Wednesday, May 31, 2017

No Strong Vermont Storms Yesterday, But Today Could Bring 'Em

There's a slight chance of severe storms in areas shaded in
yellow today; Dark green has a marginal risk of severe storms
It turns out no strong to severe thunderstorms hit our fair state of Vermont yesterday.

Those storms stayed in New York and especially Pennsylvania, where there were quite a few reports of sizable hail and wind damage.

Here in Vermont, cloud largely hung in, suppressing storms. Also, some stable, cool air from the North Atlantic was brought in by strong southeast winds and made it all the way through Vermont into far eastern New York.

That marine air also did a lot to suppress storms Tuesday.

Today, we're in a similar weather pattern as yesterday with two differences. There will probably be more sun this morning than yesterday. Plus the wind has more of a south to southwesterly component, which means less stable, damp air from the Atlantic.

Yet another disturbance is coming in fron the west, so we stand a better chance of thunderstorms than yesterday. At the very least, there will be quite a few showers around this afternoon.

It's also slightly more likely that a few storms today will get strong to marginally severe. That means a few locally damaging wind gusts and a few towns will get some garden-punishming hail. These strong storms could happen anywhere in Vermont, but as of early this morning, southern Vermont looks like the most likely target.

Even there, NOAA's Storm Prediction Center has a slight chance of severe weather.

As is always the case, most of us won't get strong to severe storms. If they occur, they'll be widely scattered, with maybe a couple of reports of wind and damage here and there across Vermont and much of the rest of the Northeast.

The usual safety precaution applies. If you hear thunder or see dark clouds gathering to the west, time to head indoors and wait it out. And postpone that hiking or boating trip until a nicer day. Tomorrow might even work.

If you're sick of rain and cool weather and clouds, I can't help you much. After a break Thursday when most of us won't get rain, showers are a good bet Friday, and then Sunday through Tuesday.

Oh, well.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Bit Of A Severe Storm Threat In Vermont, New York Today

Areas in yellow stand a slight chance of getting severe
thunderstorms this afternoon. This includes parts
of western Vermont. 
There's a chance of some severe thunderstorms today in parts of our region, especially around southern Vermont and eastern New York from about Ticonderoga south.

Not everybody is going to get a severe storm, but a few places might.  

NOAA's Storm Prediction Center says the best chance of severe weather - a slight chance -  runs from Addison and Rutland counties in Vermont southwestward through eastern and central New York and then down into central Pennsylvania.

In this zone, a few storms could produce gusty winds, hail, and torrential downpours. Within this slight risk zone, there is even a miniscule chance of a tornado or two. But don't hold your breath on that prospect.

I'll stress that most of Vermont and New York will just get showers and garden variety thunderstorms today. Only a few places will get scary storms.  In fact, there's still a chance we'll get lucky and see absolutely no severe weather.

And no, we can't tell you in advance which towns get the scary storms and which towns just get May showers.

One thing that might inhibit the development of severe storms is overcast skies ahead of the expected storms. Sunshine would have increased atmospheric instability, which would help with the development of storms.

Also, an initial band of showers coming into eastern New York late this morning and Vermont by around noon could also help quash storms later.

However, there's plenty of cold air aloft and a weather disturbance coming in from the west, so that could help set up some pretty good activity.

There is a weather model called the HRRR which forecasts conditions over the next few hours. It's usually relatively accurate with predicted showers and thunderstorms in the near term, but of course it's not perfect.

The HRRR has that initial band of showers and maybe embedded thunderstorms coming into Vermont by noon.

Following that, the HRRR depicts a stronger band of thunderstorms forming in central New York and then moving into central Vermont around 4 or 5 p.m today.  For what it's worth, this forecast model has the strongest storms late this afternoon very roughly within 30 miles of a line from Middlebury to St. Johnsbury.

Within this zone, there could be some locally very heavy rain. Widespread flash flooding is NOT expected, but there could be a couple trouble spots with water here and there if the rain is particularly heavy in a few towns.

Remember, that forecast is NOT a guarantee and NOT set in stone. It's just a general idea. Could come true, or maybe not.

Your best bet today is just to keep an eye on the sky and head indoors if you hear thunder or see dark clouds gathering to your west and south.

By the way, there's also a very good chance of showers and thunderstorms Wednesday afternoon, too.  A few of the storms could be on the strong side, but most won't be.

Worst Thunderstorm in 100 Years Kills 16 In And Around Moscow, Russia

The roof of the Kremlin was among those damaged in
what was probably the worst thunderstorm in recent
Moscow history on Monday. 
Here in the United States, it's the peak of the severe thunderstorm and tornado season, but the worst outbreak of severe weather lately seems to have been in unlikely location of Moscow, Russia.  

An extreme thunderstorm packing winds of at leaset 70 mph swept Moscow and surrouding areas Monday, killing at least 16 people and injuring at least 150, the BBC said. 

Many locals said it was the worst storm to strike Moscow in as many as 100 years.

Five pedestrians were killed by falling trees. Two people died when their summer house near Moscow when a tree fell on it.

 Moscow is not used to such storms and buildings could not withstand the onslaught. Debris flew through the streets of Moscow as roofs blew off, windows shattered and walls collapsed. Hundreds of trees fell throughout the city.  One report said 3,500 Moscow trees toppled.

Even the roof of the Kremlin Senate was damaged. The BBC said a Canadian tourist, Frank Davis, told them debris was flying around in all directions.

 Below are some videos of the Moscow storm. The first one includes footage of a tennis center being torn apart:

Russia is famous for its dash cam videos, since everybody's got a dash cam. Here's a dramatic one in the storm:

Yet another compilation video:

Finally, here's what the Moscow storm did to some revolving doors:

Monday, May 29, 2017

Back To The Wet In Vermont, Northeast

A cloudy early morning this Memorial Day over St. Albans,
Vermont signals the start of another extended rainy period .
I flew in to Burlington, Vermont late last night and am now home from a trip to the Midwest.

Apparently, I missed some pretty nice weather in Vermont Saturday and Sunday (though the weather was pretty decent where I was in South Dakota, too.)  

Now, it's back to the wet.

We're not breaking any kind of rainfall records this month, but precipitation has been consistent, and above normal this May.

So let's close out the month of May with another wet spell, shall we?

As of early this Memorial Day morning, a decent slug of rain was over Ontario, New York, Pennsylvania and far southern New England and it was headed this way.

If you missed your chance for outdoor parties, barbecues and such Saturday and Sunday, you're out of luck.

Today looks pretty wet, especially late this morning and afternoon, though precipitation might taper off this evening.  Don't worry about anything too terribly heavy. It'll be a soaker, but not a flood, that's for sure.

