How Sandy could break records
Sandy's strength and storm surge flooding could break records.
October 29th, 2012
01:33 PM ET

How Sandy could break records

CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen has gathered the data, crunched the figures and come up with this staggering list of factoids about the massive storm that is Hurricane Sandy:

Strongest ever: Based on pressure, Sandy is likely to be the strongest storm ever to make landfall north of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, for as long as records have been kept. The benchmark storm, the 1938 Long Island Express Hurricane, contained a low pressure reading of 946 millibars. Sandy currently has a minimum pressure of 943 millibars. Generally speaking, the lower the pressure, the stronger the storm.  Stormsurf.com explains.

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Are you ready for Winter Storm Rocky?
A man in Silver Spring, Maryland, shovels snow to dig out his car after a blizzard in 2010.
October 2nd, 2012
01:23 PM ET

Are you ready for Winter Storm Rocky?

The Weather Channel wants viewers to be on a first-name basis with the foulest of winter weather. The cable channel announced Tuesday that it will give names to the worst winter storms much like the National Hurricane Center does for tropical storms.

“Naming winter storms will raise awareness, which will lead to more pro-active efforts to plan ahead, resulting in less impact on the public overall,” Tom Niziol, the Weather Channel's winter weather expert, said on the channel's website.

Niziol wrote that winter storms are commonly given names in Europe, but he said that the lack of a single authority over winter storms in the United States,  like the hurricane center is the central authority on tropical storms, is one reason why the winter blasts are not named.

That's where the Weather Channel thought it could step in, Niziol wrote.

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Weather out of whack as winter nears end
Peak bloom dates for cherry trees in the nation's capital are this week, earlier than usual.
March 19th, 2012
12:50 PM ET

Weather out of whack as winter nears end

On the last weekend of winter, people were taking out their skis in Arizona and putting them away in Minnesota. They were putting on sweaters in Phoenix and stripping down to their shorts to ice fish near Fargo, North Dakota. They were calling out snowplows in the California desert and counting the millions left in their snow removal budget in Ohio.

There were real extremes in a record-breaking streak of weather across the country.

Here's how the topsy-turvy climate confounded convention:

Officials closed 180 miles of Interstate 40 across northern Arizona on Sunday as a winter storm dumped more than a foot of snow on the region. In Flagstaff, schools were closed Monday as the snow made travel hazardous.

But some snow-hungry visitors went to Flagstaff specifically for the snow, CNN affiliate KPHO-TV in Phoenix reported.

"We knew what the weather would be like up here so we made sure to keep all of our snow gear so we could come up here and play in the snow and have lots of fun," Jennifer Gregory told the station.

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February 20th, 2012
11:51 AM ET

Avalanche killed experienced backcountry skiers

Three skiers killed in a Washington state avalanche on Sunday were highly experienced at backcountry skiing, according to media reports, and one was the head judge of the Freeskiing World Tour, a competitive circuit for extreme skiers in the United States, Canada and South America.

The three, ski tour judge Jim Jack, Chris Rudolph and John Brenan, were among a group of a dozen or so skiers who were attempting to ski down a slope near the Stevens Pass ski area in the Cascade Mountains, about an 80-mile drive from Seattle. Among the group were staffers of both ESPN and Powder magazine, who identified the victims and gave accounts of the incident.

Powder magazine senior editor John Stifter said the avalanche was triggered by Jack, who was the seventh skier to head down the slope, which is outside the borders of the resort and its groomed ski runs. Jack triggered a “slab avalanche,” according to Stifter.

The U.S. Forest Service’s National Avalanche Center says dry slab avalanches are the most deadly form of avalanches.

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Europe's wintry weather
February 6th, 2012
03:02 PM ET

Shrinking polar ice caps may be to blame for frigid Europe

Europe's deadly cold snap may have a lot to do with shrinking amounts of ice in the Arctic, a recent study suggests.

