The power came back on for most Texans after a horrifying week brought to you by liberalism where millions of Lone Star state residents saw extended outages when the Texas power grid couldn’t hold up to harsh winter storms.
As if that wasn’t enough now a second crisis is hitting many Texans in the form of gigantic electric bills some say they can’t possibly in a million years be able to pay. So far, the highest noted bill for one resident came in at $17,000, for the month as of Thursday.
Jason Wheeler, a reporter for KHOU-TV has been covering the problems Texans are facing who are under variable or indexed (by market rate) payment plans for their power bills. Most electric customer’s bills are set at a fixed rate, but the variable-type plans fluctuate. Normally, customers would take advantage of rates going down with the risk that rates could slightly go up. Well, for them the costs went up and there was nothing slight about it.
Wheeler reported that just over the past few days, the wholesale cost of one megawatt of power went from around $50 to $9,000, and that caused residential customers with non-fixed plans to get skyrocketing bills far that go beyond anything they could ever afford.
After asking for Texans who received crazy bills to send them to him, Wheeler said they just poured in. One person showed they paid just $88 last month for their electric bill and just received a bill close to $2,550 for a 990 sq ft apartment. Someone else said his daughter’s electric bill was usually around $50 a month and her bill just shot up close to $1,900.
Ty Williams who pays for electricity for his home, a guest house, and an office normally totals at about $600. This time his bill went to a whopping $17,000.
“How in the world can anyone pay that?” Williams told KHOU. “I mean you go from a couple hundred dollars a month…there’s absolutely no way. It makes no sense.”
In the meantime, other power companies are refusing to take on new customers for people who want to switch as they are trying to work on servicing their current customers during the chaos going on in the state.
A lot of customers are angry that they are facing these sky-high electric bills when they haven’t had power on in their homes for the past week. Some folks are asking how the racked-up bills aren’t considered price gouging. I would say because they were on that variable or index rate plan and that’s what the cost went up to when the ice hit the windmill. See what I did there?
Without electricity, there was no heat for a lot of homes, and in the kind of frozen weather Texas received recently a lot of homes’ water pipes burst to cause all kinds of damage. Disaster recovery services are not cheap either.
One person responded to Wheeler’s tweet about the situation.
“Talk about kicking us when we’re down… I’m afraid to see what my bill is going to be. So freaking mad about this $*it. I’m already afraid to see what they’re gonna do with my water bill after having to keep our taps dripping for almost a week now.”
More had things to say about what they’re going through.
“When my power came back on Wed the heater was blowing cold air then the fire sprinkler pipe burst the next day. I have renters insurance but what are my options? My apt is not getting warmed and kitchen living room ruined. Also will my bill electric skyrocket?”
By Chris Stachelski (email@example.com)
It was the marquee meteorological event of one of the more epic winters ever — a storm that, if you experienced it, still stands out in your memory to this date. You might not remember just how much snow fell, but that there was a lot of it. That it stranded you in place for a time. And then you had to dig on out. And in some places, the storm laid the foundation for another significant weather event in the subsequent weeks. It was the Blizzard of ‘96. Even though many areas have been impacted by it have seen bigger snowfalls in years since (February 2003 from the President’s Day II Storm, the Blizzards of February 2010, the Boxing Day Storm of December 2010, the snowstorms of February 2015 or more recently in January 2016), this storm is widely viewed as the Big One in the modern history of East Coast snowstorms of the last 25 years. It digs up memories akin to those from the Cleveland Superbomb in January 1978, the Blizzard of ‘78 in New England and metro New York City, the Megapolitan Storm of February 1983 and the Superstorm of March 1993 – storms that people still can recall decades later to extreme detail in some cases.
Storm Overview Infrared satellite image of the Blizzard of ‘96 as shown on January 7, 1996.
The storm formed in the Gulf of Mexico on the morning of January 6th. It reached the Georgia Coast by the morning of the 7th then moved northeast toward Cape Hatteras, NC by the evening of the 7th before reaching the waters off of Southern New England the evening of the 8th. The heavy snowfall was largely due to a combination of sufficient moisture aided by cold air pushed south from an Arctic high pressure located north of the storm that generated highly effective liquid precipitation to snow ratios and a highly favorable storm track. Significant and in many cases record breaking snow for either a 24 hour period or single snowstorm occurred with this event from the Ohio Valley to southwestern Virginia to the Washington, D.C. to southern New England urban corridor.
Why Was This Storm So Significant?