Unlike yesterday, today, under the clouds and rain, look to be fairly cool and raw for this time of year.  Temperatures were in the 50s to low 60s at dawn. Readings might go up a few degrees before the rain sets it, but then it'll settle down to near 60 degrees. Rather chilly.

We'll stay under the threat of rain through Wednesday.  An upper level low pressure system will get humg up near us, mostly to our northwest. That will swing some troughs of low pressure - really mini-cold fronts across our region Tuesday and Wednesday.

The strong spring sun, comhined with instabillity from these mini cold fronts will set the stage for lots of showers Tuesday and Wednesday, especially in the afternoons.

Especially if morning sun breaks through both days, we'll probably see some thunderstorms as well. While most places will have nothing severe, a couple thunderstorms both days could hustle up some gusty winds and small hail across Vermont and the rest of the Northeast.

In fact, NOAA's Storm Prediction Center has Vermont and other area of the northeastern United Sttes under a margional risk of severe storms both Tuesdayt and Wednesday.

Beyond that, I don't see signs of any summer heat coming our way anytime soon.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Pics, Video From Saturday's Severe Weather

Ominous storm in Edgar Springs, Missouri Saturday. 
As expected, a wide swath of the nation from Texas to Virginia were blasted by severe weather Saturday.

This  including a few tornadoes (though fortunately not that many), but the day especially featured strong winds, giant hail and flash floods.

There was an incredibly 386 reports of strong, damaging winds and nearly 300 reports of large hail, according to NOAA's Storm Prediction Center. 

Hail a little bit bigger than softballs pummeled Adrian, Missouri.

Hail bigger than baseballs in Adrian, Missouri Saturday.
The severe weather went as far east as near Richmond, Virginia, where hail as big as hens eggs punched through car windows and damaged homes in the area.

Severe weather is still expected in a stripe from Texas to Mississippi, and in much of the Ohio Valley and Mid-Atlantic states, though it might not be quite as widespread as Saturday.

As bad as Saturday was, it could have been worse, given the extreme instability in the atmosphere across parts of Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas.

The instability - the potential for explosive severe storms, was pretty much near record territory.

By the way, a few thunderstorms will probably break out in our neck of the woods in Vermont Tuersday, and a couple of them might be strong. However, I don't expecdt a super big widespread severe outbreak in the Green Mountain State.

Here's a video of some big hail pummeling cars amid some sunshine in Glen Allen, Virginia on Saturday:

Saturday, May 27, 2017

VERY Bad Severe Weather Outbreak Today In Southern Plains, Mississippi Valley

Areas in orange and especially in red are at definite risk of
very severe thunderstorms and tornadoes today. 
Forecasters with NOAA's Storm Prediction Center are very worried today about the likelihood of an outbreak of very serious severe weather today from Oklahoma and Texas into the Tennessee Valley.

The atmosphere down there is as extremely unstable as it can possibly get, so tornadoes, some of them strong, widespread hurricane-force wind gusts and hail that could become the size of baseballs, softballs or even grapefruit are all good bets today.

The Storm Prediction Center says the instability in the atmosphere in parts of Oklahoma and Arkansas are at near record levels, so that's ominious.

In Arkansas and surrounding areas, thunderstorms will likely develop explosively today. I don't think people will have much time to react to thunderstorms that start as a tiny shower, and within minutes, become dangerously severe or tornadic thunderstorms.

In addition, forecasters say that along northeast side of where the thunderstorms develop, probably in northern Arkansas, and the southern half of Missouri, a dangerous derecho might develop.

Derechos are long-lasting, intense lines of thunderstorms that hit wide areas with damaging straight line winds. Wind speeds vary within the path of a derecho, but some spots that are hit can have wind gusts of 100 mph or more in the stronger derechos.

Forecasters say today's possible derecho would probably be strong, with winds like that. There might be embedded tornadoes with today's derecho as well.

Especially a bit to the west and south of this derecho, in eastern Oklahoma, far southwestern Missouri, maybe the southeast corner of Kansas and parts of northern Texas, strong tornadoes and gigantic hailstones are quite possible today.

Some of this activity is going to hit some pretty populated areas, such as Tulsa, and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri, Little Rock, Arkansas, Wichita, Kansas, and Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Airline Pilot Takes Awesome Photos Of Storms While In Flight

"Pacific Storm" by Santiago Borja Lopez, an airline pilot and
photographer with a fascination for storms 
An Ecuador-based airline pilot has a beautiful side job involving weather: He takes incredible photos of lightning-lit thunderstorms from the cockpit.

According to, Santiago Borja Lopez, captures nighttime thunderstorms from a Boeing 767 he operates on long haul flights.

No worries if you're on a plane he's piloting, though. He takes the photos from the control seats, and takes the photos while he is off-duty. (Pilots often take turns at the controls.)

There's an example or two on this here web page blog thingy, but definitely check out his website for much, much more.  (Click on the images in this post to make them bigger and easier to see.)

"Curia" By Santiago Borja Lopez, an aerial view of
a nightime storm approaching Panama City. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

National Hurricane Center Says They're Bracing For A Busy Season

Severe flooding in North Carolina last year from Hurricane
Matthew. The National Hurrican Center says this year
could be another busy hurricane season. 
The NOAA's Climate Prediction Center   this morning said they are gearing up for a busier than normal hurricane season in the Atlantic basin.

Here's the scoop, straight from the source:

"Forecasters predict a 70 percent likelihood of 11 to 17 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher) of which five to nine could become hurricanes (winds of 74 or higher) includig 2 to 4 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph of higher) An average season produces 12 named storms of which six become hurricanes, including three major hurricanes."

The official Atlantic tropical storm and hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30, though you can get some out of this season. We already had one tropical storm this year, Arlene last month.

Whether a potentially busy hurricane season badly affects the United States is still an open question. If we get these extra tropical storms and hurricanes, will many of them hit the coastline, or will most of them stay harmlessly out to sea?

Believe it or not, we still haven't had a major hurricane (Category 3 or higher) make landfall in the United States in 12 year. That's a record long time.

However, as we well know, a hurricane doesn't have to be major, or cross the coastline to cause major trouble for us.

Last year, Major Hurricane Matthew stayed just offshore of Florida, and did not come ashore until it had weakened to a Category 1 storm with 75 mph winds in South Carolina.

Still, Matthew caused massive storm surge and river flooding in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas, causing about $10 billion in damage in the United States and another $5 billion in the Caribbean.

We in Vermont remember Hurricane Irene in 2011, which was a tropical storm by the time it reached us but still caused what was easily one of the Top 5 worst flood disasters in Vermont history.

NOAA bases its 2017 forecast on several factors. During the hurricane season, El Nino, the periodic warming of the eastern Pacific Ocean, is expected to be weak or non-existent.

