Sunday, January 31, 2016

Iowa's Worst Winter Week: Caucuses, Then A Blizzard

It'll probably look like this on many
Iowa roads Tuesday. Blizzard watch in effect.
I bet there are a number of Iowans who just want this upcoming week to be over, thank you very much.

Politicians and their minions have been slinging totally obnoxious attack ads at each other Every Single Moment of Iowa TV, ahead of the presidential caucuses Monday night.

And, Phew! when that's finally over late Monday night, the attack ads stop in Iowa,.

But immediately following, a blizzard then attacks Iowa, as it looks now.  

A blizzard watch has been posted for all except southeastern Iowa from the wee hours of the morning on Tuesday through late Tuesday night.

A strong storm is forcast to emerge from the central Rocky Mountains and move through the center of the country on off toward the Great Lakes over the next few days. This will produce the likely blizzard, and as noted yesterday, a wide variety of other nasty weather for other parts of the country.

The blizzard watch also extends into eastern Nebraska, southern Minnesota and extreme southeastern South Dakota.

A good six to 12 inches of snow is expected with this thing in Iowa, with winds gusting well over 40 mph. That would create whiteout conditions, especially in the wide open areas of rural Iowa.

On the bright side, maybe Iowans can take all those politicians and late Monday night, drive them to a rural outpost far from any town and let them fend for themselves in Tuesday's blizzard.

Just kidding, folks!!!

I also wouldn't be surprised, as the storm draws closer, if blizzard watches or warnings were issued for some areas in a a stripe from Colorado, through the area in Iowa already covered by the blizzard watch, and on into Wisconsin.

Colorado is really going to be slammed by this thing, with a good three feet of snow in some of the mountains in that state.

Good for the ski areas, but they almost have too much of a good thing. Up at Steamboat Springs, Colorado,there's so much snow they don't know where to put it when they clear off streets, sidewalks and parking lots now.

Bigger cities like Denver and Colorado Springs can expect six to 12 inches at least out of this, along with strong winds and blizzard-like conditions.


Tornadoes/Severe storms:

This big storm is still likely to create an outbreak of severe weather and some tornadoes Tuesday in the lower Mississippi on up into places like Tennessee, Kentucky, southern Illinois and southern Indiana on Tuesday.

This probably won't be the biggest tornado outbreak ever, thank goodness, but any tornado that hits a built up area is potentiallly very deadly and very dangerous. So I'd watch out in those areas.

Although tornadoes are definitely a possibility in this area, a lot of people in the danger zone will experience a really nasty squall line with strong wind gusts and torrential rains.

This storm's cold front is still in California today, and might spin up a brief tornado today along the southern California coast, including in the very populated L.A. Basin and around San Diego. So heads up for that. dude!

Lots of wind:

High wind warnings, watches and wind advisories extend from the southern half of California today all the way to Texas, and parts of Arkansas and Louisiana.

This is a dynamic system, so it will make for lots of wind along its path. (Remember, that's a big part of the reason why there's a blizzard watch in Iowa.)

Today and Monday,  winds could gust as high as 75 mph in the high deserts and mountain passes of southern California, well east of Los Angeles and San Diego.

Strong, dry winds associated with this developing storm is raising the risk of wildfires today in parts of West Texas and New Mexico.

Though it's too soon to start issuing wind advisories and watches in the eastern half of the nation, this storm will probably raise the risk of strong, possibly damaging winds in a few locations around the Great Lakes and Northeast.

High temperatures/floods

In the East, I'm still expecting the storm to bring a surge of warm air and rain from Florida to Maine.

In parts of the central Appalachians that got hammered by the blizzard more than a week ago, the combination of rain and melting snow could touch off some flooding.

I don't expect a widespread flood disaster at all, but it's something to watch for people who live in low lying areas there.

Up in New England, where snow cover is below normal, this will surely frustrate skiers and riders. They can expect bouts of rain tonight, Monday and Wednesday, and temperatures Monday and Wednesday that could threaten record highs. All this would damage what snow cover there is in places like northern New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

Don't worry, winter lovers. It will turn colder after the storm goes by on Wednesday, and the chill might stay awhile. The ski resorts will make snow, and a series of small storms mid-month will gradually put more and more snow on the ground.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Washington DC Parking Enforcement Found Big Profit In Blizzard

Parking was a challenge in Washington DC
after last week's blizzard. But the city made
a killing in parking and towing fines.
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Something like two feet of snow fell in and around Washington DC last weekend.

As you can imagine, it was probably hard to dig cars out of snow clogged, congested streets.

Or, if your car was freed from the snow, good luck finding a place to park, since all the parking spots had been converted to giant mountains of snow. 

Washington DC's parking enforcers saw this as a golden opportunity.

Last week, after the blizzard, the District issued around $1.5 million worth of parking tickets, says the Weather Channel, via NBC Washington.

The city also issued $65,500 in fined snd towed more than 650 vehicles.

Requirements in the city are that cars must be parked fewer than 12 inches from the curb. That's hard to do when there's a four foot wide snowbank in front of the curb.

Of course, Washington did need to keep roads passable, and cars parked too close to the middle of the road due to the snowbanks would block the roads, so in that sense, I can see the parking fines.

The city focused their ticketing on snow removal emergency routes.

A few people caught a break, says NBC 4 in Washington

The mayor voided snow emergency parking tickets issued last Friday as the blizzard was beginning because some people might not have learned of the parking restrictions, or were still running errands to prepare for the storm.

But to add insult to injury, if your car was impounded in Washington DC, bring a shovel to the impound lot. It was snowed in, too, and people had to dig their cars out to retrieve them.

Warm Winter, But Still Couple Of Nasty Cold Spells In The World, Right Hong Kong And Saudi Arabia?

 A snow-covered camel in Saudi Arabia
this past week as a rare winter cold wave
hit parts of the Middle East. 
It's been a warm winter across much of the Globe, thanks to climate change and El Nino.

Here's one small example: I noticed quite a few record highs being recorded in the southern and central Plains in the United States on Friday.

The bigger example was the record

But there are a couple of huge exceptions to the warmth.

There was some remarkably wintry weather invading places you don't think of as the Great White North. Like Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia.

Hong Kong last week had its coldest temperature in 59 years.  The temperature actually got below freezing in some of the high elevations around Hong Kong, which is normally a pretty tropical place.

In America, we have storm chasers that every once in awhile get in trouble when they're too close to tornadoes.

Hong Kong apparently has "frost chasers," who climb Hong Kong's highest peak, which on rare occasions, like the past week, can get a little frost or snow. Valley locations in Hong Kong virtually never get a frost, so ice is a treat for these "ice chasers."

However, at least 129 people had to be rescued when they got stuck on the mountain during their frost chases, says the South China Morning Post.

Many people did not dress warmly enough for the cold. Hiking trails and the road up to the summit froze, and people got stuck because they couldn't walk along steep, icy slopes or cars got stuck.

Schools were cancelled for the day in Hong Kong last Monday. Most buildings there don't have heat, because who need it because it's always so warm? Except early last week, when temperatures hovered near the freezing mark.

It has since warmed up somewhat in Hong Kong, but it's still pretty chilly by their standards.

