Washington, DC

We are returning to our nation’s Capital for the forecast today. There has been a lot of nasty weather in the east and southeast of late, but now, it looks like there may be a pause. Will it old through the end of March?

At 1152AM, ET, Washington-Reagan was reporting a temperature of 52 degrees with clear skies. In the wake of the latest cold front, skies across the eastern Seaboard had cleared, and high pressure had taken hold, though a brisk west wind was leaving a bit of a chill to the air. Washington was seeing gusts approaching 30mph.
A deep trough in the Plains will advance eastward and lead the complicated jet structure over the mid-Atlantic to devolve. Warm air will rise through the mid-Atlantic on Tuesday, though low pressure moving through eastern Canada will drag a cold front out of the Appalachians and into the District of Columbia by late Wednesday morning. Some development along the front around eastern Tennessee will allow for a surge in moisture in Washington, leading to a rainier day than most areas on the Atlantic on Wednesday. Some thunder will mix in late in the day, but again, a lot of the thunder will be confined to points south of the Potomac.
Tomorrow – Sunny, getting warmer, High 72, Low 41
Wednesday – Rain starting in the morning, with some thunderstorms later in the day, High 66, Low 49

TWC: Tomorrow – Sunny skies High 69, Low 41
Wednesday – Cloudy with periods of rain High 67, Low 55

AW: Tomorrow – Mostly sunny High 68, Low 41
Wednesday – Cloudy with periods of rain in the afternoon High 66, Low 56

NWS: Tomorrow – Sunny, High 68, Low 42
Wednesday – Showers, High 66, Low 54

WB: Tomorrow – Sunny, High 67, Low 42
Wednesday – Rain, High 64, Low 55

WN: Tomorrow – Sunny, High 68, Low 41
Wednesday – Mostly cloudy with showers, High 67, Low 54

FIO: Tomorrow – Clear throughout the day. High 66, Low 42
Wednesday – Rain throughout the day, High 65, Low 54

Here is what Lauryn Ricketts of NBC 4 in Washington has to say about the weather in DC this week.

A similar storm, but a very different story

I posted last week about the high risk of severe weather that turned into a couple of long track supercells that fortunately avoided major population centers. Today, we weren’t as lucky.

There were a few tornadic storms, but one storm in particular will be remembered for a long time. Here are the storms that have been reported today, most notably a long track, large tornado that trekked from West Blocton, Alabama to Pelham, through the south side of Birmingham, and on to Ohatchee, where 5 people lost their lives, before the rotation fell apart just inside the Georgia state line.

This storm was strong enough that is showed up very evidently on radar. Note the red dot in the bottom left display, near Meadowbrook. The storm had crossed I-65 and was currently within a tornado emergency, suggesting a confirmed, large tornado in a populous area.

That pink triangle in the four displays reflects the rotation well. Remarkably, this tornado was on it’s way toward a subdivision where local meteorologist James Spann lives. He found out on air that his home suffered heavy damage as tornado passed nearby.

There were other tornadoes that cropped up throughout the afternoon in several states, including Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia. In fact, as this post was coming together, another tornado emergency was issued south of Atlanta, as a large tornado was moving through the town of Newman.

There are already reports of structural damage, and I suspect it will be much worse in the morning. The storm did dissipate before it reached Fayetteville, Georgia, but Tyrone and Peachtree City almost certainly received damage as well. The tornado moved through after midnight, local time, so many residents were probably caught unaware.

In comparing today’s storms to those of St. Patrick’s Day, the biggest change was the tornados’ ability to hit population centers. There were a couple of more individual storms, and the tornadoes will likely be measured as being stronger, but when it comes down to it, today, we were unlucky.

Disaster averted

The high risk of severe weather was well advertised over St. Patrick’s Day in the southeast, and on Friday in the Carolinas. Fortunately, there was no loss of life, and only a few injuries. One might look at the dire forecast and the relatively good news, and think that the forecast was a bust. While it was certainly a good result, the forecast wasn’t really a bust.

