Saturday, December 10, 2011

Why I watch the Weather

Here is something I wrote back in January, I made minor changes as I learned more about storms and weather history.  This is a personal account, and that I am lucky to be alive to write this.

The first time I seen unusually strong weather was when I lived in Glenside in the late '70s. I was about 11 years old, I was just home from school with my brother and we noticed that the sky turned dark very quickly. The winds gradually picked up from a normal 5 or 10 miles an hour to the point that you can hear whistling sounds and eventually the sound turned to a freight train noise. The house literally shook and when I looked out the living room window, I saw arcing wires outside just from the winds that hit our house. The noise got so bad that we were shouting in fear.  When the event ended, we wandered outside and did not see damage to our house, but we looked two houses over and saw that a large branch from a nearby tree fell on a work van in their driveway.  A little later we spoke to a friend who told us that there was more damage about 5 blocks away.  I jump on my bike to get there and saw a huge maple tree had fallen on top of a station wagon that was parked on the driveway.  As you can imagine, the car was heavily damaged from this large tree.

I would like to find old records of the event, but I am absolutely sure that this was the result of a small funnel cloud. I am sure the winds had to top 70 miles per, I have checked online and cannot find a recorded event of a EF-0 in Glenside around 1978-1979.  I think about what happened now and how we were really lucky that this was not worse than it was, but it seems that the mini twister followed a chaotic path, that touched the ground then would lift up again then touch down with more force a few blocks away.

The second event that happened to me was when I lived in Guayaquil Ecuador (South America).  I did not have internet access at time, and I was looking for a new job.  I had a former co-worker that was one of my basic Photoshop students, he referred me to the owner of an Ad Agency.  The day I went to the job interview  was a day of typical tropic warmth and bright but somewhat normally cloudy skies.  I was hired and told when to report to the job. (YES!)  Then first day of the job was a nightmare it was the first time I witnessed the effects of “El Niño Southern Oscillation.  I never heard about “El Niño” before then, and that it was forming that week off the coast of Ecuador and Peru in the Pacific Ocean.  My first day on the job and the two months that followed was a life altering event. That day I had witnessed about four feet of water on flooded streets. Torrential rains that looked like the clouds reached 400% relative humidity. I only made it to work safely because I got lost driving to work. By some crazy luck, I took higher ground. I instinctively drove to up hills and did make it to work. When I got to work I had found the owner was on the phone speaking to some of his employees who could not make it in, they were stranded on the flooded roads that were shut down by high water. The crazy “Gringo” (me)  and two other people made it to work that day.  After that, I was of course in shock. I did run into more problems, the rain did not stop. I think it rained without ending for about 4 days or more at a time. It got so bad from driving in deep water that the brakes on my car slowly disintegrated. I then had to take the bus to get to work for about a week. I then got my car back, new brakes I was happy. However my car started to smell bad from flooded water that would seep into the car. That was not the end of my troubles, I was driving home one night and it started to rain again but this time it was much stronger than before. I was on the final stretch of road getting near the house. I noticed that my windshield wipers failed to clean off the glass fast enough to aid my vision. I was driving about 30-35 mph and just started to slow down. The water on the road started to pond, I wanted to avoid hydroplaning so I gradually slowed down, but then the car felt like it quickly fell  downward. Like the feeling you get when you fall in a very large pothole. I could no longer see the road from the blinding rain and dense low clouds.  I guided myself by trees and the brush lining the left edge highway divider and on the right side was driving near a slight embankment that did not have a barrier. When the car fell, it bottomed out violently, two things occurred. The brake line under the car snapped off and the engine stalled from the impact. I tried to hit the brakes and restart the vehicle but the brake pedal sank to the floor board.  I did not panic, I let the car roll and started it, then I down shifted into second to let the engine slow the car down to then again downshift again into first gear.  At that point I was driving my VW Beetle in first gear, (12 mpg?) my wipers were useless and no brakes.  Imagine driving a car blind with no brakes. Yes I did make it home safe, I was the only nut on that flooded road.  I went through 3 sets of brake shoes, and two headlights as they were destroyed by water. After the first rains I padded the spark plug wires with rubber cement and the car did not fail to start after that. At times I was driving around with about four of more inches of water sloshing around inside the car.