Forecasts for the region call for highs in the upper 50s to low 60s over the next few days.

Meanwhile, in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, there was a rare snowfall in recent days.
People struggle through icy slopes last week
in the high elevations around Hong Kong.
Photo by Felix Wong. 

Many observers said Kuwait experienced its first snowfall in the country's history, though frost occasionally hits there during the winter.

The snow in Kuwait didn't amount to much, but it was still quite something, since nobody living there had seen such a thing before.

Temperatures there this time of year in the desert country are often around 70 degrees, and soar well into the 100s in the summer.

A rare snowfall also affected parts of northern Saudi Arabia, accumulating to a couple of inches in spots.

This is a bit of an oversimplification, but generally speaking,  cold snaps in Hong Kong and the Middle East were caused by dips in the jet stream that extended much further south than usual.

Friday, January 29, 2016

No Rest For The Weary: Major New U.S. Storm Due

A truck tipped over by a tornado in Florida
this week. More severe weather is likely across
the South early next week.  Photo by
Amy Beth Bennett, Florida Sun-Sentinel
In this stormy winter of 2016, it's one thing after the other in the Grand Ole' U.S. of A.

Now we have another big nasty storm to talk about. It'll come just a little more than a week after the epic Blizzard of 2016 on the East Coast.

This next storm will be quite different from that blizzard, but it's sure to cause plenty of trouble.

Tornadoes and severe weather look to be the biggest threat with this one.

As is always the case when you're talking about a storm that's still several days away, the details are murky and subject to change.

But we have the broad outlines, and it ain't pretty.


Flood alerts are already up along the northern California and southern Oregon coasts, and winter storm warnings are up in the Sierra Nevada mountains with this thing.

The storm will begin to really get going in the southern Rockies Sunday and Mondat,  then move through the Plains and then into the Great Lakes during the first half of next week. It's going to turn into a strong storm, with lots of wind and a big variety of hazards all the way from California to New England.

Following are some of the bigget threats from this thing


It's a little unusual for NOAA's Storm Prediction Center to begin issuing advisories for severe weather four or five days down the road. At least during the winter, when the atmosphere is often at its least predictable.

But the SPC is saying that severe weather, including tornadoes is a pretty good bet along the Gulf Coast, lower Mississippi Valley, and southern Ohio Valley starting late Monday and continuing through Tuesday.
Forecast map for next Tuesday shows a strong
storm over the middle of the nation, which would
cause a wide variety of weather hazards.

They're actually more confident than usual about the threat of severe storms and tornadoes in the South.

The set up seems to indicate discreet supercells with possible tornadoes ahead of the storm's strong cold front, and a nasty, very gusty, damaging squall line just ahead of the cold front.

This at least has the potential to be another really ugly outbreak of dangerosu weather, so stay tned in that part of the country.


Somewhere in the middle of the country, this powerful storm will likely set off quite a snowstorm with possible blizzard conditions.

The best bet now for this snowstorm would stretch from Colorado through the central Plains and on up toward Minnesota.


Even places that don't get tornadoes, or severe thunderstorms, or a blizzard out of this storm, it's going to get pretty damned windy across much of the nation as the storm plunders on through. I expect we'll see high wind warnings and wind advisories for huge areas of the nation, especially in the Midwest, the Great Lakes region and in a good chunk of the Northeast


There is a risk of flooding on the east side of the storm, as it will probably end up dropping at least one to three inches of rain, possibly locally more.

The biggest threat of flooding will probably be in the central Appalachians, as the storm will bring a surge of warm air along with the rain to rapidly melt the snow that accumulated in that blizzard a week ago.


The New England ski areas can't seem to catch a break this winter. There's been lots of thaws in that neck of the woods, and the biggest snowstorms seem to keep missing.

Since this powerful storm will travel west of New England, expect a surge of very warm air, possibly threatening record highs, by the middle of next week. The storm will also bring at least moderate rains, so this isn't great news for skiers and riders who want to enjoy the Presidents Day weekends in mid-February.

It will turn much colder after the storm goes by, so resorts will make snow. And once the cold air is established, there will be frequent chances of at least light snow, possibly even more than that, as we head into mid-February.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

A Very Tornadic Florida Winter Continues

A tornado dropped one car atop another
in a community college parking lot
in Coconut Creek Florida Wednesday 
There's been a LOT of tornadoes in Florida this winter as El Nino-driven storms have made conditions ripe for twisters in the erstwhile Sunshine State.

Yet another nasty one touched down yesterday in Coconut Creek, Florida, near Fort Lauderdale.

The EF1 tornado flipped cars on a highway and in a college parking lot, ripped the roof off a condominium and caused other damage, NBC Miami reports.

Luckily, only one relatively minor injury was reported in this storm, as opposed to another tornado that killed two people east of Sarasota about 10 days ago.  

I'm pleasantly surprised there weren't more injuries in Wednesday's twister, since it happened in a populated area and did some scary things. Like picking up a car traveling on the southbound lane of the Florida Turnpike and dropping it back down on the northbound lane, says NBC Miami.

El Nino in winter tends to sharpen up the jet stream and send strong storms rolling along the far southern tier of states in the United States. That puts Florida in the cross hairs.

It's certainly not the best winter to enjoy Florida's warm sunshine. Yeah, it's warm, but it's a little scary and difficult to enjoy the beaches when severe storm warnings are blaring.

In addition to the tornadoes, the storms are causing high winds, destructive tides, and especially heavy rain in Florida.  Miami had its wettest December on record. (And Florida also had its warmest December on record, too.)

Along with the severe weather Wednesday, torrential rains hit. West Palm Beach had 4.79 inches of rain yesterday, with a total of over nine inches this January.

It's raining hard in Florida today, and flood watches are now posted. There's also a chance of severe weather and perhaps another isolated tornado today.

Next week, a large new storm threatens more severe weather and tornadoes in parts of the South, including Florida.

Following are a couple videos of the tornado that are pretty damn dramatic.

Here's a video taken at a home in Coconut Creek, Florida, yesterday. It appears to be right on the edge of the tornado. You can see debris flying through the air in the background. Luckily, the guy taking the video wasn't hurt, and his property didn't suffer too much damage:

Here's the tornado crossing the Florida Turnpike. It's hard to see with all the wind and rain, but watch the black car pass the viewer on the right. That's the one you'll see that gets picked up from the southbound lane and tossed to the northbound. REALLY scary:

California Storms About To Sent Apartments, Houses Plunging Into The Pacific Ocean

Apartment buildings teetering on the edge of eroding
cliffs this week in Pacifica, California.
Photo y Leah Millis, San Francisco Chronicle.
A series of winter storms coming off the Pacific Ocean is about to sent some Califrnia apartment buildings and houses plunging off eroding cliffs into the sea, it appears.

The trouble is happening in and around the coastal community of Pacifica, where delicate sand and sandstone cliffs are rapidly eroding as the series of storms brings pounding waves to the coastline.

You'll see a video at the bottom of this post the cliffs eroding before your eyes, and you'll see just how doomed the buildings are.

This erosion has been a problem for years around Pacifica, which is just a little south of San Francisco, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. 

