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21″ Rain at South Boulder, CO. (1 in 500 year flood for parts of Front Range?)

17 Sep 2013, 7:41 am

September 17th, 2013

Hot Tea Alert
“Man plans, God laughs”.

That’s especially true when traveling by air, but I have a solution: only fly on sunny days.
Last week my flight to Baltimore was delayed 3 hours when lightning struck the control tower at BWI. Flying home yesterday I was dozing contently when clear air turbulence dumped hot tea into my crotch. Pain, then an oddly refreshing sensation.

Sorry for the visual.

My point: in spite of all our computers, gizmos & redundancies you can’t push the weather. Summer T-storms trigger more airline delays than winter snow & ice, especially over southern and eastern states. The only thing you can do to lower the risk of getting delayed or cancelled is fly in the morning, before instability T-storms have a chance to pop up and wreak havoc.


Tracking Ingrid – And A Showery Swirl Into The Midwest. The 4 km. NAM shows showers and possible T-showers sprouting along the leading edge of warmer air pushing north across the Plains into the Midwest. Colorado (finally) dries out a bit, while the soggy remains of Hurricane Ingrid push into Mexico, a few heavy rain bands brushing far southern Texas. Animation: NOAA and Ham Weather.

Historic Flooding Across Colorado. You only get so much from the written word, statistics and numbers. After seeing some of the photos in this piece from The Atlantic you get a much better sense of the scope of this flooding disaster: “Over the past few days, a 4,500-square-mile area across Colorado’s Front Range has been hit by devastating floods, leaving at least six dead, forcing thousands to evacuate, and destroying thousands of homes and farms. Record amounts of rainfall generated flash floods that tore up roads and lines of communication, leaving many stranded, and hundreds still listed as missing. Evacuations are still underway as weather conditions have improved slightly. Forecasters predict drier weather by mid-week. Gathered here are recent images of the devastation in Colorado.”

Photo credit above: “A raging waterfall destroys a bridge along Highway 34 toward Estes Park, Colorado, as flooding devastates the Front Range and thousands were forced to evacuate, on September 13, 2013.” (AP Photo/Colorado Heli-Ops, Dennis Pierce).

* In Longmont, Colorado they’re already calling this a 1 in 500 year flood.

Flood Transforms Colorado’s “Gore-Tex Vortex”. Here’s a clip from The AP andKUSA-TV in Denver: “The cars that normally clog Main Street in Lyons on the way to Rocky Mountain National Park have been replaced by military supply trucks. Shop owners in Estes Park hurriedly cleared their wares in fear that the Big Thompson River will rise again. A plywood sign encouraged residents mucking out their homes to “Hang in there.”Days of rain and floods have transformed the outdoorsy mountain communities in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain foothills affectionately known “The Gore-Tex Vortex” from a paradise into a disaster area with little in the way of supplies or services – and more rain falling Sunday. The string of communities from Boulder to Estes Park, the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, is a base for backpackers and nature lovers where blue-collar and yuppie sensibilities exist side by side. Now, roadways have crumbled, scenic bridges are destroyed, the site of the bluegrass festival is washed out and most shops are closed…”* Map above, courtesy of NOAA, shows 21.13″ of rain in the last 7 days in falling on South Boulder.

Historic Flooding Continues To Ravage Colorado. It was the Perfect Storm for the Front Range. Stalled synoptic-scale storm near Salt Lake City, turning on an extended 5-6 day “fetch” of tropical moisture originating from the eastern Pacific with record precipitable water values – combined with a stubborn upslope flow that created wave after wave of heavy rain. “Atmospheric Rivers” are thought to pose the greatest risk to California, but there’s no reason why a river of excessive moisture can’t set up from southwest to northeast, as it did late last week. Today’s Climate Matters segment looks at the Colorado Flood; natural weather enhanced by strange twists and turns in the jet stream (and more water vapor) that may be a direct result of a slowly warming climate.

