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Hurricane Isabel: 11 years later

Fri, 19 Sep 2014 05:00:00 EST
Eileen Whelan

Many of us remember enduring days - some weeks - without power. Flooding and downed trees and power lines were just some of the hardships faced after Isabel slammed into the East Coast on Sept. 18, 2004.

NOAA

Hurricane Isabel has gone into the record books as one of the most significant tropical cyclones to affect the Chesapeake Bay area since Hurricane Hazel in 1954 and the Chesapeake-Potomac hurricane of 1933.  Here are a images of Isabel's impact in our area.

Isabel Damage
Isabel Damage
Isabel Damage in Calvert County, MD

Isabel was the ninth named storm of the 2003 Atlantic hurricane season. It originated about 625 miles west of the Cape Verde Islands on Sept. 6, 2003. The storm tracked westward, gaining intensity and, at one point, reached Category 5 status with maximum estimated sustained winds around 165 mph. Check out Isabel's track:

NOAA

By the time Isabel made landfall near Drum Point, N.C. around midday Sept. 18, it was still a Category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph.

Isabel then tracked north-northwest, losing tropical characteristics, but still producing flooding rain and tropical storm force winds. Here's an image of the radar, as the center of Isabel tracked over North Carolina.

Wakefield, VA NWS

The copious amounts of rain, coupled with strong winds, tore down trees and power lines and even led to a few fatalities.

Locally, the Shenandoah Valley received 6-12 inches of rain. Between two and six inches of rain fell in western Maryland and eastern West Virginia, and the Baltimore/Washington region received a total of one to three inches of rain.

At the height of the storm, Reagan National recorded a wind gust of 50 mph.

NOAA

Unusually high storm surge accompanied the storm with some watersheds between six and feet above normal. The storm surge in the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River reached the highest levels since the Chesapeake/Potomac hurricane of 1933.

USGS - http://md.water.usgs.gov/publications/press_release/2003/2003-10/

From emergency management reports, estimates of about 6 million customers lost power at some point during the storm in North Carolina, Virginia, Delaware, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.

The estimated total economic loss from Isabel was about $5 billion, according to the American Reinsurance Group. With so many people affected by the tropical cyclone, it took a long while to fully recover.

Even with the advanced warning of the hurricane, thousands of people were impacted by Isabel.

Further information about Isabel is available from the National Hurricane Center, National Centers for Environmental Prediction, United States Geological Survey and the National Weather Service.


Dry start to September in the D.C. area, dry outlook ahead

Tue, 16 Sep 2014 12:06:00 EST
Alex Liggitt

Over the past few weeks, a few locations saw some moderate to heavy rainfall from storms but they were highly localized. Here are some of the locations that have seen decent rainfall this month on our WeatherBug Network.

Monthly Rain and temps as of Noon Tuesday on our WeatherBug Network

Other parts of the area haven't been quite as lucky as of late, with official reports at the local observation stations capturing relatively little rain for the month of September. Officially, precipitation totals so far this month are running anywhere from 1" to 1.5" below normal. Unfortunately, the current outlook isn't going to bring appreciable rainfall anytime soon.

Rainfall by the numbers this month and for the year

Above is a look at how the region is faring as far as precipitation this September. Dulles Airport is struggling the most, with only 0.21" of rain in the first 16 days. The observation station is running over an inch and a half below average for the month.

BWI Marshall has been the closest to average precipitation but is still running around an inch below for the month.

Maryland Drought Monitor

As far as the drought monitor is concerned, the region isn't even abnormally dry. This may change over the next week or two, but looking at the statistics for Virginia and Maryland, there aren't any regions with drought in Maryland and only a few abnormally dry spots south of D.C. in Virginia.

Virginia Drought Monitor

Much of this is due to the fact that the region has such a big surplus for the year and stayed around normal over the summer months. Precipitation is still running nearly 6 inches above average for the year at Reagan National and over 9 inches above average at BWI Marshall.

QPF today through next Tuesday morning from the WPC

The forecast looking ahead over the next few weeks doesn't look to good for rainfall chances in the D.C. area. The WPC forecast above only brings about a chance for light rain over the next week, and other modeling continues to depict dry conditions even through next week. A few showers may be possible with a cold front next Monday into Tuesday, but beyond that the region may not see decent rainfall until after the following weekend of the 27th and 28th. We'll of course keep you up to date with our latest 7-Day Forecast.