At the time it occurred, the Blizzard of ‘96 was said to be the greatest snowstorm in terms of the amount of snow that fell seen by so many people largely because it produced heavy and in many cases record-breaking snowfall in the highly populated Boston to Washington, D.C. corridor in addition to areas in southwest Virginia, eastern West Virginia, and the Ohio Valley. In 2004, the Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale (NESIS) that ranks Northeast snowstorms was developed. NESIS ranks the second most severe Northeast snowstorm on record behind the March 1993 Superstorm or “Storm of the Century” as it was commonly called then. However, the March 1993 was more of a significant snowstorm for the spine of the Appalachians with lesser amounts toward the more heavily populated urban corridor of the Northeast. It is exceedingly tough to have a snowstorm produce over a foot of snow from Washington, D.C. to Boston due the storm needing a favorable track. Often, snowstorms that are significant events in the Washington, D.C. area tend to be lesser events in southern New England such as in February 2010 or in the case of February 2015, significant in southern New England but not in the Washington, D.C. area.
Was It Really A Blizzard?
For many, technically no. Officially, a blizzard means that the following conditions are expected to prevail for a period of 3 hours or longer – sustained wind or frequent gusts to 35 miles an hour or greater and considerable falling and/or blowing snow (i.e., reducing visibility frequently to less than ¼ mile). This event often failed to have the wind reach the criteria long enough in most areas. But, given the Blizzard Warnings issued for the event, the common usage of the name “Blizzard of ‘96” before, during, and after the event has stuck since, even in the meteorological community despite it not being technically correct in most locations. In today’s National Weather Service, issuing Blizzard Warnings based on the impact of the snow rather than the meteorology would be seen as an example of impact-based forecasting and warnings versus the old legacy strictly criteria based issuance as was often common in the 1990s.
What Was Forecasting and Data Collection Like Back Then?
Forecasting was much different in the mid-1990s versus today. The National Weather Service was in the middle of a nationwide modernization, moving offices to new facilities, closing some older, smaller offices and bringing into the operational world much of the newer generation of technology used today such as Doppler Radar and the Automated Surface Observing System or ASOS. However, graphical capabilities at offices were more limited with AFOS used as the primary system for composing products and reviewing meteorological data. Products were all hand typed. Model data was more limited in terms of models, parameters and visual display capabilities. The internet was in its infancy on a mainstream use using dial-up connectivity on a desktop computer, if available. Phone calls from storm spotters and the public and government officials, along with radio and television news, were the primary source of on-the-ground reports in real time, with hard copy newspapers used as follow up after the fact. Smartphones and social media were unknown. There were fewer reports, less visual evidence from the area, and a lot more interpolation of data, especially on overnight shifts.
Impacts of the Storm
Snow flurries even fell as far south from this system as Florida – stretching from Tallahassee to just north of Tampa in New Port Richey sending a touch of winter to a place many go to escape it. But the bigger snows the storm was noted for fell much further north, reaching as much as 48 inches in Snowshoe, West Virginia. In the most severely impacted areas, transportation was crippled for days, municipalities struggled to clear the snow and find places to put it, mail service was briefly halted from Atlantic City, NJ to Albany, NY, numerous roofs caved in from the weight of the snow damaging structures, schools and businesses closed for days, and newspaper delivery — along with other supply delivery — was halted. Many people were stuck at roadside rest stops. Along the coast, flooding occurred and the onshore flow resulted in the bizarre site at Atlantic City, NJ of hundreds of clam shells washing ashore into mounds on the beach. The snowpack in many areas reached over 2 feet and, with additional snows and cold following the storm, laid on the ground until a warm up later in January with a heavy rainfall that took place and resulted in major river flooding.
Some Selected Snowfall Totals
New York City (Central Park), NY
Avoca (Scranton), PA
Washington, D.C. (National)
Dulles Airport, VA
Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport, OH
As always, the story of the Blizzard of ‘96 is best told by those who experienced it firsthand, either as an aspiring meteorologist or National Weather Service employee. The Blizzard of ‘96 had a profound impact on the lives of those in the meteorology community even beyond the forecast operations desk. As noted in the Service Assessment conducted by the National Weather Service following this event:
“The storm had a major impact on NWS employees and demonstrated the dedication and commitment of our workforce. Field and NCEP personnel worked around-the-clock with little relief. People brought extra food and sleeping bags to their respective offices and remained at these offices or in nearby hotels for 48 hours or longer. Sixteen-hour shifts and three hour commutes were common. People took extraordinary efforts to get to the office. In some cases, four wheel drive vehicles were used to ferry people to their offices while at least one employee cross-country skied to work. All this occurred during a Federal Government shutdown when most Federal employees were furloughed. Nonetheless, NWS employees continued to serve and ensure public safety around-the-clock without the assurance of paychecks. This conscientious ‘can do’ attitude of NWS employees likely contributed to the amazingly low death toll for an event of this magnitude.”Cooperative observer Bonnie Phillips measures snow at the Charlotteburg Reservoir, NJ cooperative site.
