From the ABC 7 Weather team

Archive for August 2011

Record: 44 days of 100-plus heat in Waco, Texas, and counting

August 12, 2011 - 03:45 PM
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After the warmest July on record in Texas, some areas, like Waco, are suffering record-setting streaks of 100-degree-plus temperatures. Here, the dried bed of Lake E.V. Spence is shown in Robert Lee, Texas. (Tony Gutierrez) (Photo: Associated Press)

Here's something to make you feel cool on this forehead-swabbing Friday: Today marks the 44th consecutive day of temperatures above 100 degrees in Waco, Texas. That's an all-time record for the city, beating out the 42 straight days of triple-digit horror in 1980.

As in D.C., July was the warmest month in documented history for Texas. Because of an upper-level ridge of high pressure that just won't leave, the state has been left unattended on the burner. The Dallas/Fort Worth area just escaped from its second-hottest streak ever, with 40 running days above 100. If the nights at the DFW International Airport keep above 80 degrees until tomorrow, the all-time local record of 14 consecutive warm nights set in 1998 will have been broken.

The heat has turned an almost unimaginable 99.9 percent of Texas soil into a dry, chalky material more suitable for cactus planting (though even cactus would shrivel, as they need water occasionally). Ongoing since at least January, the drought is the worst in Texas history, and has prompted the feds to declare much of the state a natural disaster zone:

texas drought monitor august 2011

Dogs are running into rivers to stay cool. Baby armadillos are stealing water from garden hoses. Heat-weary cats are eschewing their cozy beds to sleep in sinks. IT'S MADNESS:

And how are the Texans handling this hotter-than-a-habañero heat streak?

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Friday weather news roundup: Don't do this in a pool edition

August 12, 2011 - 01:09 PM
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Here's all the weather news you need to get through to the weekend:

End Times sign of the week! Bats in Austin have decided to start getting up along with humans and working during the day light. This unsettling development has likely occurred because the hellish drought in Texas has killed so many crops, and by extension so many crop insects that the bats like to eat. So now the flying rodents have to get up a little earlier and hustle for their food.

People who study such things think this evolved bat behavior isn't necessarily a bad thing, as long as the drought ends and bats get to go back to sleeping during the day soon. Reports the Vancouver Sun:

"If we just have one to two years of drought, it's a natural cycle and it's not going to affect the species as a whole," [bat naturalist James] Eggers said. "What some scientists fear is that this is not a regular drought, but could be indicative of change coming because of global warming."

This bat horde is estimated to remove 1,000 tons of insects from the air every night. You can see them at work as they stream out of their bridge abode next time you're in Austin - or just watch them in this goosebump-prickling video.

Americans don't trust scientists: A recent Rasmussen poll indicates that 69 percent of American adults believe that it’s "at least somewhat likely that some scientists have falsified research data" on climate change. That's 10 points above the number who thought such falsification was "likely" in Dec. 2009. What's behind this seeming growth in global-warming skepticism?

Rush Limbaugh.

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Rain in the forecast for the Delmarva Beaches this weekend

August 12, 2011 - 09:29 AM
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If you are heading to the beaches this weekend, there is a chance you may be followed by a little wet weather. An area of low pressure will move in from where it is now in the Midwest, and dive through the Mississippi and Ohio Valleys before moving into the Mid Atlantic. This will make for favorable conditions tomorrow, but big changes for Sunday.

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Mars rover Opportunity reaches the Endeavour Crater (PHOTOS)

August 12, 2011 - 05:00 AM
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Three years after dropping by the charming roadside attraction Victoria Crater, NASA's wee Mars Rover Opportunity has traveled 13 miles to reach the next destination on its journey around the Red Planet. Below, gape at the never-before-seen view of Endeavour Crater, a yawning hole in the planet's surface about 24 miles wide.

The crater is full of all kinds of neat rocks and old dirt that Opportunity can examine for water and mineral content. Its next destination is the closest peak seen in the first and fourth images. Read more about the Mars Exploration Rover Mission here. And if you missed it earlier, here are the deets on the possible liquid, salty water flowing on Mars during the summertime.

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Chesapeake Bay blue crabs coming back slowly, NOAA reports

August 11, 2011 - 02:46 PM
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Good news, sort of: The numbers of hard-shells, peelers, busters, soft-shells, jimmies, sooks, she-crabs, sallies, sponges and other kinds of hilariously named blue crabs are increasing in the fetid waters of the Chesapeake Bay, despite massive life-smothering dead zones.

