Friday, February 28, 2014
Tomorrow is the first day of March, and although it will feel good to turn the calendar page, the month is anything but serene. March is a transition month as Winter slowly yields to Spring. As for our weather, just about anything goes during the month. The best example of the unpredictable nature of March weather is illustrated on the 13th of the month. That's the date when the mercury reached 84 degrees in 1990, establishing records for the season, month, and date.
Just three years later, though, on the same date, the so-called Storm of the Century dumped over a foot of snow to the region, making it the second snowiest date on record for March at the time. Winds gusted over 40 miles an hour and wind chills were at or below zero. Most of the eastern third of the nation was affected by the massive storm, which stretched from Maine to Florida, including hurricane force winds, tornadoes, strong thunderstorms, and blizzard conditions.
And, four years ago, on March 13, 2010, we experienced an unforgettable Nor'easter which brought flooding rains, damaging winds, massive power outages, and two local fatalities. Peak wind gusts reached 50 to 60 miles an hour in most communities, resulting in downed trees and power lines. Many local roads were impassable, and rainfall rates of up to one-half inch per hour were reported across southwestern Connecticut.
So, what can we expect in March? Basically, anything and everything. Based on local climatology, the normal average daily temperature climbs eight degrees from 36 to 44. The average high temperature increases from 43 degrees at the start of March to 52 degrees by the last day of the month. The record high temperature is 84 degrees set on March 13, 1990, while the record low is four degrees established on March 19, 1967.
As far as precipitation is concerned, the average monthly total is 4.15 inches, making it the wettest month of the year. The wettest March on record occurred in 2010 when several storms brought 10.19" of rain, breaking the previous mark of 9.40" in 1953. The March 13, 2010, storm delivered 3.31" of rain. You may even recall the second wettest March day on record when 3.59 inches of rain fell on March 2, 2007. The average monthly snowfall is 4.3 inches, but there have been some memorable snowstorms. As late as March 22 nearly a foot of snow (11.1") fell in 1967.
The amount of daylight continues to grow during March, but this year we Spring ahead to Daylight Saving Time on Sunday, March 9, so the evening hours will be much brighter than usual. Sunrise on March 1 happens at 6:27, and by the end of the month it will rise at 6:37, due in so small part to the start of DST. Believe it or not, the Sun sets at 5:41 this evening, but by March 31 it will set at 7:17. Personally, it will feel odd to have brighter evenings so early in the year. Not that I mind, of course.
The Vernal Equinox is less than three weeks away. That's the when the direct rays of the Sun are above the Equator, technically marking "equal day and equal night" over the face of the Earth. We'll enjoy about 12 hours of daylight on the first day of Spring, and the amount of daylight will continue to increase through late June.
Thursday, February 27, 2014
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Exposure to brutally cold wind chills for even a brief period of time can be dangerous. Make sure to keep your extremities covered. The wind chill is based on the rate of heat loss on exposed skin caused by the wind and cold. As the wind increases, it draws heat from the body, driving down the skin temperature and eventually the body temperature.
Take a look at the wind chill chart below. Feel free to print the chart and keep it handy. It shows corresponding values for the air temperature and wind speed. For example, when the temperature drops into the teens and the wind is blowing at 15 miles an hour, the wind chill is close to zero. At this wind chill temperature, exposed skin can freeze in 30 minutes!
Frostbite occurs when body tissue freezes. The most susceptible parts of the body are the fingers, toes, ear lobes, or the tip of the nose. Symptoms include a loss of feeling in the extremity and a white or pale appearance. Get medical attention immediately for frostbite. The affected area should be slowly warmed.
Hypothermia occurs when the body temperature falls below 95 degrees. Warning signs include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness, and exhaustion. Get medical attention immediately. If help is not available, begin warming the body slowly.
Warm the body core first, and not the extremities. Warming extremities first drives the cold blood to the heart and can cause the body temperature to drop even more. That may ultimately lead to heart failure. Do not take any hot beverage or food. About 20% of cold-related deaths occur in the home, according to the National Weather Service Office.