A high risk severe thunderstorm day asserts that there is a significant risk of many tornado reports, including long track tornadoes. There were 50 reports of tornadoes, and the tracks through Mississippi and Alabama, as well as a cell that started in Florida and ended in Georgia, show that, even if twisters touched down and lifted several times, these were long tracking supercells.

There were tentative moments. One of the cells generated near Tuscaloosa, scene for a devastating tornado 10 years ago, but fortunately, remained to the south and east of town. It did reach EF2 levels, and caused damage in nearby Moundville, but avoided the larger population centers.

Another cell — actually, a couple of cells following the same track — started rotating over and near Selma, which is west of Montgomery. Not only did the tornadoes they produce miss the population center of Selma (they did cause injuries outside of town) but as the storm held together, it remained to the north of Montgomery, and even larger town.

This day of storms, I believe, would have been remembered differently entirely if that storm to the north had shifted a few miles to the north, and the storm to the south took a slightly different track in any number of the passes over Selma. The forecast was a good one, but residents of Mississippi, Alabama and the surrounding region simply got lucky.

A quick turn around

A little over a week ago, we took a look at the weather in Sacramento, which was at the tail end of a nasty couple of days. The culprit was a broad area of low pressure that would end up moving into the southern Plains and bringing a tornado outbreak to the southeast late this week. Things bounced back very quickly after one last murky day on Thursday. The high temperatures jumped more than 10 degrees from Thursday to Friday, setting up a nice weekend. Accuweather grabbed a narrow victory.
Actuals: Thursday – High 58, Low 36
Friday – High 69, Low 35

Grade: B-C

All of the cold, none of the snow

Last Wednesday, when we were looking at Colorado Springs, we checked out the radar. Flurry activity stayed in the Denver area, north of the Palmer Divide. This topographic barrier slowed precipitation, which was mighty, in the Denver area through the end of the week, as a nother round of wet weather descended upon the Plains. Mind you, it eventually did bring Colorado Springs quite a bit of nasty weather, but that was on the weekend, after the forecast period expired. There was a little spritz light wintry weather on Friday night, but not the deluge expected for late week by some outlets. Temperatures stayed much cooler than anticipated, which is a flaw that can show up in the Rockies. That’s just the way it goes. The Weather Channel was the top forecast, but it was rough.
Actuals: Thursday – High 38, Low 25
Friday – .03 inches of mixed precip, High 32, Low 27

Grade: B-F

Weather Basics: Identify and Understand Clouds, Precipitation, and More, Comes out March 30th!

As readers of this site, you may be interested to learn that my second book is scheduled to be released on March 30th. It is a spiral bound quick guide, featuring a lot of photos for reference. It will be easily portable, and full of all the information you need on the go.

And if you do want the deeper information on how the atmosphere works, remember, you can still buy the original Field Guide!

Sacramento, California

Let’s head on out to California to finish this busy day of posting.

At 653PM, PT, Sacramento was reporting a temperature of 44 degrees with mostly cloudy skies. A broad trough aloft was contributing to a smattering of valley rain and mountain snow across the western US, generally from the Rockies to the coast. The surface low showed circulation centered off the coast from Point Arena, northwest of San Francisco Bay. Aside from that, surface features were ill defined.
The trough responsible for the inclement weather is bringing cooler air to the region as well. It’s axis is directed southwest to northeast, and that will slow its progression to the east. Unbound to the south, it will sink away a bit from Sacramento through the end of the week, leading to sunnier skies on Friday. Sacramento will still be within a general trough, however, and temperatures will remain cool, even if skies clear.
Tomorrow – Overcast with rain through the day, High 58, Low 40
Friday – Sunnier and warmer, High 65, Low 37

TWC: Tomorrow – Partly cloudy. High 59, Low 39
Friday – Mainly sunny. High 67, Low 37

AW: Tomorrow – Times of sun and clouds High 57, Low 39
Friday – Intervals of clouds and sun High 67, Low 34

