From the ABC 7 Weather team

Archive for May 2011

Lightning crackles inside Iceland volcano ash plume (VIDEO)

May 24, 2011 - 03:29 PM
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Dim the lights and grab the headphones for this one. The blobby gray mushroom of incredible size that is the Grímsvötn ash plume is harboring a frizzing lightning storm.

The process by which volcanic lightning forms is still a topic of speculation. One of the early theories was that the ash and debris particles become electrically charged by bumping into each other until lightning occurs. However, there's been recent research suggesting that the energy of the eruption itself causes the bolts, some of which seem to have a different nature than those of a regular thunderstorm: They can be "continuous, explosive sparks" that exist for just a couple milliseconds.

For what that looks like in action, check out the below video of the angry Icelandic volcano. It taken on May 21 by director Jon Gustafsson, who reports:

We tried to work outside but I only lasted for a couple of minutes. Pilot Reynir Petursson also didn’t want to stay on the ground for too long since it was very windy and the ash fall was unpredictable.... Once we got off the ground again we had to stay low because there were so many lightnings all around the eruption. Getting hit by a lightning in that strong wind, extreme frost and next to a live volcano was not desirable.

"So many lightnings": Bad for helicopter viability, great for totally wicked volcano cinema. Follow the jump for photos of the April 2010 Eyjafjallajökull volcanic lightning storm.


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Rainbow over McLean, May 23, 2011 (PHOTO)

May 24, 2011 - 09:00 AM
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Why, that's quite nice!

As storms passed through the D.C. region Monday, a rainbow briefly made an appearance over McLean, Va. I'm only posting this because it's the second rainbow photo that Chris Buddie has sent in this May – and I haven't seen diddly-squat, leading me to think that our in-house web designer is working on some crazy Tesla-level rainbow-generating machine in Virginia.

Says Chris: "My kids think I'm magic, so many rainbows around here this month." A likely story. Don't be surprised if this guy's name surfaces later in the ongoing Western plot to steal rain from Iran.

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Tornado chat 2 p.m. Tuesday with Doug Hill and Bob Ryan

May 24, 2011 - 06:00 AM
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(NOAA)

May is typically the most active month for tornadoes. But this year, severe weather has gotten the jump on the United States in a spectacular fashion.

April 2011 had more tornadoes than any other April in the nation's recorded history – a dominating slew of 875 twisters versus 267 in 1974. And the number of fatalities through the month of May, nearing 500 at last check, is the highest ever on official record books that date five decades back.

Curious as to why tornadoes seem to own the U.S. this spring? Then check in at 2 p.m. today for a live chat with Bob Ryan and Doug Hill, ABC7's top meteorologists. Any and all tornado questions will be answered, even if they deal with The Wizard of Oz. See you then.

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Midwest tornado outbreak predicted for Tuesday; thunder in D.C.

May 24, 2011 - 05:00 AM
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The National Weather Service is predicting a tornado outbreak on Tuesday. On Sunday, at least 116 people were killed when a tornado struck Joplin, Mo. (Mike Gullett) (Photo: Associated Press)

The wall of storms that toppled over the Midwest on Sunday led to nearly 800 reports of tornadoes, hailstones and knock-you-over wind. An EF-4 or EF-5 tornado transformed the town of Joplin, Mo., into a wasteland of crumpled buildings and debarked trees and overturned cars. At last count, 116 people had perished, making this tornado tied with the 1953 Flint, Mich., tornado for the single deadliest U.S. twister in almost six decades. (One survivor's video.)

One car looked like it had served as a target for a month in a batting cage; it was picked up by the tornado and battered with hail while in the air, according to this report by WWLP-TV, which also said that X-ray machines and medical papers from a hospital were found 60 miles away from town.

And today’s weather could be even worse, with severe storms in the forecast all over the country, including in Washington, D.C.

