault for allowing snow to fall on the highway"
"I have the right to go as fast as I want?."
"So what if I caused carnage on the highway. That's why there's insurance."

Here's the video, which is instructional on how idiots ruin the rest of our lives during snowstorms. Especially watch the fast cars moving in to the pileup. Ugh.



Monday, December 9, 2013

A Somewhat Wintry Monday Morning Commute To Work

Light snow was flying in some parts of northern New York and northern New England, including Vermont as the long anticipated storm, if you can call it that, arrives.
Interstate 81 in Hagerstown, MD Sunday. Photo by
Kevin Gilbert, Herald-Mail of Hagerstown.
Careful on Vermont roads today so you don't
cause a scene like this.  

By Vermont standards, this isn't the type of weather that smarmy TV meteorologists affix the suffix "..apolcalpyse" to. (Like the obnoxious "snowpocalpyse" they use every time a city is hit by more than two inches of snow.)

Still, you do have to take today's weather seriously if you're out on the roads.

The snow that was coming down in St. Albans early this morning, though not heavy, had sort of a sleety quality to it.

I presume that's true in a lot of areas today, which means the highways could end up a little
icier than if we were getting a more "fluffy" snow.

Road crews are out, but I'm sure the highways and streets will be on the slippery side, so build in some extra time to get to work today.

They're still calling for anywhere between one and five inches of snow out of this today, but some of it might settle and melt, especially in the valleys as temperatures creep above freezing and some rain mixes in this afternoon.

As the storm made its way up the Eastern Seaboard yesterday, it contained some surprises, including some unexpectedly heavy snow in parts of the Mid-Atlantic states. Nearly a foot fell in some areas, and that was followed by some freezing rain.

The weather caused a 50-car pileup on a Pennsylvania highway, and otherwise disrupted things on Sunday. 

Given the oddball nature of the weather today, I wouldn't be surprised if a few areas in Vermont and surrounding states get a little more, or a little less snow or sleet than forecast.

I do know it's going to stay cold and wintry for awhile. Daytime highs Wednesday through Sunday won't get above 25 degrees in most of northern New York and northern New England.

There won't be any big storms during this period, except maybe some pretty good lake effect snows off of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie in New York.

Still, almost daily snow showers will keep the snow cover slowly deepening in most mountainous areas. Plus the cold air will ensure round the clock snowmaking all week at the ski resorts, which is a good thing as people begin to gear up for the big Christmas week holiday, which is coming sooner than a lot of you think.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

No Hype: Messy, Slow Commute Monday, But Not Worse Ever Storm

I've noticed the national news media is really hyping the storm of ice, snow, rain and yuck along the East Coast.
Snow falling in Virginia Sunday morning.
Storm is heading toward New England.  

No doubt it's a big headache for motorists, and just about everyone affected by the weather, really.

But it's not the end of the world. That's especially true for us here in Vermont, where the storm will blow through tonight and Monday.

It is going to be a messy one, with snow, mixing with or changing to sleet, freezing rain and rain by Monday morning's commute. So leave early for work, you'll probably need the extra time to get to your destination.

And please don't drive on the ice like a moron, please? Everybody will thank you for not blocking up the roads with the accident you cause by doing 70 mph on glare ice.

It looks like most of northern New England, including Vermont will get anywhere from 1 to 5 inches of snow and ice out of this. So not a HUGE deal, just December in the Northeast.

It will turn cold for the rest of the week. After Monday, don't expect to see temperatures rise above freezing through at least Saturday. There will be some light snow or flurries from time to time, but no enormous storms.

So yeah, just typical winter weather. Deal with it.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Big Storms, Big Wind, Big Cold (Almost) Everywhere, Vermont To Escape the Worst

Boy, what an active week in the weather department!

A large tree was brought down by this week's
ice storm in a Dallas, Texas suburb.
 

As you might have seen on the news, a huge ice storm is causing havoc from Texas to Ohio, and will continue to do so often and on through the weekend.

Many people in those areas will have massive tree damage, closed roads and power failures that will last for days, maybe even weeks in a few spots.

Meanwhile, a huge cold snap is engulfing much of the western half of the nation, and will hit those areas that had the ice and the power failures. Should be fun, sitting in a cold, dark house with no power in subzero weather.

In the Northern Plains and Rockies, temperatures in some areas will go under 30 below with wind chills below minus 50 Ugh.

In California and the desert Southwest, record chill and hard freezes are threatening a broad range of crops.  I'm guessing foods like many kinds of vegetables, and fruits like oranges are going to get a lot more expensive, since so many crops will be lost to the freeze.

In Europe, things aren't much better as a huge storm is causing near record storm surges along coastlines from Britain to Germany, and hurricane force winds are causing tremendous damage.

So, local readers here in Vermont and surrounding states might be wondering? Is all hell going to break out here?

The answer is, not really. We'll dodge most of these bullets.

Some light mixed precipitation and snow will develop this afternoon and evening, especially the more south you go. There's a winter weather advisory for far southern Vermont and the Capitol District of New York for some freezing rain and an expected two to six inches of snow tonight.