Below are the stories from a number of current and now retired National Weather Service employees who were inspired by or worked during this event and told from their personal perspective. We personally thank each of them for sharing their experiences of this event 25 years later as a way of preserving the significance of this event for years to come. It was a remarkable event for many meteorologists that either inspired their career in this profession, solidified it, or served as a benchmark moment in their career with the agency.
“I was interested in weather well before this event going back to the 1980s due to everything from thunderstorms to flooding to Hurricane Gloria. I lived in northern New Jersey in a town named Wanaque on the western slope of a mountain by East Coast standards around 500 feet in elevation. We had a bunch of big snowstorms in recent years in the 90s – the Nor’Easter of December ‘92, the March 1993 Superstorm and the winter of 1993-1994 which at the time was considered the most severe winter in this area since the late 1970s. The winter of 1995-1996 was different. I recall standing outside of high school in early November one afternoon and seeing a burst of snow flurries – which was a little unusual for that early in the season. The accumulating snows that season started in late November and kept right on going into December. My last true White Christmas I ever experienced was in 1995. Then came January. We had snow going to this event already on the ground. I remember there being a forecast for snow in the days before, and then amounts went up. Saturday my parents and I came home from the store and put the television on to see what the forecast was. Totals had been increased and over a foot was being forecasted. Off to the grocery store they went. The next morning, it was extremely cold. Newark Airport tied a record low at the time that morning, January 7th, which was very unusual to see before a snowstorm in New Jersey. Forecasted snow amounts had increased further and Blizzard Warnings had been issued. We had yet to take down our Christmas decorations outside and went outside to remove them before they became encased in snow for a while. The snow ramped up the night of the 7th and continued into the 8th. By late in the afternoon on the 8th, the snow let up that we ventured into our garage and my parents and I stood in amazement at the snow as seen in the forthcoming photos. It was literally a wall. We were stranded. Shrubs were buried and the street was impassible and could barely be made out. All you saw was snow. My dad remarked “I only recall maybe once seeing this much snow before” which “was when I was a kid we had a lot of snow one year the day after Christmas”. My dad grew up in the Newark, NJ area and looking back at the records he was correct as the longtime snowstorm of record for metropolitan New York City was the storm of December 26-27, 1947. I was impressed that he could recall that nearly 48 years later, but realized that for a child to remember that sort of snow this many years later, it really put this storm as well as that one into perspective and that I witnessed a big snowstorm. It was still snowing into the evening of the 8th. The next day I trekked out with a ruler and attempted to measure how much snow fell. I looked at about a dozen different spots that looked the best and carefully lowered a yardstick down to not punch through all the snow and measured an average of 29.9 inches. The depth on the ground at that point was around 34 to 35 inches in the most representative spots with higher drifts. It was staggering and at that point, the deepest I ever saw. It was in many areas of northern New Jersey the deepest snowpack since February 1961 and a value not exceeded since. I never saw this much snow on the ground until I went to the West Coast years later in the Cascades and Sierra. And it was a good thing we took our Christmas decorations down when we did because many people had them up for weeks until the snow finally melted for good later in January – nearly a month after Santa left for the North Pole. We got more snow that winter and all the way through mid-April. Everyone was ready for summer that year and a number of people actually put their homes up for sale that spring in this area due to the severity of the winter and moved to warmer climates.” —Chris Stachelski, NWS Eastern Region Headquarters
“I had just started working in the State College forecast office in June 1993. This was after working in the Binghamton, NY office for 6.5 years. 1996 was very similar to the first winter here (1993-1994). I was down at the Farm Show in Harrisburg, PA the day before the 1996 blizzard. Upon coming back up over the mountain to State College. The next day I went to church, it was snowing hard and windy. I came to work after the storm ended. Roads were taken care of well. Back then we got a lot of calls with spotters calling in reports. Also I don’t recall seeing many reports of wrecks on area roads. Temperatures were on the cold side, compared to storms of late years. I did not go back to the farm show that Sunday or Monday, but heard they allowed folks to spend the night there. In the last few years, we get less calls from folks. We still get some media calls. This year has seen a large increase in the reports of wrecks, even in good weather. This past storm we just had featured decent clearing of the roads.” — David Martin, NWS WFO State College, PA