Sunday Night "Mysterious Flash of Light" in the Sky

Mon, 15 Sep 2014 07:53:00 EST
Jacqui Jeras

Many reports have been coming in of people in the D.C. region seeing a bright flash in the sky last night. It happened just before 11 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. Most reports on the American Meteor Society website are described as a bright white or yellow flash that lasted around one second. Here is a map of all of the reports:

(Meteor Sightings via American Meteor Society)

So, what was it? Most likely, it was a meteor. Meteors are pieces of rock, ice and dust, usually from a comet, that explode and burn up as they enter the Earth's atmosphere. There are two meteor showers taking place in the month of September. First, the Southern Taurids, which are active for two months from Sept. 7-Nov. 19th. According to the American Meteor Society, they tend to produce few "shooting stars" but can be rich in fireballs and often responsible for an uptick in fireball reports to the society's website. In addition to the Southern Taurids, the less known Piscids will be near their peak in September and continue through October.  Check out this article from In-The-Sky.org. Let us know if you saw anything: Just go to our Stormwatch7 Facebook page and leave a note. 

Update:

This video was taken from Jesse Ferrell who works for Accuweather in State College, PA. You can see how the fireball completely lit up the night sky.

Here's another look at the meteor from Jeremy Settle, Assistant News Director at News 12 in New Jersey.

 


Roller coaster temperatures this week, strong storms possible Thursday

Tue, 09 Sep 2014 08:46:00 EST
Jacqui Jeras

The weather picture is rather complex this week and we've got a little bit of almost everything in the forecast, even SNOW! (Ok, the snow is for Canada, Montana and maybe the Western High Plains, but now I have your attention!)

Low pressure has been keeping us cloudy and cool in the Mid-Atlantic since Sunday night. The high in D.C. yesterday was 77 degrees and with mid-upper 70s again today, it will be the coolest stretch of temperatures since late May (thanks to Ryan Miller for that nugget). All of this is happening on the average last date of 90 degrees at Reagan National.

 

(This Afternoon)

 

As the low pressure system departs tonight, our focus turns to a potent cold front that is currently in the Midwest.  MUCH cooler air is coming in from Canada behind it where they have been seeing some snow!

 

(GFS Model showing possible snow in Western NE Thursday)

 

The cold front drops through the plains and spreads toward the east. Check out the chilly nights ahead for our friends to the north!

(Flirting with Freezing Thursday AM Midwest)

Notice on that forecast model that as the cool air invades the nation's mid-section, warm air will be drawn in ahead of that front it the east. It will be muggy in D.C. Wednesday as it warms up to around 80 and by Thursday we reach the top of the roller coaster with  highs back in the mid to upper 80s. Here's a look at highs from the North American Model.

 

(NAM Temperatures Thursday)

 

By the time it arrives in the D.C. area, this storm system will already have a history of producing severe weather. Today it will hit the Midwest and then the Great Lakes/Ohio Valley on Wednesday. By the time it reaches us, much of the energy will be to the north. However, with a strong jet in the upper levels of the atmosphere, the thunderstorms that develop over the D.C. region could produce damaging winds Thursday afternoon/evening. 

 

(Storm Prediction Center Severe Outlook Thursday)

 

This all should pass us overnight on Thursday and stall in the southeastern U.S. That puts us in the cool sector with 70s again for highs and overnight lows in the 50s even inside the beltway. The core of the cool air evades us, but it sure will feel like fall. In addition, a reinforcing cold front comes in on Saturday (bottom of roller coaster) with a few showers. Expect below average temperatures into next week.


Shelf Clouds Common Prior to DC Storms Lately

Sun, 07 Sep 2014 19:58:00 EST
Chad Merrill

Many social media sites have spotlighted these saw-like storm clouds. Just this past weekend, a north to south line of storms produced a long shelf cloud as it hurled from the Cumberland Valley to the nation’s capital.

What does it look like? The image below shows the low, horizontal wedge-shaped cloud. It forms along the leading edge of a thunderstorm’s gust front.

shelf cloud

To understand a gust front, consider the mechanisms in play in a storm. In a thunderstorm downdraft, heavy rain forces the cool air in the atmosphere’s upper-levels to spread to the ground. The air then fans out in all directions once it reaches the surface (since air can’t exactly dig into the ground). The leading edge of this cool air outflow ahead of the storm is called the storm’s gust front.

Shelf cloud 2

Where the gust front meets the warm air ahead of the storm, the air rises and forms shelf clouds. Immediately in the shelf cloud’s wake is where the heaviest rain and strongest winds can be found (such as shown in the image below from the storm that moved through Hagerstown, Md., on Saturday). Shelf clouds are found a few miles ahead of the actual storm.