That's according to the 2011 Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab Stock Assessment recently released by NOAA, which examined efforts taken to protect the species over the past three years by Virginia, Maryland and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission. However, the population growth doesn't mean that Maryland's state crustacean is out of danger. Quite the opposite, reports NOAA, which says the stock was "more depleted than originally believed and will take longer to rebuild than had been expected."

After a near-historic decimation of spawning crabs in 2008, Chesapeake watermen (and waterwomen) pulled in a nice haul of about 90 million crustacean pounds last year. Not all are happy about this new assessment, which establishes stricter limits on fishing for female crabs (those would be the sooks). Because there are more females in the waters of the lower bay, Virginia crabbers seem to get the bad end of the deal here, reports the Virginian Pilot:

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2011 Perseids peak with bang as fiery meteors light up New York

August 11, 2011 - 12:51 PM
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The 2011 Perseid meteor shower, a gift from Comet Swift-Tuttle, reaches its peak on Aug. 12 and 13, 2011. (Photo of a Perseid meteor from past years courtesy of NASA.)

Folks on the East Coast who weren't aware that Earth is entering the peak of the 2011 Perseid meteor shower were swiftly and jarringly brought up to speed last night as crackling balls as bright as flaming magnesium started falling from the sky.

People reported seeing back-lit smoke trails and glowing trains in locations as far-flung as Commack, N.Y., North Brunswick, N.J. and Northampton, Mass. Around 9:30 p.m., Leach Nathaniel looked up at the heavens in Schenectady, N.Y., and saw "the most intense light I have EVER seen in the sky aside from lightning or the Sun." The bright-green fireball unfurled a trail of solid orange debris that segmented seconds later.

In Brooklyn, Todd Ledford saw a "huge" fireball – "the largest meteor I've ever seen" – pass behind the Manhattan skyline while glowing orange and deep red. Said Ledford:

In fact my first thought was that a plane was going down and it was unbelievably bright for being right above Manhattan – I've gone to to the country many times when I lived in Oregon to watch the August showers and I've seen some burners before but this one was huge and looked to be crashing right into upper mid-Manhattan – amazing how bright it was for being directly over the city-lit skies....

(For these and other observations from last night's spectral barrage, visit the forums of the American Meteor Society.)

So will New England get all the fun this year, or can D.C. expect a light show like the one brought on last December by terrifying meteors over Rockville, Md.

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Cape Verde conga line begins

August 11, 2011 - 10:55 AM
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The Cape Verde Season, the time of year we see tropical systems develop in the eastern Atlantic near the Cape Verde Islands just off the coast of Africa, looks to have begun. Once underway, we tend to see tropical waves roll off the African coast like a tropical conga line. As of this posting, there are two areas of interest in the eastern Atlantic that we will be tracking in the coming days. For the latest on these systems or any other activity in the tropics check the National Hurricane Center home page. I would also suggest bookmarking this link but that’s just my opinion.

The newest forecast for the 2011 Atlantic Hurricane Season from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) calls for an above average hurricane season. In May, the official forecast from NOAA said there was a 65% likelihood that the season would be above normal. That likelihood has now been increased to 85% with the new update in August. The reason for the increase is based on what they are seeing and the tools they use to generate their forecast. Those tools include taking into account weather features atmospheric and oceanic conditions, large scale climate factors that are known to directly impact seasonal hurricane activity, and climate models.

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D.C. heat wave implodes as weather turns cooler, drier Thursday

August 11, 2011 - 05:00 AM
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Temperatures in D.C. today won't feel quite as bad as being dropped into Satan's clambake. Pictured: The NWS temperature forecast for Thursday night.

Anybody who's spent time outside these past couple weeks in D.C. knows what a hunk of gyro meat feels while it's sweating away its vital juices on a slow-moving spit. It's been a little uncomfortable.

But today, thanks to an Ohio Valley cold front that whooshed through town overnight, the temperatures will take a plunge down into the 80s. (You know it's been hot when that sounds like a good thing.) Last night, temperatures were expected to fall below 70 degrees in the Virginia/Maryland suburbs – something that hasn't happened for nearly a month, as ABC7 meteorologist Alex Liggitt noted. And today, temperatures will probably be 5 to 7 degrees cooler than Wednesday, with higher locations seeing the 50s during the night.