El Ninos increase upper air wind shear, which tears apart wannabe hurricanes. Also, water temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea are warmer than average. Warmer water tends to encourage tropical storms and hurricanes

Another Windy, Raw Storm Hitting Vermont Today

Damage in Rutland, Vermont from a May 5 windstorm.
Another gusty storm is hitting Rutland and other areas of
Vermont today, but it likely won't be nearly as bad as this one .
Parts of Vermont, especially the western slopes of the Green Mountains are under a wind advisory today as an unusually strong storm gives us another bout of gusty, wet weather.

This storm reminds me of the one on May 5, which caused damaging downslope winds along the western slopes of the Green Mountains, especially around Rutland.

It doesn't look like this storm will be as bad or as destructive as the one on May 5, but I expect some trees and power lines to come down today.

I'm sure Green Mountain Power is just thrilled by that bit of news, given the damage they suffered on the May 5 storm and the additional widespread problems with severe thunderstorms a week ago.

As of late morning, gusts were already up to 37 mph in Rutland and 33 mph in Bennington. Winds today could gust as high as 55 mph in the southern and central Green Mountains and 50 mph in the northern Green Mountains.

It's going to rather chilly and wet today and tomorrow in the North Country, too. Some places today and tomorrow won't get past 60 degrees, at a time of year when normal high temperatures are in the low 70s.

At least the storm's effects on Vermont won't be as bad as they were in some other parts of the country. The storm helped create damaging tornadoes that touched down in the Southeast and near Dayton, Ohio on Wednesday.

Nothing like that is coming to us anytime soon.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Cool Images, Videos Of Some Of This Week's Weather: Wild Sunsets And Tornadoes

Storm chaser Daniel Shaw captured this image of an
immense supercells thunderstorm east of Roswell, New
Mexico earlier this week. 
The nation's weather has calmed down somewhat from last week's super active weather, but things are still going on, which of course gives us cool weather images and videos.

Videos are at the bottom of this post.  

One thing all of us weather geeks have been talking about this week is the evening supercell thunderstorm east of Roswell, New Mexico.

Several storm chasers captured the huge amount of mammatus clouds on the rear flake of the immense storm's anvil at sunset. Quite an otherworldly scene.

Also this week, tornadoes and severe weather struck across the south. Tornadoes caused damage in Texas, Georgia and North Carolina, where one tornado blew a fire station apart while firefighters huddled beneath fire trucks.

More tornadoes and severe weather is already spinning up in the Southeast today, and is expected to continue the rest of the day.

Here's the video of the New Mexico sunset supercell:

Here's a family's view of a close encounter with a scary tornado in Autryville, North Carolina on Tuesday.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

May Proving To Be Another (Sort Of) Wet Month In Vermont

Vermont has been fairly wet since February, which is a good'
thing. Other parts of the country have been way too wet. 
From my temporary perch in Yankton, South Dakota this week, I noticed Monday was another wet day in Vermont.

Precipitation has been running above normal in the Green Mountain State in May, following a trend that began in February.

So far, it's been sort of a Goldilocks rainfall pattern. Not too dry, not too wet, though we've had more than normal precipitation. But it's been the right amount.

Which means we've erased last year's drought, and spring and summer crops and foliage is doing just fine. Just perfect. Like Goldilocks would want.

The weather forecast is a bit uncertain for the next week to 10 days, but it does appear we'll have frequent chances for showers during that period. Nothing terribly heavy, but we'll get a continued supply of showers.

We've been lucky, compared to much of the rest of the United States, which has heen too wet.

Overall, the nation has been wet to excessively wet this spring. (With Florida and the Desert Southwest being dry exceptions)

Overall, April was the second wettest on record for the United States as a whole.

May seems to be following that trend, with big swaths of the nation experiencing flooding problems. On Sunday, we drove from a wedding in Kansas to my in-laws house in southeastern South Dakota.

Along the way, almost all the thousands of farm fields we saw were hopeless swamps, with huge pools of water and mud. They're behind in their planting out here, and some soggy fields have to be replanted because seeds rotted in the flooded fields.

Today, there's flood watches for a large area of the Southeast

Later in the week, there are signs there could be excessive rains in parts of the Tennessee and Ohio Valleys and in the southern and central Appalachians.

Up in Vermont, we're hoping we keep up the trend of wet-ish but not too wet.

Remember All That Snow In California Mountains? Now Causing Flooding

Spring has finally arrived in the snowbound high elevations of California's Sierra Nevada mountains.

The feet upon feet of snow is starting to melt amid above normal temperatures. As a result, flood warnings are up for many of the rivers in that region.

In many respects, this is good news: As we all know, a lot of this water is flowing into reservoirs for use in the summer and early fall, when it doesn't rain much at all in California.

Too much melting too fast can be a real problem though.

The National Weather Service says that campers and hikers and such should stay away from trails near rivers, and not set up camp anywhere near them. Peak flows and creek crests usually peak in the late evening and overnight.

Near Yosemite National Park, a flooding river fed by snowmelt stranded cattle on a newly formed island, forcing officials to airdrop food and hay for the 30 cattle there for two nights in a row.

A river in Nevada had been predicted to reach near record levels, which could have causes seriously flooding in some towns. However, flood projections have been scaled back somewhat.

There's still plenty of snow up in the Sierra, so heat waves going into June could really cause some serious problems. They're hoping for near-normal temperatures out in the western United States over the next few weeks.

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Nice Thing About Summer Storms Is Cool Clouds

Massive storm moving into Washington DC, last week. 
One thing I like about late spring and summer, when we're more likely to get thunderstorms, are the gorgeous cloud formations these storms form.

An example came Thursday in northern Virginia and the Washington DC area, when an immense, severe supercell thunderstorm moved over the region, as Capital Weather Gang noted. 

Like some of these supercells in the Midwest, this one looked like an alien mothership as it moved over DC.

When the storm moved on, people got a great sunset look at mammatus clouds on the real flank of the anvil at the top of the storm, too.

Wild mammatus clouds over Landsdowne, Virginia last week.
These clouds can be pretty creepy, but they're probably the least dangerous part of a supercell thunderstorm.

Usually, when you see them, the storm has already passed you by, so you're probably safe.

So go out and take a photo of those.  

Late last week, I flew from Vermont to Omaha, Nebraska via Atlanta. (Don't ask).

Our plane bound for Omaha zigagged around some strong thunderstorms that were producing flash flooding in parts of the Midwest.

It was probahly pretty nasty under those storms, but from the air they looked majestic, as you can see in this next photo I took from the plane.

