Archive for October, 2012

Winter weather preparedness week – preparing your vehicle
October 25, 2012

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

This week, October 22-26, is the National Weather Service’s “Winter Weather Preparedness Week.”  Many states across the country have these preparedness days, although they may vary on the time of year that winter weather would start posing a threat.  For instance, Wyoming already had their such day at the beginning of the month.  Georgia, on the other hand, doesn’t have theirs until the first week of December.

Each post in the upcoming days will focus on a different aspect of winter weather – educating various facts about winter storms, what different advisories mean, and how to take the necessary preparations.  Last year’s October Nor’easter took many by surprise, and the National Weather Service wants to help spread the word about how to stay alert and safe in case a powerhouse storm happens like that again.

Part III – Preparing Your Vehicle For the Storm

Ideally, you should plan your travel and check the latest weather reports in order to avoid the storm altogether.  Since
this is not always possible, here are some suggestions for safety preparations in motor vehicles.

First of all, you should check and fully winterize your vehicle before the winter season begins, including anti-freeze levels and tire tread.

You should carry a winter storm survival kit in your car.  This kit should include:

1.  mobile phone with charger and batteries
2.  blankets and sleeping bags
3.  flashlight with extra batteries
4.  first-aid kit
5.  knife
6.  high-calorie, non-perishable food
7.  extra clothing to keep dry
8.  large empty can to use as emergency toilet, tissues and paper towels for sanitary purposes
9.  small can and waterproof matches to melt snow for drinking water.
10. sack of sand or cat litter for traction
11. shovel
12. windshield scraper and brush
13. tool kit
14. tow rope
15. battery jumper cables
16. water container
17. compass and road maps

In addition, keep your gas tank near full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines.  Avoid traveling alone.  Let someone know your timetable and primary and alternate routes.

If you become caught in a fierce winter storm, it is important to stay in your vehicle. you will become quickly disoriented in wind-driven snow and cold.  Run the motor for about 10 minutes each hour for heat, but make sure that the exhaust pipe is not blocked with snow or ice, open the window a little for fresh air to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

Exercise from time to time, moving arms, legs, fingers, and toes vigorously to keep blood circulating and to keep warm.  Avoid overexertion such as shoveling heavy snow, pushing a car, or walking in deep snow.  The strain from the combination of cold and hard labor may cause a heart attack.

Be visible to rescuers.  Turn on the dome light of your car at night when running the engine.  Tie a colored cloth, preferably red, to your antenna or door.   After snow stops falling, raise the hood to indicate that you need help.

Winter weather preparedness week – preparing your home
October 24, 2012

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

This week, October 22-26, is the National Weather Service’s “Winter Weather Preparedness Week.”  Many states across the country have these preparedness days, although they may vary on the time of year that winter weather would start posing a threat.  For instance, Wyoming already had their such day at the beginning of the month.  Georgia, on the other hand, doesn’t have theirs until the first week of December.

Each post in the upcoming days will focus on a different aspect of winter weather – educating various facts about winter storms, what different advisories mean, and how to take the necessary preparations.  Last year’s October Nor’easter took many by surprise, and the National Weather Service wants to help spread the word about how to stay alert and safe in case a powerhouse storm happens like that again.

Part II – Preparing For the Storm at Home

At home and at work, the primary concerns from a powerful winter storm are loss of heat, power, and telephone service. Also, a shortage of supplies can occur if storm conditions occur for more than a day.  Here are some suggestions for safety preparations before and during a winter storm.

Have available:

1. flashlights with extra batteries on hand
2. battery-powered NOAA weather radio and a portable radio to be able to receive emergency information…these may be your only links to the outside
3. extra food and water…have high-energy food  – such as dried fruit, nuts, and granola bars – and food requiring no cooking or refrigeration
4. extra medicine and baby items
5. first aid supplies
6. heating fuel…be sure to refuel before you are empty, fuel carriers may not reach you for days after a winter storm
7. emergency heat source such as a fireplace, wood stove, or space heater…proper ventilation is essential in order to avoid a deadly build-up of carbon monoxide, fire is also a major risk when using such heating sources, keep in mind that fire departments may not be able to reach your location during a winter storm
8. fire extinguisher, smoke alarm, and carbon monoxide detector tested regularly
9. plenty of food, water, and shelter for pets.

If you lose your heat, seal off unused rooms by stuffing towels in the cracks under the doors.  At night, cover windows with extra blankets or sheets.  Food provides your body with energy for producing its own heat.  Keep your body replenished with fluids to prevent dehydration.  Wear layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing.  Remove layers occasionally to avoid overheating, perspiration, and subsequent chill.

To keep pipes from freezing, wrap them in insulation or layers of newspapers, covering the newspapers with plastic to keep out moisture.  Allow a trickle of warm water to run from a faucet that is farthest from your water meter or one that has frozen in the past.  This will keep the water moving so that it cannot freeze.  Learn how to shut off your water if a pipe bursts.