“I remember it very well. I was working at TDL in Silver Spring, MD at the time, but you may recall that just as this snow storm began we had come out of a two week long Government Shutdown. Then the D.C. area was shut down for 3-4 more days because of this winter storm. My home at the time was in Harpers Ferry, WV, but more properly on the Blue Ridge mountains in a little community right on the WV/VA line called Shannondale, about 10 miles southeast of the actual town of Harpers Ferry. Being that I worked at headquarters, I was off for the Christmas Holidays and made the fortunate decision given the prospect of the snow storm and the government shut down to stay with my parents who lived in McKinney, TX. I was originally scheduled to return to D.C. the day the historic snow storm began. I found out that it was so bad in my home neighborhood back in WV that they had to get the National Guard in there to plow the roads because the developer of the area where I lived had no functioning snow removal equipment. My house there in WV received 42 inches during the first storm with another 6 inches on Friday of that week, which brought 8 inches to D.C. I believe the government was only open on Thursday of that week. So, a total of 48 inches. I returned to my home in WV on Sunday. The roads had been cleared by then, but there were huge mountains of snow everywhere! At the end of the following week temperatures warmed into the 60s, there was steam rising off the piles of snow still remaining all over the area, and rain of 2.5 inches combined with the melting snow to push many rivers into flood including the Potomac and Shenandoah, which is turn shut down the train service from Martinsburg into D.C. (the MARC train which I usually rode to work each day during the 8 1/2 years I lived up there). Then, an Arctic cold front followed and the temperature by the same evening was in the teens and a lot of the water froze in place, in some places 2-4 inches I think between ruts of remnant snow. What a huge mess! This was one of many big snow storms I recall while I was living there. I was definitely there during the March 1993 blizzard and I was unable to get out of my house for three days! I received 24 inches of snow during that one, 20 inches of which fell in 8 hours. We were under a blizzard warning during that event, March 12-13, 1993. There were many more incidents of this nature, like 6 inches in one hour during a thunder snow storm on March 5, 1995. Fortunately, it is a lot easier to take “AL” when you work at headquarters than when you are in a WFO working operational shifts! Honestly, I could have written a large diary about my experiences traveling between my home in the WV Panhandle and Silver Spring, MD during my 8.5 years up there in the 90s! The 1995-1996 winter had big snow events all the way from October until April and some snow on the ground pretty much continuously during that period!” — Robert Beasley, NWS WFO Blacksburg, VA
“I lived through it in Central NJ and it served as the impetus for my interest in meteorology. My decision to pursue it as a career was solidified after Tropical Storm Floyd in 1999. I was only 7 years old at the time the Blizzard of ‘96 occurred but I remember the cars in my driveway were completely buried and I only saw two large hills in their normal spots. I was really confused wondering where the cars went. Everything looked different and I was in awe at how much my normal backyard and neighborhood completely changed because of the 22 inches of snow that fell. Also, our normal lives were placed on hold for the few days afterwards as we all dug ourselves out of the snow. I was fascinated that Mother Nature could be responsible for completely changing our daily routine and could place everyone’s life on hold. Because of this storm, I wanted to learn more about how Mother Nature can be responsible for such drastic changes to our normal everyday lives. The Blizzard of 1996 is still well remembered by many people in NJ and across the Northeast even 25 years later. Not many storms (outside of hurricanes) trigger that sort of memory. Even when I was at Rutgers, my professors ranked the Blizzard of 1996 as one of the most historic snow events ever to impact the I-95 corridor and it was discussed when we learned about nor’easters. Many of my classmates also said it sparked their interest in meteorology as well.” — Christina Speciale, NWS WFO Albany, NY
“At the time of the 1996 blizzard I was early in my career (started September 1994), serving as an intern within the DTB of what was then HPC (now WPC). At that time we were in the World Weather Building (WWB) at Camp Springs, MD. My main functions included assisting the SDM with raob/aircraft QC, producing the Daily Weather Map, and entering products that our forecasters prepared into the computer system that would send them out. I’m originally from central Ohio and was in either Ohio or Indiana (two years at Purdue) my entire life before coming to the DC area in 1994, and before 1996 the heaviest snowfall I had experienced was a 10-12″ event in late February 1984. I remember that the 1996 storm was in the middle of working night shifts, with the snow starting maybe around 9:30 P.M. Saturday night. There was a lull around midday/afternoon Sunday when precip became lighter and mixed in type. Then I think it was in the early-mid evening when the snow resumed and the wind strengthened. The snow finally tapered off by Monday morning or midday. The combination of my work schedule and duration of the storm ultimately led me to being onsite at the WWB from starting my Saturday night shift until departing from work early Tuesday morning. I was young and excited about experiencing by far the biggest snow event of my life up to that time, so I don’t think I could have had a lot of sleep even if I had tried, and survived through that pretty well as I recall. Interestingly my memory was so focused on the event that I don’t remember what activities if any I may have helped out with beyond my regular shift duties. One of the other memories from just after the event was how difficult of a time the DC area had in properly clearing the roads, as I recall various places where a lane would be plowed and at some point just cut out with a pile of snow. That’s something I wasn’t ready for from my lighter snowfall experiences in the Ohio Valley. Also I found a small number of pictures I still have from the event and they are attached. Two are from in front of the WWB after the storm ended, and another that I think was during the Sunday afternoon lull–happy that I had the foresight to park my car out in the open so that the snow would blow around it instead of drifting onto it.” — Marty Rausch, NOAA/NWS/Weather Prediction Center