Ah, summer. Some like the sunshine. Others, like me, like clouds.
Thunderstorms over the Midwest as seen from air somewhere
over the Midwest last Friday.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

A Review: Heat And Storms Were Pretty Extreme In Vermont, New England This Week

Microburst winds of up to 100 mph shredded this camp
in West Addison, Vermont during severe storms Thursday
Image from television station WCAX in Burlington.
(Editor's Note:) I'm travelling this week, so blog posts might on occasion be a little spottier, and at times a little less frequent than normal, but keep checking, as I will be making every attempt to post frequently.)

Anyway, back to the weather.

And what a weather week! Record heat, and more important, the heat was broken by some exceptionally powerful, if brief thunderstorms.

 And yet, over eastern sectons of Vermont and New England, the heat returned Friday, even as it became chilly from the Champlain Valley westward.

Here are the details to recap:

We got going on Wednesday, with record warmth across all of Vermont and much of the Northeast, as noted in the previous post Thursday morning.

Then Thursday came. In Burlington, Vermont the temperature reached 93 degrees, tying the all time high temperature for any day in May since records got going in the 1880s.

This makes two of the five first months of the year tying or breaking monthly record highs in Burlington. (The previous February all time maximum of 63 degrees was shattered by a reading of 72 degrees this year.)

By the way, the low temperature in Burlington Thursday was 70 degrees. That set a record for the highest low tempeature for that date. (May 18.)  The old record was 63 degrees.

Elsewhere, record highs were broken by several degrees. Boston reached 95 degrees, beating the old record by five degrees. Hartford, Connecticut got to 96 degrees, beating the old record of 90.

Way up in the northern tip of Maine, Caribou got up to 90 degrees, the first time it's reached that level there since July, 2014.
As I was preparing to leave my St. Albans home for a trip
amid hot Thursday evening weather, I spotted this
strong storm abruptly take shape northeast of town. 

The even bigger story was the brief, but violent thunderstorms that erupted late Thursday afternoon. At that time, a cold front was still well to our west, but what's known as a pre'frontal trough came in.

These pre-frontal troughs are fairly common well ahead of a cold front during hot spells, and, if timed to come through in the afternoon or evening, often create severe thunderstorms. That's because these troughs add lift to the atmosphere already made volatile by heat.

Almost always, pre-frontal trough severe thunderstorms are hit and miss.  Some places get nailed, others stay in the sunshine.

But the people that get nailed really get hammered. In West Addison, a National Weather Storm survey team on Friday looked at the damage from Thursday's storm to see whether it was a tornado or straight line winds.

No tornado, it turns out, but it was as bad as one. A microburst, which is a blast of air from a severe thunderstorm that plunges to the ground that blows violently in a narrow path once it hits the ground, caused the havoc in West Addison.

In West Addison, the microburst landed just offshore in Lake Champlain and zoomed eastward onshore. It cut down a bunch of trees and hit a house, partially lifting off its roof and largely collapsing the structure. The house was destroyed, the National Weather Service said, by micoburst winds of up to 100 mph.

An occupant inside the house was slightly injured.  WCAX-TV reported the situation could have been even worse. The television station said the hosue was actually a camp that had been blown off its foundation and flipped upside down.  Linda Taft, 75,  and her dog were inside at the time.

As the house flipped over the couch she had been sitting on with the dog got tossed around, and she grabbed a pillow to cover her face as she tried to protect the dog.

Neighbors who rushed to help found the woman on the ceiling with the dog, and luckily both were n good spirits.

According to WCAX, one of the neighbors who rescued Taft quoted her as saying as she was being rescued, "I only had two glasses of wine tonight and I never got my third."

Taft was taken to the hospital to be checked out, but she's fine. Just bruised. She said she plans to rebuild the camp.

In Addison and elsewhere, large, wind driven hail blew out windows and dented cars. In Barton, fallen trees blocked the path of a train, and a tractor trailer was blown over. Statewide, 15,000 people or so lost electricity.

Measured wind gusts included 68 mph in Wells, Vermont and 58 mph at the National Weather Service offices in South Burlington.

By mid morning Friday, the cold front had moved into the Champlain Valley, but not yet further east. At mid-morning it was down to 50 degrees in Highgate. Meanwhile, eastern and southern areas got hot again quickly.

St. Johnsbury in eastern Vermont reached 91 degrees Friday for a new record high. On Friday, Boston and Hartford reached 90 degrees for the third day in a row.

In Atlantic Canada, places like Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, which are coming off an unusually harsh winter, had record highs that got as far as 90 degrees on Friday.

Now, the weather has reversed again, and I really, really hope you didn't think the hot spell made it safe to put your tomatoes and peppers out.

There's areas of frost this morning. Tonight, frost advisories have been posted for the Adirondacks, north-central and northeast Vermont, and parts of New Hampshire and Maine. A section of far northern New Hampshire and western Maine are under more dire freeeze warnings. 

After tonight, the weather is certainly going to remain changeable for the foreseeable future, but not nearly as wild as it has been this week.

Here's a video from Roger Hill of one of the storms rolling into North Montpelier, Vermont

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Northeast Heat Overperforms; Wild Weather Everywhere Today

A busy weather day for much of the nation today. Areas in
yellow have a slight risk of severe storms. Dark green
is a marginal risk. That hot pink area in the middle of
the country is a risk for strong tornadoes today. 
Every once in awhile, you get a day where there's lots of wild weather everywhere.

One of those is today. Including here in Vermont and the rest of the Northeast, though it's not nearly as heart-pounding here as it is in a few other parts of the country.  

First, I owe you a bit of a mea culpa. I said in yesterday's post that record high temperatures would not be broken Wednesday in Vermont, as the peak of the odd early season heat blast would hit today, Thursday instead.

Well, that heat really overperformed on Wednesday. Burlington set a record high of 91 degrees Wednesday, besting the previous record of 90, set in 1977.

Montpelier made it to 87, beating the record of 85 degrees back in 1977. And St. Johnsbury reached 89, edging out the 88 in 1991.

The heat is on today, as you may have noticed with the stuffy night we had last night.

More record highs might be set today, depending on clouds and wind speeds, but a few records probably will fall. The record high today in Burlington is 89 set in 1989, and that mark is definitely in danger.

You'll notice it's windier today than yesterday, so at least there's a breeze. But it's more humid, too, so there's that.

The wind will be especially strong in New York's St. Lawrence Valley, were gusts could reach 50 mph. And that doesn't even include the thunderstorms that might develop later.

NOAA's Storm Prediction Center has northern New York and the northwest tip of Vermont in the slight risk zone for severe thunderstorms.

A little disturbance ahead of a cold front might create a few isolated severe thunderstorms late this afternoon across the North Country. There won't be a lot of thunderstorms, but they'll be working with hot, gusty air, so a couple of those could get really strong.