If pipes freeze, remove insulation completely open all faucets, and pour hot water over the pipes or wrap them with towels soaked in hot water, starting where they are most exposed to the cold.  A hand-held hair dryer, used with caution, also works well.

Be a good neighbor.  Check with the elderly or disabled relatives and friends to ensure their safety.

Winter weather preparedness week – winter weather basics
October 24, 2012

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

This week, October 22-26, is the National Weather Service’s “Winter Weather Preparedness Week.”  Many states across the country have these preparedness days, although they may vary on the time of year that winter weather would start posing a threat.  For instance, Wyoming already had their such day at the beginning of the month.  Georgia, on the other hand, doesn’t have theirs until the first week of December.

Each post in the upcoming days will focus on a different aspect of winter weather – educating various facts about winter storms, what different advisories mean, and how to take the necessary preparations.  Last year’s October Nor’easter took many by surprise, and the National Weather Service wants to help spread the word about how to stay alert and safe in case a powerhouse storm happens like that again.

Part I – Winter Weather Basics

For those who live in New England, winter weather is a part of life from November through March.  Snow, sleet, freezing rain, cold temperatures and cold wind chill temperatures will be common occurrences soon.  While most of the time these weather elements are only a nuisance to our daily routines, at times they can produce hazardous or life-threatening situations for those who are not prepared.

To alert the public to potentially dangerous winter weather events or situations, the National Weather Service issues outlooks, watches, warnings, and advisories.  You should keep the following general definitions in mind:

Outlook – a hazardous weather outlook is issued daily by National Weather Service offices across the country to alert the public to the potential for any hazardous weather during the next 7 days, including significant winter storms, high wind coastal flooding, and extreme temperatures.  Due to the uncertainty in predicting the strength and path of a winter storm more than several days in advance, the exact impact on the area (if any) will not be known.  In addition, National Weather Service offices may issue special weather statements highlighting the potential impact of a major winter storm.

Watch – watches are issued to alert the public that dangerous winter conditions are possible within the next 24 to 48 hours, when forecaster confidence reaches 50 percent.  Products include winter storm watches, high wind watches, and coastal flood watches.

Warning – warnings are issued to alert the public that dangerous winter conditions are likely to occur within the next 36 hours, or are occurring.  Forecaster confidence has to reach 80 percent or higher.  Products include winter storm warning, ice storm warning, blizzard warning, high wind warning, wind chill warning, and coastal flood warning.

Advisory – advisories are issued to alert the public that winter conditions are expected to cause a significant inconvenience and may be hazardous.  If caution is exercised, these situations should not be life-threatening.  Products include, winter weather advisory, freezing rain advisory, wind advisory, and wind chill advisory.

NOAA 2012-2013 Winter Outlook
October 19, 2012

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

As it does every late-October, NOAA released this season’s winter forecast yesterday.  The unexpected no-show of El Nino has raised concerns regarding the confidence of the forecast, and for western Massachusetts, it still remains a toss-up as to what kind of winter we will see.  More details regarding how winter predictions are made can be found here.

Here is the official release from NOAA: http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2012/20121018_winteroutlook.html

A brief taste of summer today
October 5, 2012

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

High temperatures skyrocketed this afternoon, topping out closer to late-August normals in the upper-70s across the Springfield area.  Here is a recap of some of the numbers from official weather stations, our Pinpoint Live Network, and viewer comments from across western Massachusetts.

Westfield (Stanley Park): 82

Westfield (Barnes): 79

South Deerfield: 79

Chicopee: 78

Springfield (Milton Bradley School): 78

Springfield (STEM Academy): 78

Adams: 76

North Adams: 76

Orange: 75

Pittsfield (Municipal Airport): 73

Pittsfield (Onota Lake): 72

Naturally this warm weather will not last forever, but we will take a rather drastic drop in temperatures early next week.  Highs will only be in the 50s by Sunday, with some areas of frost for the Pioneer Valley possible Monday night.  Below is a forecast model for 850-millibar temperatures at 8 AM Monday morning.  850-millibars is a pressure level about 5,000 feet above the surface.  This will easily illustrate the cold pool of air coming down from Canada and into the Northeast.

Looking closely at the scale on the bottom of this map, western Massachusetts is forecasted for 850-millibar temperatures a degree or two below zero (Celsius) on Monday morning.  A very old-school forecasting method for high temperatures on clear, quiet days involves the 850-mb temperature.

Basically, meteorological principles [a little to complicated to be described here] will say that adding 13.5 degrees to the 850-mb temperature at 8 AM gives a good approximation of the high temperature.  So if the 850-mb temperature is about -1 degree Celsius, that would give us an approximate high temperature of about 12.5 degrees Celsius…which converts to about 55 degrees Fahrenheit.  That will be a noticeable autumn-like chill in the air for Columbus Day!

(Photo courtesy Penn State Dept. of Meteorology)