Shelf cloud 2

Now, shelf clouds don’t precede every thunderstorm. Typically, they are found ahead of thunderstorms that form ahead of a vigorous cold front (like Saturday’s front), an upper-level low pressure or along the leading edge of a derecho. The more powerful the cold front or upper-level disturbance triggering the storm, the better opportunity to see this cloud feature.

So, the next time you see a shelf cloud, remember that often the worst weather is just in its wake. The milky color behind the shelf feature is the heavy rain shaft accompanying the thunderstorm.



Coastal System Brings Clouds and Showers To Start the Week

Sun, 07 Sep 2014 17:07:00 EST


Wow!  What a difference a day makes!  An absolutely gorgeous Sunday follows a hot, steamy, and stormy Saturday.  The cold front that slid through late Saturday night has now stalled off the coast.   That has kept the Carolinas rather warm and wet today, but has allowed much drier and cooler air to greet us in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast. 

Along the front, an area of low pressure will develop along the eastern Carolinas.  That will set the stage for an unsettled start the work week.  Cloudy skies will greet us Monday morning with a few sprinkles around.  With the clouds, and an easterly breeze, temperatures will only climb into the mid to upper 70s.  Here are forecast highs for Monday:

Showers will be sporadic, but it will be good to have the umbrella with you with rain chances possible through Tuesday night.  There is also some discrepancy between the model guidance.  The European model favors heavy rainfall Tuesday morning at 8 am along and east of the I-95 corridor, whereas the NAM has only a few sprinkles around.  See the difference in the snapshots below:

WeatherBell European Model 8am Tuesday
WeatherBell NAM Model 8am Tuesday

Folks along the coast will see the heaviest rain and strongest winds.  The Weather Prediction Center's Qualitative Precipitation Forecast (QPF) delineates the highest rainfall totals to be over the eastern shore of Maryland and VA Beach region through the day Tuesday.

NOAA Weather Prediction Center

One thing is for sure, it won't be a bright and sunny start to the week.  The weather pattern changes by Wednesday, as sunshine and more seasonable temperatures return.  Another strong cold front will slide through by week's end bringing another taste of fall to the air by next weekend. 

 

 


Severe thunderstorms trigger power outages, flooding in D.C. area

Sun, 07 Sep 2014 04:49:49 EST


WASHINGTON (WJLA) -- A powerful cold front pushed through the D.C. region Saturday night, bringing severe thunderstorms with damaging wind and heavy rain.

 

Thousands of people were without power after the strong storms ripped through the area, but local power companies worked swiftly to restore power to most by early Sunday morning.

The storms also prompted the National Weather Service to issue a flood warning Saturday night for parts of D.C., Howard, Montgomery, Prince George's, Fairfax and Arlington counties, along with the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church.

The warning was allowed to expire as the threat of further severe weather ended around midnight.

Authorities said the Potomac area of Montgomery County was particularly hard hit by power outages, downed trees and flooded roads that triggered the need for water rescues.


Strong Storms Likely Saturday

Fri, 05 Sep 2014 20:19:00 EST


It says September on the calendar, but it certainly doesn't feel like meteorological fall. Temperatures have started out well above average for the first few days of the month, but big time changes are on the way!

A strong cold front is currently moving through the Midwest. Ahead of the front, very hot and humid conditions exist. Behind the front, much cooler and drier air.

Strong storms have been firing up along the front all day. Tomorrow, as the front approaches the east coast, scattered strong and severe thunderstorms will develop. It'll feel like summer tomorrow afternoon with highs back into the lower 90s, but feeling like the upper 90s with very high humidity. The heat and humidity, combined with the approaching front, will trigger strong to possibly severe thunderstorms. The greatest threat from the storms will be damaging winds. As far as the timing, storms could pop anytime after 2pm. Here's one simulation at 2pm showing a few storms firing up.

WeatherBell - NAM 2pm

A few other simulations suggest the storms will arrive after 6pm. Check out our in-house computer model that shows widely scattered showers and storms around at 9pm.

Since it will be so hot and humid, you'll want to keep an eye to the sky for ominous looking clouds. Storms could fire up at any time. If you're planning on being outdoors, make sure you have the StormWatch weather app downloaded to your phone for radar updates, as well as dangerous storm warning alerts based on your location. The greatest risk for storms will be between 2pm and 10pm Saturday.