Another line of storms ahead of a cold front will probably get into northern New York later this evening. Some of those will be severe, with high winds being the biggest threat. There's also the risk of big hail, and and even a teensy, tiny little chance of a brief tornado spin up, too. Heavy rains could accompany the storms.

This line of storms will likely start to weaken as they get into Vermont, but some might still be severe tonight, especially in western Vermont. So we'll watch that.

Yet another dramatic turnaround in the weather comes Friday, with much, much cooler weather. Highs will only be around 60 to 65 degrees, which is only a tad cooler than normal for this time of year, but it will feel dramatically different compared today.

I mentioned that this busy weather in Vermont is not as extreme as other areas of the country and that's surely true.

You'll probably hear on the news tonight and tomorrow of a very nasty tornado outbreak, especially in Kansas and Oklahoma. Conditions there are ripe today for strong, long lasting tornadoes, so that's certain a big danger. Hope the big tornadoes stay out in open country, and not blast through cities like Topeka, Wichita and Oklahoma City.

Meanwhile, in Wyoming and Colorado, a HUGE late season snowstorm was getting underway this morning.  Up to three feet of snow is forecast in the high elevations of Wyoming by Saturday. Areas around Laramie, Wyoming could see 20 inches of snow out of this, which is really something.

In Denver, a few inches of wet snow might accumulate tonight on fully leafed out trees. The weight of that snow would break quite a few branches and power lines.

So far at least, I haven't heard of any forecasts of maurading locusts.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Brief Blast Of Summer Heat, Today And Tomorrow, Then Maybe Summer Storms?

Winds blowing across the cool waters of Lake Champlain
will temper an early season hot spell today and tomorrow
along the immediate shores of the lake. 
This will be a shock to the system.

The heat blast we've been anticipating arrives today and peaks tomorrow with temperatures in a few towns reaching 90 or better in much of the Northeast, including Vermont.

We're not acclimatized to the heat, so if you have to work outdoors, like I do, try to do it early in the morning or in the evening, when it's a bit cooler.

Or do stuff right near Lake Champlain, especially along west and south facing shores.

Water temperatures are only in the 40s, and gusty southwest winds today and tomorrow will pick up that coolness and drive it onshore. I bet a few places along the southern tip of Grand Isle, for example, might not make it out of the 70s.

On the other hand, be careful about getting out on the lake. If you fall in, hypothermia can set in quickly. With expected gusty winds on the lake during this warm spell, you can capsize your boat. The water is too cold to stay in for any length of time with risk of death. Sorry to be so glum there, but that's the way it is.

By the way, us New Englanders don't do all that well with hot weather anyway, although that's probably true in a lot of places.

A recent study shows that in New England, hospital visits increase by 7.5 percent when the heat index is 95 degrees, as compared to days when the heat index is just 75 degrees.

Today's record high of 90 degrees in Burlington, Vermont looks safe, as temperatures should "only" get to the mid-80s there.

Tomorrow's record high of 89 is in jeopardy, though, as temperatures should get to 90 or so, unless the wind has a more westerly component and that cool wind off Lake Champlain reaches the Burlington International Airport, where they keep track of the temperatures at the National Weather Service office.

As noted, this is going to be a windy hot spell, with gusts to 30 mph or more in many areas. Some areas, like New York's St. Lawrence Valley, could get gusts of 45 mph today and tomorrow, which could lead to some minor tree damage.

A cold front will end the heat Thursday night, but that could lead to more trouble: Scattered severe storms in a few spots;


Yesterday was, in fact, a bad day for severe storms and tornadoes across the nation, and that trend will continue the rest of the week.

At least one person died when a tornado hit a Wisconsin mobile home park. There were at least 26 reports of tornadoes, with the most damaging ones in Wisconsin, and around Elk City, Oklahoma.

Today should be a rough day, too, especially around Iowa and Wisconsin, where there is a threat of more tornadoes.
Tornado damage near Elk City, Oklahoma Tuesday. While
things won't get nearly this bad locally, a few severe thunderstorms
are possible Thursday evening in northern New York and
northwestern Vermont. Photo by Lacie Lowry. 

Thursday will probably be even worse, with an even higher chance of tornadoes and severe storms, especially in and around Kansas and Oklahoma.

And oh yes, as mentioned, our area could get a couple severe storms Thursday evening, too. That cold front I mentioned will be approaching, and some big thunderstorms will probably get going in Ontario late Thursday evening.

They'll then march across northern New York and into the Champlain Valley in the evening, but start weakening, especially from the Champlain Valley eastward.

Not everyone will get a thunderstorm Thursday evening. They'll be scattered. And only a few areas will get severe storms. This won't be a widespread severe event. But a few towns will have damaging winds, large hail, dangerous lightning and torrential downpours

If  you're out and about in the North Country Thursday evening and enjoying the summer weather, it's best to get inside if a storm comes in.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Mid-May Weather Pattern Created Extremes Around Northern Half Of World

Wildfires in Greece this week amid record early season heat
Photo by Aris Messinis, AFP/Getty Images
An especially wavy jet stream in the Northern Hemisphere is causing some pretty extreme weather in some areas of the world this week.

The jet stream - that upper atmospheric river of fast moving air that controls weather patterns, is experiencing wild bulges to the north in some areas, and deep plunges southward in others.

Depending on where these ridges and dips are and move the weather can change quite a bit.

As noted yesterday, this is affecting us here in Vermont: It snowed in some high elevations Sunday. By Thursday, a few towns in the warmer valleys of the Green Mountain State will be around 90 degrees.

As noted in Weather Undergrounds Category 6 blog, the weather elsewhere has taken some strange turns as well. Greece and parts of northern Africa are having some of their hottest May weather on record. It was as high as 105 degrees in one town in Greece, and Athens reached 92 degrees, its hottest day for so early in the season.

Brush fires broke out in Greece, killing one person.

Meanwhile, in parts of northern Europe, winter hangs on. Norway had its snowiest May since the 1960s. Parts of eastern Finland received six to 10 inches of snow on Mother's Day. In  Russia, bursts of heavy snow hit Moscow on May 11.

A snowy scene in Moscow on May 11
Meanwhile, back in the United States, parts of the Rocky Mountains, especially in areas of Idaho and Montana, a winter storm watch is in effect through Thursday because of expected heavy snow.

Part of the reason for the wild weather extremes and the wavy jet stream is something called a "negative NAO."  

NAO stands for "North Atlantic Oscillation."  Sometimes it's positive, sometimes it's negative, and there's a complicated index that tells you how positive and how negative it is. If it's really positive or really negative, weather can go off the rails.

