From the ABC 7 Weather team

Archive for October 2014

A Treat For the Halloween Forecast but we will be Tricked for the Weekend

October 31, 2014 - 07:28 AM

We have experienced quite a rollercoaster week in terms of temperatures. On Tuesday, temperatures made it to 80 degrees. By the weekend, some portions of our area may not make it out of the 40s. We have quite an atmospheric set-up as we head into the end of this work week and weekend so hold on to your hats folks, because we are in for a windy ride. 

For Halloween, we are just watching that initial area of low pressure and its attendant cold front move closer to the Washington D.C. region. I do have a feeling that some showers will get going through the late evening hours (after 8p.m.) in the Shenandoah Valley and west- but only a small chance. Eventually, by Saturday, showers will spread east past the Blue Ridge Mountains. So expect increasing clouds on Friday afternoon ahead of the cold front with showers to the west after about 8p.m. Trick or Treating around the D.C. area should be dry (that is until after midnight when rain chances increase).

A deep upper level area of low pressure (a “Manitoba Mauler” if you will –since it is originating from the Canadian province of Manitoba) and its attendant cold front will shoot down from the Great Lakes region Friday and continue to trek through the Appalachian Mountains. Canadian high pressure will aid in the movement of the upper level low. Through Saturday, that area of low pressure will transfer its energy off the coast of North Carolina to a developing coastal low.

Saturday is a different story. If you are headed to any area college football games (Maryland at Penn State, TCU at WVU, Boston College at Virginia Tech or the night game at Fed EX as Navy hosts Notre Dame) – it is going to be cold! Temperatures on Saturday with on and off spotty rain showers will only top out in the upper 40s to lower 50s. However, winds will increase after 10a.m. on Saturday to around 10 – 15 mph. As we head through the early afternoon and into the evening hours, winds will increase 15-25 mph with gusts up to 30 mph. By the evening hours (after around 7p.m.), wind chills will end up in the 30s.

Caption: This is a look at wind speeds off the eastern seaboard after midnight on Saturday. (Courtesy: WeatherBell Models)

Winds will continue to be strong over the course of Sunday. However, we will get some sunshine back on Sunday as high pressure builds in. Temperatures on Sunday will only top out in the upper 40s for most spots and with the wind, it will feel much cooler!

However, this cold spell won’t last too long. As we head into the next work week, we will gradually warm up into the lower to mid 60s by Wednesday.

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Partial solar eclipse arrives Thursday

October 22, 2014 - 04:16 PM

A partial eclipse happens when the moon passes in front of the sun, partially obscuring the disk of the sun with some of it left uncovered. This will occur late today just before sunset at 6:19PM.

Live coverage of the eclipse can be viewed online from NASA here starting at 5pm!

While the window of opportunity to catch the partial eclipse on the east coast is limited (26 minutes in the metro D.C. area) the farther west you head the longer that window take in the celestial splendor.

Courtesy: NASA

Viewing is expected to be best for people in the Central Time Zone because of the timing and the weather, which is mainly clear in those locations. Locally, it may be a different story, as the low pressure system riding along the east coast is expected to continue to spread clouds over the region. The hope is that while the region will start mostly cloudy we should break into some sunshine by this afternoon.

One thing is for certain, if you can see the sun, do not attempt to view the partial eclipse without special viewing tools as you can damage your eyes. From NASA, "Direct viewing should only be attempted with the aid of a safe solar filter."

Check out this great tutorial on how to make a solar eclipse viewer from the great folks at space .com!

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Weak tornadoes last week confirmed by National Weather Service

October 20, 2014 - 08:30 PM
Big tree went right into this Honda in Alexandria during the storm last week. (Photo: Jeff Goldberg/WJLA)

The National Weather Service confirmed Monday an EF-0 tornado touched down in eastern Fairfax County and the City of Alexandria. The storm hit during the noontime hour on October 15th. Estimated wind speeds are said to have been between 55 and 60 miles per hour. Skipping a path about one and one-half miles long, it first touched ground near Belle Haven in eastern Fairfax County and quickly moved north into the City of Alexandria. Within three minutes, rotation was no longer detected.

Damage was limited to a few downed trees and snapped limbs. No injuries were reported.

Another tornado was confirmed near Savage, Maryland in eastern Howard County. This storm also had winds clocked around 60 miles per hours and uprooted a large tree.

Some scrutiny had been placed on the National Weather Service for issuing a Tornado Warning that included a large and heavily populated area in the middle of the workday. The warned areas included parts of Fairfax, Arlington and Prince Georges counties along with Alexandria and the District.