Obviously, the best way to avoid hypothermia and frostbite is to stay warm and dry indoors. If you must go outside, dress appropriately. Wear several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing. The trapped air inside the layers will insulate the body. Remove the layers to avoid sweating and subsequent chill. Wear a hat since half of body heat can be lost from the head. Cover your mouth to protect the lungs from the extreme cold. Mittens are actually better than gloves. Try to stay dry and out of the wind.
Remember, as far as the wind chill is concerned, it only affects people and animals. The only effect the wind chill has on inanimate objects such as car radiators and water pipes is that it cools the object more quickly to the current air temperature. For example,if the outside air temperature is five degrees below zero and the wind chill temperature is -31 degrees, then the car's radiator will not drop lower than -5.
So, take time to find your scarf, gloves, woolen hat, and heavy overcoat. Today will offer a reminder that there are still over three weeks of Winter left, and we'll sure feel it.
Saturday, February 22, 2014
Friday, February 21, 2014
Thursday, February 20, 2014
Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Stratford has measured nearly three feet of snow this month alone (32.1"). Eight of the 20 days this month have featured measured snow, including three with at least a half-foot. February's snowfall is more than two feet above the normal value (5.8") and more than last year's total of 30.4" through today. That's impressive.
Local climatologist Ralph Fato created this chart illustrating the Top 10 Snowiest Locations and the Top 10 Snowiest Departures across the United States as of February 19. Bridgeport is sixth in the latter category, having received more than three feet of snow above normal. The seasonal total (56.2") didn't crack the top ten list in the former category, but it's still well above normal and higher than last year's total (51.3") through the same date.
Monday, February 17, 2014
The snowfall totals across southwestern Connecticut were impressive. Darien and New Canaan measured the most snow (20 inches), while Westport (19"), Bridgeport (17"), Norwalk (16"), and Milford (15") also posted impressive totals. New Fairfield, in Northern Fairfield County, led the way locally with exactly two feet of snow. Here is the satellite image of the massive storm.
The magnitude of the storm was quite impressive. It spread heavy snow across the major cities in the Northeast from Washington to Boston. In fact, it was the biggest snowstorm on record in Baltimore (28.2") and Boston (27.5"). The storm actually developed in the southern Rockies on February 14 and moved through southern Missouri and the lower Tennessee Valley over the next two days. Eventually, the storm brought heavy rain and severe weather to the deep South.
In the Northeast, Arctic air helped slow down the storm and kept all of the precipitation in the form of snow and some sleet. By late Sunday evening, February 16, the snow reached the New York City area, and by midnight, it was snowing across all of southwestern Connecticut. A secondary area of low pressure developed off the Virginia coast the morning of February 17, turning the Nor'easter into a full-blown blizzard.
I'm often asked how it feels to work during a major storm, from driving into work in the middle of the night to staying on the air for hours at a time. I tell people it's kind of like my version of the Super Bowl or the World Series. I'm on the main stage, and my adreline is flowing all day long. The viewers play a vital role by sending me their weather observations, current conditions, and photos which I use all the time. During a big storm, give me the ball or, in this case, clicker! It's the "big time" for me.
Another snow event is expected later today into early tomorrow afternoon. This next system, however, will pale in comparison to the blizzard 11 years ago today. Two-to-three inches of snow are possible by Tuesday afternoon before much milder air arrives by the middle of the week. In fact, the mercury may come close to 50 degrees by Friday with some light rain.
Sunday, February 16, 2014
Sustained winds were clocked at 20 to 30 miles an hour during the height of the storm, and wind gusts reached as high as 55 miles an hour. There were eight deaths reported in Connecticut as a result of the storm, including one in Stratford and three others in Fairfield County. Snow drifts reached as high as 15 feet in some places, and schools and many factories were shut down.
