From the ABC 7 Weather team

Archive for August 2011

Severe Thunderstorm Watch for D.C. area until 9 P.M.

August 21, 2011 - 06:25 PM
A storm downed this tree in the 6300 block of Utah Ave., NW, Sunday afternoon. Photo: Jay Korff/ABC7

This Severe Thunderstorm Watch has been cancelled. 

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UPDATE: Alaska's mysterious orange goo NOT eggs, but a fungus!

August 19, 2011 - 03:16 PM

No wonder 69 percent of Americans are distrustful of scientists! If they can't even get something as easy as animal vs. fungus right, how can we take them at their word that the earth's climate is changing? I demand an inquiry!

Sorry... just a little upset about having to retract an earlier blog post about the mysterious orange goo turning up in the waters of Kivalina, Alaska. Scientists from NOAA put the stuff under a slide and saw eggs from an unknown crustacean with mango-colored lipid centers. But that preliminary analysis turned out to be wrong. It's spores from a fungus, according to the NOAA’s National Ocean Service Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research (phew):

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Third haboob in 2011 coats Arizona in desert dust (VIDEO)

August 19, 2011 - 01:53 PM

The haboobs are really having a good year in Arizona.

Yesterday evening, a strong thunderstorm kicked up a sky-high wall of dust that gusted through Phoenix, delaying flights and killing the power to thousands of homes. By this time the word haboob – Arabic for "violent storm" – must be acquiring the status of a curse word for Arizonans. "Oh, haboob," I imagine these drivers said, as they journeyed once again into a gloomy cloud of dirt:

Perhaps it's time to change the nomenclature for these dust storms. After all, the snicker-worthy "haboob" doesn't do much justice to these arresting weather majesties. I like one of the options mentioned by the Phoenix New Times: "mpothsh mshidevk vidiik," an Indian phrase meaning "the scary dust is coming." It has all the menacing, slithery sibilance, much like Cthulhu, that an incoming dust storm should imply. (The New Times also has a gallery with unusual pictures from a July haboob... take a peek.)

These dry, gritty fronts are regular features of the Southwest monsoon season. Abnormally hot temperatures are feeding their growth this year. In Phoenix, the average high temperature was 106.9 degrees last month, making it the fifteenth hottest July on record for the city. That sounds blazingly hot, until you find out the average high is just as unbearable at 106.6 degrees.

For hot, try this out: The temperature in Phoenix on July was 118 degrees, a record high. That's also the temperature raw-food enthusiasts believe that cooked vegetables begin to lose their nutrients. If anybody in Arizona recalls feeling particularly drained that day, then perhaps it's because all your vitamins were leaking out of your skin. (Miss Storm Watch 7's earlier gallery of historic dust storms? Here ya go.)

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Colossal Aug. 17 Nebraska supercell will blow your mind (VIDEO)

August 19, 2011 - 05:00 AM

The storms that swept over the Midwest on Wednesday were ugly and primeval. Supercells unleashed baseball-sized "and even larger" hail onto sections of South Dakota's Interstate 90, bashing out windshields and halting traffic. Sixty or 70 m.p.h. wind gusts ripped trees from the ground and stripped the roofs off two barns in Kansas.

Near Mullen, Neb. – the "biggest little town in Hooker County" – an incredibly odd storm cloud formed in front of the eyes of Andy Gabrielson and Dick McGowan. It sort of looked like a clay pot made by the gods, perhaps on their first try at the wheel. The thing was misshaped but fierce-looking, and had already spurred the National Weather Service to issue one tornado warning.

The two men are behind the storm-chasing project, Find the Tornado. In this instance it seems like they might've found the tornado. A weakish funnel cloud appears to be spinning in the bottom righthand corner of the video. The whole planetoid-sized cloud is slowly spinning, too. Say the videographers:

Saw a funnel cloud near Cody, large hail near Mullen, and amazing storm structure south of Mullen, the back 3/4 of the video is time lapsed 4X speed...