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Frost Season: When Will Washington Have Its First One?

October 19, 2014 - 06:31 PM

A Frost Advisory is posted when temperatures are expected to be 33 to 36 degrees on clear, calm nights during the growing season. An even colder night that brings temperatures to or below freezing requires the weather service to issue a Freeze Warning.

Both of these cold weather alerts are only posted until the end of the growing season. When defines the conclusion to the growing season? A widespread freeze (temperatures at or below freezing) that kills off outside vegetation left uncovered.

The Allegheny mountains far west of Washington are first to see the end of the growing season. As time goes on during the fall, the temperatures eventually get cold enough to end the growing season from the Allegheny Foothills to the Blue Ridge.

First Frost

The Washington area has its first frost usually around this time; mid-October. In an average fall then, by November 1, temperatures likely have dipped below freezing to end the entire Mid-Atlantic’s growing season.

Frost Advisories and Freeze Warnings cease to be posted then during the winter but are warranted when a late-spring freeze is expected to cause damage to plants and crops.

Below is a table that lists the typical first fall frost and last spring frost dates. If temperatures are expected to be near or below freezing after the typical last spring frost dates, Frost Advisories and/or Freeze Warnings will be posted.

First Frost

Stay with ABC7 and WTOP for the latest forecasts and cold weather alerts as Autumn continues.

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Weak El Nino? What could that mean for D.C. Winter - Comparing the past

October 17, 2014 - 03:15 PM

Now that we have established that in the D.C. region, the summer of 2014 wasn’t quite as cool as we had perceived it to be, we can now move on to the winter of 2014-2015. Does a cool summer mean a harsh winter? I have been getting this question a lot, especially as we head into the end of October.

I decided to go back to ALL of the harsh winter’s Washington D.C. has recorded since 1899 and tried to find exactly what the summer preceding that harsh winter was exactly like and if we were experiencing a La Nina year, an El Nino year or a neutral year since that gives us an idea of our winter long range forecast. Again, these are all from Washington, D.C. National Weather Service forecast office (it had moved a couple times throughout this history but was always within the District of Columbia). 

1899: The Great Eastern Blizzard of ’99.
The Winter: This storm moved into the Washington D.C. region on Valentine’s Day, a Tuesday in 1899. Snow was reported as far south as Florida with around 21.0” of snow falling on the Washington D.C. and Baltimore area and up to 16.0” as far as New York. Pretty gusty winds that accompanied the Blizzard caused serious snow drifts that blocked transportation lines into Washington D.C causing a coal shortage. The Washington area had a snow depth of 34.0”. This was also the winter of The Great Arctic Outbreak in winch temperatures were so cold all across a good portion of the United States that the National Weather Service reports that ice flowed from the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico.

The Summer of 1898:  With an average summer temperature of 75.0 degrees and an observed temperature of 76.0 degrees, the meteorological summer of 1898 (June – August) was 1.0 degrees WARMER than average.

January 28, 1922 “Knickerbocker Storm”:

The Winter: This storm was a crushing blow to the Washington D.C. area. A heavy snow of 28.0” was measured in Washington D.C. with higher amounts around the regions. This was the infamous “Knickerbocker Storm” where around 100 people were crushed to death as the roof at the Knickerbocker Theater on 18th and Columbia in NW Washington succumbed to heavy snow.

Summer of 1921: The summer preceding the “Knickerbocker Storm” was 0.83 degrees WARMER than average, but just by a very thin margin. The average temperature was 74.6 degrees for the summer and the summer of 1921.

April 1st, 1924 “Aprils Fools Day Storm”:

While this storm was mild in comparison with other storms of the past, this was the latest snowfall of the season of this amount. (This was considered a major snow storm because it accumulated more than 4.00”). Actually 5.00” of snow fell on the Washington area (a trace of snow fell on May 10th, 1906 but again, this was the most snow recorded this late in the season). Baltimore received 9.00” of snow with this storm.

The summer of 1923 was once again just a touch on the warmer side with the average temperature for the summer at 74.6 degrees and an observed temperature for the three summer months was 75.2 degrees. This means that D.C. was 0.63 degrees WARMER the summer before the April’s Fools Day Storm.

February 7th, 1936:

While this storm does not have a name, the Spring following this Winter helped set up for “The Great Spring Flood of March 1936” which was recorded as one of the worst floods for the Potomac River and Washington D.C. More than 14.0” of snow fall around Washington D.C. with more amounts through the Eastern Shore, Southern Maryland and south. All that snow helped lend to the massive flooding of the Potomac River through the spring.

