Paul is a full-time fifth-grade teacher at an elementary school in Fairfield ... Paul is an Emmy award winner, five-time Emmy nominee, and four-time winner of the Connecticut Associated Press Broadcasters' Association award for 'Best Weathercast' ... The local weather journal is a two-time winner of the Communicator Award of Distinction ... Paul was inducted into the Housatonic Community College Hall of Fame and received the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2012 ... Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulPiorek ...

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Blizzard Lived Up to Billing for Eastern Connecticut

It was billed and hyped as a historic blizzard. However, that wasn't the case for southwestern Connecticut. Many meteorologists and weather forecasters predicted one-to-two feet of snow for the region, but the heaviest snow fell across Eastern New England. The snow began falling early Monday afternoon, and most school systems had early dismissals. By early Monday night, the snow became steadier and moderate.

Most of the snow, however, fell across the eastern part of the state. Lisbon, Colchester, Norwich, and Groton received at least two feet of snow. Across southwestern Connecticut, though, many communities picked up between a half-foot and a foot of snow. Unofficially, Weston was the "winner" locally with 14 inches. Fairfield had a little more than a half-foot (6.7").

Schools were closed Tuesday for the clean-up from the storm. Fortunately, the snow was light and fluffy, making shoveling somewhat easier. Here is a map illustrating the final snowfall totals from across the region.


Friday, January 23, 2015

Recalling the Snowstorm of Ten Years Ago

Ten years ago today, we were digging out from a major Winter storm and dealing with brutally cold wind chills across southwestern Connecticut. The snowstorm of Saturday and Sunday, January 22 and 23, 2005, was one for the record books and will not soon be forgotten.

The snow began falling shortly after lunchtime, Saturday, January 22, and it became steadier and heavier through the afternoon. The cold air was already in place since the mercury dipped to two degrees at daybreak. By later in the day the winds began gusting out of the Northeast, and Arctic cold air had settled into the region. Roads became almost impassable by late-afternoon, and by nightfall the snow was virtually blinding.

A Blizzard Warning was issued by the National Weather Service that day. For at least three hours, the blowing snow reduced visibility to less than a quarter of a mile, and wind gusts were frequently clocked over 35 miles an hour. Adding insult to injury was the wind chill, which fell below zero by nightfall.

By the time Sunday morning, January 23, arrived, the snow had moved away, but the damaging winds and biting cold were here to stay for the time being. Nearly a foot of snow had fallen across southwestern Connecticut. Here are some of the official totals reported by the National Weather Service office:
  • Milford 12.0"
  • Orange 12.0"
  • Darien 10.5"
  • Fairfield 10.3"
  • Norwalk 10.3"
  • Bridgeport 9.5"
  • Greenwich 9.0"
  • Westport 9.0"
  • Stratford 8.0"
Sunday morning's low temperature fell to six degrees above zero at Sikorsky Memorial Airport, but what I most remember about that morning was the howling and downright dangerous winds. Here is a sampling of some of the peak wind gusts from across the region:
  • Orange 53.0 mph (6:39 am)
  • Bridgeport 49.0 mph (6:24 am)
  • Westport 45.0 mph (2:05 pm)
Shoveling the nearly one-foot of snow in those conditions was extremely difficult. I remember taking several breaks that day because the wind was just too strong. The afternoon high temperature only reached 25 degrees, but it certainly felt much colder than that. Another factor was the blowing snow, which reduced visibility even though the skies became clear and sunny for much of the day. The weather made headlines nationwide:

By Sunday evening, roads were extremely icy, and the mercury continued to drop. The low temperature that night fell to five degrees above zero, and the wind continued to howl. It wasn't until later Monday afternoon, January 24, that the wind slowly began to subside and, by the following day, the temperature climbed to a more seasonable 34 degrees.