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Iceland volcano erupting: The view from space (PHOTO)

May 23, 2011 - 02:54 PM
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Over in Bob Ryan Twitterland, there's a great photo of the Grímsvötn volcano blackening (well, browning) Iceland's atmosphere. The shot was taken by NASA's Terra satellite yesteday.

Iceland's meteorological agency says that "considerable" ashfall can be expected throughout the southeast sector of the country. The way the plume is wandering through the skies, it will probably be over Scotland within the day. Ash could be falling in western France and northern Spain by Thursday If the volcano keeps up its rate of fire.

The U.K.'s aviation authority is warning that jet traffic could be disrupted tomorrow. Travel updates are being posted here. For a graphic of where the ash is expected to flow in the coming days, follow the jump.

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Joplin, Mo., tornado from inside a convenience store (VIDEO)

May 23, 2011 - 01:32 PM
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There are now 90 reported deaths in the wake of Sunday’s “evil monster vortex” that hit Joplin, Mo. That number’s likely to grow as rescuers unpack massive rubble piles that used to be homes, hospitals and other safe places. The photos from the Joplin tornado Facebook page are unimaginably harsh – this used to be a helicopter. (Check here to find out how to help.) It will be a while before investigators determine the size of this twister. Right now, the guess is that it had the strength of an EF-4.

If you want to know what the horrible experience of being run over by an EF-4 feels like, the below video will give you a pretty good idea. The person who posted it says it was taken inside a Fastrip convenience store in Joplin. The worst part about it is the waiting – the crying in the dark, the counting of heads, the wondering of where the tornado might be. That last questioned is answered in a spectacular way around the 2:10 mark. And then it gets worse. I still can’t believe that someone ran into the store not even a minute before this thing hit.

Profanity warning: If you think cussing would not be aired during a tornado strike, you would be wrong. (Hat tip to Jeremy Binckes for sending the video.)

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Tornado creams Joplin, Missouri; two dozen reported dead

May 23, 2011 - 05:00 AM
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Emergency personnel walk through a neighborhood severely damaged by a tornado near the Joplin Regional Medical Center in Joplin, Mo., Sunday, May 22, 2011. A large tornado moved through much of the city, damaging a hospital and hundreds of homes and businesses. (Mark Schiefelbein)

A tornado reportedly a mile wide smashed into Joplin, Mo., on Sunday afternoon, killing at least 24 people as it drove through a school and a hospital and big-box stores. For updates, the place to check is the Springfield News-Leader, whose homepage Sunday featured a desolate, fire-ravaged rubbagescape that used to be a civilization. (And a head-shaking photo gallery.)

The twister was part of a larger storm moving through the Midwest, which you can monitor at the Storm Prediction Center. Expect a tornado report soon from the Springfield, Mo., office of the National Weather Service. Follow the jump for a video of the damage in Joplin taken Sunday.

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Grímsvötn goes kablooey! outside airplane windows (VIDEO)

May 23, 2011 - 05:00 AM
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Sjadu! (“Look!”) Iceland's Grímsvötn eldfjall (“volcano”) erupted on Saturday, and jet passengers caught the epic explosion on video. Crackles of eldingar (“lightning”) coursed through the steam, smoke and ash plume billowing 12 miles into the air. Lightning strikes during the most intense part of the eruption were a thousand times more numerous than during the Eyjafjallajökull eruption of April 2010, which shut down airports in the country for a week.

This is the largest eruption in a century for Grímsvötn, which is located 120 miles away from Reykjavik beneath the Vatnajökull icecap. It's east of the lake Thingvallavatn, if that helps. The caldera has a type-A personality and goes ballistic relatively frequently, the last eruption being in 2004. It seems to be connected with a vast fissure system that was responsible for the Laki eruption of 1783, a series of blasts that churned out the largest known flow of hraun (“lava”) and killed so many crops and búfé (“livestock”) that one fifth of the country's population starved.