NWS: Tomorrow – Mostly cloudy, then gradually becoming sunny High 58, Low 40
Friday – Sunny, High 66, Low 37

WB: Tomorrow – Mostly cloudy in the morning, becoming partly cloudy, High 58, Low 40
Friday – Patchy Frost in the morning. Sunny, Warmer, High 66, Low 36

WN: Tomorrow – Partly cloudy, High 58, Low 40
Friday – Sunny, High 66, Low 37

FIO: Tomorrow – Partly cloudy throughout the day. High 59, Low 40
Friday – Clear throughout the day. High 66, Low 37

I’m the only one saying that there will be rain tomorrow. I think we all agree that clouds and murk will linger in Sacramento, and snow will plaster the mountains outside of town.

Clear skies, crisp temperatures

When you are working with clear skies in the Plains, you might expect to have a pretty easy forecast. Even with low pressure moving towards Topeka late in the forecast period last week, it was the first day of our forecast period that proved toughest. Those clear skies brought temperatures all the way down to 29 degrees by Wednesday morning, which was a solid 5 degrees colder than anyone prognosticated. The Weather Channel was the best aside from that blip that was on everyone’s ledger, as they accurately had the warmest high temperature forecast.
Actuals: Wednesday – High 72, Low 29
Thursday – High 72, Low 30gradec

Grade: C – D

Colorado Springs, Colorado

The Palmer Divide separates Denver from Colorado Springs, and though the topographies of the individual cities may appear similar, they often have very different weather fortunes. Let’s see what happens in Colorado Springs to round out the week.

At 854AM, MT, Colorado Springs was reporting a temperature of 45 degrees with a brisk west wind, gusting to 35mph with scattered clouds. An area of low pressure over the central Plains was leading to a wet day across the Northern Plains, with some light snow wrapping in from the north for Denver. South of the Palmer Divide, things were looking significantly drier, and the winds across the region were leading to red flag warnings for the Colorado High Plains.
Jet flow should remain fairly consistent across the region for the remainder of the week, southwest to northeast, though flow through the jet will continue to strengthen. A trough will begin to propagate along the jet stream in the western United States overnight Thursday to Friday, which will invigorate a warm front in the Plains, and will eventually lead to cyclogenesis in the southern High Plains. Skies will be fairly cloudy throughout the period, thanks to the flow aloft, but they will darken further late Friday, with a chance for a stray drizzle or flurry before midnight and a stormy weekend.
Tomorrow – Mostly cloudy, High 45, Low 23
Friday – Increasing clouds, wintry mix late, High 40, Low 25

TWC: Tomorrow – Partly cloudy. High 45, Low 26
Friday – Partly cloudy skies during the morning hours will give way to cloudy skies with light rain and snow developing in the afternoon High 40, Low 26

AW: Tomorrow – A bit of morning snow with little or no accumulation followed by a little rain in the afternoon High 47, Low 24
Friday – Cloudy with a little snow with little or no accumulation, mixing with, then changing to rain High 44, Low 28

NWS: Tomorrow – Mostly sunny (Late snow) High 47, Low 24
Friday – A chance of snow before 3pm, then rain likely, possibly mixed with snow. Mostly cloudy, High 41, Low 26

WB: Tomorrow – Mostly cloudy in the morning then becoming mostly sunny, High 46, Low 28
Friday – Mostly cloudy. Slight chance of snow in the morning then chance of snow possibly mixed with rain in the afternoon, High 40, Low 29

WN: Tomorrow – Partly cloudy, High 47, Low 24
Friday – Motly cloudy with light wintry mix likely, High 42, Low 26

FIO: Tomorrow – Partly cloudy throughout the day. High 50, Low 28
Friday – Foggy overnight and in the evening. High 47, Low 30

Guidance is pretty reluctant to put much precipitation in Colorado Springs Friday night, but many outlets are going hard for a miserable end to the work week. Look at the radar below, with snow, deceptively heavy, up in Denver and nothing in Colorado Springs. That Palmer Divide sure lives up to it’s billing!