Dew points are also taking a hit today, so the armpit-stank threat level has been lowered to green. Is it time already to check the NWS winter weather forecasts? Nope... this summer still has a lot to give.

Behind this chillin' boundary a pushy mass of high pressure crowds the region, keeping things clear and dry for a while. The sky will start to cloud over Friday as foul weather approaches D.C. For more on the rain outlook this weekend, check out Liggitt's dousing odds.

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Will this weekend be a washout?

August 10, 2011 - 04:20 PM
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High pressure will make for a beautiful end to the work week with temperatures in the mid 80s and dew points back in the low 50s. We all know unfortunately that it can't last. It is still August after all. So what will the weekend bring? It appears a widespread area of low pressure will push into the region and heavy rain appears to be a good possibility. HPC's rainfall potential map above from Saturday morning through Monday morning shows upwards of 2 inches of rainfall possible for much of the Mid Atlantic including the D.C. and Baltimore Metro Areas.

So let's get into the nitty-gritty of the weekend forecast. Here is my take on the system.

Set Up: High pressure will gradually move off the east coast on Friday, setting up a return flow across the Mid Atlantic which will help pump a little more moisture into the region. Saturday will feature that same high continuing to pump in moisture, and a new area of low pressure (whose current energy is over the Pacific Northwest) begin to move in from the west. This low will help spawn showers and thunderstorms Saturday afternoon, but the main convergence appears to come through Saturday night into Sunday to really get the rain going across the area.

Timing: If you want to be outdoors this weekend, Saturday morning will be your best bet if you want to stay dry. There is a chance for storms Saturday afternoon and night, and increasing chances for more heavy precipitation Sunday morning through Sunday afternoon. The BEST CHANCE for rainfall will be Sunday morning between Midnight and Noon.

Severe Threat: The biggest threat of severe weather may be Saturday afternoon with some pre-frontal thunderstorms with damaging winds and large hail. Those would be isolated in nature. Sunday morning may feature a chance for damaging winds if a line develops, as well as the chance for very heavy rainfall with precipitable water values around 2 inches.

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Crazy footage from wildfire-ravaged Great Dismal Swamp (VIDEOS)

August 10, 2011 - 02:45 PM
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(Courtesy NASA)

There are crazy-cool hiking conditions in southeast Virginia's Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge this week, as a sprawling blaze called the Lateral West Wildfire paints the landscape with a weird, yellowish haze. There are also bears! (Follow the jump for ursus entertainment and footage of the smoky skies of Dismal.)

The 3,200-acre fire, likely started by lightning and exacerbated by the state's reigning drought conditions, is eating up new vegetation in the "fire scar" created by 2008's dreaded South One Wildfire, according to Inciweb. Nearly 100 firefighters are wrestling the conflagration with hand tools and tracked equipment and bucket-equipped helicopters, which must be delightful work on a hot day like today.

The folks at Inciweb report that the soil in the park is quite dry and unswamplike and covered with brush and dead trees. In other words, perfect for fire expansion. "These fuels [are] likely to burn until there is at least six inches of rain over a period of a few days," they say. "Dense smoke will likely be a public health and safety concern for the foreseeable future. Several closures are in place." A coastal storm of the kind that finally killed the South One blaze sure could help right about now. Maybe this disorganized system near Florida will decide to move north?

The smoke from the Lateral fire is clearly visible from space. The GOES-13 satellite, operated by NASA and NOAA, caught a brown plume wriggling out to the Atlantic from Aug. 8 to Aug. 10. Hampton, Norfolk and Virginia Beach all got a taste of the acrid smoke, which yesterday wafted up to the D.C. area as well, and communities around the swamp are under Code Orange air-quality alerts. This video is composited from GOES-13 shots taken every 15 minutes:

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Mystery of Kivalina, Alaska's orange goo: SOLVED!

August 10, 2011 - 01:16 PM
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Ever since The Blob arrived in Kivalina last week, villagers have been dismayed to find its presence everywhere: on the beaches, inside rain barrels, blown by the wind onto rooftops like cantaloupe-colored fluff. The queer orange jelly provoked wonder and worry among the 427 residents of the northern Alaska outpost, which is closer to Russia than any major city and where the "only form of entertainment for the adult age people is bingo and evening gym nights for the athletic ones," according to the town's website.

But now the mystery of the junk's provenance has been solved, thanks to detective work from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It was not a petroleum byproduct escaped from Alaska's scads of platforms and wells, as some had feared, nor was it spilled from a Cheez Whiz tanker bound for Asia.