Nearly 300 deaths have been reported across the continent, with snow accumulations not seen in five decades reported in some places. Warsaw, Poland, has seen 11 days of temperatures well below average, with a coldest reading of 35 below zero Fahrenheit.

As warmer air rises into the stratosphere over the Arctic, colder surface air moves south bringing storms to Europe.

Scientists at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Potsdam, Germany, say the frigid, snowy European winter has its origins in a warm Arctic summer.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that July 2011 was the fourth-warmest July on record. A warm summer in the Arctic cuts the amount of sea ice. NOAA reports that sea-ice levels last July were the lowest in three decades.

The effect is twofold, the Wegener scientists report.

First, less ice means less solar heat is reflected back into the atmosphere. Rather, it is absorbed into the darker ocean waters. Second, once that heat is in the ocean, the reduced ice cap allows the heat to more easily escape into the air just above the ocean's surface.

Because warmer air tends to rise, the moisture-laden air near the ocean's surface rises, creating instability in the atmosphere and changing air-pressure patterns, the scientists say.

One pattern, called the Arctic Oscillation, normally pushes warm Atlantic air over Europe and keeps Arctic air over the poles.

But in mid-January this year, the Arctic Oscillation abruptly changed, allowing the jet stream to plunge into Siberia and push cold and snowy weather over much of Europe.

Similar situations have emerged the past two years.

Check out some more reports on what this winter's been like, both in the U.S. and around the world:

Frigid weather helps cost Romania's prime minister his job

What's behind America's warm winter?

Europe's wintry weather
February 2nd, 2012
02:00 PM ET

More deaths amid Europe's big freeze

More deaths were reported in Eastern Europe on Thursday as the region continued to shiver in the grip of unusually frigid weather.

The coldest temperatures continued to chill the Eastern European countries of Romania, Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia, where Thursday was the coldest day yet for many.

In Ukraine, 65 people have died since the bad weather started this week, according to the Ukranian Emergency Ministry. Of those, 47 were homeless. Others died in their homes or in the hospital as a result of frostbite and hypothermia.

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Fuel delivery to icebound Alaskan town complete
The tanker Renda transfers fuel to the northwestern Alaskan town of Nome on Monday.
January 19th, 2012
08:56 PM ET

Fuel delivery to icebound Alaskan town complete

A Russian tanker on Thursday morning finished delivering 1.3 million gallons of fuel to icebound Nome, Alaska, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

The tanker Renda, anchored more than a quarter-mile off Nome following a 11-day journey with an icebreaking Coast Guard ship, began transferring the fuel through hoses to an onshore fuel storage facility on Monday.

A company in Nome a town of 3,500 people contracted the Renda to deliver the fuel after ice formed over the Bering Sea following a ferocious November storm that prevented the last delivery of the season via barge.

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January 19th, 2012
11:40 AM ET

As snow slows, roads get icy in Pacific Northwest

A day after heavy snowfall made Seattle streets look more like ski runs, freezing rain and accumulating ice shut runways at the city's airport Thursday and made travel even more treacherous.

The National Weather Service issued an ice storm warning for the Seattle-Tacoma metropolitan area, portions of the coastline and the state's southwest interior, including the capital, Olympia.

"An ice storm warning means severe winter weather conditions are imminent or occurring," the weather service said. "Significant amounts of ice accumulations will make travel dangerous or impossible. Travel is strongly discouraged."

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Filed under: Oregon • Washington state • Weather • Winter weather
January 18th, 2012
11:02 AM ET

Twin winter storms slam Pacific Northwest

Snow was pelting Seattle and accumulating on roads early Wednesday as the city was poised to see what could be one of its largest-ever snowfalls in more than 70 years.

The Seattle-Tacoma metropolitan area may see between 4 and 8 inches of snow as the second of twin storms moves across the Pacific Northwest, according to the National Weather Service.