An unimaginably heavy sheet of ice caps the volcano. However, during significant geothermal activity the ice sheet gets pushed up, and thousands of tons of water and debris roll over the volcano's rim as jökulhlaups (“glacier outburst floods”). It is not a good idea to be in the neighborhood when a jökulhlaup comes roaring down the slopes. Take a look at this one on Eyjafjallajökull last year:

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'Door to Hell' found in Darvaz, Turkmenistan (VIDEO)

May 20, 2011 - 03:39 PM
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Leaping lizards! Is this the wormhole to Satan's pad that has opened for the impending Judgment Day? Not quite. Gawk in terror at "The Door to Hell," a charred mouth of fire in the desolate Karakum Desert of Turkmenistan. (Video after the jump.) The 350 inhabitants of nearby Darvaza (also called Darvaz, or Derweze) must spend every single night in their yurts thinking up minor sins to repent for.

Or more like they're probably just counting their duckets. This blasted pit is a valued stop on the Turkmenistan tourist circuit, so much as it exists, for both its wild appearance and bizarre history. The hell door has been burning for decades. While reliable information about its origins is scarce (where is National Geographic when you need it?), it seems that in the early '70s either geologists or Soviet oil prospectors (which could be one and the same) tapped into an underground lacuna filled with natural gas. The ground collapsed and poisonous gas started leaking out. To get rid of it, someone threw a match down there and waited.

And waited, and waited. This thing is still burning about 40 years later. So leave your propane and propane accessories behind if you ever travel to Darvaz; the grilling opportunities are plentiful and free. (More great pictures are available here and here.)

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Flooded Mississippi River seen from space (VIDEO)

May 20, 2011 - 02:22 PM
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The 2011 flooding of the Mississippi River compared with the same areas in April 2010 (NASA).

It is boat weather in the District, where the Potomac and other rivers are sloshing over their rims and flooding the streets. (Photo gallery.) But this is not the only city to be inundated. Major to record flooding is occurring on the lower Mississippi River, driving folks from their homes and putting alligators in places they shouldn’t be. Check out this shot taken by a Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries crew near the Vidalia Convention Center, in the northern part of the state:

vidalia convention gator

If gators on the loose weren’t enough, the state government is also warning people to seal “any gaps in doorways or windows that would allow a snake to enter your residence or office.” Let’s just hope they’re not talking about this snake.

So how bad is it down there?

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May 21, 2011: What will the weather be on Judgment Day?

May 20, 2011 - 04:34 AM
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The weather on Judgment Day will be partly firebally, much like this Canadian natural-gas pipeline explosion in 1995. (AP Photo/Stew Cameron, Winnipeg Sun)

UPDATE 4:30 P.M.: Door to Hell found in Turkmenistan!

ORIGINAL: This Saturday will feature clear skies, summerlike temperatures and a thunder-truckin' earthquake that will shake the dead from their graves and leave them jumbled on the ground like litter. It kind of bites that the beginning of the end of the world falls on a weekend – Monday would've been way better – but on the other hand, TV fans won't have to gag through another execrable Saturday Night Live.

May 21, 2011 is the Rapture, the day when all humans living and dead will be accepted into heaven or left to perish in months of fiery doom on earth. Why May 21? Because this Droopy dog of a buzzkill says so:

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Giant terror snake not, in fact, a victim of La. flooding (PHOTO)

May 19, 2011 - 02:48 PM
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UPDATE 5/23/11: Dino Ferri, curator of herpetology at the Jacksonville Zoo, guesses that this could be a Scrub (Amethystine) Python, the largest Australian snake. Here are photos of a scrub python eating a wallaby.

ORIGINAL: Ophidiophobes will be comforted to know that this monstrous snake, which one could hang an entire Guatemalan village's worth of wet clothing on, is not from America, as originally billed.

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2011 NOAA hurricane outlook: Brace for an active hurricane season

May 19, 2011 - 01:59 PM
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A man and a hurricane, north of Miami Beach, Sept. 1947. From NOAA's National Weather Service Collection.