Some of the apartments were condemned some time ago because of the encroaching erosion. Two buildings at one apartment complex were evacuated in 2010. Now, this week, more residents are being forced out by the increasing danger.

While most have left, others vow to stay. Which is risky in terms of buildings falling into the water. And more immediately risky because police might arrest people who stay out of concern for their safety.

The California drought of the past four years had at least one bright spot in Pacifica: The lack of winter storms from 2011 to 2015 meant the erosion slowed dramatically.

It even gave a chance for regional officials to try to save some of the buildings by piling huge rocks at the base of the cliffs and re-enforcing them with concrete.

But you can't stop the power of the oceans.
Another view of the endangered buildings in Pacifica, California
Photo by Leah Millis, San Francisco Chronicle. 

This year,  a series of winter storms, fueled in part by El Nino, have been repeatedly slamming into mostly central and northern California.

The storms have made the cliffs erode rapidly again. The city declared a state of emergency in the past few days after a series of cliff collapses over the weekend.

The last couple of times there was a strong El Nino, like the one we're having this year, the worst storms to hit the California coast came in February and March, so you can see how this is going to be a long couple of months in Pacifica.

Here's that striking video of the erosion in Pacifica with the cliffs collapsing, taken via drone on Saturday:

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Blizzard That Hit U.S. Turned Into A Destructive Storm In Britain

The storm that brought last weekend's blizzard to the
United States traveled across the Atlantic Ocean and
pounded Great Britain on Tuesday. 
After the nor'easter that brought the huge blizzard to much of the United States East Coast last weekend, it traveled across the Atlantic Ocean.

It made a beeline for Great Britain, where it brought more destructive winds and flooding to a region that has seen way too much of it this year.

According to the BBC, the former blizzard did not bring snow to Great Britain, but did bring winds of up to 100 mph that knocked over trucks in Scotland, flooded the Cumbria region, which has already been hit by a few destructive floods this winter.

This latest storm flooded the Glenridding Inn in Cumbria for the fourth time this winter.  A series of storms have smashed their way through the British Isles since at least early December, causing record flooding in places and massive destruction from water and high winds.

During the lateet storm, in Edinburgh, Scotland, a man was injured when the storm broke a chimney and sent it smashing through a bus window.

Students and teachers had to be evacuated via boat Tuesday because flood waters isolated the school they were in.

Widespread power failures were also reported.

Storminess including high winds and flooding, is expected to continue in Britain today.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A Complete Post Mortem Of The Great Blizzard of 2016

Editor's Note: I've been away for a couple days because my dad, Henry, "Red" Sutkoski, passed away Saturday, January 23, 2016 at the age of 95. 

I want to thank him for always encouraging me in any and all ways to pursue every interest that made me happy, which of course includes weather and writing. Nostrovia, dad. The latest Matt's Weather Rapport post follows:

This post-blizzard igloo in New York City was
 jokingly being advertised as a one bedroom
apartment for the low rental rate of $2,500 per month. 
It's been a few days now since the Great Blizzard of 2016 finally trudged out to sea. I've still got a few random thoughts, images and videos that made some impressions on me with this truly historic storm.

Unfortunately, the storm has killed at least 38 people, a big death toll for a modern American storm.

And that death toll might go up, as people are subject to traffic accident on icy roads, carbon monoxide poisoning in houses with snow-clogged vents, heart attacks from the exertion of snow shoveling, and possibly structural collapses from heavy snow.

Transportation is recovering but is still screwed up. The airline industry at last report is still tryin to dig out of the 12,000 or so flight cancellations that had a worldwide ripple effect.

In any event, here the are, in no particular order are some of my impressions of this storm. Also, be sure to scroll to the bottom of this post for a few choice videos of the blizzard you'll want to watch.

Stop Whining About The Forecasts:

As expected forecasts in advance of this blizzard were not perfect. They never are and nobody should expecd them to be.

Even though some parts of the blizzard surprised forecasters, the predictions days ahead of this storm were nothing short of amazing. For three days or more before the storm, meteorologists told us the areas which would get the biggest blast were Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, parts of Kentucky, the mountains of North Carolina, much of New Jersey, Delaware and southeastern Pennsylvania.

Forecasts for the timing of the storm, the depths the snow would accumulate and the timing of the storm were absolutely spot on. That's an amazing job when trying to determine what a powerful nor'easter would do. And now notoriously unnpredictable nor'easters are.

The biggest surprise out of this storm was what happened around New York City, which got its biggest or second biggest snowstorm on record, depending upon where you measured. Twenty five to 20 inches in the NYC area is incredible.
True color satellite photo taken
Sunday clearly shows the snow on the ground
from the blizzard stretching between North
Carolina and southern New England. 

In the days and hours before the storm hit, the New York City metro region was always expected to be near the northern edge of the blizzard conditions.

Meteorologists knew there would be a sharp cutoff between snow measured in feet just to the south, and snow measured in a few inches or just fractions of an inch just to the north.

That sharp cutoff was expected for at least three days ahead of the storm to be near New York.

And it was. But the heavy snow enveloped the metro area, where just a short distance north up the Hudson River Valley, there wasn't much.

Official forecasts had called for six to twelve inches to accumulate in New York City, but every meteorologist I could find emphasized in their forecasts that much more could fall, given the limitations of determining in advance exactly where the heaviest snow would fall.

That means people in the New York region should have been aware before the storm that more than six inches of new snow was a possibility

For anyone loudly complaining the forecast was "wrong," take a chill pill and shut up. In meteorology, the unexpected happens sometimes. Deal with it.

The Coastal Flooding:

In the annals of forecasting this storm, another accuracy of note were the warnings, again well in advance, that the storm surge along parts of the Middle Atlantic Coast would be quite destructive.

That turned out to be true, unfortunately.
People stranded atop a car
by a storm surge Saturday in
Ocean Beach, New Jersey. 

As I noted previously, the flooding along the southern half of the New Jersey shore and in Delaware was worse than in Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Sandy focused its worst destruction on the northern half of New Jersey.

This storm attacked southern New Jersey hard, with several cities, including Lewes, Delaware and Cape May, New Jersey, reporting record high tides. 

Between the damaging storm surge and coastal floods, together with the damage and disruption of several feet of snow in a heavily populated area of the world, this storm is likely to be the first, or among the first 2016 natural disasters to cause over a billion dollars in damage.

Let's Review Record Snowfalls 

An incredible 66.1 inches of snow fell on Mount Mitchell, North Carolina during this storm, likely making it the biggest snowstorm in North Carolina history. Of that, 41 inches came on just Saturday alone.

In West Virginia, 42 inches of fresh powder fell on the community of Glengary, West Virginia.

Among the cities reporting their biggest snowstorm on record with this one are Allentown, Pennsylvania, with 31.9 inches, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 34 inches; Baltimore, 29.2 inches and Philadelphia, 25.3 inches.

Most of these cities had as much or more snow in this one storm than they do during an entire winter.

Heed The Warnings:

In the days leading up to the accurate Blizzard warnings with this storm, meteorologists, emergency managers and other public officials urged people to be off the roads by the time the storm hit.