A negative NAO can mean less than normal low atmospheric pressure near Iceland and less than normal high pressure in the subtropics. The weak pressure gradient helps give the jet stream more room to meander more to the north or south.

In the first part of May it the "NAO" was really  negative. That meant weather patterns that favored colder weather in the Northeastern United States and in northern Europe and hot weather in soutern Europe.

The NAO is trending toward zero, neither negative nor positive, so the weather is calming down somewhat. (By the way, when the NAO is positive, it tends to get stormy in western Europe, warm in the United States and frigid up in northern Canada.)

Monday, May 15, 2017

Yep, That Was Snow Higher Up On Mother's Day. Next Up: A Heat Blast

This photo was taken from inside a New Hampshire DOT truck
that was salting snow-covered roads in Plymouth, NH. Sunday. 
On Sunday, some higher elevation towns in parts of the Berkshires of Massachusetts, the Green Mountains of Vermont and especially mid and high elevations of northern and western New Hampshire got an unwelcome Mother's Day treat: Snow.

A few towns in New Hampshire were surprised by  four inches of it.  Along with power outages caused by wet, heavy snow weighing down foliating trees.

The summit of aptly named Mount Snow in southern Vermont got at least six inches.

This isn't the first Mother's Day with snow in New England and it probably won't be the last. I do remember a more widespread snow on Mother's Day, I think in 1996.

New Hampshire in particular had the snow because they were in the core of the weekend nor'easter's  heavy precipitation. The heavier precipitation cooled the atmosphere to the point where it was able to snow. It helped that the bulk of the precipitation came through New Hampshire at night, when it would have been cooler anyway.

You can see the results on a WMUR news clip on the bottom of this post.

The snow quickly turned to a light rain Sunday and the snow on the ground melted away.

New England is still under the influence of this nor'easter today, but luckily, no snow, except maybe in places like the tippy top of Mount Washington.

The problem today will be wind as there's a squeeze play going on between the departing nor'easter and high pressure coming in from the northwest.

Winds could gust to 40 mph throughout New England today, which, with trees now leafed out, ould bring down some branches and cause some local power failures. Leaves on trees act as little sails on trees on windy days, bending branches more than they otherwise would.

After that, we get another dramatic change. That high pressure in Quebec will drop down to a spot off the United States East Coast and strengthen. Southwesterly winds will pump summer air into New England by mid-week.

Quite a few 80s will pop up Wednesday, and if there's enough sunshine, a few spots could hit 90 degrees Thursday.

By then, a cold front will be approaching and thunderstorms could erupt by late afternoon, especially in northwestern New England, New York, southwestern Quebec and Ontario. A few storms could end up being strong. That'll be something to watch.

At the end of the week and next weekend, the weather will turn just about normal for this time of year, which will be nice after such a topsy-turvy weather week.

Here's that snow video from New Hampshire:

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Britain Went Coal Free For A Day, Maybe An Anti-Climate Change Trend?

A coal mine near Gillette, Wyoming. Will demand for coal
fade away in the coming decades and we won't burn it
anymore? Climate scientists and activists would like that. 
On a Friday in April,  the entire nation of Great Britain met all of its energy needs without burning so much as one lump of coal.

It was the first time since 1882 that Great Britain went an entire day without burning coal to power factories, homes, businessees and whatnot, according to the BBC.

To cut carbon emissions, Britain plans to phase out its last coal burning plants by 2025. The British National Grid said the coal-free day was a "watershed moment" for the country.

It was a symbolic moment - Britain quickly returned to burning some coal - but it's another powerful sign that coal is on its way out. And good riddance.

I know, I know Donald Trump says he's going to bring all those coal mining job back.

However, despite Trump and other conservatives' denials, people are getting more and more concerned about climate change, and coal is steadily becoming a pariah product.

It's got bad optics nowadays. Coal is considered among the worst emitters of carbon dioxide, which feeds climate change. The search is on for cleaner energy.  Nobody wants coal anymore.

Well, that's not quite true. Developing nations are still buying it up, so demand for coal is expected to stay at current levels or even rise slightly between now and 2021. But that's a big switch. Until recently, worldwide coal demand kept spiraling up.

The BBC said that the coal-free day in April is believed to be the first time since 1882 that Britain did not use coal for energy usage at all. That time in 1882 was the first time coal was used to generate electricity from a centralize public coal-fired generator.

I wonder if we're coming up on the last day that will happen?

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Weather Pattern Change Good For Us, Bad For Others

Nice evening in my St. Albans, Vermont garden last night
After a chilly, wet nor'easter this weekend, a big warmup
is due next week. 
After we slog through a wet and chilly nor'easter here in New England later today into Monday, a big, well-advertised pattern change will set in next week.

That's good for us, because it will be quite a switch from a chilly, cloudy and dank start to May. (Although I have to say Friday scored a "10" in the weather department with blue skies, sun and afternoon warmth.)

As the nor'easter departs, the weather in New England will turn sunnier, and dramatically warmer. Many areas could get into the low 80s by Thursday. Maybe even Wednesday in a couple spots.

As the Weather Channel and other meteorologists note, the change in the weather pattern next week isn't good for everyone.

There hasn't been many tornadoes so far this month in the nation, which is a good thing, since this is the peak time for them.  (By this time in May, there would have been 82 tornadoes in an average year, and we're only up to 45 now.)

The upcoming shift in the jet stream, however, will make it more likely severe weather and tornadoes could strike the middle of the country off and on next week.

The storminess in the middle of the country due next week could put places like Missouri under water again next week.

They had record flooding in that neck of the woods in late April and early May, but it hasn't been particularly wet out there over the past week. A good thing. Signs point to wetter times ahead in the coming days, and they don't need that!

If you're one of those odd ducks who miss the snow that fell on Vermont early last week, you're totally out of luck, although the summits of the highest New England mountains could get snow Sunday.

However, if you want snow, head west. It looks like snowy times are ahead for the high elevations of the Rocky Mountains next week.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Report: Tornado Deaths, Destruction To Greatly Increase In Coming Decades

A tornado carved a deadly path through Washington,
Illinois in November, 2013. As cities and towns
grow and expand, they become bigger targets
for tornadoes, so scenes like this might become more
common in coming decades. 
We're in the heart of tornado season in the United States now.

There was a handful of tornadoes in Oklahoma Thursday, but no deaths or serious injuries was reported, and damage was relatively muted.  

We've got several chances of more tornadoes in the coming week as several weather systems seem likely to touch off some bad weather in the middle of the country.

This has been kind of a bad, destructive and deadly tornado year and a report in USA Today gives us a scary glimpse into the future:

The number of deaths and damage from tornadoes could triple by the end of this century.

This isn't a story about global warming. (Usually, when there's a dire warning like this, it involves climate change. Not this time.)