Nebraska truly has the best storms. And it can keep them, too. For more tornadoes these guys are finding, visit their YouTube stream.

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Severe weather moves through the region tonight

August 18, 2011 - 05:33 PM

Update 7:08pm

Storms continue to move into western Fairfax County from Prince William. Flash Flood Warnings remain until 8:45pm in Fairfax and Montgomery Counties. If you are in the D.C. metro, I would stay inside over the next hour or so until these storms end as there is still dangerous lightning across the area.

Large hail came down in Laurel tonight, as seen in this screenshot from a video sent in by Kate Gage.

Hail is coming down in Laurel (Photo: Kate Gage)

Update 6:52pm

Two severe storms continue to track through Anne Arundel county towards the Chesapeake Bay. The main player for the D.C. area over the next 30 minutes to an hour will be the storm over Haymarket and Gainesville which has grown but has not become severe yet. Heavy rain and small hail will be possible.

Update 6:45pm

Severe T-Storm Warning for Fairfax has expired. Another storm has developed in Prince William County over Gainesville and Haymarket. These storms are drifting to the east back over western Fairfax County.

Update 6:38pm

The worst of the severe weather is heading toward Laurel and will be there in about 10 minutes. This will also affect I-95 and BW Parkway as it moves east towards Howard and Anne Arunel counties. There is another heavy thunderstorm moving towards Germantown, Gaithersburg and Rockville along I-270.  Here's Doppler.

Update: 6:32pm

Severe T-Storm Warning for Montgomery, Prince Georges and Howard Counties until 7pm. Large hail and damaging winds are possible in this storm as it moves over Columbia Pike and towards I-95 and the BW Parkway. More storms have developed over Poolesville and Darnestown in Montgomery and hail was reported in these storms. They are moving to the northeast towards I-270.

Update: 6:04pm

Over an inch of rain has been recorded in Reston on our WeatherBug Network and there are over 125 lightning strikes in the past hour in the storm over Fairfax County. This storm will continue to move to the east-northeast into southern Montgomery, Arlington, and the District. 

Update: 5:58pm

A new Severe Thunderstorm Warning is in effect until 6:45pm for Loudoun, Fairfax, Montgomery and the District. Heavy rain is also likely and a Flash Flood Warning remains in effect until 8:45pm for the same area.

Update 5:43pm

Here are some rainfall totals across the region:

BWI Thurgood Marshall - 1.4", Potomac, MD - 0.64", Fairfax, VA - 0.6", Bethesda, MD - 0.4"

A Severe Thunderstorm Warning is in effect for Fairfax County and southern Montgomery County until 6pm. See the warning here.

There is also a Flash Flood Warning until 8:45pm for the same areas. Here is that warning.

Update 5:33pm

A Severe Thunderstorm Warning is in effect for Fairfax, Montgomery, Arlington and D.C. until 6pm tonight. Hail has been reported in this storm as well as winds up to 30 m.p.h. and a half inch of rain at Providence ES on our WeatherBug Network. It will continue to move east along I-66.  Check Doppler for the latest position.

A Severe Thunderstorm Warning is in effect for Anne Arundel County until 6pm and that storm is headed north of Annapolis into the Bay over the next 30 mintues to an hour.

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Severe thunderstorm warning in D.C., suburbs: Hail reported

August 18, 2011 - 05:25 PM

UPDATE: 6:05 p.m.: The severe thunderstorm warning has been extended to 6:45 p.m. There's also a new flash flood warning in Fairfax and south central Montgomery, where the storm has dropped a sea's worth of fresh water. For updates and storm reports, check out this live blog.

ORIGINAL: The National Weather Service just put D.C. and several suburbs (southern Montgomery County, Fairfax, Falls Church, Arlington, etc. See below for details) under a severe thunderstorm warning. That means go inside, now. The warning is set to expire at 6 p.m., but check the ABC7 weather page for updates as well as radar and the latest forecast.