The southwest interior of Washington state, including the capital, Olympia, could see 5 to 10 inches of snow, the weather service said.

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January 17th, 2012
11:49 AM ET

Fuel transfer under way across Alaska ice

A Russian tanker has begun transferring 1.3 million gallons of fuel to icebound Nome, Alaska, the U.S. Coast Guard reports.

The fuel is flowing through 1,200 yards of hoses from the tanker Renda - anchored amid the Bering Sea ice off the coast of the town of 3,500 - to a fuel transfer station on shore.

The transfer began at 5:06 p.m. local time Monday and is expected to last several days, the Coast Guard said in a news release.

Nome Mayor Denise Michels, along with Coast Guard safety inspectors, walked along the fuel hoses before the transfer began to be sure they were sound.

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Twin winter storms slamming Pacific Northwest
An earlier storm created treacherous driving conditions over the weekend in Oregon.
January 17th, 2012
10:28 AM ET

Twin winter storms slamming Pacific Northwest

Seattle could see one of its largest snowfalls since the 1940s as twin winter storms move over the Pacific Northwest during the next two days, according to the National Weather Service.

Between 5 and 9 inches of snow could hit the Seattle-Tacoma area Wednesday, with 6 to 10 inches falling before the storms pass early Thursday, said Dustin Guy, a meteorologist at the weather service's Seattle office.

Precipitation moving in from the south and west is combining with cold air moving south from Canada to create the heavy snowfall, Guy said. If snowfall amounts top 7 inches, the winter weather event will rank among Seattle's 10 worst since the early 1940s, he said.

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Mountainous areas of the Pacific Northwest will see even more snow, with the largest accumulations on the eastern slopes of the Cascades, according to the weather service.

From late Tuesday through early Thursday, 2 feet to 3.5 feet of snow is forecast for the mountains east of Seattle, Guy said.

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Alaska fuel convoy prepares for final push to Nome
The Coast Guard Cutter Healy, right, breaks ice around the Russian tanker Renda last week about 250 miles south of Nome.
January 13th, 2012
12:17 PM ET

Alaska fuel convoy prepares for final push to Nome

Two ships trying to break through ice to resupply ice-bound Nome, Alaska, are nearly there after a 10-day journey but have paused to identify the safest path into harbor, a U.S. Coast Guard spokeswoman said Friday.

The U.S. Coast Guard's only operating Arctic icebreaker, the Cutter Healy, and the Russian fuel tanker Renda were in the Bering Sea about eight nautical miles from Nome on Friday morning, Coast Guard Lt. Veronica Colbath told “CNN Newsroom.”

The Healy will have broken through nearly 300 miles of ice for the Renda, which is transporting 1.3 million gallons of fuel for Nome on a journey that began last week from southern Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. The ships’ leaders and an ice expert are discussing “the best way to proceed” to Nome on northwestern Alaska’s coast, Colbath said.

“We have (had) … ice and weather challenges on this 300-mile journey, so we will not be rushing into the harbor of Nome until we have identified the best course of action to navigate in,” Colbath said.

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Alaska fuel convoy back on track
The Coast Guard Cutter Healy, right, breaks ice around the Russian tanker Renda about 250 miles south of Nome on January 6.
January 12th, 2012
05:48 PM ET

Alaska fuel convoy back on track

A Coast Guard icebreaker and a Russian tanker trying to resupply icebound Nome, Alaska, are once again advancing on the coastal town after a nearly two-day pause in the Bering Sea.

The U.S. Coast Guard's only operating Arctic icebreaker, the Cutter Healy, and the Russian fuel tanker Renda were about 67 nautical miles from Nome on Thursday morning, Lt. Veronica Colbath, a Coast Guard spokeswoman, said.

The vessels had made virtually no progress for much of Tuesday and Wednesday, when they were about 100 nautical miles out, according to the Coast Guard. The pause was due in part because the Healy had to free the Renda from an ice ridge on Tuesday, the Alaska Dispatch reported.

