Thursday, April 17, 2014

Lake Erie Boating Incident -- A Weather Related Accident???

It is a cold, hard fact that boating in April can offer some of the most treacherous and life threatening conditions on Lake Erie.  Late Wednesday evening, four boaters were reported missing.  By early Thursday morning, the stark discover of a partially capsized boat has been a dreaded discovery.  The temptation of sunshine and warmer spring days lure many to the icy cold waters of Lake Erie for early season fishing and recreation.  Here is the high resolution visible satellite image of Lake Erie on Wednesday, the morning of April the 16th.

The clear and sunny morning hid the dangers of a cold and eventually brisk afternoon on the lake.
Early morning temperatures were in the 30s with relative light southerly winds of less then 10 kts.  I'd imagine the lake looked glassy smooth, the total appearance of a great opportunity for venturing out onto the lake.  However, after 5 PM a very brisk and gusty east wind increased to 10 to 20 kts with occasional gust over 20 kts.  All experienced boaters know an east wind means business and bad news with very dangerous boating conditions on the western basin of Lake Erie.  The easterly winds maximize the "fetch" or distance it travels unobstructed over the open waters of Lake Erie.  This wind would quickly increase wave heights and lake currents turning a tranquil morning into a dangerous concoction of early spring boating.    
Here's the observed weather conditions from Wednesday on South Bass Island.
From 6 PM to 1 AM Wednesday night, wind speeds dramatically increased from a calm morning to a gusty east wind of 14 to 19 kts into the late afternoon and evening.
To follow that up, here is the wind gusts during 6 PM to 1 AM Wednesday evening.  Wind gusts from the east ranged from 18 to 21 kts for 7 consecutive hours.

Take a look at some of the modeled forecasts of this gusty east wind, highlighting the danger of an easterly wind fetch into western Lake Erie.  This created a corridor of wind gusts in excess of 20 kts from the Lake Erie Islands into the western basin of Lake Erie 

Turbulent lake currents in the vicinity of Middle Bass and South Bass Island south to Sandusky Bay and west to Maumee Bay State Park were a direct result of the increase in the east winds into the evening.
While stunning in beauty and full of recreation, it is unfortunate lives are lost every year due to the dangers of Lake Erie.  Thoughts and prayers go out to the families and the four individuals that are missing in the wake of their boat that was found partially capsized.  The icy cold lake water temperature of 44° does not offer much forgiveness when accidents happen this time of year.  It is a difficult time to remind everyone of the important lesson that early season spring boating should be reserved for very experienced and well equipped individuals. 
~Meteorologist Chris Vickers

Sunday, April 6, 2014

April 6th, Sunday Night Weather Hangout

At 8:30 pm Sunday Night, Meteorologist Ryan Wichman will host his weekly 'Weather Hangout' on Google+.

The show takes questions from Ryan's Facebook and Twitter pages to answer and gives a summary of the forecast for the week ahead. If you are on Google +, be sure to add Ryan's page HERE. A live stream of the show will be offered here, with a video replay shortly to follow after the conclusion.


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Heavy Rain Chances this Week

We all know the saying: "April showers...bring May flowers." We just didn't know Mother Nature could keep in line with our calendars so well. Only a few days into the new month and we are looking at our first rounds of heavy springtime rains. Here is the set-up, followed by river forecasts and severe weather threat levels:

Currently a storm system is moving into the western United States. A frontal system is laid out across the Midwest and into the Great Lakes acting as a highway for this storm to ride the next few days. The path of this system will allow for it bring with it some Pacific moisture as well as pick-up moisture from the Gulf of Mexico. A recipe for heavy rains.

As the evolution of this system becomes a bit more clear it is likely that the heaviest rain from this system will be dropped along a St. Louis to Indianapolis to Columbus line. 3-5" of rain will be possible there. Over Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan 1-2" of rainfall appear more likely. Here is the latest forecast from the WPC:

Our RPM Forecast model shows a bit more detailed rainfall forecast totals, very inline with the forecast above: 

Keep those rain totals in mind we are not expecting a major flooding event for local rivers but there certainly will be a rise and lots of standing water in fields/yards. Here are the latest projections (as of Tuesday PM) for a few local rivers:

At this point the severe weather threat appears it will be confined more to the west and south. We will watch any threat that may evolve but right now heavier rains will be the main focus of this system Wednesday PM - Friday AM.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

March 23rd, Sunday Evening Weather Hangout

At 8:30 pm Sunday Night, Meteorologist Ryan Wichman will host his weekly 'Weather Hangout' on Google+.