Flood-Ravaged Boulder, Colorado Sets Annual Rainfall Record. This takes weather whiplash to a whole new extreme. Here’s a clip of Climate Central story from meteorologist Andrew Freedman, with some remarkable rainfall statistics: “…With 30.12 inches of rain and counting, more than half of which fell since Sept. 9, the city has already eclipsed its previous mark of 29.93 inches, set in 1995. Boulder’s average yearly precipitation (rain and melted frozen precipitation) is 20.68 inches. The record is especially noteworthy since before Sept. 9, Boulder, along with much of eastern Colorado, was still mired in long-term drought conditions…”Graphic credit above: “So much rain fell since Sept. 9 that Boulder, Colo., went from having one of its driest years on record to its wettest.” Credit: Dennis Adams-Smith/Climate Central.

5-Day Rainfall. NOAA HPC prints out heavy rains for coastal Texas, a 1-2″+ smear of rain from near Kansas City to Davenport, more heavy showers and T-storms for south Florida. The Pacific Northwest sees a healthy soaking, while much of the Southwest stays dry.

Colorado Floods: Death Toll Climbs As Hundreds Still StuckThe Denver Post has a town by town update on historic flooding still underway – it will take months, if not years for some of these communities to return to some sense of normalcy. Here’s an excerpt: “As many as 1,000 Larimer County residents remain trapped by washed-out roads in mountain canyons after helicopters set to rescue them were grounded by rain and fog Sunday. “Mother Nature is not cooperating,” said Shane DelGrosso, one of two Type II incident commanders who are assisting the county with coordination of local, state and federal rescue efforts. Saturday, 475 people were evacuated by air and taken to shelters in the county. Two 80-person urban search and rescue teams will arrive Monday and begin house-to-house searches around Estes Park, where the only passable route in and out of town is Colorado 7…”Photo credit above: “The eastbound lane of 9th Ave collapsed near Fordham St in Longmont, CO September 15, 2013. Evacuations are underway Sunday morning in some Longmont neighborhoods because the St. Vrain River is rising quickly.” (Photo By Craig F. Walker / The Denver Post).* Only 22,000 homes and businesses in Colorado have flood insurance, roughly 10-25% of people living in high risk flood zones have coverage. This will compound the disaster for survivors according to USA Today.

NWS Says Flooding “Historically Significant”. No kidding. Here are more details fromThe Boulder County Business Report: “Is this week’s flooding in Boulder County a 100-year event? Five hundred? One thousand? Jim Keeney, weather program manager for the National Weather Service’s Central Region, said the NWS hasn’t made a determination because flooding is still rampant along Colorado’s Front Range. But he did offer one comparison to lend some perspective on Friday. The Big Thompson River flood of 1976 has long been a sort of benchmark for flooding in the region. That flood crested at 9.31 feet in the town of Drake. The flooding that slammed the foothills and Front Range this year crested at 10.55′ Friday morning…”

Photo credit above: “A house lays completely demolished in what was the path of the recent floods that have destroyed the town of Jamestown, Colo., on Sunday Sept. 14, 2013. No one has been able to access the town until late Sunday afternoon when crews finalized repairs of the upper portion of the road for emergency traffic only. The town has no infrastructure or running water. Some parts of town amazingly enough have electricity. A dozen or so residents stayed as most of the town was evacuated by helicopters.” (AP Photo/ The Denver Post, Helen H. Richardson)

What We Learned From Vermont’s Epic FloodCNN has the story – here’s a snippet: “…From that emergency response, we learned a few critical lessons that I offer for our counterparts in Colorado:
Sleep and eat. This flood emergency response will continue for many weeks. It is a marathon, not a sprint, and you and your staff can only be helpful if you take care of your own basic needs.
Ask for help. Many folks want to help, including experts who are prepared to pitch in at a moment’s notice. Take some time to think carefully about where you could use the extra boots on the ground and ask for assistance.
Communicate. The first casualty of a crisis is information. Make sure you have the facts before you act. Talk to the folks in the field. Share relevant information with the emergency response directors. Let the public know what you know through updates and guidance from your experts. You cannot communicate too much…”
File photo credit above: “Water from the Connecticut River floods Route 5 in Westminster, Vt. Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2011, after Tropical Storm Irene moved through the area over the weekend.” (AP Photo/The Brattleboro Reformer, Zachary P. Stephens).