Highways would rapidly become clogged with snow and stuck cars and trucks. The warnings said people could be stuck for many, many hours in life threatening cold and snow.

A lof of people heeded the warnings, but others didn't. A bunch of people got stuck on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, including a bunch of Duquense college basketball players, who were out there for 30 hours.

Luckily, everyone ended up OK, especially since emergency responsders were able to get out on the highway to make sure everyone had enough gas, food and warmth to make it through the night.

The same thing happened on Interstate 75 in Kentucky, where as many as 3,000 motorists spent the night trapped in their cars. Miraculously, no serious injuries were reported there.
Things were a bit difficult on the streets of  Washintgton DC
during the height of the blizzard. 

I get it that the way the economy works these days, if truckers or freelancers in this ripoff "sharing economy" miss a day of work they miss wages or risk getting fired, no matter what the risk to the employee.

Employers ought to stop being so greedy and give workers a break if going out in the elements risks their lives.

Blizzard's Stupidest Twitterer.

All this stuff about snowbound roads and stuck motorists leads me to my award for the Stupid Twitterer Of the Blizzard Award.

Drum roll, please:

The winner is Todd Starnes!!!!

As the blizzard worsened more than many had expected in and around New York City, Mayor Bill De Blasio initiated a travel ban on area roads.

De Blasio's sensible logic was that he didn't want people stuck in cars in dangerous conditions. Plus, he figured it would be easier to get the city moving again after the blizzard if snow plows could get out there without contending with thousands of stuck cars and trucks in the way of the job.

Todd Starnes, a conservative pundit who doesn't like anything a liberal does, even if it makes sense in an emergency,was outraged. OUTRAGED I say!!!!

He Tweeted that the travel ban, in which the NYPD threatened to arrest errant drivers was martial law, and "This is what life under communism looks like."

Yeah, the government was taking away the freedom for you to go out in your car and screw things up for everybody else.
The Naked Cowboy has been a fixture in Times Square
for years, and he didn't let a little blizzard prevent
him from performingn in his undies, as usual. 

The paranoid World Net Daily also accused New York of enacting martial law by what they said was ordering people to remain in their homes. Of course there was no such order.

The NYPD made it clear that, as always, everybody was free to walk the streets of New York anytime they wished, blizzard or no blizzard.

During the next blizzard, I would invite Starnes to drive to a remote location with a near empty gas tank with no warm clothes or emergency supplies in your car.

What's Next?

The Great Thaw has now settled in so the snows can start melting. Other than this blizzard, it's been a fairly mild winter, and that seems to be continuing. Higher elevations in the Appalachians are likely to hold onto this deep snow for awhile because the thaws won't be too extensive there.

In the wide swath of cities and suburbs buried by the blizzards, daily thaws are likely for the most of the next week. The good news is, it won't get extremely warm, mostly 40s by day, and many places will have a few overnight freezes to slow things down.

Even better news: Not a lot of rain is likely over the next week. Most of the blizzard zone will get a quarter inch or less of rain in the next seven days.

In the short term, at least, this means that flooding from the snow melt will be limited to streets with clogged drains, and poor drainage areas.

But beware: There's lots of snow in the Appalachians, and if there's a particularly heavy rainstorm in the coming few weeks there could be trouble.


The best time lapse video I've seen of the storm was taken by Wayne Bennett in Martinsburg, West Virginia. His camera took one photo every two minutes for 27 hours as the snow accumulated.

I love the hapless skeleton getting buried during the course of the video:

One of the most iconic videos of the blizzard is also the most adorable. Its the panda Tian Tian, absolutely loving the deep snow at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington DC:

Here's some scenes, given to us by Storm Chasing Video, of the record high tide in Lewes, Delaware during the storm:

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Blizzard of 2016 Really IS One For The Record Books

Near record coastal flooding in Sea Isle,
New Jersey this morning.
UPDATE, 2:15 p.m. Saturday

Boy, given the dramatic forecasts ahead of what has turned out to be the Blizzard of 2016, I didn't think this storm would overperform, but it has.

It's still snowing hard in parts of Maryland. Many forecasters said snowfall accumulation would be up to three feet in the most extreme parts of the storm.

Already, Frederick, Maryland is up to three feet or so, and it's still snowing there. (Hi, John and Laura and the kids in Frederick! Sorry/Not Sorry I'm not there to dig you out!

Other areas are over 30 inches. Maybe some places will go over 40 inches by the time this is over.

One already had as of 3 p.m. A town in West Virginia measured 40 inches of new snow, but the storm is almost over there.

As meteorologists told us well in advance, the most dangerous and overlooked by the media feature of this storm would be the coastal flooding

Those forecasts sure were right. Record and near record coastal flooding was reported along the southern half of the Jersey Shore and in Delaware. Many homes and streets were under water this morning.

There was severe flooding in places like Cape May, and Barnegat, where mandatory evacuations were under way. People were rescued from flooded houses in Ocean City.

In southern New Jersey, the flooding was worse than in Superstorm Sandy in 2012, though Sandy's flooding was worse in northern New Jersey than further south anyway. 

Renewed flooding might cause added damage this evening along the East Coast.  

The biggest surprise of the storm was New York City. We knew the forecast for that region was problematic, because different computer models had widely varying estimates for how much the city would get. 

Bus crash amid the snow in Greenwich, Ct. this morning.
The National Weather Service in New York and area meteorologists played it smart. They predicted 6 to 12 inches for the New York metro area, but made it VERY clear in their forecasts that the potential was there for much more than that.

Sure enough, New York had 14 to 16 inches of new snow by 1 p.m. today, and heavy snow will continue the rest of the day. It now looks like 24 to 30 inches is likely in the Big Apple.

All flights at Newark JFK and LaGuardia are canceled through Sunday. Not surprisingly, a travel ban has been instituted in New York. today.

The heavy snow has expanded into far southern and eastern New England, but won't make it into central and northern New England..

It's also beginning to look like eastern Pennsylvania, and not Virginia and Maryland, might end up with the highest snow totals out of this storm. I'm guessing a few spots there might go over three feet of accumulation.

More updates to follow later today and/or tomorrow, so watch back here!

PREVIOUS DISCUSSION, from 7:30 a.m. Saturday morning

As I started writing this before dawn in northwestern Vermont this morning, the sky was clear.

Storm surge flooding in Lewes, Delaware
It was a seasonably cold, calm Saturday morning in January, about zero degrees, and I can see a beautiful full moon sunset over the Adirondacks out my office window. 

Quite a contrast compared to the Blizzard of 2016 smashing the Mid-Atlantic region.

The storm is still playing out as expected. Bands of incredibly heavy snow have pushed in off the Atlantic ocean through Virginia, the Washington DC area, and on into New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

So far, nine deaths have been blamed on the storm.

As dawn broke, Washington DC had already received more than a foot of snow. Just after 6 a.m, thundersnow rattled the Nation's Capital. 

Amounts ranged up to 18 inches in some areas of North Carolina, West Virginia, Virginia and Kentucky.  And it was still snowing hard. I'm still expecting some reports of up to three feet of snow.

In Kentucky, thousands of motorists were trapped on a snow snarled Interstate 75 overnight. Many spent 10 hours or more in their cars.