Up near the Canadian border, there will be little, if any new snow tonight.

The weekend will turn chilly, but nothing extreme for December.

A new storm, which is really Round 2 of the massive ice storm in the central and southern United States, will take aim on the Northeast Monday.

Expect a really messy day, with snow, sleet, freezing rain and rain. It won't be anything like in the South, where all those trees and power lines are caving in. But there's a good chance you'll find some really lousy driving conditions in Vermont and surrounding states on Monday.

The cold wave from the west will finally arrive in earnest after Monday's storm goes by, but I don't think the cold here will be that extreme. Yes, you'll need to bundle up, and there's a chance some towns will find themselves shivering in subzero weather. But it won't be anything we haven't seen in pretty much every winter we've experienced in these parts.

So yes, the weather might not be particularly lovely the next few days, but at least it won't be a disaster. For us, anyway.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Touching, Important Video On Family Momentos Lost In Tornadoes, Storms

Those tornadoes that devastated huge swaths of the Midwest last month scattered photographs and other important papers and family mementos for miles, sometimes dozens or even hundreds of miles.
Photographs found scattered far and wide
in Oklahoma and nearby states after a big
May tornado in Moore, OK. A group worked to
return the photos to their owners.  

When disasters strike and people have to hastily evacuate, often the first thing they grab are the pictures.   Which is certainly understandable. I'd do the same thing. But often, there's no time to save them.

The worst part of a disaster like those tornadoes last month is when loved ones are hurt or killed.

The second worst part is when those photographic memories and touchstones are lost.

Meteorologist Eric Holthaus has a great idea or reminder that nowadays, you can put your photos in "The Cloud" as they say, so they are kept off site and accessible pretty much no matter what happens.

I also love that there's a Facebook page that acts as a clearing house for people who find photographs and documents scattered far and wide by the tornadoes. That way, some of them can get back to their owners.

There have been other, similar, wonderful efforts after a series of tornadoes across the South in 2011 and the twisters in Oklahoma earlier this year. 

Most of the photos are damaged, but nowadays you can restore a lot of them.

Holthaus also today linked to a wonderful YouTube video that is a tribute to the tornado victims in the Midwest and is a music video for Laura Marier's really great song called "Running For Photographs"

Here's the moving, must watch video:



Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Mild And Murky Vermont, But Winter Lurks

It's turning out to be a mild and murky week here in Vermont. Afternoon temperatures have been sneaking above freezing, there's little wind, a lot of clouds and a fair amount of fog and haze.
A gloomy early December Tuesday afternoon
in my St. Albans, Vermont yard.  

Typical early December dreariness.

If you're bored with the weather though, you can live vicariously through the rough and cold winter weather starting to engulf much of the rest of the nation.

That frigid, snowy, icy and at times dangerous weather will continue to spread across much of the United States, and we here in northern New England should start getting a taste of that by Sunday or Monday.

The cold is going to be focused on the northern Rocky Mountains and northern and central Plains. There are some areas near the Canadian border in Montana and North Dakota that went below zero today, and might not get above zero again until the weekend. Not even during the day.   BRRRR!!!!

It's mild in the east, and such a clash of air masses inevitably stirs up a storm. There's already winter storm warnings in a huge area from Idaho to Wisconsin. That weather will spread south and east. Don't be surprised to hear news of a nasty ice storm in a band from Texas to Kentucky later in the week.

Winter storm watches are already up for Thursday and Friday in Oklahoma and Arkansas for an expected snow, sleet and ice storm.

Other areas of the country are going to get LOTS of snow.

OK, what does that mean for Vermont and surrounding areas? Truth be told, I have no idea. Nobody does. It's too early to tell.

It will start to get cold again this weekend, and some kind of storm is coming along for the Sunday night through Tuesday time frame but I don't know how big it will be or whether it will bring snow, rain, a mix or all of the above.

We'll have to stay tuned until the event draws closer.

Aside from the mild temperatures between now and Friday, though, don't expect a break from wintry, cold weather over the next couple of weeks. It's a chilly weather pattern coast to coast, including in Vermont.

At least we here in northern New England looks like we will be spared the most intense cold.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Fascinating Ancient Hailstone Disaster In India, Circa 850 AD

Back in 1942, British soldiers made an alarming discover around a very high elevation lake in Roopkund, India, near the Himalayas.
Some of the skeletons in Roopkund, India  

Melting snow and ice revealed a whole bunch of skeletons. The British soldiers worried they were teh bodies of Japanese troops that had been trying to sneak into India the previous winter, during the height of World War II.

Nope. The victims all died much earlier than the winter of 1941-42.  Tests showed all of 200 or so victims died around 850 AD.  They were probably pilgrims heading through the area on their way to some religious event.

Their skeletons, and some of their shoes and other items were pretty well preserved, considering how long they'd been there, because this is a cold, high elevation place, which helps slow decomposition.

What killed them? According to Atlas Obscura blog on Slate, a team of scientists in 2004 determined a weather disaster killed them all.