Temperatures for the summer of 1935 were at 74.6 degrees for an average. The summer was very warm with temperatures topping out at 1.95 degrees ABOVE the normal temperature!

March 29th-30th 1942

This was a big storm that is actually still spoken about to this day! The “Palm Sunday Snowstorm” was a late bloomer, moving in at the end of March. However, it was a big snow producer dropping a foot of snow on Washington D.C. That was a minimal total compared to Baltimore, which received the greatest snow accumulated with one storm in 20 years! Baltimore recorded 22.0” of snow and Hagerstown measured 22.0” of snow as well in about 24 hours!

Chalk it up as another warm summer around Washington D.C. with temperatures 1.0 degrees WARMER than average. The average temperature for the summer of 1941 was 74.6 degrees with the observed temperature at 75.6 degrees.

January 30th-31st 1966

Strong El Nino Year. A pretty bad winter was upon the D.C. region during 1965-1966. With already snow on the ground, a blizzard came whisking through the region dropping one to two feet of snow through Virginia and Maryland. Washington D.C. recorded 14.0” of snow while Baltimore received just around a foot. There of course were some higher totals through Fredericksburg and Manassas.

The summer leading up to the fairly bad winter was almost near normal. The average temperature for the summer of 1965 was 76.3 with a recorded temperature of 76.0 degrees. That means the summer of 1965 was 0.3 degrees BELOW average, slightly just still below.

January of 1977 “The Bicentennial Winter”

Weak El Nino Year: This was a harsh one to say the least. This was one of the coldest winters recorded on the East Coast. The average temperature in Washington for January was 25.4 degrees which was the coldest since 1856 when the average temperature was 21.4 degrees (the normal temperature for January was 34.6 degrees)! The Carter Administration was getting settled into Washington and starting on January 4th, snow kept falling every few days. It was just a few inches here and a few inches there. Believe it or not, the Tidal Potomac (which is salt water) was frozen solid with the cold temperatures! People could actually skate across it to the Memorial Bridge! This winter was terrible for everybody – in fact, snow was even seen in Miami, Florida on January 19th. (Courtesy of NWS-Sterling)

Looking back at the summer of 1976, the average temperature was just slightly above normal for the meteorological summer, only 0.8 degrees warmer. The average temperature for those months was 76.8 degrees and the D.C. area measured a summer with an average temperatures of 77.6 degrees.

February 18th-19th 1979

Neutral Year: “The President’s Day Storm” was a one that a lot of people around the region remember as well considering it was thought to be the worst storm to hit the Washington, D.C. region in 57 years. Snow was recorded as falling 2”-3” per hour during the storm! One of the most interesting facts about this storm is that there was a protest on the National Mall with tractor trailers and other large farm machinery to protest for higher agricultural pricing. The protestors on the mall ended up using their equipment to help people dig out of the depths of snow that were around 2 feet!

With another bad winter upon the D.C. area in 1979, the summer of 1978 was a hot one. Temperatures were 2.1 degrees ABOVE normal! The average summer temperature for that summer was 78.7 degrees and the Washington D.C. area observed a warm average temperature of 78.9 degrees.

February 11th-12th 1983

Strong El Nino Year: Up to this point in history, the February storm of 1983 was the 2nd greatest snowfall on record for the Washington D.C. region as 24-hour snowfall records were set in some of the surrounding areas and D.C. received 17.0” of snow with this storm. There was more snow if you traveled outside the city, snowfall totals were up to 2 feet in some areas. Not only was the region dealing with large snowfall totals but gusty winds also caused large snow drifts around the Mid Atlantic.

The summer preceding the snowstorm that beat out the President’s Day Snowstorm was actually slightly cooler than average. The average temperature for the summer of 1982 was 76.8 degrees and D.C. observed a temperature of 76.2 degrees. That means D.C was 0.6 degrees BELOW normal for that summer.

November 11th, 1987 “The Veteran’s Day Storm”

Moderate transitioning into Strong El Nino Year:
Who can remember this storm? I actually do because my mom had to learn how to drive stick in a snowstorm to get me to an emergency dentist for a screaming 5 year old-oh memories. The snow came down fast a furious and right and took people by surprise considering these were the days before Doppler radar. By the time the snow moved through Fredericksburg, dropping heavy amounts, it was too late and meteorologists didn’t even really grasp what was happening until snow reached the forecast office in Camp Springs. Around a foot of snow fell across the region as motorists were still out and about. Stranded cars decorated area roadways.

