The Storm’s Over — The Numbers Are In

The dry air was the wild card. Radar showed moderate snow over all of Connecticut for hours-and-hours before anything hit the ground.

snow-shovel-on-the-steps.jpgThe snow has come and gone. There’s never a bullseye, but the forecast was reasonably close. If success is judged by number of complaints, or lack thereof, I’m doing fine. Here are the final DOT numbers. I have also added the Boston and New York NWS snow totals, which include Connecticut, for the Dec 20-21, 2009 storm at the end of this entry.

Not everyone was as lucky. A friend who forecasts in Springfield sent a text message saying he’d received nothing! “Bust of the decade,” he said. Ouch. Been there. I know exactly what he’s going through.

I was right about Southeastern Connecticut getting the most snow followed by the shoreline in general. The snow was fluffy and windblown as predicted. Accumulations were generally in line with my numbers. My call for the Northwest Hills and most of the area directly adjacent to the Massachusetts line was a few inches higher than the actual totals.

I wrote about this last night, but it bears repeating the most unusual and interesting part of this storm was the exceptionally dry air. During the summer we sometimes see 30 grams of water content per square meter. Last night it was around 1 gram per cubic meter!

The dry air was the wild card. Radar showed moderate snow over all of Connecticut for hours-and-hours before anything hit the ground. Once the atmospheric column over any location became saturated light snow turned to heavy snow. I’d never seen a situation quite like this before. It cut inches off all the accumulations.

It’s a shame this storm will impact Christmas shopping. Otherwise we’re lucky it came on a Saturday night when travel is usually light.

And now the dig out begins.

(NWS totals after the jump)

Continue reading “The Storm’s Over — The Numbers Are In”

Taking The Aerial Tramway Up Mount San Jacinto

The Tramway is an 8,500 foot climb in a small, often swinging, car. The propulsion is delivered by thick cables strung over a series of isolated towers. Trust me–I’m describing Helaine’s ultimate nightmare scenario!

palm-springs-aerial-tramway.jpg“Why don’t you go?” Helaine asked. She was suggesting I ride the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway on our last day in town.

It was a tough choice because I knew she wouldn’t go. Helaine has a real fear of heights.

The Tramway is an 8,500 foot climb in a small, often swinging, car. The propulsion is delivered by thick cables strung over a series of isolated towers. Trust me–I’m describing Helaine’s ultimate nightmare scenario!

Mount San Jacinto is an amazing camera platform&#185 and, of course, that was the appeal for me. The Coachella Valley spreads out below with distant mountains marking its eastern edge.

The day was clear and mild. I threw on my jacket knowing the temperature would drop quickly with altitude. Even from the valley floor it was easy to see there was snow at the summit.

The Tramway is a short drive from Downtown Palm Springs. After turning off the main road you climb 2,500 feet before hitting the visitor center. Signs warn drivers to turn off their air conditioning lest they overtax and overheat their car!

windmills-from-mt-san-jacinto.jpgThe ride to the top was uneventful. The cable car makes two full rotations as it ascends. That assures everyone a good view.

I wish there were more open windows. Shooting through the glass is not the way to get good photos.

It was cool at the top, probably in the 40&#176s. The snow on the ground was unlike any we get here in Connecticut. It was ‘dry’ and compressed. Snow on this summit tends not to melt but sublimates away into the very dry air. There were snowy areas and clears areas, but minimal mud and no puddles!

mount-san-jacinto-nature-trail.jpgMy day at the top (December 4, 2009) was nearly dead calm. A storm moving through yesterday brought the temperature down to 14.8&#176 with wind gusts to 81 mph! I timed it right.

There’s a patio which rings the Mountain Station. From there I shot a few dozen photos of the valley below. Then I headed around back. West of the station are trails running through high mountain valleys. I picked the seemingly easy Nature Trail and began to walk.

The trail itself is easy–just 3/4 of a mile through mainly flat ground. Getting to and from the trail is a little more problematic down a long, winding, steep ramp.

tall-trees-in-long-valley-mount-san-jacinto.jpgAdded to the weight of my camera gear and steepness of the ramp is the altitude. Up on Mount San Jacinto each breath of air provides nearly 1/3 less oxygen than at sea level! This is really thin air. You feel it.

The trail itself was really pretty, but I was alone and missed Helaine. Is that too sentimental? I can’t help myself–it’s true. I know. This wasn’t the place for her. I still wish there was some way we could have shared the experience.

no-service-iphone.jpgThis was real wilderness. My cellphone showed “No Service.” That’s the 21st Century way of proving you’re removed from society.

It was a different story at the Mountain Station where I got email, answered phone calls and sent text messages.