Monday, January 12, 2015

Stretch of Wild Winter Weather Happened Nine Years Ago This Week

An incredible stretch of weather brought just about everything, except the kitchen sink, to southwestern Connecticut nine years ago this week. Several storms brought heavy rain, accumulating snow, damaging winds, and dangerous icing to the area over a three-day period which began on Saturday, January 14, 2006, and continued through Monday, January 16, 2006. The wild weather ride actually didn't end until nearly a week later.

I recorded the following entries in my weather log, which I chart daily. Although most days are rather mundane, I highlighted these three days for obvious reasons. The weekend included record-high temperatures, record rainfall, tropical storm force winds, bitter cold wind chills below zero, icy roadways, and three-and-a-half inches of snow.

Saturday, January 14, 2006 --- A powerful Winter storm came barreling into the Northeast, producing record heavy rainfall of 1.59 inches, which broke the old mark of 0.91 inches, established in 1958. Strong southerly winds ahead of a well-defined cold front (51 miles-an-hour wind gust) brought down trees and power lines, and mild temperatures (56 degrees at 7:53 am) began a 36-hour stretch of severe weather across southwestern Connecticut.


I took each of these photos of the damage in my neighborhood from the storms. The first two show a truck and a car which were destroyed by falling trees in 50+ mile-an-hour wind gusts from January 14.


Sunday, January 15, 2006 --- Continued strong wind gusts (48 miles-an-hour) out of the North behind the front delivered much colder air (32 degree high and 11 degree low), and 3.5 inches of snow, creating a nightmare for local residents as power outages, below zero wind chills, and icy roadways punctuated the day's weather. The damage from the wind was extensive, as evidenced by the many trees which came tumbling down.


Monday, January 16, 2006 --- Bitter cold wind chills greeted early-morning risers as temperatures hovered between zero and ten degrees at daybreak. The high (29 degrees) and low (10) were well below normal for mid-January. Although the wind began to relax somewhat, we still had a peak wind gust of 31 miles-an-hour. United Illuminuating crews were out in full force attempting to restore power to many residents who were braving the ice, wind, and extreme cold for several days.


Personally, what I remember most from that weekend was losing power Saturday night, January 14, while my son and I were watching the New England Patriots' playoff game at Denver. We awoke to frigid, snowy, and icy conditions the following morning. However, fortunately for us, we were one of only a handful of families in our neighborhood to have power restored late the following morning. The majority of homes in our neighborhood remained without power for several days.


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Today Marks 19th Anniversary of the Blizzard of 1996

Today marks the anniversary of The Blizzard of 1996? That snowstorm still ranks as one of the most memorable in my nearly 20 years of providing the morning weather forecasts at News 12 Connecticut. In fact, it was one of only two times I stayed the night and slept in the weathercenter due to the heavy snow and strong, gusty winds.

The storm actually started late-morning, Sunday, January 7, as light snow overspread the entire Northeast. The snow gradually became heavier through the afternoon, and by evening, roads were just about impassable due to the rapid accumulation. By the time the storm began moving away the following day, nearly two feet of snow blanketed much of southwestern Connecticut.

The two-day snow total at Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Statford was 15 inches, including seven inches on January 7 and eight on January 8. That eclipsed the snow total of the so-called March 13, 1993 "Storm of the Century," which was 10.8 inches. Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks received 18.2 inches, just shy of the 21-inch record snowfall at the time, but more than the 14.8 inches just three years earlier.

Central Park in New York City recorded 20.2 inches of snow, making it the third highest snowfall at the time. Staten Island measured more than 27 inches of snow, and  LaGuardia International Airport recorded 24 inches, which exceeded the normal for the entire season of 22.6 inches.

An Arctic air mass covered New England as a massive storm developed over Virginia. The storm was actually energized by a 60-degree surface temperature contrast across western Montana which propelled a 175-mile-an-hour wind in the jet stream southward into the Plains causing the storm to form. This storm eventually brought the heavy snow from western North Carolina to southern New England.