This was actually a very warm summer in 1987 and an early massive snowstorm that followed. Temperatures in the summertime were 2.2 degrees ABOVE normal. The average temperature for that summer was 77.0 degrees and D.C. topped out at 79.2 degrees!

March 13th – 14th 1993 “The Superstorm of March ‘93”

Coming out of Moderate El Nino this was a Neutral Year: Yet another memory because I was pretty sure, growing up in Winchester, VA, I was never going back to school after this one (which was fine by me at that point in my life). This was a massive storm, with the lowest pressure ever recorded at the storm’s center, that affected the entire east coast. Not only did it cause huge storm surge through the Florida panhandle and several tornadoes (several deaths resulted in those weather events as well), it dropped more than a foot of snow across multiple states. Although this was an incredible storm, D.C. has seen worse. D.C. recorded 13.0” of snow with almost a foot right outside the city; in the suburbs and in extreme southwest VA some totals were around 40.0”. There were plenty of strong winds accompanying the storm as well as this was a true blizzard. Snow drifts were over 12 feet, the National Guard was called in and there were several deaths not only from hypothermia and collapsed roofs but more commonly from overexertion leading to heart attacks while shoveling snow.

I wouldn’t exactly call the summer of 1992 a warm summer as temperatures in the Washington D.C. area were 1.9 degrees BELOW average. The average temperature for that summer was 77.0 degrees and D.C. measured a temperature of only 75.1. June and August were particularly cooler.

The Winter of 1994

Neutral Year: Several ice storms pelleted the D.C. area early in 1994 and temperatures plummeted below zero several mornings. This is thought to be the iciest winter on record for the D.C. area. During January and February, there were multiple storms that not only dropped sleet but snow a freezing rain as well. One storm in particular on February 10th left a coating of ice that was 1.00” to 3.00” thick across the region! Due to the thick coating of ice, there were several power outages as falling trees and power lines due to heavy ice were to blame. There was a disaster declaration given in our area and several injuries as a direct result of the heavy ice coatings.

The summer of 1993 was a warm one with temperatures 1.3 degrees ABOVE average. The average temperature was 78.0 degrees with the D.C. area observed a warm temperature of 79.3 degrees.

January 7-13, 1996: The Blizzard of '96

Weak La Nina Year: Another one for the record books, another one in recent memory. If you were north and west of the District, you were dealing with almost 40.0” of snow in some areas while D.C. was climbing out of around 20.0” of snow. Just as the roads started to clear, an infamous “Alberta Clipper” came diving into our area out of the northwest bringing another shot of several inches of fresh snowfall. And then, just when we thought it was over, a third storm moved into the area piling on another 4.0” to 6.0” of snow in the District with more north and west of D.C. All in all, around 2 to 3 feet of snow accumulated after these series of storms.

Another warm summer preceded a nasty and snowy winter with temperatures in the summer of 1995 1.1 degrees above normal. The average temperature was 78.03 degrees and we measure a temperature of 79.13 degrees bringing us a summer that was 1.1 degrees ABOVE average.

February 15-17, 2003
Moderate El Nino Year: Moving into the 21st century, another strong storm was moving up the eastern seaboard in mid-February while temperatures were measuring in the teens. As this Nor’easter was developing, heavy snow began to fall into the overnight and early morning hours on February 16th. The snow continued through Presidents Day morning, February 17th with totals in D.C. topping out at 26.8” of accumulation.

Another very warm summer on tap for the region as temperatures were 2.3 degrees ABOVE normal for the meteorological summer! The average temperature for that summer was 77.03 degrees in D.C. while temperatures warmed up to 79.36 degrees!

Winter of 2009-2010
Moderate El Nino Year: Here we go. The winter that never quit and the first time I had to get on air and say “yeah, we are going to see 30.0” - 35.0” of snow in spots (with only 2 years under my belt as a Chief Meteorologist at my first station, I was almost in tears to know that I could completely bust this forecast and never work again if this prediction didn’t come to fruition, fortunate for me, it did – unfortunately for everybody else, it did as well). This was one of many weekend storms we saw that winter with snow rates at 2.00” per hour at times. That was the first storm that came through on December 18th and 19th. By January, we had our fair show of “little” storms –dropping over 5.00” in spots at times and then came a blizzard on February 5th and 6th. That storm dropped 17.8” in D.C. with over 3 feet of snow north and west of town. Then just when we thought we had enough, we got another blizzard on February 9th and 10th. DC received an additional 10.8” of snow with up to 2 more feet recorded in areas. That winter, DC saw 56.1” of snow fall. That is the number one winter for snowfall in the Washington D.C. area as long as records have been kept (since the late 1800s)!