Making matters worse, the temperature dropped to near zero inland the following morning. Back roads were described as impossible to navigate due to the high snow drifts. A spokesman for United Illuminating Company reported that the service crews and office staff were nearly 100 percent on duty throughout the storm. Crews concentrated on snow removal operations around substation sites. Fortunately, electric service during the blizzard continued uninterrupted, according to UI officials.
I am always fascinated about local weather history. I subscribe to a Web site which archives local newpapers, including The Bridgeport Telegram and The Bridgeport Post. Naturally, I typed in the date and found the front-page articles about the blizzard. I enjoy looking at the headlines and reading the stories in the newspaper. You can click on the images to enlarge them and read more about the blizzard which happened over a half-century ago today.
Saturday, February 15, 2014
Officially, 1.5" of snow fell at Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Bridgeport, bringing the monthly total to just about two-and-a-half feet (29.3"). It was also the sixth day out of 15 (40%) with measured snow this month. The total snow for the season is nearly four-and-a-half feet (53.4").
The snow caused hazardous driving conditions, as temperatures fell from a high of 37 degrees at 12:37 p.m. into the low-to-mid 30s during the late-afternoon. The daily low temperature was 25 degrees at 3:41 a.m. The wind gusted over 20 miles an hour with a high wind speed of 30 mph and a high gust speed of 46 mph out of the Northwest. I took these photos during the late-afternoon snow at my home.
Friday, February 14, 2014
So, how did the February Full Moon get its name, anyway? Since the heaviest snow usually falls during this month, native tribes of the North and East most often called February's Full Moon the Full Snow Moon. Some tribes also referred to this Moon as the Full Hunger Moon, since harsh weather conditions in their areas made hunting very difficult.
Remember, Full Moon names date back to the days of the Native Americans, who lived in what is now the Northern and Eastern United States. The tribes kept track of the seasons by giving distinctive names to each recurring Full Moon. Their names were applied to the entire month in which each occurred. There was some variation in the Moon names, but in general, the same ones were current throughout the Algonquin tribes from New England to Lake Superior.
This Moon has also been known as the Full Storm Moon and Full Candles Moon. A Full Moon rises at about the same time the Sun is setting. Since the length of daylight continues to grow each day through the Summer Solstice, today's Full Moon will rise a little later than it did in December or January. In addition, this Full Moon will appear still fairly high in the sky since we're still in Winter.
There were white-out conditions during the morning with snow rates of one-to-three inches an hour. Another round of light snow developed early this morning, padding the snow totals. Cumulatively, nearly a foot-and-a-half of snow fell in Darien and Fairfield, and over a foot of snow was reported in New Canaan, Weston, Norwalk, Stamford, and Sikorsky Memorial Airport. Here are the snowfall totals from February 13 & 14 for southwestern Connecticut.
The storm's cumulative snow total of 12.2" at the airport pushed the monthly snowfall to 27.8" through February 14. It also marked the fifth day with measured snow in two weeks. Local climatologist Ralph Fato created this video showing the key highlights of the storm. The snow tapered off later in the afternoon.
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Today marks the eighth anniversary of the record-setting snowstorm of Sunday, February 12, 2006. New York City's largest snowstorm ever was classified as a category three major storm. Low pressure formed over the Southeastern United States and moved Northeast off the mid Atlantic coast by Saturday evening, February 11.
The storm then intensified as it moved to the East-Northeast, passing South of Long Island on Sunday morning, February 12. A very intense band of heavy snow developed, producing snowfall rates as high as two-to-four inches an hour across extreme Southeastern New York and across much of Southern New England.