“This was the largest snow I had ever seen from one storm in my life…then Dec 16-17th, 2020 just happened and beat it by 10 inches. Awesome to see my kids to now have a memorable storm, like the one in ‘96 that I had told them about many times. When I woke up Thursday morning, I was also shocked to tell them that this was bigger than the ‘96 Blizzard for me. I lived in Northern Dutchess County, NY. My most memorable part of ‘96 was that the one side of my house where the drift formed was buried in snow right to the roof (9 feet high). I remember going on the roof and jumping into that drift and being buried…took me 5 minutes to get out from it. I was only 16 years old at the time and was already interested in Meteorology before this thanks to many other epic storms (Snow leaf 1987, Superstorm, the whole 1994 winter, and this storm).” — Michael Patrick Kistner, NWS WFO Binghamton, NY
“I was a Met Intern at NWS New York for this storm. Thankfully Brookhaven Labs still had its Army barracks for the staff to sleep at, as roads had about a foot of snow and visibility near zero. Lead Forecaster Bob Stalker and I barely made it to the barracks from the office, which is less than a mile away!Launching the weather balloon at the office during the storm was a top memory of it. Snowfall was so intense and visibility near zero along with strong northeast winds, meteorologist Tom Mazza and I had to walk backwards to the upper air shelter. We then had to launch the balloon from a nearby hill, given the strong northeast winds the balloon would not have cleared the tree line if we launched from the upper air building. Pretty cool, the first launch attempt was successful. We were so proud of ourselves given our rookie status as Met Interns. The ETA model did an excellent job simulating storm intensity, track and forecasted precipitation days in advance. It was a big win for the ETA!” — Frank Nocera, NWS WFO Boston/Norton, MA
“There are three things that I remember most from the Blizzard of ’96. It’s amazing how much weather forecasting has improved over the last quarter century. Even though there were some hints that something big might happen on Sunday the 7th, I don’t think that we really began to mention the potential for snow in our forecast until Wednesday the 3rd. With the models not being as sophisticated as they are now, there was a tendency to be a bit more conservative with our forecasts at that time. While I was involved in the forecast process during the lead-up to the storm, I was actually scheduled off on Saturday the 6th and Sunday the 7th. I was supposed to return for a day shift on Monday the 8th but I was unable to get my car out of the parking lot of the apartment complex where I lived. It was too far to walk, about 6 miles. It was the only time in my 35 years with the National Weather Service that I was unable to make my way into work due to the weather. Before this year, it was the only other time that I can remember the supply chain failing. We were unable to get some necessities such as bread and milk for several days after the storm.” — Dean Iovino, NWS WFO Mount Holly, NJ
“The 1996 storm is the favorite weather event of my NWS career (46 years). Snowstorms have always been at the top of my favorite weather event list. 3 storms are etched in my memory. All of them because I ended up in the office for much longer than a regular shift. In the 1979 storm I was in the office for 24 hours straight. In the 1983 storm it was 25 hours. For both of those storms, our office was located on Arch Street in Philadelphia. But my favorite snowstorm of all time was the January 1996 one. Whenever I did one of my school presentations (I was the Education Outreach Program Director for many years), I always spoke about the 1996 snowstorm when winter weather was involved. Our office moved to its present location in Mt. Holly, NJ in 1993. Since I lived (and currently still reside) in Lindenwold, Camden County, it took me about 30 minutes to drive to the office. On the morning of Sunday January 7, 1996, I was scheduled to be in the office for the beginning of my shift at 7 A.M. But with the computer models showing a start time of 4 to 5 A.M., I decided that I would get in a little early. I arrived at the office at 5 A.M., just as the first flakes began to fall. If I recall correctly, temperatures at that time were around 30 degrees. To make a long story a little shorter, the storm intensified rapidly as it moved up the coast. We had heavy snow throughout the day Sunday and into Sunday night. Temperatures dropped through the 20s and down to 15 degrees at the height of the storm. Winds gusted to around 40 mph at the office dropping the visibility to near zero at times and blew the snow into drifts 5 to 7 feet high. The snow mixed with sleet at times Sunday night as warm air aloft moved in but surface temperatures remained in the upper teens. As the storm began to move away Monday morning, wrap around snow gave the region another few inches. The storm dropped 30.7 inches at Philadelphia International Airport. Most of our forecast area received 2 to 3 feet of snow. I ended up working 35 hours straight. Something I will never forget. The Governor declared a State of Emergency on Monday. So when I left to go home at 4 P.M., I was the only car on the roads. It was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. Snow piled high everywhere. It felt really weird driving on I-295 and being the only car. Well, not the only car — I first saw headlights and then a car in my rearview mirror. That turned out to be a State Trooper who pulled me over to ask why I was driving. After I explained, we enjoyed a few pleasantries and he sent me on my way. Of course, when I got home, my children were feverishly shoveling my driveway. They had about a third of it done. Just enough for me to pull the car off the street. It was a storm that I will never forget.” — Bob Wanton, retired general forecaster, NWS WFO Mount Holly, NJ
