Friday, October 28, 2011

It's too early for THIS!

Forecasters still expect rain to develop tonight, and for Saturday to dawn with cold, rainy conditions before the sun returns at midday.

But no matter how bad our weather seems tonight and Saturday morning, we're catching a break.

The low pressure system forecast to form off the Carolinas and move up the East Coast is predicted to bring heavy snow -- yes, heavy snow -- to parts of the Mid Atlantic and Northeast.

It's only Oct. 28, for crying out loud! It's too early for this.

Sure, the record books show a number of late-October storms along the East Coast, but it's been several decades since anything like this happened.

Several cities in a path from northern Virginia to New England are forecast to get between 6 and 10 inches of snow, and an inch or two is expected to accumulate on grassy areas even in major cities like Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Boston.

Places in line for the really heavy snow include Frederick, Md.; Scranton, Pa.; and Hartford. This will be a heavy wet snow, accompanied by strong winds. In fact, a high wind watch is posted for Boston, where gust of 50 to 60 mph are possible Sunday. So the combination of wet snow and high winds will create a threat of downed trees and widespread power outages.

Like I said ... we're getting off easy this time.

The big picture responsible for this storm is the same old story ... a trough over the eastern United States. That trough is the reason why tropical storms were steered away from the U.S. mainland this summer, and it was a big player in our weather during the first two months last winter.

The trough creates a steering current that brings cold air into the East, and storms tend to form on the edge of the trough path, along the coast.

It ought to be interesting to check out the field conditions Saturday for a couple of college football games, like Fordham-Army, where a foot of snow is expected; and West Virginia-Rutgers, where it will be rain, but with 35 mph winds.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A tropical storm, perhaps

A low pressure system centered near the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico could become a tropical storm today and almost certainly will bring very wet, raw weather to parts of the U.S. East Coast this week.

Meteorologists think the system eventually will merge with a strong cold front expected to cross the eastern United States late Tuesday and Wednesday, but the timing of any merger is still uncertain.

Any link-up between the tropical low and the cold front apparently won't happen until after the front has moved east of the Charlotte area, so it will be the coastal Carolinas -- not the Piedmont -- that feels the brunt of the rain.

On Monday morning, the National Hurricane Center said it still had not found and closed circulation in the low. The Hurricane Center is sending a reconnaissance jet into the storm this afternoon, however, and that could change things. Buoys and reporting stations in northeast Mexico, western Cuba, and the Florida Keys were reporting heavy rain and gusty winds Monday morning.

The best guess for this system (which would be named Rina, if it were to develop into a tropical storm):

It would form in the northeast Gulf of Mexico, then make landfall late Tuesday or Wednesday morning on Florida's Gulf coast, perhaps near Tampa. Top sustained winds are expected to be in the range of 50 or 60 mph. After that, Rina would cross Florida and then head up the East Coast, bringing several inches of rain and gusty winds to coastal Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware.

Eventually, the storm would move up the Mid-Atlantic and New England coasts.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Great weekend ... then some crazy changes!

We're in store for a near-perfect weekend of weather in the Charlotte region and across the Carolinas.

But we'd better enjoy it, because next week looks to be full of some wild swings ... some sun, some storms, some summer, some late fall.

High pressure will take care of things nicely through Sunday.

Windy conditions could cause some problems for boaters today, but forecasters expect the stiff west breeze to abate this evening. The rest of the weekend is predicted to be calm.

Skies will be clear through the weekend, and with low humidity levels, the visibility will be great. That means sunshine during the day, deep blue skies, and a bright moon and stars at night. High temperatures are forecast to reach the low or mid 70s today and Saturday, and then the upper 70s Sunday.

Here's what to expect this weekend:

Tonight -- high school football and the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at the speedway: Temperatures will be in the mid 60s at 7:30 p.m., dropping to the upper 50s by the end of the games and race.

Saturday morning (soccer, golf, tennis, festivals, whatever): Look for temperatures in the upper 40s at daybreak, climbing rapidly through the 50s and 60s. It'll be near 65 degrees by noon. Clear skies.

Saturday afternoon college football and other activities: Temperatures in the low 70s and full sunshine.

Saturday night's Bank of America 500: It could get a bit chilly. Look for temperatures around 62 to 64 degrees at 7:30 p.m., falling into the low to mid 50s by the end of the race.

Sunday: It'll be the coolest morning of the weekend, with temperatures in the low to mid 40s at daybreak. But there'll be a quick rebound, with highs soaring to the upper 70s in the afternoon.

Now ... about next week ...

Get ready for the following ...