It also seems the question of whether New York City would get blasted by heavy snow has been answered. It was snowing like hell there early this morning. Three inches of snow fell at LaGuardia airport in just an hour

The National Weather Service there has upped expected accumulation to 15 to 20 inches. Earlier forecasts indicated a foot or less. The storm has clearly nudged a bit further north than many had predicted.

Snow rapidly piling up on Washington DC streets early
Saturday morning via @salbal9 on Twitter
The storm is affecting points way to the south, too.  Light snow showers fell all the way south to Mobile, Alabama and the Florida panhandle. A little sleet fell in Lake City, Florida.

Tides are rising fast for the first high tide of the storm, expected around dawn today.

It will be the first of three storm surges that are sure to cause serious damage from Long Island to Virginia. Winds have already gusted as high as 85 mph on the Delmarva Penisula.

At coastal Lewes, Deleware, early this morning, winds were sustained at 59 mph, gusting to 72 mph, and there was a four-foot storm surge.

Later the tide at Lewes was up to nine feet, just under the record for the location, and still rising. The storm surge at Cape May, New Jersey was entering major flood stage by 7:30 a.m. this morning.

Many images on social media have popped up showing terrible shoreline flooding in New Jersey and Delaware.

Pretty scary! Lots of destruction.  And a sign of an awfully intense, big storm.

I'm going to take a hit from people who deride anybody who even hints global warming exists, and they will laugh at how anybody could suggest a raging blizzard could be a sign of climate change.

It's pretty much impossible to definitively blame this blizzard on global warming or say it influenced the storm. But it really is plausible global warming might have been one factor in this storm. Not the main factor, surely, but it might have given this nor'easter a boost.

An energized jet stream, linked to El Nino, and a powerful disturbance in the atmosphere the oversimplified and main reasons this storm happened.

But water temperatures just off the East Coast are warmer than normal. This nor'easter is feeding off that. Warmer water can supply more moisture to a storm than colder water, and this storm is taking full advantage of that fact.

The warm water is possibly warm in part because of global warming, so we have a wetter storm that can produce more precipitation.

You ask, but it's snowing! Snow isn't warm!

Well, yes, but global warming doesn't repeal winter. It obviously still gets cold in the winter obviously. Pretty much always will. If the warm moisture feeding off the Atlantic runs into that normal winter cold air, as it's doing now, you get these epic storms.

Again, I'll stress that a single event like a blizzard does not prove or disprove global warming. But it could well have been a factor in this mess. There would have been a big snowstorm with or without global warming, but perhaps the snow is a bit deeper because of it.

We'll argue more about that later, I'm sure. For now, we'll spend the day watching this truly epic storm.

Friday, January 22, 2016

As Expected, Blizzard Of 2016 Is Totally Raging Now

A warning Friday on a highway
on the East Coast. Not sure if a
blizzard or a "lizzard" is worse.
Well, it was certainly advertised and the Blizzard of 2016 is certainly raging.

This thing is just beginning and everything is going to pot. Pretty much all the nation's flight schedule is screwed up, since you pretty much can't fly in or out of places like Washington DC, Philadelphia and most other cities in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast.

I'm getting reports of 18 inches of snow already in western North Carolina and 16 inches in eastern Kentucky, and we're not even into the teeth of the storm.  

Sadly, there are also already reports of seven deaths associated with this storm, all of them so far in traffic crashes. Unfortunately, this death toll is sure to rise.

How big is this storm?

Eric Holthaus in Slate did a back of the envelop estimate which indicates enough snow will have fallen in thsi storm to give every man, woman and child in American 7,000 snowballs.

Quite a little snowball fight, then.

It's still playing out pretty much as expected. There are signs that the New York City area could get a bigger blow than some forecasts have suggested, but we'll have to wait and see on that.

As of 8 p.m. Friday, the first of the storm's particularly heavy snow bands were moving into the Washington DC area. If you haven't made it home yet if you live in that area, you're screwed. Snowfall rates will vary, but when the heaviest bands pass overhead, snowfall rates could get up to three inches per hour.

 The Mid-Atlantic region is still in the bullseye, with one to three feet expected.

Oh, and a Jim Cantore alert: There's a very good chance of thundersnow with this storm, which is the Weather Channel Cantore's favorite weather.

The bad weather goes way south. In North Carolina, they're experiencing very lovely sleet and freezing rain thundestorms this evening. Ugh.

Icy, snowy weather is extending as far south as Atlanta.

I'm still most worried tomorrow about coastal areas. With winds gusting to near hurricane force and unusually high tides and storm surges, this could be a real disaster for places like Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey.

This coastal flood potential has been well advertised for days now, but news about it has been squelched by the sexy prospect of record snow accumulations.

We'll have a LOT more to talk about with this storm first thing Saturday morning, when this disastrous storm reaches its peak.

Stay tuned!

Blizzard Now Trudging Into The East Coast

The American computer model predicts nearly three
feet of snow in parts of the Mid-Atlantic (brown and gray
shades, and more than a foot in many other areas (yellow and orange)
As of this morning, snow was spreading into Virginia and nearby areas, marking the start of what still promises to be an epic blizzard.

Things are already totally screwed up. Good luck getting any flights along the East Coast. So many flights are cancelled that it's gumming up the works nationwide.

Store shelves across the Mid-Atlantic states have been cleared of bread, bottled water and all the other things people buy in a panic before a storm hits.  

Washington DC still seems to be the major city most in the bullseye for this storm, with more than two feet of wind-driven snow still expected.  The biggest snowstorm on record in DC dropped 28 inches of snow, so this one could set a new record.

Even before reaching the East Coast, this storm caused problems. A likely tornado damaged at least 10 houses in Lamar, Mississippi, and there were several other reports of hail and damaging winds near the Gulf Coast.

Tornado warnings were up just west of Tallahassee before dawn this morning.

More than six inches of snow plastered Little Rock, Arkansas, and a nasty mix of snow and freezing rain, all coming down hard, was trashing most of Tennessee early this morning.

The forecast for this storm remains remarkably consistent, changing little over the past three days, except along the northern edge of the areas expected to be affected by this. More on that in a minute.

One to three feet of snow is still expected in the Mid-Atlantic states and the central Appalachians, nasty coastal flooding is still expected from Maryland to Long Island, with Delaware and New Jersey most under the gun.  A very nasty, damaging ice storm is expected in much of North Carolina.

The question mark is around New York City, the largest metro area in America and the one place where no matter how good the meteorologists are, the forecast for this blizzard will probably be wrong.

There's going to be a strong cutoff along the northern edge of the storm between blizzard and nothing

As Slate writer Eric Holthaus tweeted this morning, one computer model had 20 inches of snow falling with this storm in Princeton, New Jersey but only two inches in the Bronx, just 60 miles to the north

The zone in which you transition from feet of snow to just a dusting is almost definitely going to be a little different from forecasts, because it always is in these situations.
The bread aisle in a Baltimore supermarket
was cleared out by last night. 

So, just like in a difficult blizzard forecast last January, parts or all of the New York City region are going to be buried in more snow than expected, angering just about everyone, or much less snow will fall than expected, which would mean no blizzard, and everyone will be angry about that.