“Waxing Poetic About The Blizzard Of ’96: I had the fortunate(?) opportunity to work forecast shifts (including the start of it that Sunday morning) leading up to the blizzard and also a story for the day after on January 8th. From a climate and forecast perspective the city of Philadelphia had only one double digit snow storm between the February 1983 storm and this blizzard: The Storm Of The Century in March of 1993. A storm of this magnitude was not a common occurrence and if anything, they fizzled or became rainier closer to occurrence time. During the Storm Of The Century, I was working at the WFO in New York City and recalled all the models had that pegged 4 to 5 days in advance with very little variation in strength or track, a forecasting marvel for that time. I went in 12 hours early for my midnight shift because I was not going to make it if I waited until that evening. Fast forward to this blizzard and the modeling consensus was not there. I’d say this storm put the ECMWF model on the map as the “go to” model. In the late 90s there was the “EE” rule: if the ECMWF and ETA had it, run with it and leave the GFS & NGM behind. Back then the ECMWF ran only once a day (00z run on midnight shifts) and very little information about it made it into AFOS. I do not recall exactly, but when it did arrive, it probably was close to the time that products had to be issued. We hand typed all products back then. This was a forecast case of where the ECMWF had more of a northwest track than the other models. Meanwhile the GFS Model (labeled the MRF I think for the medium range part) was much farther southeast. A dance that has been repeated numerous times ever since: the closer we came to the event, the more northwest the GFS trended with the low. What looked like a Delmarva crush job, became a Delmarva/SE New Jersey crush job and eventually that morning of the blizzard an I-95 crush job. It is hard to put in perspective how lead time watches and warnings with this event differed from other lesser events: PHL had some 6-10” events in the city, so it is not as if it never snowed between 1983 and 1996, but not on the magnitude of this event outside of March 1993. I issued a winter storm watch the early morning of January 6th. Meteorologist Art Kraus who worked the day shift that Saturday issued winter storm warnings and I upgraded most of those warnings to Blizzard Warnings on Sunday morning January 7th . Pretty much as the snow was starting. My sense was if there was better modeling agreement, these watches and warnings would have been issued earlier. Poor Meteorologist-In-Charge Chet Henricksen had only one operational shift that month and it so happened to be that Sunday morning. He was covering I think for Art Kraus who wanted to go to the PA Farm Show. I don’t know how he made it home to Chester County Pennsylvania that afternoon. All the other meteorologists were stuck at the office. Which brings us to Monday January 8th. I was called about Noon that day and was asked to please come into the office (It is about a 15-minute drive from our house to the office) because everyone was there for over 24 hours and they were exhausted. I said sure. I had a Chevy Blazer. After The Storm Of The Century In March 1993, I had no problem driving that Blazer through 2 feet of snow to get to our home in Yorktown Heights, NY. The drive in would be a piece of cake. Little did I know about the wonders of NJ jughandles, until then. Instead of making an illegal left hand turn onto County Route 541, I decided to go the goody two shoes route and make the right hand turn into the jughandle and then make a left turn onto CR 541 at the end of it. Well that jughandle is huge and because of its eastern exposure that was very helpful in having the snow drifts get higher and higher the deeper I went into the jughandle. Yes, it happened, the snow became so deep.I became stuck. The Blazer literally was sitting on top of the snow drift and the wheels were not even in contact with the ground. Thankfully this was New Jersey and not Montana in this instance. There was a gas station that was open (no cell phones back then) and I called the office to tell them my predicament. Here my memory gets foggy (must have been the freezing cold). I do not remember if someone from the office drove over to pick me up or the tow truck operator pulled me out of the snowbank and I drove to work. I was fortunate I almost made it to the end of the jughandle. Either way I made it in that afternoon. I arrived at the office. I recall one of the greatest acts of unsolicited kindness ever done for me by a fellow employee. Matt Lorentson (then an intern) made a cup of hot tea for me and found a blanket to put on my shoulders to help me stop shivering. I will never forget this and he is symbolic of the people who work for the National Weather Service. We are one big family who help each other in times of need. I was glad I did get there, because my co-workers who were stuck sounded pretty incoherent. Going about 36 hours without any sleep will do that to you.”– Tony Gigi, retired Lead Forecaster, NWS WFO Mount Holly, NJ