The rain should wrap up overnight Saturday from NW to SE, as the drier air slowly filters in. Humidity levels will be noticeably lower Sunday with highs around 80 degrees. Check out a comparison of dewpoint temperatures (measure of humidity/moisture) Saturday and Sunday.

WeatherBell - EURO 2pm Saturday dewpoint temperature
WEatherBell - EURO 2pm Sunday dewpoint temperature

Saturday afternoon dewpoints will be in the lower 70s compared to upper 40 lower 50 degree dewpoint temperatures by Sunday afternoon.

The front will stall off the coast Sunday and will keep temperatures slightly below average for the early part of next week. We'll have to watch the front closely because an area of low pressure may develop along the front and could bring a few showers by Tuesday. It's still too early to tell, but one thing is certain -- cooler and drier, more September-like, weather will return by the end of the weekend!


Daylight is losing ground fast

Thu, 04 Sep 2014 10:45:00 EST


I've been talking to a lot of people lately that have noticed just how quickly the D.C. area has been losing daylight. In August alone, the area lost over an hour of daylight, from fourteen hours and ten minutes on the 1st all the way back to thirteen hours and four minutes on the 31st. Take a look at the graphic below, which will give you a good idea of the big milestones coming up.

(Duration of Daylight in D.C.)

So far D.C. has lost two hours of daylight since the solstice, but that will jump to over three hours lost by the end of September. Unfortunately the area will be below twelve hours of daylight by then as well. We'll have to wait until October 20th for eleven hours of daylight, and November 17th for ten hours of daylight.

To find the duration of daylight for D.C. or anywhere in the U.S., go to this site here and go to form A, or look around the world in form B.


Lapse of the thunderstorms moving through Frederick, MD Tuesday

Tue, 02 Sep 2014 18:18:00 EST


After seeing the potent line of storms form west of the mountains moving east towards D.C., we quickly scrambled to get all of the necessary information out before clicking a few buttons to record a time lapse! Check it out here.

Did you happen to see it? If you did and took any pictures or video, feel free to share them to our Stormwatch 7 Facebook page!

Here is a great picture sent in from Renee Rohwer from Mount Airy, MD this afternoon.

Shelf Cloud in Mt. Airy, MD from Renee Rohwer

Severe Thunderstorm Watch until 10pm Tuesday

Tue, 02 Sep 2014 16:49:00 EST


DOPPLER RADAR | HD CAMERAS

Numerous thunderstorms have developed across the region and some of them have become strong to severe. This prompted the Storm Prediction Center and National Weather Service to post a Severe Thunderstorm Watch for the D.C. Metro and points north until 10pm.

Severe Thunderstorm Watch until 10pm

Storms will have the potential for damaging wind, large hail, heavy rain and frequent lightning. Stay tuned to ABC 7 News for the latest updates and please follow @SteveRudinABC7, @alexliggitt and @DevonLucie for updates on twitter.


Severe storm reports below average for June, July, August 2014

Mon, 01 Sep 2014 21:22:19 EST


NEW YORK (ABC News) - The meteorological summer is June, July and August, so I took some time this afternoon to see how our severe weather "summer" stacked up compared to the past 14 years.

In June, July and August 2014 the United States had 10,430 reports of severe weather, as recorded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. That ranked 14th in the past 15 years, with only last summer's total of 9,640 lower.

Every month this summer, especially August, was well below average. June had 5,537 incidents (compared to the average of 6,194); July had 3,462 (average: 4,486); August had 1,431 (average: 3,057).

There were big years, such as 2008, when we ended up with 21,311 severe weather reports during that same three month period!

Here are some of my thoughts on this:

Since so many people tweet and ask me why it "seems like we've had so many storms lately" and why "the storms seem so severe," how can this below-average calculation be true?

The key word is "seems": With more cameras and more phones, we see every hail storm, every tree down, whereas before we did not. We also have a much more advanced way of sharing this information. The National Weather Service has a better way to get this information into its system. There are improvements all around.

I think it is good to remember that "average" comes from extremes. There will be some years like this year and others like 2008.

Also, not every thunderstorm is a severe thunderstorm. A severe storm must have one inch or greater of hail, damaging winds in excess of 60 mph and/or a tornado. That is what makes it severe.

NOAA has the climate data for these storm reports here, broken down by month and year going back to 2000.

I think the last 14 years is a fair assessment to get an average because the way we detect and report weather has changed greatly since the 1950s. Recent history is really best to get averages when it comes to things like storm reports.



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