North America could face an onslaught of hurricanes this year, and counting on favorable winds to steer them away like in 2010 would be a folly, according to a new analysis by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The government’s 2011 hurricane outlook for the Atlantic Ocean is a bit fuzzier on the numbers than previous private-sector outlooks. But it falls into agreement with them that this hurricane season, defined as June 1 to Nov. 1, is likely to throw cyclone after cyclone our way. Specifically, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is calling for 12 to 18 named storms with 6 to 10 becoming hurricanes. Of that number, three to six could be major hurricanes hurling winds of 111 m.p.h. and greater. The seasonal average is 11 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes.

Here’s what NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco had to say about the outlook:

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2011 Preakness weather forecast

May 19, 2011 - 11:28 AM
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The forecast for Saturday can really be summed up in one word; beautiful. It is going to be about 10 times better than it has been this whole work week, with temperatures around the 80 degree mark under partly cloudy skies.

Radar | Interactive Radar | Current Conditions

The track conditions are expected to be muddy, with rain possible today and tomorrow, and then a full day of races before the Preakness Stakes at 6:18pm.  Follow Kramer's lead on this one... His mother was a mudder?  His father was a mudder? He loves the slop!

Here's a look at Lookin At Lucky, last year's Preakness Winner. 

The gates open at 8am and races start at 10:45am so be ready for a full day of fun with bands like Bruno Mars, Train, Phil Vasser, and hey, most importantly Mr. Greengenes!

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D.C. weather Thursday: Rock out to 'hailcore' once again

May 19, 2011 - 04:30 AM
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A tornado Wednesday on the Eastern Shore, near Cambridge. (John Hansen)

Yesterday one of the ABC7 weather guys whipped out a cool term that might’ve been unfamiliar to some folks: hailcore.

An awkward metal movement starring rapping meteorologists in face paint? Actually, this word describes the section of a storm cell in which powerful updrafts are lifting water droplets into the freezing realms of the atmosphere, where they clump together and fall back down again as skull-denting precipitation. Just like what happened yesterday in King George, Alleghany and Stafford counties – the last of which was bombarded in the town of Passapatanzy (you know, like the song) with 1.5 inch-diameter ice walnuts.

Hailcore. Get ready to hear this word again today.

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Thunderous, tropical-like storm bears down on D.C. Wednesday

May 18, 2011 - 04:00 PM
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A tornado is visible in the background of this shot, taken by John Hansen near Cambridge on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

7:50:  Things winding down but still some heavy rain and some lightning into DC metro area next 2 hours.  See you at 11 on 7 Bob Ryan

7:30 Severe warning down but line of heavy rains and thunder continues to move up I-95 into immediate southern DC suburbs next hour Bob Ryan

6:45:  New warning for those storms to the south until 7:30 Fredricksburg, Spotsylvania, Stafford and Prince William.  Saw this one coming  Bob Ryan

6:28:  Strong cell near Ironsides in Charles County warning still up but probability of hail decreasing.  More warnings likely with another spiral line southeast Fredericksburg Bob Ryan

 6:07:  Warning for Charles and eastern Prince William until 6:45.  Several reports of large hail with this storm.  May produce waterspout in the Potomac also.  Keep an eye out  Bob Ryan

5:47: Another severe warning for western Fauquier County for 50% chance hail this until 6:15 Bob Ryan

5:20: Until 6:15 p.m., a severe thunderstorm warning is in effect for Stafford and Charles counties. Quarter-sized hail and winds faster than 60 m.p.h. are possible. If you live in D.C., you're probably wondering where the heck the storm is by now. Answer: North, west, south and east. Just not in the city.