“I was living in Glen Cove, on the North Shore of Long Island in Nassau County. I remember the times leading up to the storm like the back of my hand. I was a senior at Saint Mary’s High School, in my last semester prior to graduating and moving on to SUNY Stony Brook. A nor’easter fanatic from a young age, with what little we had back in the mid 90s to track weather, I was keen on watching every newscast I could find. At first it was only an outside chance of impact for the New York City metro area, most guidance showing a glancing impact or slider to the south and east. As time got closer, it appeared more likely we would receive warning level snow and my excitement grew large. There was something about it, it felt like a bigger event was unfolding. Prior to leaving for a friends’ birthday party, forecasters increased the snow amounts to 8 to 14 inches and my excitement shot through the roof, carrying me through the night during the party. After arriving home, the forecast increased to 15 to 20 inches on January 5th, all the way to 20 to 30 inches after the onset. The snow fell, the winds blew, and conditions deteriorated rapidly. Snow fell at two inches per hour for many hours, the snow piled up, and the winds blew drifts to 6 feet. We dry slotted for a period which allowed me to join a few friends on a drive to the South Shore. We witnessed huge battering waves, beach erosion, coastal flooding, and winds easily gusting 50 to 60 mph. For a 17 year old kid fascinated with weather, it was epic. We ended up with 21 inches in Glen Cove though it was difficult to find the right spot to measure due to the drifts. Snow ended more than 24 hours after it began, the weather remained cold for a couple days then a warm up ensued. I ended up working for WFO OKX during my tenure at SUNY Stony Brook then went on to a now 20+ year career with the National Weather Service, spanning 7 positions in 4 states. It’s been a great journey. Hurricane Gloria sparked my weather interest in 1985, the Nor’easter of 92 kept the journey going, and the Blizzard of ‘96 was the icing on the cake, propelling me to become a Meteorologist for life.” — Ken Widelski, NOAA Liaison to FEMA, National IMAT White
Did you know that the weather can impact fireflies? Temperature and moisture can impact how often fireflies flash and how many of them there are! How are your local weather conditions impacting the fireflies in your area?#PAwxpic.twitter.com/IBUU0NbcIZ
On a warm day in March 1982, biologist Francis “Jack” Putz strayed into a knot of black mangrove trees seeking relief from the afternoon heat. Drowsy from his midday meal and hours of fieldwork in Costa Rica’s Guanacaste National Park, Putz decided to lie down for a short siesta.
As he gazed skyward, the wind stirred the tops of the mangroves above him, causing the limbs of neighboring trees to claw at each other and snap off some of their outermost leaves and branches. Putz noticed that this reciprocal pruning had left tracks of empty space running through the canopy.
This network of treetop chasms, called crown shyness, has been documented in forests around the world. From the mangroves of Costa Rica to the towering Borneo camphor trees of Malaysia, gaps in the greenery abound. But scientists still don’t fully understand why the tops of trees so often refuse to touch.
Beneath the mangroves 40 years ago, teetering on the verge of a post-lunch snooze, Putz reasoned that trees need personal space, too—a critical step toward unraveling the roots of the branches’ bashful behavior.
“I often make great discoveries at naptime,” he says.
Today, a growing body of work continues to support the early observations of Putz and his colleagues. Wind, it seems, plays a crucial role in helping many trees maintain their distance. The boundaries carved by bouts between branches may improve the plants’ access to resources, such as light. Gaps in the treetops might even curb the spread of leaf-munching insects, parasitic vines, or infectious disease.
In some ways, crown shyness is the arboreal version of social distancing, says Meg Lowman, a forest canopy biologist and director of the TREE Foundation. “The minute you start keeping plants from physically touching each other, you can increase productivity,” she says. “That’s the beauty of isolation … The tree is really safeguarding its own health.”
Tussling in the treetops
Though descriptions of crown shyness have appeared in scientific literature since the 1920s, several decades passed before researchers started systematically digging into the phenomenon’s cause. Some scientists initially pursued a hypothesis that trees were simply failing to fill the spaces between their canopies due to a lack of light—a crucial resource for photosynthesis—where their foliage overlapped.
But Putz’s team published research in 1984 showing that in some cases, crown shyness may simply be the product of a battle between windblown trees, each racing to sprout new branches and parry strikes from their neighbors. In their research, the more mangroves swayed in the wind, the more widely their canopies were spaced from those of their neighbors—some of the first results supporting this so-called abrasion hypothesis to explain the treetop patterns.
Other scientists have found clues that several paths to crown shyness likely exist, and some are perhaps less combative than these windy tussles. For instance, Rudnicki says some trees may have learned to stop growing at their tips entirely, wising up to the fact that any new foliage will be stripped away.
Trees could thus avoid unnecessary damage, says Inés Ibáñez, a forest ecologist at the University of Michigan. “Growing new tissue is very costly for plants … It’s like the trees being preemptive: Let’s not grow here because it’s not worth it.”