Officials are tentatively hoping the ships, carrying 1.3 million gallons of fuel, will arrive at Nome this weekend, Colbath said.

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Coast Guard breaks ice for tanker
January 11th, 2012
08:52 AM ET

Ice stops progress of Alaska fuel convoy

The Coast Guard icebreaker and Russian fuel tanker trying to resupply icebound Nome, Alaska, made no progress on Tuesday, a Coast Guard spokesperson said early Wednesday.

Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis confirmed an online report from Alaska Dispatch that the Russian-flagged fuel tanker, the Renda, only advanced about 50 feet on Tuesday. That was in stark contrast to what the Renda and the icebreaker, the Coast Guard cutter Healy, did on Monday, when they battled through 50 miles of the ice-covered Bering Sea.

The ships are about 100 miles from Nome, a town of 3,600 on Alaska's western coast.

“Tough sledding. Healy is trying to free Renda right now from an ice ridge,” Carter Whalen, president of Alaska Marine Pilots, told Alaska Dispatch in an email. The pilot aboard the Renda, Pete Garay, confirmed the situation.

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Coast Guard breaks ice for tanker
January 10th, 2012
11:22 AM ET

Icebreaker, fuel tanker close in on icebound Alaskan town

A Coast Guard icebreaker and a tanker carrying 1.3 million gallons of petroleum products could arrive in icebound Nome, Alaska, as early as Thursday, the Coast Guard said Tuesday.

The Sitnasuak Native Corp. of Nome contracted the double-hulled, Russian-flagged tanker Renda to deliver the fuel products to the community of 3,600 on Alaska's west coast after a ferocious November storm prevented the last delivery of the season via barge and ice formed over the Bering Sea.

The U.S. Coast Guard's only operating Arctic icebreaker, the cutter Healy, is escorting the fuel tanker through the ice-covered waters in the first-ever attempt to supply fuel to an Arctic Alaska settlement through sea ice.

The two-ship convoy was 97 miles from Nome early Tuesday, Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis, a Coast Guard spokeswoman, told CNN.

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Day of extremes in U.S. weather
Winter wear was beachwear as cold temperatures invaded Miami Beach.
January 4th, 2012
12:23 PM ET

Day of extremes in U.S. weather

Mark down January 4 as one strange day for weather in the United States. The extremes were topsy-turvy.

While Floridians were experiencing record low temperatures, Montanans were seeing record highs that are normal for April or October.

Forecast highs in the upper 50s in Montana were expected to break records in Lewistown, Great Falls, Harve and a handful of other places, according to the National Weather Service.

Similar highs were forecast Wednesday for large portions of Florida.

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Arctic 'hurricane' slams Alaska
November 9th, 2011
05:35 PM ET

Arctic 'hurricane' slams Alaska

A winter storm of hurricane strength was slamming Alaska early Wednesday with winds of up to 100 mph, high seas and blizzard conditions.

The National Weather Service called the storm moving into the state off the Bering Sea "a powerful and extremely dangerous storm of record or near-record magnitude."

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[Updated at 5:35 p.m. ET] The Facebook page for the National Weather Service in Alaska warns that although skies may be clearing near parts of the back side of the storm, more coastal flooding is expected.

"A major peak in Norton Sound and from Kotzebue Sound up to Point Hope will be coming this evening and tonight. Please don't let the weakening winds trick you into thinking the worst is over in Norton Sound up to Point Hope," the page says.

One to 3 inches of additional snow, near-zero visibility and sustained winds of 30 to 50 mph - with gusts of up to 60 mph - were expected in and around Kotzebue on Wednesday evening, the National Weather Service said.

To the north, along the Chukchi Sea coast, including the village of Kivalina, sea levels may rise 3 to 5 feet above normal Wednesday afternoon, according to the weather service.