The summer of 2009 was pretty much on average. Yes, temperatures were just slightly cooler but only by 0.2 degrees. The average temperature for the summer of 2009 was 77.0 and we reached 76.8 degrees with a pretty warm August on tap to help close the deficit from a cooler than average June and July. Therefore, we were 0.2 degrees BELOW average for the summer of 2009.

Winter of 2013/2014

Neutral Year: And yes, another winter that never ended! I couldn’t believe that we were seeing St. Patrick’s Day snow. It was the middle of March and we had been dealing with minor snowstorms since December! We had a least 9 snow events last winter around the region where several inches of snow were reported. Eventually, DCA totaled 32.0” of snow for the season. 32.0” of snow does not even fall into the top 5 snowiest winters for D.C.

The summer last year was just slightly warmer than our average summer. The average summer temperature for June to August is 77.7 degrees and DC warmed up to 78.3 degrees for all three months combined. That is 0.6 degrees ABOVE average.

El Nino vs La Nina vs Neutral





Wow. There is so much I can write on this subject. However, without turning into a very lengthy term paper with lots of graphics and images; let me just give you the short and skinny of it because these events strongly and often dictate the patterns of precip and temperatures globally. It is a very interesting meteorological phenomenon: the correlation between the sea surface temperatures and the atmosphere in the eastern Pacific. According to NASA’s definition of these events, “the development of El Niño events is linked to the trade winds. El Niño occurs when the trade winds are weaker than normal, and La Niña occurs when they are stronger than normal.”

El Niño: Unusually warm temperatures in the eastern Pacific when warm water builds up and migrates along the equator in the eastern Pacific. Of course, this warms the atmosphere creating thunder and rain storms.




La Nina: Unusually cool temperatures in the eastern Pacific when cool water builds and migrates along the equator. This event cools the atmosphere and less water evaporates creating fewer rainstorms in response to the cooler and drier dense air.




Neutral: This is the period (like we were in 2013-2014) when neither La Nina nor El Nino is present. This can be chalked up as a likely transition period to either a La Nina or El Nino event. Pretty much everything (ocean temps, tropical rainfall patterns and atmospheric winds) is right around average.

With that being said and according to the NWS, during El Nino years (and depending on the strength) “there appears to be some historical correlation between the strength of the El Nino and the warming in the Pacific Ocean and seasonable temperatures, precip and snowfall. Weak El Niño winters averaged below normal temperatures and precipitation, while strong El Niño episodes averaged above normal temperatures and precipitation. On average, the stronger the El Niño episode, the warmer and wetter the winters have been. These findings can partly be linked to a stronger than normal sub-tropical jet that typically occurs during moderate to strong El Niño winters, which would favor more active storm systems from the south that draw warm, moist air northward as opposed to the drier Alberta clippers from the northwest. Seasonal snowfall averaged above normal for weak, moderate and strong El Niño.” –credit




As for La Nina years (in the winter’s that I analyzed, I only recorded one – which was a weak La Nina from 1995-1996 and approximately 20 winters were influenced by La Nina episodes since 1950) and according to the NWS “there appears to be some historical correlation between the strength of the La Niña episode and seasonal temperatures locally at Washington D.C. and Baltimore: the stronger the La Niña, the warmer the temperatures averaged. Winter precipitation averaged slightly drier than normal during all La Niña intensities. Seasonal snowfall during La Niña winters averaged below normal during moderate and strong episodes. However, while almost all of the La Niña episodes are linked to near or below normal snowfall at Washington D.C. and Baltimore, the weak La Niña episode during the 1995-96 winter was an outlier in the dataset with well above normal snowfall for the season. In this case, the above normal snowfall was weighted heavily by the 6–8 January 1996 blizzard, when 17.1 (22.5) inches of snow fell at Washington D.C. (Baltimore). –credit



So what do we have in store for the end of 2013 through the spring of 2014 in terms of El Nino/La Nina?

The Climate Prediction Center has issued a statement that they expect (67% chance) of a WEAK El Nino to develop from October 2014 through December 2014 and continue through early 2015. Right now, observations in the Pacific are consistent with neutral conditions (same as last year) but there is a 67% chance of transitioning to most likely a weak El Nino event or a slight chance of a low-end moderate El Nino. Check our Alex Liggitt's blog for an in-depth look on the CPC's predition.