I did see other weather events, 3 foot snowstorms, glancing blows from passing hurricanes, and ice storms, but now after seeing all this I have to say that you learn to have a great respect of the forces of nature.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Billion Dollar Weather Disasters

Climate change is taking it's toll, every year the varying cycles or oscillations, whether it is "La Nina" or "El Nino" alternately causes floods, drought and or heightened storm activity.

National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration or NOAA, has released data from years of it climate data.

Here is the first graph showing information from 1980 to the present.  (click image below to enlarge)

The next image shows number of significant events, notice that PA has 17-24 events. Looking at the previous graph you can see that the number of events has increased in the last 25 years.

Looking at this information, it would be wise not to ignore the possibility of a serious weather event.
This week alone, Scotland had category 5 hurricane force winds, we are talking of winds from 100 to 165 Miles per hour!     (Data from NOAA  )

Now I would like to ask folks to take a pic of any local weather event and send them by email to us.  We would like to post the pic and give credit to our readers.  Send your weather pics  to:

In the email please include the folowing;

  • Your name (the photographer,)
  • If you want us to post the picture with your name publicly (your permission) or anonymous
  • The time and date of the weather event
  • Basic location of the picture taken, (Intersection, town city, state)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Where is the Snow?

For late tonight into early tomorrow morning,  it looks like it is and will be too warm and wet for anything over a 1/4 inch of snow to stick to the ground.  The current temperature in Horsham is 42 degrees, and it is dropping, the barometer readings are a very low 996 mb. The low pressure front is here, this is a significant storm,  thunder was heard in eastern Montgomery County tonight.

There is still a Flood Watch, for Montgomery County until 5 AM tomorrow.  Please drive with care in a flood event, it is easy to encounter ponding on roads which may cause  for unsafe driving conditions.  Check your basements for water and take necessary precautions for areas close to creeks and small streams.

Please check your local news for details and updated Flood status information.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Flood Watch and Snow

It is difficult to predict what will occur on Wednesday evening until Thursday morning.

So far the National Weather service has updated it's latest report to say that there is a good chance that our area will see some snow.  The latest forecast information was updated at 4 PM, stating that there is a Flood Watch that says heavy rain that will occur into Wednesday night.  As a cold front moves in from the southwest, this gives the possibility of some snow.

There is a Winter Storm Watch for our area on Wednesday night, higher elevations are expected to see up to 3 inches of snow.

Our area (Montgomery County), might see a coating to up to an inch of snow.  The Flood Watch should be more of a concern then a simple coating of snow. 

Click here to see important  information about Flooding Safety;

We shall see tomorrow morning what the latest forecast will say.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Chance of Snow or False alarm?

Remember back during the end of October we had a surprise snow event.  Everyone including meteorologists were caught off guard.  Again, for the last three days, weather reports flip back and forth from it being cold to not being cold enough for the rain / snow changeover later this week.  

Some online forecasters are stating that there is a dividing line where the air maybe just cold enough to change the rain to snow.  Before on that last event I mentioned, I wrote that the snow would not stick because of the warmer temperatures the day before would not allow the snow to stick to the ground.

Update 8:44pm 12/5/2011:  The National Weather Service has issued its updated forecast.  Possible rain changing to snow.  Snow showers from Tuesday night, then again Wednesday night into Thursday morning.  Looking at the forecast details, they say we should not get anything more than a 1/4" of snow on either of these two days. 

I would be more concerned of the Fog that will be out there again tomorrow morning!

  I am sure everyone is thinking why I am writing all this.  With definite signs of climate chance, you have to be aware of changing weather that can affect your local community.  Just yesterday I read that parts of northern Texas were expecting snow.  Further updates will be posted just in case the slow moving low pressure system, pulls in enough cold air to make it snow more than what is being stated.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Fog warning from tonight until morning

The National Weather Service issued a statement tonight..

Patchy fog will move in from the south.

Patchy fog will move across the region tonight through a better
part of the morning hours. The fog may become locally dense in
with visibilities dropping below one-mile at times. Please use
extra caution while driving and make sure to use the low-beam
setting on your headlights.