Instead, the problem is development.

Cities and suburbs keep sprawling outward and coverning more land. The more land covered by houses and developments, the bigger the target for tornadoes.

Instead of harmlessly churning across open fields, the growing size of towns and cities make them bigger targets for tornadoes to chew up.

The student was done by Villanova University's Department of Geography and the Environment.

"Disasters are are socially constructed....We're building ourselves into disasters," said Stephen Strader, the study's lead author, according to USA Today.

This potentially deadly trend is most likely in the Midwest and Southeast, where tornadoes are most prevalent and cities are sprawling. Places like metropolitian Dallas, St. Louis, Kansas City, Chicago and Atlanta are big targets, for instance.

In terms of global warming, the jury is still out on whether climate change will make tornadoes more frequent or worse. The tornado season might become longer, since warmer air earlier in the spring could contribute to weather patterns that encourage twisters.

But the biggest problem is development. People in tornado prone areas ought to consider building storm shelters if they don't already have them. Or at least bolster the structural integrity of the houses they live in.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Dreary Chilly May To Continue Through Weekend, But Signs Of Hope?

Spring snow in my St. Albans, Vermont  yard earlier this
week. More dreary rain is on the way, but at least it's
not going to snow again. And a warmup next week?
Today, for once, the weather here in Vermont and the Northeast will be in the "not bad" category, which is an improvement over what things have been like most of this month so far.

There will be some sun, and temperatures will only be a little cooler than normal.

However, the apparent end to the dreariness of this month is an illusion. We've got another round of it to go this weekend.


Clouds will begin to increase Friday afternoon and rain will increase Saturday as a spring nor'easter gathers along the New England coast.

When someone says "nor'easter," people fear the dirty "S" word -- Snow.

Don't worry. It's going to be too warm for snow. But we are going to get a soaking, chilly rain through the weekend and into Monday.

Sunday - Mother's Day - looks to be the worst, so don't take your mom on an outdoor picnic unless you really hate her.

The good news is all this rain has totally erased the drought from last year in New England. And more rain is coming on top of that.

The other good news is there are now signs of a pattern change brewing. By the middle and end of next week, it's looking sunnier and much, much warmer, with temperatures likely popping up above normal. That means 70s by the end of the week.

That'll get those lilacs popping.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Epic Denver Hail Storm Leaves Front Range Reeling. LOTS Of Damage Reported

A Denver area woman holds a giant hailstone Monday.
An epic hail storm swept along much of the Front Range in Colorado Monday, and the Denver metro area was among the areas hit hard. 

Big hail happens from time to time in the High Plains, but when it hits a metropolitan area, the total amount of damage can be worse than in a tornado.

The damage in any one area from hail is almost always less than tornadoes but the damage is more spread out, so the totals go up.

The Denver metro hail in some areas was the size of baseballs or even a little bigger.  There are dramatic videos to watch at the bottom of this post.

Countless cars were dented with windows smashed out. Thousands of homes and businesses had smashed windows, ruined siding and roofs that suddenly needed to be replaced.

One of the worst hit spots was the Colorado Mill mall, where hail smashed in skylights to let pouring rain in. Stores were flooded, the mall was evacuated, and shoppers leaving the mall found their cars with windows smashed out, says the Denver Post

If you're in Denver with a hail damaged car, good luck getting it fixed. The Denver Post says all the auto glass dealers now have full voice mails an overloaded email accounts from the torrent or people desperate to get their windshields fixed.

Hailstorms usually cause a lot of damage. The Denver Channel says Colorado's Front Range, including Denver, typically sees about $25 million in insurance claims from hail damage annually. This will be far worse, though damage estimates for this aren't in yet.

The most damaging hail storm in Colorado was in July, 1990, which caused $1.1 billion (with a "B" in damages. That figure is adjusted for inflation to 2015.

Watch this cool timelapse of the severe thunderstorm and hail taking over downtown Denver:

In this brief video, hail abruptly takes out the back window of a car:

Here's hail smashing through the windows of a Denver house:

And here's the chaos in Wheat Ridge, Colorado as house windows shatter and car alarms blare in the hail:

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

May Snowflakes Are Certainly Annoying, But It Could Have Been Worse

Lilac buds this snowy morning, St. Albans, Vermont
It was a real slap in the face Monday morning as I prepared to depart my St. Albans, Vermont home Monday morning to go to work.

As I walked out to my truck, a couple of snowflakes hit me right in the kisser.

There I was, surrounded by a greening forest and happy yellow daffodils dancing in my breezy yard, and I had to deal with this.

It got even worse this morning when said green trees and daffodils were covered by a slushy layer of new snow that fell overnight.

I'm sure there were quite a few other people who shared my lack of enthusiasm for this May snowfall.

It's unusual but definitely not unprecedented for snow to accumulate on Vermont's valley floors like it did last night. And it almost always snows in the mountains this time of year.

I guess you can take heart that this could have been worse. There have definitely been bigger snowstorms in the North Country in May and even June.

One of the most epic May snowstorms hit New England on May 9-10, 1977, in what was otherwise a very warm spring month.

While many areas of Vermont got a few inches of snow out of that one, some higher elevations near the Capital District of New York and in western and central Massachusetts got nailed by one to as much as two feet of snow.

Slide Mountain, New York got 27 inches of snow and Norfolk, Connecticut got 20 inches. New York City got a trace of snow, the latest snowfall on record there.

The leaves were starting to blossom out by then, so the weight of the snow on leafing trees broke zillions of branches and almost as many power lines. Electricity was out for a week or more in a few spots.

In 2013 and even later and incredible snowstorm struck on May 24-26. I remember flying out of Burlington International Airport on May 27 of that year and looking out over a snowy landscape in the mountains of Vermont and New York that day.  That was super, duper late in the year to see snow.

Whiteface Mountain in New York got nearly three feet of snow in that very late season snow. Jay Peak, Vermont received 18 inches. At lower elevations, Walden, Vermont picked up six inches of snow and Greensboro collected 4.5 inches of snow.  
Unhappy snowy daffodils in my garden this morning, St. Albans

Not the type of weekend you'd want for the unofficial opening weekend of summer.

We could even theoretically collect snow in June. The famous Year Without A Summer in 1816 featured drifts to 20 inches deep in Danville, Vermont.

On June 11, 1842, up to a foot of snow fell on Irasburg and Barton, Vermont, and there was a dusting in Burlington.

With global warming in full effect, I doubt we'll ever see a snowstorm like that in June again.   Still, you understand my point: The May snow we've gotten this week could have been worse.

There continues to be some snow showers around this morning, but those will retreat to the mountain tops today. Still, it's going to be very chilly for this time of year, with readings only in the 40s when it should be in the 60s.