So there is the information and honestly we are just touching the surface as to what goes into a seasonal forecast: historic trends in both the winter and the summer, the Pacific Ocean temperature, wind movement, contrast and comparison. So if we happen to see a weak El Nino develop, maybe check back and see how that compares to the winter of 1977. Hopefully it WON’T be like that year.

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NOAA issues Winter Weather Outlook

October 16, 2014 - 03:44 PM

NOAA issued its winter weather outlook today which features a temperature and precipitation outlook for the entire United States. The Mid Atlantic has typically been an extremely difficult place for seasonal forecasting, and last year was no different.

The outlook showed equal chances of above, below or near average conditions for both precipitation and temperatures for the 2013-14 winter. We all know that it was actually colder and wetter than average, with 32 inches of snow recorded at Reagan National Airport.

This winter, NOAA is predicting equal chances of near, above or below average temperatures.

NOAA Winter Temperature Outlook

They are also predicting a 30% chance of above average precipitation for the D.C. area and points east. The outlook did specifically state, "Last year’s winter was exceptionally cold and snowy across most of the United States, east of the Rockies. A repeat of this extreme pattern is unlikely this year, although the Outlook does favor below-average temperatures in the south-central and southeastern states."

NOAA Winter Precipitation Outlook

There is still a chance that El Nino will develop this winter, and the Climate Prediction Center has a 67% chance that it will develop by the end of the year. Strong El Nino patterns can affect the weather on a global scale.

Read much more about NOAA's Winter Outlook here.

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Heavy rain, isolated severe storms in D.C. Wednesday

October 15, 2014 - 11:45 AM


The highest recorded wind gust today was 57 mph at Belle Haven CC in Alexandria. A few locations received 2 inches of rain and many locations recorded over an inch, which is great given the fact the region has been below average over the past month and a half.

The latest radar imagery continues to show the strongest shower and thunderstorm activity east of D.C. over St. Mary's, Calvert and Anne Arundel Counties in MD. The Flood Watch continues east of D.C. until 8pm.

Flood Watch until 8pm



1:32pm: Heavy showers and storms along with the potential for severe weather will continue to exist through the afternoon hours along and east of I-95 especially for Southern Maryland.

12:47pm: The tornado warned storm has exited the D.C. metro area and the strongest line of storms will continue to push north and east into areas such as Howard and Prince Georges Counties as well as Southern Maryland.

Moderate rainfall will continue through the afternoon hours.

12:20pm: A strong storm is approaching the D.C. Metro from the south moving north-northeast around 45 mph. This will come up on the region very fast so be sure to take shelter if you are in the city! Dangerous lightning, gusty winds and heavy rain are possible in this storm.

Heavy rain, gusty winds and an isolated severe storm cannot be ruled out heading into the afternoon hours. Temperatures ahead of the cold front are near 80 degrees in the D.C. Metro area while they are back in the low 60s west of D.C.

Flood Watch until 8pm

A Flood Watch remains in effect through 8pm this evening for the majority of the D.C. area for the potential of multiple inches of rain. Remember, if you encounter high water, turn around, don't drown. Some areas will see very heavy rainfall in a short amount of time. Various locations across the D.C. area have already received over an inch of rain.

48-Hour Rainfall Totals

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Heavy rain and storms headed to the D.C. region on Wednesday

October 14, 2014 - 02:38 PM

It seems we are throwing it back to summer today (Tuesday) with temperatures around the 80 degree mark and humidity seeping through mostly cloudy skies. Another factor that makes this feel more like a summertime forecast is the threat of some severe weather for your Wednesday.

A powerful storm continues to crawl across the southern tier of the United States lifting to the north through Tuesday. An area of low pressure is lifting towards the Ohio Valley while its attendant cold front continues to move slowly to the east-northeast. The cold front will eventually cross through the area Wednesday, making it into the Atlantic and east of the Chesapeake Bay by the early overnight hours on Thursday morning.

This storm has a history of being severe unfortunately and while I do not foresee a completely widespread severe outbreak across the WJLA viewing area, I do believe that along with damaging winds in some cells, flooding will be the main concern across the region. 
Ahead of the cold front, showers will begin in the afternoon and evening hours on Tuesday. Mainly the area of concern will be well south and west of the listening area but a few showers could sneak slightly to the north, along and west of the Blue Ridge Mountains and into the northern Shenandoah Valley.

This is also the area that the Storm Prediction Center outlined for a 5% chance of severe thunderstorm winds or wind gusts (58 mph or over) within 25 miles of a point on the map within the shaded area:

However, the National Weather Service in Sterling has issued a wind advisory (areas shaded in brown) from 6p.m. on Tuesday evening until 6a.m. on Wednesday morning. With this advisory, winds could move out of the south from 20 to 30 mph with gusts up to 45 mph. This obviously will make driving slightly more difficult, especially with high profile vehicles. There is also a chance for some downed trees with the higher gusts.