Ingrid Fizzles. Once-hurricane Ingrid should weaken rapidly today as it pushes into Mexico; some of the outer bands brushing far southern Texas (Brownsville area) with heavy rain and 30 mph wind gusts. More details from NOAA: “Monday morning (9/16/2013), the NOAA NWS National Hurricane Center indicated that Tropical Storm Ingrid continues to move farther inland from the eastern coast of Mexico, centered at midday about 25 miles west of La Pesco. A Tropical Storm Warning continues along the coast of Mexico from La Cruz northward to Rio San Fernando. Maximum sustained winds are 60 mph. Ingrid is forecast to weaken to a depression later today and dissipate on Tuesday. These rains are likely to produce life-threatening flash floods and mud slides.”

Fogbow. When it’s time to graduate from just-another-rainbow. Details fromWeatherNation TV: “Here’s a cool weather phenomenon! This photo was taken in Cloquet, MN. Fog bows are similar to rainbows, except due to a smaller droplet size, white is the color reflected to the eye instead of the normal ROYGBIV. Photo from Jason Hollinday via NWS Duluth, MN.”

From Crankstarting To Charging: Why Tesla’s Model S Is The Model T Of Our Time. Here’s a clip from a long and excellent article about Tesla, redefining the meaning of disruptive innovation, courtesy of Digital Trends: “What is the future of the automobile? One hundred years ago, America was in the midst of a mobility revolution as the Ford Model T put the nation on wheels for the first time. Today, we’re seeing the next era of mobility begin to unfold, and much of the credit goes to that EV icon, the Tesla Model S. After more than a century of driving gasoline and diesel-powered cars, hybrids and fully electric vehicles are finally beginning to chip away at the market share of their fossil-fueled forefathers. So what has a century of progress wrought? I recently had the chance to get two revolutionary cars – a 1913 Ford Model T and a 2013 Tesla Model S – together at the same time to see where we’ve been and where we’re headed. While electric vehicles today seem like something from a science fiction future, the truth is they’re as old as cars themselves…”

The iPhone’s Secret Flights From China To Your Local Apple Store. Apple flies chartered 777’s from China, each one loaded with 400,000+ iPhones. Who knew? Here’s an excerpt of a fascinating tale from Bloomberg: “As Apple CEO Tim Cook unveiled new iPhones yesterday, a complex operation had already kicked into gear behind the scenes to send millions of the handsets to store shelves worldwide. The process starts in China, where pallets of iPhones are moved from factories in unmarked containers accompanied by a security detail. The containers are then loaded onto trucks and shipped via pre-bought airfreight space, including on old Russian military transports. The journey ends in stores where the world’s biggest technology company makes constant adjustments based on demand, said people who have worked on Apple’s logistics and asked not to be identified because the process is secret…”

Photo credit above: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg. “Boxes of Apple Inc. iPhones are stacked in a London store.”

Texas A&M – Alabama: Inside College Football’s Supercharged Economy. If you had any doubt that college football is BIG business, check out this story at TIME Magazine’s Keeping Score Blog; here’s an excerpt: “…Still, no scene captured the perks of college football quite like College Station on Saturday. Games like Bama-A&M deliver psychic benefits to guys like Robinson, publicity benefits to Texas A&M, economic benefits to everyone from sponsors to shirt-sellers to the port-o-potty operators. Thanks to Manziel, a polarizing figure who was accused of accepting money for signing autographs — Texas A&M and the NCAA cleared him — this was one of the most highly anticipated regular season games in years. According to one study, a season’s worth of Texas A&M home games delivers $86 million in sales to Brazos County, where College Station sits.  The people who deliver the actual product everyone is all excited about — the players —deserve the right to earn more. An athletic scholarship, no doubt, is sweet. But College Station on Saturday resembled any insane NFL game, rock concert or NASCAR event in size and scope. It’s a commercialized carnival. In a fairer world, the college entertainers — just like the NFL players, the rock stars, and the NASCAR drivers — get a fairer cut…”Photo credit above: Todd Spoth for TIME. “Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel walks with his teammates onto the field for warm ups prior to an NCAA football game between the Texas A&M Aggies and the University of Alabama Crimson Tide.”

