Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.
By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:49 PM GMT on January 11, 2011
Much of the nation's South remains paralyzed today by a major winter storm that left up to a foot of snow and dangerous ice accumulations in its wake. Six states have declared states of emergency, and travel is extremely hazardous in the affected region, including Atlanta, where at least five closures of major interstates occurred this morning due to severe icing. The storm began Sunday in northeast Texas and tracked eastward, bringing snow amounts as high as 7 - 8 inches to northeastern Texas and southern Arkansas, 9 - 11 inches to northern Mississippi, northern Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, and southern Tennessee. As of 3am CST, the heaviest snow as reported in the NOAA Storm Summary occurred at Cashiers, North Carolina, 12.5 inches. The worst freezing rain was reported in central Georgia at Wrightsville, which received 1.5" of ice. Aiken, South Carolina received 1" of ice, and numerous locations in South Carolina, Central Georgia, and Central Alabama received over 1/2" of ice. Freezing rain amounts of 1/4" were also reported in northern Louisiana, central Mississippi, and western Arkansas. Dangerous travel conditions will persist across the affected region the rest of today, as temperatures will struggle to reach 40°.
Figure 1. Snow and ice at North Carolina's Charlotte airport caused travel delays yesterday, and thousands of flights were canceled Sunday and Monday across the Southeast U.S. due to the severe winter storm that hit the region. Image credit: wunderphotographer robb04047.
Major Nor'easter expected for New York City and Boston
Today's snow storm has pushed off the coast of North Carolina, and is expected to "bomb" into a classic Nor'easter off the coast of New England tonight through Wednesday. Up to a foot of snow is possible for New York City, Boston, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. The heaviest snow--up to 16 inches--will likely fall across central Massachusetts, eastern Connecticut, western Rhode Island, and Long Island. Today's Nor'easter will not be as intense as the December 26 blizzard, however. The winds from today's storm are expected to remain less than 35 mph, resulting in only minor coastal flooding and an absence of blizzard conditions (frequent wind gusts over 35 mph or sustained winds over 35 mph, plus visibility less than 1/4 mile for at least three consecutive hours.)
Deadly flash flood hits Australia
Flood-weary Queensland, Australia suffered a new flooding disaster yesterday when freak rains of six inches fell in just 30 minutes near Toowoomba. The resulting flash flood killed nine people and left 59 missing. The flood waters poured into the Brisbane River, causing it to overflow, and significant flooding of low-lying areas in Brisbane, Australia's third largest city with some 2 million people, is expected on Thursday. As I discussed last week, Australia had its wettest spring (September - November) since records began 111 years ago, with some sections of coastal Queensland receiving over 4 feet (1200 mm) of rain. Rainfall in Queensland and all of eastern Australia in December was the greatest on record, and the year 2010 was the rainiest year on record for Queensland. The ocean waters surrounding Australia were the warmest on record during 2010, and these exceptionally warm waters allowed much higher amounts of water vapor to evaporate into the atmosphere, helping fuel the heavy rains. The record warm ocean temperatures were due to a combination of global warming and the moderate to strong La Niña event that has been in place since July. Queensland typically has its rainiest years when La Niña events occur, due to the much warmer than average ocean temperatures that occur along the coast. Beginning in December, the Queensland floods have killed at least 19, and done $5 billion in damage. Queensland has an area the size of Germany and France combined.
Figure 2. Remarkable 5-minute YouTube video showing the sad fate of a row of parked cars when a nearby small stream experiences a flash flood, sweeping away dozens of the cars. A note to the wise: Two minutes into the video, we see a man enter the flash flood to save his car. He is successful, but his actions were extremely risky--most flash flood deaths occur when cars with people inside get swept away. I would not have attempted to save my car in that situation.
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