So we will keep the chance of occasional showers to the west of the D.C. metro area through the evening and overnight hours. There could even be a few isolated storms within the WJLA viewing area during the overnight hours.

Through Wednesday morning, the frontal system will continue to slide to the east bringing the rain with it. Showers and some isolated storms will increase in coverage through the early morning hours and the rain and storms will continue to spread to the east through the early afternoon.

Unfortunately, this looks like it could be a messy commute for both the morning (if you are traveling from the west) as well as the evening commute (for everybody). Some of the storms in the afternoon hours could bring some damaging winds. However, the main threat will be the rainfall that we receive.

From Tuesday to early Thursday morning, the region could receive anywhere from 0.75” -1.50” of rainfall accumulation east of the Blue Ridge Mountains and up to possibly 3.00” of rainfall accumulation west of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Shenandoah Valley.

Since this system is just crawling, rain will just continue to pound the region. We are expecting the rain to be heavy at times since this system is feeding of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic. We will continue to monitor the issuance of a Flood Watch for the area from the National Weather Service in Sterling.

Good news is that we could use the rain now. For Washington D.C., we are about 0.53” below for the month of October and 3.14” below for rainfall since September 1st 2014. The U.S. Drought monitor has place some of the areas in Virginia and Maryland in the “abnormally dry” sector which means that there is a chance that the region outlined in yellow is headed into drought conditions: short-term dryness means slowing planting and slow growth of crops or pastures.


By Thursday, the heavy rain will be off the coast as the frontal system will be east of the region. However, we are still looking at some spotty rain showers for Thursday with cloud cover as that area of low pressure will be moving through the Great Lakes region (again – its attached cold front will be east of D.C. – see first graphic in this article for surface features on 8 a.m. Thursday). Temperatures will drop back to just slightly above normal for this time of year, in the low 70s. Sunshine returns for Friday!

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Total Lunar Eclipse Wednesday Early Morning

October 6, 2014 - 03:30 PM
Photo: NASA/JPL Kieth Burns

   Set your alarm clock and wake up the kids a little early on Wednesday. Sky gazers will be treated to a beautiful celestial display just before sunrise. The full Hunter’s Moon will be out in all of its glory and the earth will cast a shadow over it. The total lunar eclipse will be visible for all parts of the United States, including right here in Washington, D.C.

Eclipse Viewing- NASA

 If you want to catch the show, you can watch it directly. No special viewing goggles needed. Totality begins at 6:25a EDT and the full eclipse will be at 6:55a. By 7:24a it’s all over, but the sun will be up by then, so it’s best to catch the first half of it here. Just look in the Western sky.

Photo- NASA

As the moon passes deep inside the shadow of the earth, a coppery glow appears. It's also known as the Blood Moon. According to NASA, sometimes you can see a turquoise color at the start of the eclipse. That’s ozone. The moon will appear larger in the sky than normal so it should make for some great photos.  Wednesday is two days past perigee, the point when the moon is closest to the earth giving it that larger appearance. Check out this neat animation of what it may look like from

We’re keeping a close eye on cloud cover Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. Right now it looks like the showers and clouds will clear out just in time. Both the GFS and Euro clear us out ; but the NAM keeps some patchy clouds around. My confidence is high enough that I’d set my alarm early to catch a glimpse.

NAM Total Cloud Cover Wednesday Morning

This is the second of four total lunar eclipses in succession. Each separated by 6 lunar months. The series of total lunar eclipses is called a tetrad. The next one will be April 4th, 2015.

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Coldest Air in Months!

October 4, 2014 - 05:11 PM

Hopefully you know where the sweatshirts and jackets are because you'll want them tonight and tomorrow!   After a gusty Saturday, winds will diminish overnight and, with clear skies, lows will tumble!   Check out these forecast lows for tonight.

The majority of the viewing area will remain above freezing; however, far western MD and the eastern panhandle of WV may see subfreezing temperatures.  Freeze warnings are in effect for these locations. 

We're not the only ones dealing with the big chill.  Look how many counties are under frost and freeze warnings and advisories across the Midwest.

The forecast low for Reagan National is 45°.  The last time the temperature fell below 50° at Reagan was on May 19th! 

After a cold start tomorrow morning, highs will only reach the upper 50s to low 60s!  Keep in mind, our average high this time of year is 72°.  The last time D.C. had a high of 62° was back on May 29th. 