Kudos to the National Weather Service meteorologists in and around New York, and all the TV meteorologists there for dealing with this situation professionally, and not quitting, and going into a corner to cry like I and a lot of other people would have if confronted with this forecasting nightmare.

At this point, the National Weather Service is going with six to 10 inches of snow in Manhattan, with much less to the north and much more to the south.

Forecasters are more certain about strong winds in the New York area, so the blizzard warning is still up in that region. We'll see what happens.

And to everyone in the blizzard zone, definitely heed all the weather warnings, don't travel until it's over and the roads begin to clear up and all will be fine.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Thursday Evening Thoughts On Epic East Coast Blizzard

I have to wonder if the Mid-Atlantic states will
look like New England after the epic
Blizzard of 1978 shown here. 
I'll get to some forecast and news updates about the giant nor'easter and blizzard about to slam the eastern United States, but first some thoughts:

You get a mix of emotions when there's an enormous storm about to hit any part of the country.

The most important piece is, and I hate to say it, people are going to die in this. No question about it.

Some might succumb to potential tornadoes this evening. People might die in traffic accidents on icy roads. Maybe a tree will fall on a house in a North Carolina ice storm tomorrow, killing someone in a bedroom.

Maybe somebody will have a heart attack shoveling snow. Or a snow-clogged vent will poison somebody with carbon dioxide. A coastal flood surge might drown somebody, or give them a fatal case of hypothermia as they get soaked in the towering waves on the Jersey shore.

I'm being morbid here, I admit. All but a handful of the tens of millions of people affected by this storm and blizzard will be just fine, and they'll have fun stories to tell to their grandkids.
Luckily, with ever big snowstorm or
blizzard we get a good sense of gallows humor. 

Still, even weather weenies like me, who live in a spot that will suffer absolutely no effects from this storm, get a little shiver of excitement at big storms like this. (I live in sunny northwestern Vermont, where not so much as one snowflake will come down from this big storm.)

Which means you do get a little pang of guilt over the thrill of a storm, knowing that this thing could really hurt somebody.

Like people at a wake or a funeral, sometimes we resort to humor to deal with this jumble of emotions. Yes, this isn't nearly as fraught as losing a close relative or friend, but the idea is the same.

There's lots of humor floating around this storm. Much of it is recycled from past storms, but that's OK. You also want the familiar along with the laughs.

The ever-reliable Onion offers us a whole laundry list of tips to "survive" the blizzard.

Among The Onion's tips: Purchase a CB radio to maintain lines of communication with other lunatics in your neighborhood; steer wildly when you hit the first patch of ice while driving;  be one of those idiots who buys all the bottled water at the supermarket;  and most importantly, criticize your mayor.

Now, this interlude.

A third grade teacher named Mary Morris in Strawberry Plains, Tennessee has come up with an awesome parody of Adele's exquisite, dramatic, but overplayed song "Hello" reworked as "Snow"

It has all the drama a fed-up teacher deals with in anticipating a snow day, as almost every school on the East Coast south of New England is experiencing.

The video is coming up, but sample lyrics:

"We need a snow day tomorrow
At least a good delay."


"I love it when I get the call
and I don't have to work at all."


"If it's going to be this cold
the least it could do is snow.
If I have to keep my students inside one more time for recess
I will lose my mind"

Here's the video. But scroll down beneath the video for the latest news and updates about the storm:


You just saw drama, or melodrama at least, in the above video, but the drama of the storm has certainly gotten going this Thursday afternoon and evening.

As expected, severe weather has developed in Louisiana and Mississippi, and it's spreading east. There have been a few tornado warnings this afternoon, but I haven't seen a confirmed tornado report yet. That could easily change.

As I write this at 5:30 p.m. EST, there were a few tornado warnings in central Mississippi, so this is definitely a developing story.

I'm very struck by the extremely close between the adjacent tornado watch and winter storm warning in northern Mississippi and Louisiana. That's a sure sign of a dynamic, rare, and awfully intense winter storm.

States of emergency have been declared in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina as the storm bears down tomorrow.  
Winter storm and blizzard warnings covered
a huge section of the nation Thursday evening (pini
and red areas) The yellow area is a tornado watch. 

If anything, forecasts of snow accumulation have increased today from North Carolina to New York City.

In some places, like Asheville, North Carolina, parts of Virginia and Maryland, this storm might exceed the levels of the thought-to-be impossible-to-beat Superstorm of March, 1993.

There is even serious talk in some areas of snow thunderstorms with accumulation rates of up to five inches per hour. That is INSANE!

An incredibly enormous area of blizzard warnings, blizzard watches and winter storm warnings extends from Arkansas to Long Island, and from southern Ohio to northern Georgia. That is One. Big. Area.

Nobody should try to drive, or fly to and from the Middle Atlantic States Friday and Saturday. Trains are kaput, too. The Washington DC metro is shutting down. 

Other than that, the forecast hasn't changed much. We're still expecting a terrible ice storm in North Carolina, at least for the areas that won't totally get buried in snow. Coastal flooding is an enormous concern from North Carolina to Long Island.

A measure of the concern comes from Hoboken, New Jersey, where coastal flood barriers were put in place today. That only happens in the most serious storms.

So, hunker down everyone in the storm zone! For most of you, it will be a wild, fun ride, as long as you stay safe. And preferably indoors.

Giant Storm Update: Mid-Atlantic States Still Totally Screwed

Traffic hopelessly mired Wednesday evening near Washington
DC after an inch of snow made roads icy. So what are
they going to do with the 20 inches forecast over the weekend? 
Well, this doesn't bode well.

The Washington DC area and its surrounding suburbs are still expecting a blizzard, with one to two feet of snow and strong winds Friday and Saturday.

Wednesday evening, a little mini-preview storm rolled through Our Nation's Capitol, dropping maybe an inch of snow.

Everything fell apart. Traffic came to a standstill on the ice and there were tons of accidents. Even President Obama's motorcade got stalled in the mess and kept sliding off the roads.

Things are still snarled down there this morning.

An inch of snow mired Washington. What's 18 inches going to do?

If I lived in that region, I'd just hibernate and forget the whole thing.

It's pretty impressive that the forecasts have remained pretty consistent regarding this storm for three days now, at least.

The forecast still calls for the heaviest snow - one to three feet - to fall in parts of the Mid-Atlantic states and the central Appalachians.  A few cities in Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland might end up having their largest snowstorms on record.

Also, as I mentioned yesterday, the expected deep snow is what everybody's talking about, but the biggest danger to life and property are coastal floods and surges, a likely nasty ice storm in the Carolinas, and possible tornadoes along the Gulf Coast, and in and near Florida.

Let's break it down again:


There's an enhanced risk of severe storms and tornadoes today, especially in much of Louisiana, southern Mississippi and southwestern Alabama. An enhanced risk, according to NOAA's Storm Prediction Center, means numerous severe thunderstorms are likely to develop.

In this case, the storm that will cause the Mid-Atlantic blizzard and ice is gathering strength as it travels from Texas toward the Carolinas. As it does so, it will draw warmth, moisture and instability from the Gulf of Mexico, leading to the tornado and severe storm threat.