This local hazard is from a storm that's been bugging Baltimore and neighbors to the north for some time now. Reports ABC7's Alex Liggitt: "There is a ton of lightning in the Anne Arunel storm, also a flash flood warning with over 1" of rain reported." Hail has been reported around the region, and more of it as large as quarters is possible, according to the NWS' warning.

Here are the details:

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WATCH: First-ever space view of a solar storm hitting Earth

August 18, 2011 - 03:22 PM

It took three years, but NASA scientists have created a better way to predict space weather.

Take a look at the video below. It depicts an eruption and subsequent coronal mass ejection from the Sun in late 2008. The scene was recorded by STEREO-A, one of two NASA spacecraft orbiting the solar system's life-sustaining star. The CME, a huge cloud of electrically charged particles that can cause power grids and communications systems to glitch, is shown as the white, vaporous mass that moves like a ghost leftward toward Earth.

Never before have scientists been able to observe a CME's 93 million-mile journey from emission to arrival (as far as humans are concerned). The problem was that these things, while brightly visible at the moment they tear away from the sun, dim on their journey to become indistinguishable from the surround space. Says NASA:

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Mushroom cloud rises over Haarlem, Netherlands (PHOTOS)

August 18, 2011 - 01:11 PM

Add this one to the annals of improbable-looking clouds. (Previously: epic thunderstorm cloud.) As the story traveling around the 'net goes, residents of Haarlem, Netherlands, woke up on Aug. 16 to find themselves in the shadow of this tremendous mushroom cloud. Should the peaceful citizens of Holland be concerned that fallout is falling into their breakfast muesli? And who would want to bomb the Dutch, anyway?

Here are the pictures, for you Photoshop snoops out there:

There's also video of this cloud, which is a little harder to digitally alter, so I'm inclined to think this is real. In fact, mushroom-shaped clouds are not that out of place in the atmosphere. This fella is probably an extremely stretched cumulonimbus influenced by an inversion.

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Delmarva Beach forecast this Friday through Sunday

August 18, 2011 - 11:40 AM

A frontal system will make for partly sunny skies and increased storm chance for the end of the work week. For the all important weekend forecast, a few changes are on the way with one of the days appear a bit nicer than the other. Let's dive into the forecast and have a look at what to expect.

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Texas city losing the battle of the egrets (VIDEO)

August 18, 2011 - 05:00 AM
Egret poop, courtesy of the Weather Channel video, linked below.

Egrets: Can't live with 'em, can't kill 'em.

Or at least so it goes in Texas, where egrets and their nests are protected by state law. (And also federal law, if you plan on doing anything to an egret in your backyard.) And that's causing problems in at least one Dallas/Fort Worth community, the City of Carrollton, population 122,100.

Carrollton was recently ranked the fifteenth "best" place to live by CNN's MONEY Magazine. But what the magazine didn't mention was that it's the No. 1 place to live, if you're an egret. These members of the heron family, with their characteristic loud, hoarse croak, have claimed a part of Carrollton for a massive nesting grounds. (No, not on Egret Lane, but good guess.)

The egrets' method of marking what's theirs: caustic bird poo, all over everything. Residents have had to cover personal property with sheets of plastic to ward off the nasty rain of avian expulsions.

The egret population is apparently so dense that one Carrolltonite described the egret horde, a bustling white presence that imbues the trees with a gravelly Tom Waitsish auditory presence, as looking like something out of a National Geographic special. “You could come out and clap your hands and this huge flock of white birds would take off,” she told her local TV station.

After watching this hilarious video yesterday on the Weather Channel, with an angry man complaining about "bird excrement everywhere" and "dead fish that they bring from the pond laying in our yards," I thought it couldn't possibly be that bad. But now I don't know. Check out this video:

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Lightning at SeaWorld injures 8; nationwide fatalities at 19

August 17, 2011 - 03:04 PM
A dolphin, courtesy of Flickr's Just Taken Pics.