The show takes questions from Ryan's Facebook and Twitter pages to answer and gives a summary of the forecast for the week ahead. If you are on Google +, be sure to add Ryan's page HERE. A live stream of the show will be offered here, with a video replay shortly to follow after the conclusion.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Goodbye Winter, Hello Spring!

Spring officially arrived Thursday at 12:57 PM after one of the most brutal winters in northwest Ohio's history.  Enter spring, welcome alas!   Not so fast, hold that thought for a second...another blast of cold air is on the horizon through the first half of next week.

Our jet stream is plugged up by a significant ridge or "Blocking High" pressure system over the north Atlantic Ocean.  Like a huge NFL offensive lineman, this slows the atmospheric progression and will "block" a deep trough and very cold weather over the eastern 2/3 rd of the United States early next week.  (Sound familiar? Just like all winter has been.) Highs will likely only be in the 30s from Sunday through Wednesday of next week. However, on a brighter note, late next week that blocking ridge will flatten and a much warmer, more zonal (east-west) flow will develop across the United States. 

Late next week and into the weekend will be the first real shot of highs in the 60s for the Toledo area for the first time since December 5th of last year.  Who is finally ready for the warmer spring weather?  The first real possibility of 60s looks to come around March 29th to the 30th.  Overall, the last few days of March and early April look loaded to deliver!

~Meteorologist Chris Vickers

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Ice Jam Break-up Video at Grand Rapids

With the most recent ice jam breaking up near Grand Rapids on Sunday we have received a number of dramatic images and videos of large ice chucks floating downstream. None more dramatic than this video at Providence metro park by Tim Wagner:

Historic Toledo Winter!

This may certainly be the epic winter that you brag about and tell the grandkids stories decades from now.  The winter of 1977-1978 and this historic blizzard has long stood as the benchmark for some of harshest winter weather ever experienced in Ohio. Many have asked, "Which winter was worse"?  What records did this winter break and was it the worst winter in Toledo's history?

Let's take a look...

Many measure the harsh reality of winter by the amount of snow.  Nothing will throw a community into mass hysteria running for the bread and milk like a good old fashioned snowstorm.  The winter was second to none when measured by snow fall.  The month of March has only added to the already record breaking snowfall.  

The seasonal total for this winter is a smashing 84.8" of snow blowing past the previous record winter of 1977-1978 which had 73.1".  This puts the winter of 2013-2014 nearly a foot of snow above the long standing previous winter snowfall record! 

The relentless nature of storm after storm demoralized the area into unconditional surrender.  Here is a list of some of the notable snowstorms:

  • December 14th:            7.4"
  • January 1-2nd               9.2"
  • January 5-6th                13.0"
  • February 4-5th              8.4"
  • February 16-17th          5.0"
  • March 12th                   7.0" 
While none of these snowstorms on an individual note could match the blizzard in January of 1978, the overall weather pattern this year was conducive to more frequent, and still crippling snowstorms. The average snowfall during an entire winter season would be closer to 36".  Take a look at how the nearly 85" of snow could compare! 

Snow is only part of the story, the extreme cold was also took a frosty bite into the area.  This winter was the 5th coldest winter on record in Toledo history.  Records date back to 1873.  Wind chills in early January plummeted to levels rarely seen in Northwest Ohio with readings to -45° Below Zero.  The extreme cold once again froze the area and nearly froze time bringing the area to a sheltered standstill. 

The coldest winter on record remains 1977-1978 which had an average temperature (Dec/Jan/Feb) of 17.72°.

This winter also saw the 2nd greatest Ice Cover in the Great Lakes in recorded history.  Total ice cover reached 92.2% in early March.

Other miscellaneous stats and records include the following:
25 days below zero
9 days of new record cold
1st -- Snowiest January on record (40.2")
6th -- Coldest January on record
7th -- Snowiest February on record
7th -- Coldest February on record
5th -- Coldest winter on record (Dec/Jan/ Feb)
1st -- Snowiest winter season on record
2nd -- Highest Great Lakes Ice Cover
-46 Below Zero Wind Chill

Which winter was worse?  The infamous 1977-1978 winter or this latest severe winter blast?  My research proves that this winter was unmatched by any winter in Toledo's history for snowfall.  While it wasn't the coldest, it was very close to the extreme end of cold. This winter did not have a singular event that could match the blizzard in January of 1978, however the greater frequency of storms proved to be extremely harsh and relentless on the area.  It is fair to argue for either case, a lot of it depends on how it may have impacted you if you lived through both winters.  It is safe to say the Blizzard of 1978 still stands a the worst winter storm in modern history, but I believe many will argue and remember this winter as the worst ever experienced by anyone living today in Toledo!