The threat of severe thunderstorms and maybe a tornado or two will spread into northwestern Florida Friday.


As I said, everybody's talking about all the snow that looks like it's going to fall, but some people are in for a very dangerous ice storm with this one.

Pinning down exact locations and amounts of freezing rain are always tough with these kinds of storms, but the target area looks to be central North Carolina, parts of South Carolina and maybe southeastern Virginia.
The scene in Raleigh, North Carolina during a snow and ice
storm last February. Similar scenes can be expected Friday
and Saturday in North Carolina as snow and ice move
in. Photo byLindsay Webb. 

There will probably be enough ice in these areas to bring down trees and power lines. This being the south, all this ice is going to create a HUGE mess in the Carolinas.

This storm will end up reminding of that famous photo from last winter, when a snow and ice storm resulted in a car fire, lots of stuck cars and chaos on a Raleigh, North Carolina road.

I'd stay home Friday through the weekend if I lived in the Carolinas.


Another aspect of the upcoming storm that hasn't been getting enough attention is the coastal flooding that's sure to hit the shores from Virginia to Long Island.

Most of the coastal flood watches mention moderate to major coastal flooding through three high tide cycles this weekend. The moon is full, so that makes the high tides associated with the storm even higher.

Sea levels that have increased in recent decades due to global warming and East Coast land sinking will help make matters worse with this storm.

Many forecasters are expecting tides in some areas to be among the top five highest on record. Huge battering waves amid 60 mph winds will make it even worse. I'm afraid we're going to see images on the news of beachfront homes crumbling, being ripped apart by waves or being washed away by the storm tides.

This piece of the storm is especially dangerous, so coastal communities from Long Island to North Carolina ought to be super, super careful.


Blizzard watches are up for Washington DC and Baltimore, Maryland and in the New York City area and Long Island. Winter storm watches and warnings are up for a huge area from Arkansas to New York.

This is forecast to be the second or third deepest snowstorm on record for Washington DC. I don't think they'll beat the record of 28 inches set in 1922.

But 20 inches or so of snow is not going to be a happy time for our nation's capitol. Maybe all those people running for president will drop out of the race today, because they don't want to live in a town that shuts down in an inch of snow, never mind two feet.

It won't help that the winds will gust to 55 mph or so during the storm, so maybe we'll get lucky and the drifts will cover the Capitol building burying all those Congress creatures, putting them out of sight, out of mind.

Seriously, though. Anybody who needs to prepare for this storm better do it today. Assuming the roads improve from last night's epic inch of snow.

Up in New York City and Long Island, less snow is forecast than in Washington, DC. The Big Apple is forecast to get maybe 8 to 12 inches of snow, along with those strong winds.

The forecast for New York has a big bust potential. They'll be near the northern edge of the storm's heavy snow. If the storm jogs just a tiny bit north, New York could get MUCH more snow than foreast.

If the storm curves just a wee bit south, New York would get barely a few inches, if that.

In some of the hardest hit areas, especially in West Virginia, western and central Virginia and the North Carolina mountains, I still wouldn't be surprised if we get some reports of three feet of snow out of this.

Eventually, all this snow will melt. If it goes to quickly, it could maybe lead to flooding down the road. Long range forecasts for a little over a week for now call for above normal temperatures and above normal rainfall in areas that are expected to be hardest hit by this blizzard.

It never ends, does it?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Russia's Far East Even More Buried In Snow Than Washington DC Will Be

People struggle through deep snow in Primorsky, Russia,
near Vladivostok, whch has had record snowfall
this week. Photo by Alexander Khitrov/Prime Media
As the Mid-Atlantic states and central Appalachians prepare for what is forecast to beome maybe one of the biggest snowstorms in memory, Russia's Far East is digging out from its own epic snowstorm.

Siberian Times reports some areas had as much snow in two days as what usually falls over the course of three months.  

Vladivostok, the major population center in the region, had two months worth of snow in two days, the Siberian Times says.

The region around Vladivostok, on the northwestern shore of Pacific Ocean, is used to tough winters. Prevailing winter winds from Siberia ensure lots of cold weather, and the proximity to the elatively warm ocean help make winter storms routine there.

Kinda like New England, except worse.

Go back to the link to the Siberian Times for lots of pictures of the Vladivostok region buried in snow.

Here is a video of somebody enjoying the deep Vladivostok snow, sort of, I guess.

I Knew 2015 Was Going To Be The Hottest On Record, But WOW!

2015 was warmer than average in most places on
Earth, except northeastern Canada and the central North
Atlantic Ocean. 
To nobody's surprise, the year 2015 was the world's hottest on record, says NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information.

The surprise, though, is by how wide a margin the record was broken, and how many heat records for Earth have been piling up over the past many months and several years.

Here are some of the highlights in the report, issued today:   

--- The year 2015 was 1.62 degrees warmer than the 20th century average. That beats the old record by 0.29 degrees, the widest margin for any year to break a new mark for heat.

Breaking a record by about a third of a degree doesn't sound like much, but when averaged over the entire globe, it's a lot.

By the way, the old record for hottest year on Earth in modern records was set way back in 2014. Yep, a little over a year ago.

--- 2015 marked the fourth time this century that the Earth broke a record for heat. There are a few climate change deniers that are still clinging to the myth that global warming peaked in 1998, but 1998 has now been relegated to a tie for 6th hottest on record, behind 2015, 2014, 2010, 2013, 2005 in that order.

Also, some people who say global warming doesn't exist say graphs show a leveling off of global warming starting in 1998. But that "pause" really didn't exist, if you look at the recent yearly heat records. And if you add 2014 and 2015 to the graph, you see global temperatures still trending up, up, up, up.

--- Ten months in 2015 were the hottest on record. Five of those months broke the record for heat by the widest margin observed in modern recofds.

--- The latest NOAA report also included the analysis for December, 2015, which - surprise! -- was the hottest on records in data that dates back to 1880. December broke the previous record for the hottest 12th month by a whopping full 2 degrees.

A monthly global departure of two degrees above normal has never been observed in modern records until now.

By the way, December was also the hottest on record in the United States as a whole, and was the hottest on record where I live in Vermont by a huge margin.

It's interesting that there's a persistent cold patch in the North Atlantic Ocean that has showed up consistently for months or even years now. Many scientists suspect that melting ice from Greenland is affecting ocean currents, leading to that cold spot in the Atlantic.

Which means even a cold statistic is troubling in the age of global warming.

Obviously, 2015 got a boost in temperature from El Nino, which tends to raise global heat, especially when you get a strong one like the current El Nino now under way.

Still, when you break records by margins like this, something other than El Nino is going on, and I can't think of anything other than global warming, despite what the skeptics say.

When El Nino fades, we'll likely have some years that are not the hottest on record. I'd say 2016 might or might not be as hot as 2015, and my inkling is 2017 will be cooler than 2015, as El Nino will certainly have faded by then. But then again, I've been surprised before

Regardless, unless somebody can show convincing evidence to the contrary, I would also bet there will be years not that far beyond 2017 that will be even hotter than the sweaty 2015 was.