"High waves will push water onshore starting Wednesday afternoon, especially at the village of Kivalina," the weather service said on its Alaska Region Headquarters website, warning of severe flooding. "Coastal residents in the warned area should take precautions now to protect life and property and be on the alert for rising water levels. Do not delay in taking needed precautions for this unusually severe and potentially life threatening storm."

[Updated at 5:12 p.m. ET] Water is expected to rise about 2 more feet this evening in Nome, where water already has moved to the base of some buildings, National Weather Service forecasters told the Anchorage Daily News.

"So the threat of flooding is not over yet and it could be a little bit worse, this afternoon and this evening until later tonight," Bob Fischer, lead forecaster for the weather service office in Fairbanks, told the Daily News.

[Updated at 1:10 p.m. ET] Frigid winds like those now ripping across the Bering Sea into Alaska can cause more damage than warm winds, meteorologists tell the Christian Science Monitor.

"Cold air impacts the water more and can push the momentum of the wind into the water more," meteorologist Jim Brader of the National Weather Service's Fairbanks office told the Monitor.

Brader also said the winds moving in the same direction over a distance of about a thousand miles, something that means bigger waves and more water pushed ashore, according to the Monitor report.

That means people on low-lying islands and coastal areas may face big trouble, according to the report.

In fact, the village of Point Hope points out on its website how it had to move parts of the village to a new site during the 1970s because of the effects of storm surge and erosion.

[Updated at 12:36 p.m. ET] The wind chill at Red Dog Dock south of Kivalina, Alaska, was -14.1 degrees Fahrenheit at 8 a.m. local time, according to measurements from the NOAA's National Data Buoy Center. Winds were gusting to 70 mph and the temperature was 12.6 degrees Fahrenheit. The rate of ice accertion, the process of ice building up on solid objects, was more than 15.6 inches an hour, according to the NDBC data.

[Updated at 12:16 p.m. ET] KNOM radio in Nome, Alaska, reports via Twitter that a two-foot diameter log, ice and rocks the size of fists are being blown along Front Street in the town.

[Updated at 11:28 a.m. ET] Major coastal flooding and severe beach erosion is expected along the northern and eastern shores of Norton Sound, the National Weather Service reports. Sea levels are forecast to rise 8 to 10 feet and strong winds may push ice in Norton Bay onshore through Wednesday night, forecasters say.

[Updated at 10:04 a.m. ET] A Twitter user says their mother's house in Kotzebue, Alaska, is shaking so hard in the wind that the woman fell down.

[Updated at 9:53 a.m. ET] The storm is pushing water in to Norton Sound and flooding is anticipated in communities along Alaska's western coast, National Weather Service meteorologist Scott Berg, told CNN Wednesday morning.

Water has moved up to the base of some buildings in Nome and is expected to continue to rise, Berg said. The weather service also has reports of roofs being torn off buildings by high winds in Nome, he said.

The highest gust reported in the storm so far is 89 mph in Wales, Alaska, Berg said.

The weather service has not reported any significant snow accumulation so far, but it has been snowing continuously in some areas since Tuesday, he said.

"When the snow is flying sideways, it's kinda hard to go out and see how much is falling," Berg said.

The center of the storm is pushing northward and will turn to the north-northwest later in the day, he said. Communities including Kivalina and Point Hope will see worsening conditions, according to Berg.

[Updated at 9:34 a.m. ET] The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Hydrometeorological Prediction Center reports the storm is generating waves as high as 40 feet in the Bering Sea. Wind gusts up to 83 mph in Cape Lisburne, Alaska, and 76 mph in Wales, Alaska, the agency said.

[Posted at 6:32 a.m. ET] Early Wednesday, Twitter reports said wind speeds in Nome in northwestern Alaska had reached 100 mph. That would be the equivalent of a category 2 hurricane if it occurred in the tropics. Twitter postings reported structural damage in Nome, including the roof blown off a building. Landline phones were down, according to a Twitter post.