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Largest X-class flare of the solar cycle blasts from Sun (VIDEO)

August 10, 2011 - 05:00 AM
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Addled Angstroms! That was one heck of a solar flare that the Sun unleashed at 3:48 a.m. Tuesday morning. In fact, the X6.9-class super flare was the largest in the star's current 11-year solar cycle (which began in 2008), and larger than any since 2006. The explosion was three times bigger than the muy caliente Valentine's flare of this February, which rated X2.2 and was as big as Jupiter.

The sun's flare gun was not aimed at Earth this time 'round, so earthlings are probably safe from meandering blobs of sky-scrambling space plasma. For a window of about an hour, the flare did pose a threat to communication systems over much of the world with a possible R3 (medium-intensity) radio blackout. One NOAA space-weather expert thought it probably disrupted high-frequency radio chatter in the Mideast, a means of communication used by the U.S. military, among other groups.

The flare popped out of the festering sunspot AR 1263 and did a staccato rat-tat-tat of blinking white light that dazed telescope jockeys. Said NOAA yesterday: "The region remains hot at this writing." Follow the jump for several views of the 6.9er recorded by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. If you can get to it quick before the links become buried, this foreign-language page also has great-looking observations.

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Miniature plague of locusts descends on Georgetown (PHOTOS)

August 9, 2011 - 02:27 PM
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Strolling down M Street in Georgetown the other day I spotted one of these fellows gripping the window of high-end plumbing shop Waterworks. The bug was about the size of my thumb, and didn't seem to be in any particular hurry as it slowly made its ascent up the glass.

A couple blocks later I encountered a woman staring intently at the window of Anthropologie. The object of her entrancement: Another grasshopper, fixed to the window of twee boutique Anthropologie. "I just think it's neat," she said. "I haven't seen one of these in forever."

I hadn't, either, outside of the cow-strewn country fields surrounding D.C. So what gives? Do D.C. residents navigating Georgetown now have to deal with a plague of Midwest tourists plus a plague of locusts?

For the insectoid 411, I went to the Smithsonian Institution's resident bug man, entomologist Gary Hevel. You may recall Hevel's name from an earlier discussion about winter insects invading houses. Here's his two cents on my ovipositing amigos:

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Mold in D.C. nearing year-long peak; allergy sufferers beware

August 9, 2011 - 05:05 AM
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Have you had trouble breathing lately, perhaps suffered a chronic runny nose? Is your face bulging outward and attracting unkind comments from children on the street?

Then perhaps you have a rare condition called allergic fungal sinusitis, in which a large ball of fungus and snot grows in your sinus cavities. Surgery is one option to have it removed.

Yep, it's the beginning of the peak mold growth in D.C. and the air is rife with fungal spores. Yesterday, the count was “high” with 19,412 spores per square meter, according to an analysis by the U.S. Army Centralized Allergen Extract Lab at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. That's more spores than people living in Adelaide, Australia, and every one of them would love nothing more than to be sucked into your warm, moist respiratory cavities and start building a family numbering in the millions.

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Liquid, salty water may flow on Mars, scientists say (PHOTOS)

August 8, 2011 - 02:56 PM
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After peering at images taken by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter season after season, scientists have grown to believe that there is water flowing on Mars.

However, if it exists, the water's not likely to be the kind of abundant, thirst-slaking enjoyment that is agua on Earth. Rather, a thirsty Mars cosmonaut would have to suck it out of rusty red sands, and the taste would be salty, perhaps like seawater or pickle juice.

Alfred McEwen of the University of Arizona, Tucson, explained the water theory in a paper published last Thursday in the journal Science. McEwen's the guy in charge of the spacecraft's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, which since its kick-off has documented the Red Planet's various wrinkles and scars in fine detail. Now the scientist and his team believe they've come across suggestive photographic evidence that Mars cries briny tears during its warm seasons.

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Continents apart, volcanoes Mt. Etna and Kilauea erupt (VIDEOS)

August 8, 2011 - 01:03 PM
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This appears to be a good place to stand!

Got a goat you need to sacrifice? Then head on over to Kayak.com and book some plane tickets, because there are two erupting volcanoes that are ready to accept your smelly livestock offerings today.