A barrage of lightning ended the fun earlier today at SeaWorld's Discovery Cove water park, the famous attraction where normal Joes can swim with dolphins. Three visitors and five employees who were working at the aptly named Adventure Photo Shop were zapped by what appeared to be a nondirect hit. Reports Orlando's Channel 13 News:

"We all cleared the pool and we are all sheltering underneath, then there’s a huge crack," said Peter Mcentee.

"Lightning struck right over our heads and you could feel it. It was quite a blast," said Bob Delvecchi, another guest at Discovery Cove.

The injuries were not life-threatening and everyone's out of the hospital now, according to a SeaWorld spokesman. This latest strike demonstrates Florida's top position as the most lightningest state of them all, which you can see illustrated in the U.S. map in this post. This year, however, Missouri is leading the pack in fatal strikes:

nws lightning fatalities 2011

For the stat-obsessed, in 2011 death has come the most to men, to people aged between 50 and 59, and often on Saturdays. More data is available at the National Weather Service's lightning safety page.

The last time StormWatch 7 checked the lightning stats in mid-July, there had been 10 fatalities. The death toll is now up to 19, creeping closer every day to the historical average of 55 fatalities per year. Among others, bolts have lain low a man chopping cotton in Arkansas, two women tubing on Michigan's Au Sable River and, almost unbelievably, a motorcyclist hit while cruising down a South Dakota interstate. According to the Aberdeen News:

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Tornadoes of insects, aka 'Bugnadoes,' torment Missouri (VIDEO)

August 17, 2011 - 05:00 AM
Mike Hollingshead's terrifying bugnado.

Imagine you're tooling down the highway, maybe some Dave Dudley playing on the stereo, when you notice what seems to be black fog looming on the horizon. Getting closer, it becomes clear that the cloud is composed of hundreds of thousands of individual creatures, all buzzing crazily in the shape of a weak tornado.

It looks like this:

mike Hollingshead bugnado Missouri flooding photo

(Photo courtesy Mike Hollingshead of Extreme Instability)

Too late to roll up the window! Within seconds, the whirling cloud of insects has filled the car, coating the upholstery with a fluttering mass of crawling chitin that's trying to go all Lewis and Clark into your ear canals.

Congratulations: You've just had a brush with a "bugnado," a rare insectoid twister somewhat like a locustcane or cicadaphoon. From the available evidence, a bugnado is spawned when heavy rain or floods and optimal temperatures cause insects to hatch en masse, conjuring dense colonies of buglife that ascend into sky-darkening breeding frenzies. These superswarms of gnats or mayflies might not have enough power to tear houses from their foundations like an EF-3 tornado, but certainly can send a vehicle to a series of costly appointment with the car wash. Some swarms are so dense they can appear on radar.

The gag-inducing term "bugnado" comes courtesy of one of our favorite storm photographers here at ABC7, Mike Hollingshead. On July 4, 2011, he found himself in the middle of a droning outbreak of bugnadoes in northwest Missouri. So why call it that?

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Lightning crosses a double rainbow in Fairfax (VIDEO)

August 16, 2011 - 03:28 PM

It's turning out to be a great run for that unicorn of weather phenoms, the double rainbow. Twin multicolored arches have heartily sprouted around the D.C. region this year, appearing over Pentagon City, McLean and Huntingtown, Md. And now there's this brief-but-beguiling video of another bow-bow in Fairfax, made wonderful by a little lick of lightning.

Local weather geek dcstormchaser posted the video on YouTube after storms moved across Fairfax on Aug. 1. The good folks over at Capital Weather Gang have posted more photos and an explanation from the videographer, Kevin Ambrose, about his action-packed day hunting storms. Enjoy! And if you're quizzical about the science of double rainbows, try reading this piece by ABC7's Bob Ryan.