Climate Stories…

Why Did Colorado See Historic Flooding? Natural weather patterns, turbocharged by an unusual jet stream feature that caused a storm to stall for the better part of 5-6 days + record amounts of tropical moisture flowing from the eastern Pacific across Mexico into Colorado. Did climate change make the floods worse? Probably. Here’s a clip from Peter Sinclair at Climate Denial Crock Of The Week: “…blocking pattern has set up over the western United States, drawing a conveyor belt of tropical moisture north from coastal Mexico. Blocking patterns form when the jet stream slows to a crawl, and weather patterns get stuck in place. When all that warm, wet air hit the Rocky Mountains, it had nowhere to go but up, pushed further skyward by the mountains themselves. By some measurements, the atmosphere at the time of the heaviest rains was the among most soaked it has ever been in Colorado. Gauge measurements show floodwaters in Colorado have now exceeded the legendary Big Thompson Canyon Flood of 1976, the flood of record for the region. In downtown Boulder, a meandering creek expanded 40-fold in just a few hours…”

Photo credit above:

Temperature Chart For The Last 11,000 Years. Here’s an excerpt from a post “For the first time, researchers have put together all the climate data they have (from ice cores, coral, sediment drilling) into one chart that shows the “global temperature reconstruction for the last 11,000 years” The climate curve looks like a “hump”. At the beginning of the Holocene – after the end of the last Ice Age – global temperature increased, and subsequently it decreased again by 0.7 ° C over the past 5000 years. The well-known transition from the relatively warm Medieval into the “little ice age” turns out to be part of a much longer-term cooling, which ended abruptly with the rapid warming of the 20th Century. Within a hundred years, the cooling of the previous 5000 years was undone…”

Environmental Consequences Of Fracking. If you’re interested in learning more about fracking and the impact on the environment I encourage you to attend this evening’s meeting of the Minnehaha Chapter of the Izaak Walton League at 7 PM this evening. The presenter is Matt Norton, Campaign Director at the Minnesota Environmental Partnership (MEP). The location: Linden Hills Recreation Center, 3100 West 43rd Street, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55408.

Encouraging Results Seen In First Nationwide Look At Gas Leaks From Drilling Boom. There are still many unanswered questions about the long-term environmental safety of hydraulic fracture, or “fracking”, including possible negative impacts on groundwater and a potential link between injecting water and chemicals deep underground, as well as a rash of recent (small) earth tremors near drilling sites. But recent papers suggest methane leakage from fracking may not be as bad as previously thought. The jury is still out, but the process is still considerably cleaner than coal. Here’s an excerpt of an Andrew Revkin post at The New York Time’s Dot Earth: “…The analysis, led by David T. Allen and other energy and environment researchers at the University of Texas, finds that estimates of methane escaping from gas drilling made by the Environmental Protection Agency are fairly accurate, over all, while those from industry critics and some indirect studies of leakage (from aerial measurements, for example) appear far too high. A comprehensive package of background on the research has been posted by the university. While the researchers found that emissions from a critical stage of well construction — “completions” — are far lower than regulators had estimated, they pinpointed an important under-appreciated source of escaping gas — pneumatic devices powered by the pressure of the extracted natural gas…”

The 5 Stages Of Climate Denial Are On Display Ahead Of The IPCC ReportThe Guardian has the story – here’s a clip: “…Just in the past week we’ve seen:

Interestingly, these pieces spanned nearly the full spectrum of the 5 stages of global warming denial.

Stage 1: Deny the Problem Exists

Often when people are first faced with an inconvenient problem, the immediate reaction involves denying its existence. For a long time climate contrarians denied that the planet was warming. Usually this involves disputing the accuracy of the surface temperature record, given that the data clearly indicate rapid warming…”



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Welcome to the WeatherNation blog. Every day I sift through hundreds of stories, maps, graphics and meteorological web sites, trying to capture some of the most interesting weather nuggets, the stories behind the forecast. I’ll link to stories and share some of the web sites I use. I’m still passionate about the weather, have been ever since Tropical Storm Agnes flooded my home in Lancaster, PA in 1972. I’ve started 5 weather-related companies. “EarthWatch” created the world’s first 3-D weather graphics for TV stations – Steven Spielberg used our software in “Jurassic Park” and “Twister”. My last company, “Digital Cyclone”, personalized weather for cell phones. “My-Cast” was launched in 2001 and is still going strong on iPhone, Android and Blackberry. I sold DCI to Garmin in 2007 so I could focus on my latest venture: WeatherNation. I also write a daily weather column for The Star Tribune And if you’re on Twitter, you’ll find me @pdouglasweather

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