A taste of summer: Monday could turn out to be the warmest day in weeks. Skies will be partly to mostly sunny, and highs will be at least 80 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. Accu-Weather, the Pennsylvania-based private company, is forecasting highs possibly approaching the record high of 85.

Stormy weather? A strong cold front will cross the area late Tuesday or Wednesday, and the computer models are touting the development of low pressure somewhere in the Carolinas. That raises the spectre of a severe weather outbreak on the southeast side of the low. Forecasters will be watching this over the weekend.

Adios, warm weather! Some really chilly conditions will spread into the Carolinas late next week. This is seven days out, so things could change a lot by then. But if everything pans out, we could be looking at highs in the upper 50s and low 60s next weekend.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Six weeks later, the clean-up continues

Hurricane Irene has disappeared from the headlines, but more than six weeks after the storm battered the eastern third of North Carolina, the damage can still be seen in some places.

Some amazing work by engineers and crews allowed for the reopening of washed-out N.C. 12 at the southern end of the Outer Banks earlier this week, but the N.C. Department of Transportation says its crews still have a lot of clean-up ahead.

I talked last week to someone who has been in mainland Hyde and Craven counties in the past 10 days, and he told me that downed trees, limbs and other debris are still a common sight.

The DOT's crews have been working long hours since late August to clean the mess, and they've picked up 55,000 tons of trees and limbs since then.

The clean-up is finished or nearly complete in eight counties, but it will be several more weeks before the trees and other debris are hauled away in 28 other counties heavily affected by the hurricane.

The N.C. 12 repairs involved around-the-clock work. Three breaches were repaired between Oregon Inlet and Rodanthe, but the most amazing job was the speedy installation of a modular bridge at the worst hurricane breech, about six miles south of Oregon Inlet. The bridge is narrow, and the speed limit is 25 mph. But engineers say it is sturdy enough to absorb a pounding from winter nor'easters until something permanent can be designed.

And while we're speaking of clean-up ... one of my sons was in Lee County about two weeks ago and said the damage is still visible from the killer tornadoes that roared through Sanford (and many other places in eastern North Carolina) on April 16.

It will be years before Nature is able to repair the damage caused by those mid-April storms.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sorry! Rain doesn't show up

One of these days, I'll learn my lesson about precipitation totals.

Yet again, a low pressure system has failed to deliver the rainfall predicted by most (but not all) computer models, and I believed the wrong computer forecasts.

While rainfall has been widespread across the Charlotte region today, it has been mostly light. The National Weather Service was forecasting at midday Monday that between 1 and 2 inches would fall in the Charlotte area today and tonight.

But the low pressure system that dumped 10 inches of rain on parts of Florida never got its act together as it moved northward. Much of the rainfall evaporated as it encountered the very dry air in place across the Piedmont for the past week or so, and by early afternoon Tuesday, about one-third of an inch has fallen at Charlotte/Douglas International Airport.

That's about the same total on my home rain gauge.

It's a far cry from 1 to 2 inches.

Faulty precipitation totals are a nuisance, and they're more of a problem in the winter, when forecasters are trying to predict how much ice or snow will fall. Often, thunderstorms erupt along the Gulf Coast and rob the moisture from the Carolinas and Georgia. That wasn't the case this time. Instead, low pressure never really strengthened like it was forecast to do.

I'm a big believer in patterns and trends, and clearly the pattern now is for dry weather. Another low pressure system is forecast to cross the area Thursday, accompanying a weak cold front. The computers are indicating showers and thunderstorms will break out.

But if you're relying on rain Thursday to water your newly seeded and fertilized lawn, I'd remember what happened today.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Dry spell is about to end

Low pressure moving northward from the Gulf of Mexico and Florida will put an end to the nearly two-week string of dry days in the Charlotte region.

Rain will move into the area this evening or overnight, and it will continue intermittently until Wednesday morning. By the time the last showers have pushed northeast of the region sometime later Wednesday, much of the area could get 1.5 or even 2 inches of rain.

The low pressure system is being fed by tropical moisture, and it will bring breezy conditions to the Charlotte region Tuesday. Temperatures probably will fall from the mid 60s in the morning, dropping to near 60 degrees for much of the day.

In short, we're looking at a raw day.

There won't be a worry about severe weather, however -- this will be what meteorologists call a "stratiform" rain event. That's a nice way of saying low clouds and a mostly steady rainfall.

Flooding isn't likely, either, because the precipitation will be spread over a 36-hour period. Besides, it has been very dry in the area since late September.

Once the rain departs later Wednesday, we're looking at dry and mild weather for the end of the week.