Even though it will be quite chilly, we are not expecting to break any record low temperatures in the city.  The record low at Reagan is 37° set back in 1948.  The record low at Dulles is 32° from 1970 and 35° is the record low at BWI. 

Regardless, you'll want to bundle up tomorrow morning and you'll likely want the sweater or jacket throughout the day!  Here's to fall and the first weekend of October!

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2014 hurricane season winding down with only five named storms

October 4, 2014 - 06:00 AM

With less than two months to go, the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season has been lackluster at best. Earlier this year, NOAA predicted near-normal to below-normal tropical season. One factor could be the development of El Niño along with cooler Atlantic water temperatures. The original forecast was for eight to 13 named storms, three to six becoming hurricanes and one or two becoming major hurricanes.

2014 Named Storms

NOAA was not the only organization to forecast less tropical activity this year. The Tropical Meteorology Project headed by Dr. William Gray and Dr. Philip Klotzbach predicted a season with only nine named storms, three becoming hurricanes and only one major hurricane.

2014 Named Storm Tracks (NOAA)

The official count this season: four hurricanes, one tropical storm and one tropical depression.  Don't let the slow season, so far, mislead you.  Hurricane season goes through November 30th.  Stay with the Stormwatch weather team for the latest tropical updates.


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Fun Fact Friday: Weather and Baseball

October 3, 2014 - 08:08 AM

We like to have a little fun on Fridays during Good Morning Washington and today's theme is obvious with the Nationals playoff game.  I did some digging to find out how the weather might impact the game and came up with some fascinating information.

We all know weather can impact the players and their ability to handle the ball. Some of the obvious include rain and wind.  But, did you know that air pressure, temperature and humidity all affect how far the baseball can travel?

(Weather and Baseball)

Let's start with temperature. If we don't consider how the cold or heat makes the player feel, having hot weather can make for better action.  When the air is warm, the air expands and rises. This lowers the density of the air and allows the ball to go faster and farther. Temperatures during the game today will be in the mid to upper 70s and in the 60s on Saturday.

(Temperatures and Baseball)

Nationals Park is located in beautiful Washington, D.C. right along the Anacostia River.  Seems like a great central location, not to mention a pretty view. Here's a snapshot from Google Earth.

(Google Earth)

However, whoever decided to build the ballpark there probably didn't consult a meteorologist. Why, you ask? When considering atmospheric pressure, it's not ideal. The park sits at sea level where there is friction at the surface and pressure is higher. When air pressure is lower, a baseball can travel at a greater distance. A baseball hit at the exact same angle and speed at Coors Field in Denver, Co., (the mile high city) may travel 20 to 40 feet farther!

(Baseball and atmospheric pressure)

Considering the humid air today with milder temperatures and the colder, breezy day expected on Saturday evening, weather and physics tell me the Nationals are hitting some home runs today! For the updated forecast for both games, check out our other blog here. If you're interested in more information on weather and baseball there is a great interactive website here by NASA that is especially cool for kids.


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Nationals Game 1 and Game 2 weather forecast

October 2, 2014 - 02:32 PM

With the Giants taking care of the Pirates last night, times have been decided for the Nationals first two home games. The first game is Friday at 3:07pm. Here in the weather center, we have been keeping a close eye on the forecast as a strong area of low pressure and associated cold front begins to take shape over the central part of the country. Luckily though, the forecast is still looking rather nice at this time.

Nationals Game 1 weather forecast

Friday looks to start much like the past few days, with morning fog and some sunshine by Noon. For the start of the game, expect comfortable temperatures in the mid 70s under partly sunny skies. Clouds may begin to stream in ahead of the cold front late in the game but conditions will still be comfortable and dry with temperatures falling into the lower 70s towards the end of the game. It may even be a little breezy at times with winds out of the southeast around 10 mph.

The frontal boundary should pass through the area Friday night into Saturday morning. At this point we think rain will become more likely closer to bedtime and continue to be possible through the predawn hours. Rainfall amounts around a quarter of an inch will be possible.

Nationals Game 2 weather forecast

Behind the cold front, Saturday will feature cooler temperatures and breezy winds. The game Saturday isn't until 5:37pm, so hopefully the winds will diminish some, but temperatures will be chilly regardless, starting in the mid 60s. By the middle of the game temperatures should be around 60 degrees and are expected to fall into the 50s by the end. Be sure to wear something warm! I'll tell you one thing, I am super excited to once again be experiencing baseball in October in D.C.  Go Nationals!

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