Here is a sampling of the official snowfall totals from across southwestern Connecticut following that memorable snowstorm:
- West Redding: 28"
- Easton: 27"
- Stamford: 24.5"
- Darien: 22.5"
- Norwalk: 22"
- New Canaan: 21.5"
- Fairfield: 18"
- Stratford: 13"
- Bridgeport: 12.5"
The storm closed regional airports, canceling hundreds of flights and for several hours virtually paralyzing normal traffic for city residents who took to the snow-caked streets in snowshoes and skis. New York municipal authorities had braced for the onslaught. Five-thousand workers at the New York City Department of Sanitation were put in place to use about 2,000 pieces of heavy equipment, including 350 salt spreaders and 20 snow-melting machines.
The National Weather Service said 26.9 inches of snowfall was measured in Central Park, exceeding the previous record of 26.4 inches, set in December 1947. The Winter storm's high winds, icy snow, thunder and lightning hit much of the mid-Atlantic and New England region, with parts of Arkansas and Tennessee also feeling the brunt of the storm.
"It's certainly the strongest storm this winter season," said Bruce Sullivan, an official with the National Weather Service. It hit a fairly large area, with accumulations of more than 20 inches of snow throughout New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. Power also was out at thousands of homes and businesses in the New York City metropolitan area, including southwestern Connecticut.
Next Monday, February 17, marks the 11th anniversary of the Presidents Day snowstorm of 2003. That was one of the largest snowstorms in New York City's weather record books, too. I'll take a closer look at that storm next week.
Saturday, February 8, 2014
By the time all was said and done, it was almost impossible to open my kitchen door and go outside late Saturday morning. The snow-level was so high that the door would not open easily. The daunting task of shoveling the snow off the steps, sidewalk, and driveway almost seemed impossible when I stepped outside. I knew that I had to take my time due to the 40-plus mile-an-hour wind gusts, wind chill values in the teens, and my advancing age. After about an hour, I began making progress.
According to the National Weather Service, Fairfield hit the jackpot with the most snow in Fairfield County with 35 inches. However, regionally, Milford topped the list with 38 inches. That's more than the normal amount of snow for the entire Winter season, and nearly twice as much as what we received this season prior to the storm.
Two years ago, less than a foot (11") of snow fell through February 8. The snowiest Winter on record, however, happened 18 years ago when Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Stratford reported 78" from 1995-96. Here's a view of my street from Saturday afternoon, February 9, 2013.
Here are the totals from the National Weather Service:
- Milford: 38"
- Fairfield: 35"
- Stratford: 33"
- Monroe: 30"
- Bridgeport: 30"
- Weston: 26.5"
- Shelton: 26.5"
- Westport: 24.5"
- Greenwich: 22.5"
- Darien: 22.1"
- Norwalk: 22"
- New Canaan: 22"
- Danbury: 21.5"
- Stamford: 19"
- Newtown: 17.1"
- Bethel: 16"
- Ridgefield: 12"
The second part of the storm entered into a colder environment late Friday night and with plenty of moisture it resulted in intense banding and a powdery, wind-driven snow between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. That resulted in snow totals which were much greater than expected. Fortunately, damaging winds and severe coastal flooding issues were not as severe and certainly not as widespread as feared. However, many people lost power.
Meteorologist Geoff Fox took a time-lapse video of the snowstorm from inside looking out at his deck. He wrote, "This time lapse starts just after 6:00 AM and goes past 11:00 PM. It stops because there’s nothing left to see! There are a bunch of web postings saying the GoPro’s battery is only good for 2.5 hours of time lapse. That’s why I plugged it into an AC adapter and propped it up against a glass paneled door to the deck."
Thursday, February 6, 2014
What do I most remember about the blizzard? Connecticut's late Governor Ella Grasso closed all state highways due to the heavy snow; local schools were closed for several days; my next-door neighbor lost his car keys in a snow drift and didn't find them until the Spring; and I worked two straight days at WNAB where I had just landed my first radio job as the overnight announcer a half-year earlier.
The station program director, the late Tiny Markle, called me early in the day and asked me to prepare to work a 24-hour shift. Naturally, I was thrilled, but it took awhile packing my belongings for the trip to East Washington Avenue in Bridgeport. I watched as over two feet of snow fell, and the experience punctuated my fascination for weather.