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Erupting Mt. Etna coughs up a smoke ring (VIDEO)

August 16, 2011 - 01:15 PM

Look at Mt. Etna blowing a smoke ring like she's Coolio McSmoothington. Who knew that volcanoes could even do this? Is there a giant, albeit ash-stained tongue inside every crater, thrashing about and trying to make neat shapes in the smoke?

Mt. Etna, the most active volcano in Europe, is indeed erupting right now, hurling out superheated gases and light, porous rocks that are a lucky girl's delight to collect. But this bizarre footage comes from an earlier paroxysm in June 2000. It was shot by naturalist filmmaker Geoff Mackley, who apparently has documented every major meteorological event in history. (Here he is at the recent, once-in-a-lifetime snowfall in New Zealand.)

Mackley doesn't indicate on his website what mephitic forces conspired to create the jumbo-sized ring of smoke or steam. But it's happened at least once before, during the 2010 Eyjafjallajokull eruption. The geologist who photographed that ring wafting up into the sky, Joseph Licciardi, later told Discovery News that the process is a "mystery":

It's possible that bursts of gas through narrow vents would do the job, much like cigar or cigarette smokers blow rings with their mouths.

Video of Etna's ring follows the jump.

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Huge storm exits D.C., leaving big rainfall totals in Northeast

August 16, 2011 - 04:42 AM
Good riddance to bad weather. (GOES East 1 km Infrared Weather Satellite Image, Aug. 15, 9:30 p.m.)

By late Monday, a sucking whirlpool in the atmosphere that had vomited rain all over the Northeast since Friday was headed up the Delmarva peninsula, moistening the few remaining objects in the region (uncovered Grotto slices, maybe, or nesting brown-headed nuthatches?) that had somehow dodged the deluge.

High pressure will seep back into the vacuum this system left behind, meaning the next couple days in Virginia, Maryland and the District will be much less eventful. There's the possibility that the atmospheric memory of this storm could trigger a few isolated showers in the afternoon, but it will likely be a fair day with below-average, low-80s temperatures that don't cause plants and people to wilt. Humidity and a chance for storms return Thursday and Friday as another mega-system throws a cold front D.C.'s way.

So let's quantify the wetness of this last gusher, dubbed the "Mid-Atlantic and Northeast U.S. Heavy Rain Event" by the Hydrometeorological Prediction Center. According to the most recent data from the National Weather Service, this all happened yesterday:

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Isolated areas of flooding possible in the D.C. area

August 15, 2011 - 05:39 PM

6:25pm Update

Heavy storms continue over Southern Maryland while a few isolated storms have popped up along I-66 just northwest of Manassas. Two other storms have formed over Burke in Fairfax and over Oxon Hill. These storms will move very slowly to the southeast.

6:01pm Update

The Flash Flood Warning has been cancelled for Prince Georges County. Heavy showers and storms are still popping up across the region and will continue to spin through during the evening and overnight hours as this main area of low pressure continues to sit over the Mid Atlantic.  In the past 3 days, Barnesville, MD has received 3.14" of rain, Silver Spring, MD 2.94", Waldorf, MD 2.93" and Morningside, MD 2.70".

5:39pm Update

A Flash Flood Warning continues until 7:30pm for Central Prince Georges County in Maryland.  Morningside, MD has reported 1.28 inches of rain so far today and Camp Springs received 1.44" from one storm so isolated areas of high water are possible. Here is the warning.

Numerous other showers and storms are across the Mid Atlantic and will have the potential to push through D.C. through tonight. Be sure to stay with our Live Super Doppler Radar before heading out tonight.

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Highlights of the 2011 Perseid meteor shower (PHOTOS)

August 15, 2011 - 02:42 PM

While D.C. may not have had the flaming, sky-brightening barrage that many places in New England saw, the Perseids did not leave without throwing a couple eye catchers our way.