There’s something wrong about that, isn’t there? I should have left the phone in the car, but I’m too weak. I need my tech fix.

I killed a little time hoping for some good nighttime shots with the lights of Palm Springs in view. That was a photographic failure. I never did get a really good, sharp shot after the Sun went down.

I caught the 5:00 PM trip to the bottom and was back at the hotel 10 minutes later. It was an afternoon well spent.

heading-down-mount-san-jacinto-at-dusk.jpg

&#185 – Here, as with most of the entries on this blog, clicking a photo will get you a larger version with more detail.

Hurricane Bill – Use The Power Wisely

I walk a thin line. I don’t want to panic people. I don’t want to lull them into complacency either.

hurricane-bill-visible.jpgLet me put you in my chair for just a moment.

Hurricane Bill is headed directly toward the US mainland at the moment. That’s scary. Of course forecasting weather is not just extending the current path. There are all sorts of variables taken into account. Bill should begin a sweeping right hand turn paralleling the coast over the next few days.

There is uncertainty so I look at Bill with respect and some trepidation.

I walk a thin line. I don’t want to panic people. I don’t want to lull them into complacency either.

Not only do I have to sell the most likely scenario to the public, I have to sell it to my co-workers. They are constantly on the lookout for good stories. What would cause more interest than a storm heading our way? I can’t let them ‘wishcast’.

Mission accomplished today. We handled a hurricane preparedness story in Stonington with the gravity it deserved without sending people into shock.

I have to remain diligent. We have to use the power wisely.

Speaking At West Haven High

That connection is what I hope for. It’s my sign of success.

I spoke at West Haven High School today. It was a class of meteorology students. I went as a favor to someone who’d been nice to me.

West Haven High gets a bad rap. I can’t tell you whether that’s deserved or not, but I can safely say I saw no evidence of anything remotely seeming problematic today. It is a school in a town with many working poor. The class I was in was fairly evenly divided black and white with a few Hispanics students.

I walked in fully expecting a metal detector on my way in. None. There was a non-uniformed adult on a raised kiosk watching the door and the hallway. Kids were walking around between periods as high school kids do. The vibe was nice.

The class I spoke at was a meteorology science course. I’m not sure how deep they can get in high school, but they were attentive as I delivered my presentation. That’s more than half the battle–having students pay attention. I don’t know how teachers do it day-after-day without becoming numbed to it all.

As I began I realized none of them were alive when Hurricane Gloria, a crucial first element in my talk, struck the Connecticut shoreline in 1985. Gloria is now ancient history.

I’d included my “Hippie Geoff” photo as an ice breaker. Nothing. No reaction. I was surprised and, at that moment worried about how things would progress.

As I went through my presentation I looked up to see them looking back. That connection is what I hope for. It’s my sign of success. You have no idea how many schools I’ve been to where that back-and-forth response was missing. That’s sad.

The session ended with a round of questions–some pretty good ones. I left happy.

Without sounding too sappy, I really did get a lot out of today–possibly more than the students got.

Ike Gets Scarier

Ike is especially scary now since it looks like ‘he’ will be heading into the Gulf of Mexico. It’s the watery equivalent of a box canyon with no exit but landfall.

scary-hurricne-ike.pngBob Hart’s site posts the GFDL–a computer model run optimized for and ‘bogused’ with hurricane and tropical storm data. Ive been keeping an eye on Huricane Ike.

Ike is especially scary now since it looks like ‘he’ will be heading into the Gulf of Mexico. It’s the watery equivalent of a box canyon with no exit but landfall. There are a few places with sparse population and of course that’s where you hope these storms go.

Right now, too early to be dependably accurate, the GFDL brings Hurricane Ike to nearly the same landfall that Hurricane Gustav made! I just couldn’t imagine having to deal with two strong hurricanes in the same season. I guess you do what you have to do… still it’s got to make you question where you’ve chosen to live.

We’re at the peak of the season now, give or take a few days. Hopefully the activity will begin to taper off. These storms are fascinating to forecast, watch and track, but I’m no fool, there are lives at stake.

Gustav’s Approach

Reporting from Houma, LA tonight is like being in Hiroshima to cover the end of World War II.


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I just came downstairs. Helaine had the Weather Channel on. I’m not usually a TWC viewer but I know who Jim Cantore is. I sat next to him at a friend’s wedding. Tonight he’s in Houma, LA. Why? In my opinion, and it is only my opinion, live TV coverage from landfalling hurricanes contributes to the “I’ll ride it out” attitude that gets people killed.

I don’t want anyone hurt, but will it take a death or serious injury before reporters are no longer stationed where hurricanes strike, just because it produces great video?

Reporting from Houma, LA tonight is like being in Hiroshima to cover the end of World War II.