It'll sort of warm up as we go through the rest of the week, but stay a little cool for this time of year.  At least at this point, we can hope that we will have no more big snowstorms until late next fall.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Serious Flooding In Montreal, Quebec, Ontario, And Great Lakes In New York

Flooding in Rigaud, Quebec. Photo by Paul Chiasson
Canadian Press
It's been a rainy several weeks here in Vermont, but it hasn't been bad enough to cause any serious flooding.  

It's another story, though, in the eastern Great Lakes and in Quebec and Ontario in Canada as a snowy winter gave way to a very rainy spring.

The Montreal area is especially hard hit. Water in Montreal Harbor along the St. Lawrence River is four feet higher than normal.

As I write this Sunday morning, it's still raining in that region.

According to the CBC the flooding is widespread in Quebec.

"As of Saturday evening, Urgence Quebec is reporting that 126 municipalities across the province are affected by rising water levels, especially in the regions of Montreal, the Monteregie, Laval, Maurice, Lanaudiere and the Laurentians."

The Ottawa River in Ontario and Quebec is also causing severe flooding.

The situation along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River system is similar to the situation we here in Vermont faced in the spring of 2011, when we had frequent river flooding, and record flooding along Lake Champlain.

Both disasters were caused by unprecedented record spring rainfall.

Along the shores of Lake Ontario near Rochester, New York, at least 11 inches of rain (or melted snow) has fallen since March 1. Around Montreal, the figure is 13 inches.

Lake Ontario is at its highest level in 20 years, causing extensive flooding and erosion damage along its New York shore. That's especially true on days like today and tomorrow, when strong north winds drive the water onshore.  
Erosion damage along Lake Ontario in Hamlin, New York.
Photo by Carlos Ortiz, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

Lake Ontario empties into the St. Lawrence River, which is causing the highest water levels in Montreal and along nearly the entire length of the river in a century.

This echoes 2011, when a record high Lake Champlain emptied as always into the Richelieu River iin southern Quebec, causing severe flooding there.

In New York there are calls to open more flood gates to lower Lake Ontario levels and ease flooding. But that would worsen flooding along the St. Lawrence River in Quebec.

It's all a no-win balancing act. There has simply been way too much rain for any of these water systems to handle.

It's been a very flood prone year in North America. During the winter, there was extensive flooding in California, Oregon and Washington. This weekend, there are floods and mudslides in British Columbia that have already killed two people. 

In the past week, record flooding has slammed areas in and around Missouri. The Carolinas had severe flooding a couple weeks ago.

It goes on and on.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Thunder Snow In the Forecast For Kentucky Derby, But It's Not Weather

Jim Cantore rejoices during thundersnow during a winter storm
There's a horse in today's Kentucky Derby named Thunder Snow,
so I'm sure Cantore's excited.
I don't know if the Weather Channel's Jim Cantore is a betting man, but if he is, I'm sure his money is on the horse Thunder Snow in today's Kentucky Derby.

Yep, Thunder Snow is in the forecast at the Derby, but there's not a terribly cold, unusual storm in Kentucky. (Though it is unusually cool in Louisville today.)

But there is a horse named Thunder Snow, which has a shot, given it did win the UAE Derby recently.

Cantore is famous for his love of thundersnow, the relatively rare meteorological moment when there is lightning and thunder while it is snowing.

Thundersnow is cool, and I hope the horse Thunder Snow shakes up the Kentucky Derby. I'm not betting on anything, but we all have to love our weather-related race horses, right?

Surprise Wind Storm Blasts Parts Of Vermont; Widespread Damage Reported

Tree against a house in Rutland during Friday's high winds
Photo by Jennifer Holdren via WCAX-TV
A howling windstorm unexpectedly slammed parts of Vermont, especially around Rutland County late Friday afternoon and evening, prompting widespread power failures and quite a bit of damage.

More than 15,000 people lost electricity in Rutland County alone. Many, many trees fell. Lawn furniture blew away roofing shingles peeled off roofs and power flashes lit up the sky as lines and transformers failed.

As of 5:30 a.m. this morning, at least 10,000 customers were still without electricity in Vermont.

At least two houses were damaged by falling trees in Clarendon. 

Winds gusted as high as 74 mph in Wells, Vermont. South Pomfret had a gust to 61 mph and Mendon reached 56 mph. Based on damage reports, I bet other areas without anemometers made it past 60 mph.

Other areas of the state reported high winds as well: Many trees were down near Exit 3 on Interstate 89 a little northwest of White River Junction.

The wind extended north along the western side of the Green Mountains all the way north to Chittenden County, where roads were blocked by fallen trees in Jericho and Underhill.

The storm was a surprise: No wind alerts had been issued ahead of the storm, though the National Weather Service in South Burlington issued wind advisories, then high wind warnings and special weather statements as the gusts escalated.

The weather pattern that caused the damaging winds Friday does happen occasionally in Vermont. In fact some of these storms are worse than Friday's  like an even more destructive storm in Rutland on April, 2007.

Strong low pressure for this time of year was heading north toward the eastern Great Lakes. Air flow was from the east and southeast. The wind climbed over the mountains, then descended down the west slopes of the Green Mountains.

The winds gain momentum as they come over the mountains and descend down the west sides of the mountain slopes. That's how ou get your strong winds.

Often - and I think this is what weather forecasters expected - is a layer of stable air near the surface deflects the high winds to a couple thousand feet above the surface, so most people don't get the winds.

This time, the wind managed to have enough momentum to roar down the west slopes of the Green Mountains and slam into populated valleys near the base of these western slopes. So you got your high winds.

Adding to the trouble was the season. This type of storm is most common in the winter or early spring, when there are no leaves on the trees.

Trees are beginning to leaf out now. Each leaf acts like a little sail, pulling on tree branches as the wind hits them. This adds to the wind stress on the trees, making them more likely to break.

On top of that, it's been wet lately, so the ground is soft and mushy. That makes it easier for trees to get uprooted during strong winds.

This kind of storm is almost always pretty localized. A few miles away from the western slopes of the Green Mountains, everybody was probably saying, "What storm?" As Rutland and Underhill gusted away last evening, winds were dead calm at my house in St. Albans,  Vermont. The highest wind gust all day Friday in Burlington was just 19 mph.

For different reasons involving the same storm, there could be a little more wind trouble in Vermont this afternoon.

The storm is to our west now and the Champlain Valley will channel and focus southerly winds heading up the valley. Winds could gust to 35 to 40 mph or so, and that could mean some broken tree branches and maybe a few more power failures.

It won't be nearly as chaotic as Friday, but there still might be a little wind trouble ahead this afternoon.