5:10 A very heavy cell is heading into Hagerstown. Here's a great video of last evening's tornado near there (let's hope not again tonight). Bob Ryan

5:00: It was only a matter of time before an image came out from Maryland's Eastern Shore tornado, and in this case it's a pretty good one. John Hansen shot the photo around 2:30 about 6 miles west of Cambridge. "Rotation was clearly visible. It was huge and scary!" he says. Yep, agreed:  

Tornado Talbot    
A tornado sweeps down west of Cambridge, Md., Wednesday afternoon. (Photo: John Hansen)

4:30: For the flyers out there, Dulles International is reporting some long delays, especially if you're heading to New England. Going to Boston? Wait an hour. Newark? Try two-and-a-half hours. JFK? Forty-five minutes (although La Guardia is right back at two hours). For a comprehensive list of delays, check the FAA's airport delays page.

4:15: Baltimore and Harford counties get their second tornado warning of the day! This time, the warning lasts until 4:45 and affects White Marsh, Perry Hall, Carney, Kingsville, Pleasant Hills, Fallston and Jarrettsville.

4:00: The D.C. region has had more than ten National Weather Service warnings today, despite there being no reports of widespread problems. There is currently a flash flood warning in Manassas. The sun is out there.

Perhaps it's time to turn to tomorrow's weather? Doug Hill says there could be a “lingering shower, rumble of thunder” this evening. Alex Liggitt says Thursday could be stormy, too, but to expect more sun and a diminishing chances of storms toward the end of the week.

3:45 Now western Fairfax County and Loudoun have a flash flood warning until 6:45. It's barely rained in Fairfax.

3:20 There is a severe thunderstorm warning until 3:45 for Loudoun as the storm near Hamilton moves northwest. It will cross the Potomac in about 10 minutes.

3:10: A tornado warning is up until 3:30 p.m. for northern Maryland, specifically Baltimore and Harford counties. If you live in Norrisville or the Maryland Line, find a basement, ditch, or priest. (Kidding. But seriously, stay indoors and away from windows.)

 

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Tornado in Maugansville, near Hagerstown, on 5/18/11 (VIDEO)

May 18, 2011 - 01:41 PM
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Around 8:10 p.m. yesterday evening, a bloated funnel cloud reached down to muss up the land around Maugansville, Md., pushing large trees over and whipping shingles off of roofs. The Herald Mail has the definitive story on the weather event, adding that an R.V. was overturned and a porch ripped from a house. Maugansville is about 80 miles northwest of D.C. (Miss our photo gallery of this suspected twister?)

Naturally, people had their iPhones waiting. The below video is from YouTube user elenka05, who captured a whirling funnel against purplish skies:

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Historic photos from the National Weather Service (GALLERY)

May 18, 2011 - 06:00 AM
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To celebrate TBD Photo Day (death to words!), here is a gallery of some of the best photographs and images from the collection of the National Weather Service. Inside: the first known photo of a twister, a massive waterspout crosses paths with a WWII convoy, a terrible lightning storm in Boston, objects driven through other objects by the deadliest tornado in U.S. history, and more. Enjoy!

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Tornadoes! The entire month of April seen from satellite (VIDEO)

May 17, 2011 - 01:41 PM
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Over at NOAA's Environmental VIsualization Laboratory – motto: Fulfilling meteorological dreams you didn't even know you had – there is an impressive video of our record-setting stormy April, from start to finish. It was compiled using GOES-East infrared satellite imagery and shows seven different huge tornado outbreaks.

Each tornado is marked with a red dot. Toward the end of the video you'll see an angry nest of red dots appearing in the South, representing the month's worst outbreak that generated more than 300 tornadoes from April 25 to April 28. The 180 reported storms during the 2011 Super Outbreak killed at least 340 people and left destruction that's still barely cleaned up. To find out how you can help, check Alex Liggitt's guide to donations and charities.

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NOAA: 7th warmest April on record; D.C. was above average, too

May 17, 2011 - 04:25 AM
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Warm and cold temperature anomalies for April 2011. (NOAA)

The recent April weather was much warmer worldwide than the historical average, according to a new assessment from NOAA. D.C. denizens had more opportunities to be gross and sweaty during the month, too, with temperatures about 3 degrees above the average. That's due to a persistent cloud cover that hovered over virtually every day of the month.

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