Incredibly, the eastern slopes of the Appalachian Mountains from northern Virginia to Pennsylvania measured more than three feet of snow. The following map shows just how impressive the storm was. Southwestern Connecticut fell within the 15 to 20 inch range as far as total snow accumulations, with the heaviest amounts of 30 inches across southeastern Pennsylvania. The lightest amounts, oddly, fell well to the North.


It's hard to believe that 19 years have passed since the January blizzard of 1996. Some snow is likely Friday morning, and brutally cold Arctic air will be with us for the next couple of days. Wind chills will be below zero tonight and tomorrow. It sure is cold outside.


Sunday, January 4, 2015

Earth is Closest to Sun in Its Annual Orbit Today

Even though the coldest air of the season is poised to reach southwestern Connecticut by the middle of this week, the early Winter is the time of the year when the Earth is nearest to the Sun. In fact, this morning at 6:36 EST, the Earth was closer to the Sun than at any other time in 2015. This is when the Earth is at perihelion.

Since last July, the Earth has been falling ever closer to the Sun. Every moment since then, our planet has edged closer to the nearest star in the universe. The Earth’s orbit around the Sun is not a perfect circle. It’s actually an ellipse, so sometimes we’re closer to the Sun, and sometimes farther away. Various factors change the exact date and time every year, but aphelion (when we’re farthest from the Sun) happens in July, and perihelion (when we’re closest) in January.


At perihelion, our planet is about 91 million miles from the Sun. It moves outward to about 95 million miles from the Sun at aphelion. So, the Earth is about three percent farther from the Sun at aphelion than it is at perihelion. Naturally, some people have the mistaken impression that our seasons are caused by the changes in Earth's distance from the Sun, but this is not the case.

The temperatures and the seasons are not affected by the proximity of the Earth to the Sun or even the rotation of the planet on its axis. Rather, it is the tilt of the Earth that determines the climate. When it is at perihelion in January, the Earth is tilted away from the Sun in the Northern Hemisphere, and the sunlight is not "getting a direct hit" on the Earth's atmosphere. However, when it is at aphelion in July, the Earth is tilted toward the Sun.

So, as we prepare for much colder air this coming week, take comfort in the fact that the Earth is closer to the Sun than it is in the middle of Summer. I'm sure that's of little consolation, though. Winter is just two weeks old as of today. We still have a long way to go until Spring.


Saturday, January 3, 2015

Snowy Tease Will Change to Rain

Snow began falling early this afternoon, but it is expected to change to rain later today as milder air arrives. Here are a few photos I took in my neighborhood while it was still snowing.


Friday, January 2, 2015

January's Full Wolf Moon Rises Sunday Evening

I'm sure you noticed the waxing Moon rising in the sky after sunset over the course of the last few days. In case you're wondering, the Full Wolf Moon officially happens late Sunday evening, January 4, at 11:53 p.m. EST.

Since the length of daylight is still relatively short, the full Moon will appear for nearly its longest duration of the year. In fact, Saturday's moonrise happens at 4:35 p.m., and Sunday's moonset is at 7:13 a.m. That means the Moon will be "out" for more than 14-and-a-half hours. During the Summer, when the Sun rises earlier and sets later, a full Moon isn't "out" nearly as long since the daylight is much longer.

The Moon rises about 30 to 70 minutes later each day, so the Moon is out during the daytime as often as it is out at night. As the Moon wanes, it becomes a half Moon and a crescent Moon on the way to a new Moon. The complete phase cycle is about 29.5 days average duration. The time in days counted from the time of New Moon is called the Moon's "age." Each complete cycle of phases is called a "lunation."

So how did the name of the January full Moon originate? Amid the cold and deep snows of midwinter, the wolf packs howled hungrily outside Indian villages. Thus, the name for this month's full Moon. Sometimes it was also referred to as the Old Moon or the Moon After Yule. Some called it the Full Snow Moon, but most tribes applied that name to the next Moon.