"These things get named hurricanes down south and get a category. It's that magnitude," said Jeff Osiensky, regional warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service, told the Anchorage Daily News. The storm's scope was also hurricane-like, he said, covering 750 to 1,000 miles in breadth.

Chip Leeper, incident commander with the Nome government, told CNN that people in low-lying areas and on along the town's sea wall had been advised to seek shelter elsewhere.

National Weather Service meteorologist Steven Kearney told CNN that Nome could endure sea levels up to 8 feet above normal as well as 10-foot waves.

Other coastal and island villages were preparing evacuations if surf became too high.

Inland, the storm was expected to produce blizzard or near-blizzard conditions across western Alaska, the weather service said. Snow accumulations of up to 14 inches were possible. A Twitter poster reported winds gusts of 50 mph in the inland village of Aniak early Wednesday.

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Alaska faces one of its worst storms ever, forecasters say
The National Weather Service forecast map for Alaska on Tuesday.
November 8th, 2011
05:57 AM ET

Alaska faces one of its worst storms ever, forecasters say

Alaska is facing a life threatening winter storm with near hurricane force winds, more than a foot of snow and severe coastal flooding, the National Weather Service says.

"This is an extremely dangerous and life-threatening storm which will be one of the worst on record over the Bering Sea and the west coast," NWS forecasters said in a bulletin Monday afternoon.

The storm was about 600 miles southwest of Shemya in the far western Aleutian Islands on Monday afternoon and was expected to move over the Bering Sea toward Alaska's west coast on Tuesday.

Winds near hurricane force of 74 mph were expected to generate seas as high as 25 feet in the northern Bering Sea, forecasters said. The winds were expected to raise sea levels as much as 9 feet in the Norton Sound. Those levels combined with the high waves were expected to cause significant coastal erosion and major flooding. The winds may also push sea ice on shore, adding to the dangers, NWS forecasters said.

Alaska's west coast could also see as much as 14 inches of snow in blizzard conditions, forecasters said. The storm was expected to last into Wednesday.

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October 31st, 2011
05:10 AM ET

More than 2.3 million without power as Northeast recovers from storm

More than 2.3 million people in at least five states were without power early Monday, a day after the storm moved offshore.

At least five deaths were blamed on the storm.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, or MBTA, warned riders that the storm could affect Monday morning commute. And with the chilly temperatures and piles of snow, Halloween plans were touch and go for many cities.

Worchester, Massachussets, asked residents to postpone celebrations until Thursday when temperatures are expected to climb to 60 degrees.

"Safety doesn't take a holiday. Halloween tomorrow night will put families and our youth in harm's way as they negotiate piles of snow and downed limbs," the city said Sunday night.

Early Monday morning, the state's largest utility - Connecticut Light and Power - reported nearly 763,000 customers were still without electricity. A total of about 773,000 households were in the dark in Connecticut.

Elsewhere, about 250,000 customers were without power early Monday in Pennsylvania; 556,000 in Massachusetts' 477,000 in New Jersey; and 288,000 in New York, according to figures from power companies in those states. Thousands also lost power in Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.

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Gotta Watch: Wedding disasters
A couple in Arizona exchange vows as a dust storm rolls in.
October 26th, 2011
11:25 AM ET

Gotta Watch: Wedding disasters

There is no doubt that planning a wedding takes a lot of time and effort.  You've got to make your guest list, hire a caterer, get flowers and decorations, order the cake, the list just goes on and on.  That said, a lot can definitely go wrong at a wedding, and sometimes you can't do a darn thing about it.  How about getting married in a dust storm for instance? Today's gotta watch is all about wedding disasters, and the video topping our favorites list involves a bride, a groom and an unwelcome guest named "Haboob."

Really dirty wedding crasher – A couple in Arizona got more than they bargained for when they tried to say their "I Dos." You've really gotta watch what happened when a major dust storm rolled in during the middle of the ceremony.

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