The skeleton lake in India.  
Everyone died of blows to the head. And the skull fractures suggested whatever hit them was round. Since all of the skeletons showed signs of wounds on top of the heads and on their shoulders but not elsewhere on their bodies, whatever killed them had to come from above.

The scientists' conclusion?  It was probably a terrible thunderstorm with lots of hail the size of baseballs. The area around the lake has no place to take shelter, so the people were caught out in the open, and pelted with the hailstones.  

Remember, hail falls from many thousands of feet above the earth's surface, so they come down fast, often at around 90 mph. And getting hit in the head that's something like the hardness and size of a baseball is deadly.

Hail deaths in the United States are rare. The last time that happened was when a 19 year old man was trying to move his new car out of a violent Texas hailstorm in 2000 and died of head injuries. An infant died in a horrible 1979 hail storm in Fort Collins, Colorado.

But as the ancient case in India proves, hail can be a terrible killer.


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Yup, We Definitely Had A Chilly November In Vermont

As duly noted already, November turned out to be a cold month in northern New England.
Strong winds whip remaining foliage on trees on
November 1 in St. Albans. That very windy day was
the only truly warm day of the month.  

In Burlington, Vermont, the mean temperature was 35.6 degrees, which was 2.6 degrees chillier than normal, according to the National Weather Service in South Burlington.

It was the coldest departure from normal for any month since January, 2009, which was 4 degrees colder than normal.

The only truly warm day of the month came on the 1st, when Burlington tied a record high for the date of 71 degrees. Just three days later, a record low of 20 degrees was set.

It was definitely a windy month. Half the days during November had wind gusts of 30 mph or more in Burlington. On November 1, the wind gusted to 46 mph in Burlington and more than 50 mph elsewhere in Vermont, which led to some power failures.

It was slightly dry in November, with the total precipitation coming to 2.43 inches, which was 0.7 inches below normal. Because of the chill, we did get some snow, 6.4 inches, which is about an inch above normal for November.

Time will tell if this all portends a harsh winter, or whether we're just getting it all out of the way early.

Media Hog North Dakota Ice Disc Had Vermont Predecessor

The national media has been all over a rare ice disc that formed in the Sheyenne River in North Dakota during a recent cold snap.
This ice disc that recently formed in North Dakota
has gotten a lot of attention recently. Another
nice one formed in Vermont in 2010.  

It's a perfectly symetrical circle of ice slowly rotating in the river. As bits and pieces of river water froze in the cold snap, the ice got caught in an eddy and formed the rare phenomenon.

Ice discs don't form often. They need the perfect combination of the right temperature, the right force of current and a gentle eddy to form.

That combination apparently doesn't happen very often.

As I said, just about every major media outlet has mentioned the North Dakota ice disc. It's such a media hog

A similar ice disc in Vermont got a lot of local attention in 2010, but for some reason didn't become an "A" list celebrity like that one now out there in North Dakota.

But the Vermont disc, recorded along a river in Moscow, Vermont in February, 2010, lives on when you check out YouTube. Here's the (less) famous Vermont ice disc from that winter:



Saturday, November 30, 2013

Cold Start To Winter, But Will It Stay That Way?

There's no doubt winter is off to a cold start here in the Great White North, in the upper reaches of New York and New England.
Saturday morning dawned clear and frigid in
St. Albans, Vermont, with a temperature of 5 degrees.  

This morning, temperatures hovered a few degrees either side of zero, with lows bottoming out at 13 below in Saranac Lake, N.Y., one of the Northeast's most serious ice boxes.

There was a record low of 4 above in Montpelier Friday, and it was 2 below in the Capitol City this morning, which wasn't quite a record.

November overall is running about 2.5 degrees below normal in Burlington, where it was 7 degrees above zero this morning.

So, have we started a trend? Is the whole winter going to be frigid?

Not necessarily. Weather patterns often switch in the winter. You might get a cold month, followed by a mild one, followed by wet, then dry.

November this year reminds me of 1989. That year, a massive storm caused a big tornado outbreak in the nation at midmonth, just like this year. That was followed by a persistent cold spell that latest through December.

December, 1989 was the coldest on record in Burlington, Vermont. By New Year's Eve, pretty much everyone was sick of winter.

Then the reversal hit. January, 1990 turned out to be the second warmest on record in Burlington. The snow melted and many days felt like spring.

That's not to say things will turn out that way this year.  The first half of December this year looks like it will be cold, but not as bad as 1989. There's no telling what will happen after that.

Those long range winter forecasts everybody puts out? Take those with an enormous grain of salt.  The long range forecasts aren't much better than a flip of a coin.

Already, some of the forecasts are partially wrong. The Weather Channel said we'd have a relatively warm November. Oh well.

For the record, The Weather Channel says our winter will be kind of mild, but trending cold toward the end of the season. Accuweather's forecast is about the same. The National Weather Service says winter will be on the mild side in the Northeast, while the Old Farmer's Almanac calls for temperatures not out of the ordinary, but quite a bit of snow in New England.

Again, I don't vouch for any of these forecasts.

If you want to know what the winter weather of 2013-14 will be like, talk to me in March. I can give you a very, very accurate rundown then.