In Herndon on Friday, one fireball hunter spotted an incandescent pen stroke zipping across the dark around 10:15 p.m. "The moon was full and bright and there's quite a bit of light pollution in our area," he said, "but the progress and trail of the meteor was easily visible for more than 2 seconds in spite of it." The day before near 11 p.m., another observer in Laurel spotted what "looked like one of those fireworks remains that falls to the ground, except it had a green glowing ball and a trail that I recall was gold colored."

This was not the best year for the Perseids. A full moon and perhaps the location of the debris trail of comet Swift-Tuttle (aka the "Doomsday Comet") knocked down the number of observable meteors. At the peak on Aug. 13, people were reporting an average of 60 and 70 shooting stars per hour to the International Meteor Organization, well below the expected 100-and-above count. Countries that received the most furious fire displays included Slovakia, at 169 meteors per hour; the Czech Republic, at 279 per hour; and Serbia, at 318 per hour.

Spaceweather has posted several interesting photos from the public, including this COMING RIGHT ATCHA! buckshot blast of meteors in the Czech Republic, this long-exposure of a Perseid in Missouri,and this lonesome space rock self-immolating over Monte Avaro, Italy. But in terms of sheer awesomeness, Ron Garan wins the prize. On Saturday, floating about 220 miles above the Earth, the astronaut caught a Perseid zooming by the window of the International Space Station. Here's a higher-res version of his photo, and just for fun, here's another Garan treasure showing what lightning looks like from space.

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128-foot-long blimp crashes into Ohio woman's backyard

August 15, 2011 - 12:54 PM

For a few glorious minutes Sunday, a blimp that was supposed to promote a luxury vodka flew the skies free of any interference from pilots or marketing departments, while its handlers searched for its whereabouts in frustration.

The blimp, which is the centerpiece of "The Official 2011 Hangar One Blimp Tour," harnessed the power of storm winds to escape its moorings at the Ohio State University Airport. It quickly rose out of sight into the higher levels of the troposphere, prompting a frenzied blimphunt from the FAA and the private company that owns it on the ground below. Seven hours later, the gassy airship, utterly expended, made a soft landing in the backyard of 94-year-old Worthington resident Lillian Bernhagen, who lives about 2 miles away from the air field. Reports the Associated Press:

The remnants of a battered blimp were draped over Bernhagen's picnic table and birdfeeders, covering half her backyard.

"I looked out the window and I said, 'Wow!'" she said.

As this is no ordinary story, I'm going to eschew the normal network coverage in favor of an animation from our Taiwanese friends at Next Media Animation News Direct, after the jump. They really can churn these out quickly now! (Hat tip to TBD's Ryan Kearney for finding this story.)

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Indiana State Fair stage collapse: The 911 tapes (VIDEO)

August 15, 2011 - 04:44 AM

Officials are blaming surprise wind gusts for the stage collapse that killed at least five people Saturday evening at the Indiana State Fair, basically saying the accident was unavoidable. I'm going to hazard a guess that a few civil lawsuits will claim otherwise very shortly. But regardless of whether nature or humans are at fault here, what actually blew the stage down?

The likely culprit is an "outflow boundary," a vast movement of energy created when a thunderstorm's updrafts and precipitation cool air so much it drops rapidly from the sky, hitting the ground and rippling outward. These cold-frontlike boundaries can move hundreds of miles away from the storms that generated them; in the case of Indianapolis, a severe-weather system was hovering very near the Indiana State Fair when wind, rain and dirt started blowing as fast as 70 m.p.h. to topple the stage.

You can follow police and fire activity in the wake of the horrible accident in the below video, which features chatter from emergency responders spliced over footage of the wreckage.

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Smell smoke? Huge swamp fire burns in Virginia

August 13, 2011 - 10:30 PM
Satellite Photo: NASA

A lightning sparked fire continues to burn in the Great Dismal Swamp Wildlife Refuge, about 90 miles south of Richmond. Burning nearly 6,000 acres, smoke has started to spread northward toward the District and Baltimore. The fire is the largest in the refuge’s history and can be seen in NASA released photographs.


(Photo: NASA)


(Photo: NASA)

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