Big Snows Not The Biggest Threat From Upcoming Stormal

I seriously doubt coastal flooding will be as
bad as in Superstorm Sandy in New Jersey, shown
here, but there is a threat of coastal damage
with this upcoming nor'easter. 
The East Coast is still gearing up for one of those blockbuster nor'easters that tend to get us weather geeks excited, the populace panicked and snow lovers rejoicing, or cursing if the snow misses.

Of course, the forecast is still tricky, and everybody is trying to pin down exactly who gets the most snow, the most wind, the most tidal flooding, that sort of thing.

I think forecasts for the nature of the storm will get a little more precise, accurate and certain later today. That's because the main initial weather disturbance that will cause this storm is coming ashore over the United States West Coast.

That will enable weather instruments and meteorologists to get a more detailed and complete assessment of what's going on in the atmosphere. It's easier to measure such things overhead on land, than it is when things are still over the remote Pacific Ocean.

The forecast for the storm will still end up being imperfect, as they always are for nor'easters, but at least by the end of the day we'll have higher confidence as to what's going on.

Already, winter storm warnings were up this morning for parts of Kentucky and Tennessee due to a smaller, initial storm rolling through ahead of the main action coming in Friday.

A wide area from the Ohio Valley to much of the Appalachians and East Coast are indeed due for a pretty big dump. Some areas in the central Appalachians and parts of the Middle Atlantic states could end up measuring the snow in feet, not inches.

While up to three feet of snow is certainly a big deal, if it materializes, this isn't the only threat from this likely upcoming storm. In fact, the snow isn't even the most serious threat, though it's the aspect of the expected nor'easter that's getting the most attention.

Much more worrisome is the good chance this storm will bring on some serious coastal flooding and coastal erosion. Secondary threats also include damaging icing, the threat of severe weather and possibly tornadoes, flooding, and of course, the snow.  
Forecast maps are still showing a strong nor'easter
on the East Coast Saturday.

Let's break it down:


This storm might ultimately be remembered more for its coastal flooding and damage than the snow it will probably dump.

The storm will come along this weekend when the moon is full, which means tides will already be higher than usual.

The barometric pressure in this storm, when it's off the Mid-Atlantic coast, is forecast to be quite low. Such low pressure means the air isn't pressing down on the ocean so much, so the water can expand upward. That would contribute to higher tides, too.

The counterclockwise flow, from the east, will mean strong winds will blow over large expanses of the western Atlantic Ocean and push the water toward the East Coast, further increasing tides.

Add to that the fact that sea levels have risen a bit due to global warming, so the starting point from which the ocean water will rise and potentially cause flooding is that much higher.

While it's still uncertain how bad the coastal flooding might end up being, forecasters are getting concerned.

Yesterday, the National Weather Service office in Mount Holly, in southern New Jersey said this storm might bring one of the Top Five highest tides on record, and suggested people with coastal property prepare now.

In New York City, some forecasters feared the tide might become as high as it was during Hurricane Irene in August, 2011. Irene wasn't as bad as Superstorm Sandy a year later, but Irene still flooded parts of Lower Manhattan.

Again, nobody is sure how bad any coastal flooding might be, but it's definitely something to watch


As the storm begins to get it's act together near and north of the Gulf Coast Thursday some severe thunderstorms and possibly even tornadoes could break out. If that happens, the best chance is in Louisiana, western Mississippi and maybe southern Arkansas.

As the storm moves east, there's an uncertain chance of more severe weather in Florida. That prospect is iffy since they'e already had enough with the tornadoes and severe thunderstorms and damaging winds over the past week or so.


There will be a transition zone between the heavy snow to the north and rain to the south and east as this storm gets going along or off the Carolina coast.

It looks like there could well be a zone of freezing rain -- maybe a lot of it -- in the Southeast. I'm not sure yet, but the best bet looks to be in much of North Carolina. Maybe southern Virginia, too. There is a chance that enough freezing rain will accumulate in some areas to bring down lots of trees and power lines.

Forecasting ice storms this far in advance is particularly tricky. This IS something to keep an eye on though.


As it's developing the storm will dip down toward the Gulf of Mexico (as I noted in the severe weather section above) When it does that, it will pick up boatloads of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico.

Nor'easters tend to also draw a LOT of moisture from the Atlantic Ocean as they develop. Waters just off the Eastern Seaboard are much warmer than normal. That means the storm will be able to draw even more moisture into its system than normal, since warmer water is more easily drawn into weather systems.

That opens up the possibility of flooding in southeastern North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.

It's been an incredibly wet winter in that section of the country, so it wouldn't take much to set off some flooding.

That said, although flooding is always dangerous, this will fall well short of a mega flood disaster, like the one that struck South Carolina last fall. 


Yes, we have to talk about the snow. Remember how I said in the flooding section that the water off the East Coast is unusually warm, and the storm can thusly draw in more moisture than usual.

When that big moisture load hits the cold air north and west of the storm, the snow would become particularly heavy. That's why everyone is so excited and panicky over this potential storm. Because the snow could come down harder than it does in a "normal" nor'easter.

The first winter storm watch for heavy snow with this storm was issued for much of West Virginia. You'll see those watches and alerts spreading a lot during the day today and tomorrow.

I wouldn't be surprised to see isolated snow totals of up to three feet in the mountains of West Virginia, western Virginia and maybe North Carolina.

The National Weather Service office in Washington/Baltimore appeared ready as of mid-morning to issue a blizzard watch for later Friday and Saturday. 

In some areas, the snow will be wet and heavy. And possibly mixed with freezing rain. That would cause widespread power failures in the most affected areas. Again, it's too soon to pin down precisely who gets the most snow, who gets the dry, powdery snow, and who gets the more dangerous wet and heavy stuff that knocks down trees and power lines.
Sorry, northern New England snow enthusiasts.
It's still looking you''re going to miss out on
the upcoming nor'easter, but you did get a bit of
snow yesterday, as seen in this photo taken
Tuesday morning in Colchester, Vermont. 

There are snow lovers here where I live in northern New England. Miracles can happen, but it still looks like northern New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and western Maine are going to sit this storm out

Southern New England is going to be living on the edge. I'd hate to be a meteorologist in places like Massachusetts and Connecticut right now. The northern edge of the precipitation is going to have a sharp cut off between heavy and light.

If the storm goes literally just 20 miles north or south of where it is forecast to go, areas in southern New England that are forecast to get light snow could get dumped on, or areas that are forecast to be buried could get next to nothing.

By the way, if, on the day before a nor'easter, you forecasted it to go 50 miles west or east of where it actually goes, you've still done an excellent forecasting job with these notoriously fickle storms. It's nearly impossible to get the path right within a margin of 20 miles.

There's still going to be a lot of updates on this storm as forecasts become more refined.

As I noted yesterday, there's a lot of hype out there. And a lot of information to digest, just in this blog post alone.

If it looks like you're going to get hit with this storm, just relax, chill, make whatever preparations local forecasters tell you to make. And then ride it out at home where you're safe and warm - unless you're right along the coast.

A few places might end up getting a truly memorable storm, we'll have to wait and see. But it's winter, not the end of the world. So enjoy the ride.