As for the powerful storm, strong winds reached speeds of 86 miles per hour with gusts of 111 miles per hour during its peak. The lowest central air pressure was 980 millibars, which made the storm comparable to a strong Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale. Click here to listen to a clip of Walt Devanas' weather forecast on WICC in Bridgeport from the morning of February 6, 1978.
Arriving at the time of a new Moon, the storm produced heavy coastal flooding along the New England shoreline. Beachfront homes were washed away due to strong winds and coastal flooding. More than 1,700 homes suffered major damage or were destroyed, and 39,000 people took refuge in emergency shelters. Federal disaster assistance totaled $202 million.
Snow fell at a rate of four inches an hour at times during the storm, which lasted for 36 hours. The unusual duration of the 1978 Nor’easter was caused by the Canadian high, which forced the storm to loop East and then back toward the North. Thunder, lightning, and hail were seen in the blizzard as it blanketed the Northeast with over three feet of snow. Drifts in parts of New England were reported to be 15 feet deep.
Traffic came to a standstill as major corridors like I-95 shut down. During the storm several people died on Route 128 around Boston from asphyxiation, since snow had blocked the tailpipes of their idling automobiles. In New York City, skiers could be seen sliding up Fifth Avenue.
I will never forget the Blizzard of 1978.
Wednesday, February 5, 2014
You see, I have been forecasting the weather for southwestern Connecticut on television and radio over the last 20-plus years. I never hear a word from anybody when the forecast is "right on the money." But, if my forecast is off the mark, the phone doesn't stop ringing and the emails keep coming.
Today is National Weatherperson's Day. It's the one day during the year to acknowledge the work of weather forecasters across our country. The day commemorates the birth of John Jeffries in 1744. Jeffries was one of America's first weather observers. He actually began taking daily weather observations in Boston in 1774, and he took the first balloon observation in 1784.
Jeffries was an American physician and scientist who pioneered the use of balloons in scientific observation. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, he graduated from Harvard University in Cambridge in 1763 and studied medicine in Boston and abroad. After receiving his medical degree from Marischal College in Aberdeen, Scotland, in 1769, Jeffries returned to Boston and practiced medicine there until 1771.
Much to the chagrin of this modern-day weather forecaster, Jeffries supported England during the American Revolution. He served on British naval vessels and in British military hospitals, and he fought alongside British troops in the final campaign of the war. After the war, he moved to England and resumed practicing medicine.
Jeffries became interested in the possibility of using balloons to observe the upper winds and the atmosphere at various altitudes. On November 30, 1784, Jeffries and French aeronaut Jean Pierre Blanchard made an ascent from London, reaching a height of 9309 feet and taking a series of air samples.
A few weeks later, on January 7, 1785, they made the first aerial crossing of the English Channel, traveling in a balloon from Dover to the Forest of Guines, near Calais. Jeffries paid all expenses for the two ascents and provided a number of the best available observational instruments, including a thermometer, a barometer, an electrometer, a hygrometer, and containers of distilled water. The air samples taken on the first ascent were the first scientific data ever obtained from these altitudes.
Many of us take weather information for granted. Turn on a light switch, you get light. Turn on your television or radio, or check a web site, and you get the weather forecast. It’s easy to forget that around the clock, dedicated meteorologists and weathercasters are creating forecasts to help you plan your day and issuing warnings to help keep you safe.
I wake up at 2:15 every morning, and I'm generally in the office by 3:15. People always ask me why I arrive so early if we don't go on the air until 5:00. Believe me, it takes at least two hours to pour over the meteorological data, create customized graphics, write a weather discussion for the News 12 Connecticut Web site, begin working on a blog entry, and type the forecast for the info bar on the bottom of the screen. Despite what many people think, I just can't "look out the window."
For me, though, it's a labor of love. I often tell people, when you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life. Happy National Weatherperson's Day!
Sunday, February 2, 2014