The first is Europe's tallest and angriest peak, Mount Etna. The 2-mile-tall Sicilian fire belcher has been retching out gobs of lava since late July, sending iridescent melted rock flying as high as 1,150 feet in the air. Etna has a record of frenetic activity going back as far as 1,500 B.C., and has already erupted eight times this year.

The ash from Etna is falling like soft, gray rain over towns in Sicily, forcing the temporary closure of the Fontanarossa airport. But widespread flight disruptions of the kind caused by this year's Grimsvötn explosion are not expected. Rather, Etna is just sort of pretty to look at. This footage was taken by Boris Behncke, who has been following every splurt and eructation that Etna has issued this year on his Flickr stream:

(Here's another video of Etna erupting in front of people, and Boris' volcanology website has loads of Etna info for the curious.)

Now, spin the globe a half turn and you'll find another active crater magnetizing the eyes of geologists in Hawaii.

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Alabama thunderstorm seen in night vision from a plane (VIDEO)

August 8, 2011 - 05:00 AM
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Some people chug miniature bottles of red wine and hope to pass out on their evening flights. Others, like YouTube denizen markopenguin, whip out the night-vision goggles and capture incredible views of storms that rival the bombing of Baghdad for stomach-punching intensity.

The penguin man was flying on Aug. 3 from Jackson, Miss., to Huntsville in Alabama when he noticed the window to his left lighting up like a Chinese New Year. Having in his possession a night-vision monocle and Samsung GALAXY Tab, he was in a prime position to document the aerial fireworks. That is one heck of an anvil-looking cloud lurking outside the window; perhaps it was the same one responsible for the people-trapping trees and fires in Alabama that night.

Stick around for the 4:15 mark, when blue jets shooting up into space from the top of the thunderclouds seem to make an impressive appearance. Says the videographer:

I'm very thankful to have been far enough away from those storms to have enjoyed getting to watch them without having to fight them! Within a couple hours of this video being taken, power was knocked out for much of town when the storms finally reached Huntsville! It even blew a Boeing 747 off its chocks and slid the nose 29 feet into a set of stairs causing significant damage!

Hat tip to ABC7's Alex Liggitt for finding this great video, which you can see after the jump.

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Typhoon Muifa dropping the rain bomb on China (PHOTOS)

August 5, 2011 - 03:19 PM
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A huge storm, the second super typhoon of 2011, is on a crash course for eastern China, with landfall predicted on Saturday. It's already killed 8 people in the Philippines and promises to sow more rain-soaked doom over Shanghai and possibly Beijing, according to this storm track from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center.

It's name? Muifa, or "plum blossom" in Cantonese.

What a sweet name for a killer storm. Typhoon Muifa originated as a depression late in July in the west Pacific Ocean and quickly pumped itself up into a true monster whirling winds up to 160 m.p.h., becoming Super Typhoon Muifa on July 28. The storm then weakened somewhat but has been potent enough to cancel flights in southern Japan, drive 36-foot-tall waves in the surrounding seas and force the partial closure of one of China's busiest maritime commercial centers, Ningbo Port. More than 200,000 people have been evacuated from the Chinese coast and hundreds of flights are scratched, reported the Agence France-Presse:

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More than 9,000 heat records broken or tied in July, 2011 (MAP)

August 5, 2011 - 12:55 PM
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Man, just looking at this map makes me want to sweat bullets. It's basically a visual representation of human misery during the month of July, 2011. (Hi-res version.) Each glowing dot shows where heat records were broken or tied; the top map shows daytime records and the bottom has nighttime ones. The deeper a dot's color the more records were set at that location. For instance, a deep orange pixel represents a city that had 23 nights of the month at or above record temperatures.

Add all the records up and you get nearly 9,000 instances of at-or-above extreme heat. Nighttime records far outpaced daytime ones at 6,171 versus 2,755. However, the National Climatic Data Center is still collecting stats from various weather stations. Expect a higher total of records when the center releases final results later this month.

Most scorched were Texas and its surrounding states, the Midwest and the Northeast. In the District, 25 days of the month were above 90 degrees, and on a whole temperatures for our July were more than 5 degrees above average. Let's not have a month like that again, agreed?

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Delmarva beach weekend outlook

August 5, 2011 - 11:45 AM
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After a perfect weekend last week at the beaches with temperatures right around the 90 degree mark, some changes are expected for the weekend ahead. Here is your all-important beach forecast for the Delmarva Beaches. Be sure to check the Delmarva Beach Resource Guide for all of your other needs.

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