Some trees may be capable of taking this prudence a step further by using a specialized sensory system to detect chemicals emanating from nearby plants. “There’s a growing body of literature around plant cognizance,” says Marlyse Duguid, a forester and horticulturist at Yale University. Data on chemical communication in woody plants is sparse, but if trees can sense each other, they may be able to halt canopy growth before they’re forced to tussle.
The perks of personal space
Regardless of how crown shyness occurs, the separation likely comes with benefits. “Leaves are like a tree’s most expensive diamonds—you want to protect them at all costs,” Lowman says. “If a whole bunch get bumped off, that’s a terrible disaster for the tree.”
Sparser foliage could also help sunlight reach forest floors, nurturing the ground-dwelling plants and animals that in turn support arboreal life. Putz thinks the gaps may even help trees avoid invasive, woody vines called lianas—which are common in tropical and temperate forests around the world—or buffer the plants against disease-causing microbes and flightless insects that use canopies as conduits. (Some germs and bugs could still theoretically make the hop when trees box in the breeze.)
Many of these possible advantages, however, have yet to be conclusively linked to crown shyness. Forest canopies—the tops of some of the world’s tallest plants—aren’t easy to study, says Lowman, a self-described “arbonaut” and one of the few scientists who has made a career studying canopies. Examining the tops of trees requires quite a bit of climbing, balance, and bravery. “The limiting factor is our inability to deal with gravity to get to those places,” she says.
Still, ignoring the canopy of a tree is like trying to understand the human body from only the waist down, Lowman says. The crowns of trees teem with life—and much of this biodiversity may still be undiscovered, especially in the tropics.
Luckily, crown shyness “isn’t something you have to get on a plane to see,” Putz says. “It’s happening all around—and what an enriching thing for people to look up and see.”
An enormous pyramid-topped platform, unnoticed until detected with the help of lasers, is the oldest and largest structure in the Maya region.
By Tim Vernimmen PUBLISHED June 3, 2020
A 3D image of the monumental platform at Aguada Fénix (in dark brown). The structure, built some 3,000 years ago, was detected by an airborne laser tool known as LiDAR.Photograph by Takeshi Inomata
An enormous 3,000-year-old earthen platform topped with a series of structures, including a 13-foot-high pyramid, has been identified as the oldest and largest monumental construction discovered in the Maya region, according to a paper published today in the journal Nature. It’s the latest discovery to support the emerging view that some of the earliest structures built in the Maya region were significantly larger than those built more than a millennium later during the Classic Maya period (250-900 A.D.), when the empire was at its peak.
The discovery took place in Mexico’s Tabasco State at the site of Aguada Fénix, about 850 miles east of Mexico City. It is in a region known as the Maya lowlands, from which the Maya civilization began to emerge.
In 2017, researchers conducted a LiDAR survey that detected the platform and at least nine causeways leading up to it. The groundbreaking laser technology typically is used from aircraft to “see” structures beneath dense tree canopy below, but in this case it revealed a stunning discovery sitting unnoticed in plain sight in Tabasco’s semi-forested ranch lands for centuries, if not millennia.
An aerial view of Aguada Fénix without LiDAR shows how the monument “hides” in semi-forested ranch land.Photograph by Takeshi Inomata
So why was such a big monument at Aguada Fénix not identified earlier?
“It’s fairly hard to explain, but when you walk on the site, you don’t quite realize the enormity of the structure,” says archaeologist Takeshi Inomata of the University of Arizona, the lead author of the paper. “It’s over 30 feet high, but the horizontal dimensions are so large that you don’t realize the height.”
“Rituals we can only imagine”
The initial construction of the platform is believed to have began around 1,000 B.C. based on radiocarbon dating of charcoal inside the complex.
But the absence of any known earlier buildings at Aguada Fénix suggests that at least up until that period, the people living in the region—likely the precursors of the Classic Maya—moved between temporary camps to hunt and gather food. That has researchers speculating over how and why they suddenly decided to build such a massive, permanent structure.
Inomata estimates that the total volume of the platform and the buildings on top is at least 130 million cubic feet, meaning it is bigger even than the largest Egyptian pyramid. He also calculated that it would have taken 5,000 people more than six years of full-time work to build.
“We think this was a ceremonial center,” Inomata says. “[It’s] a place of gathering, possibly involving processions and other rituals we can only imagine.”
No residential buildings have been found on or around the structure, so it is unclear how many people may have lived nearby. But the large size of the platform leads Inomata to think that the builders of Aguada Fénix gradually were leaving their hunter-gatherer lifestyle behind, likely aided by the cultivation of corn—evidence of which also has been found at the site.
“The sheer size is astonishing,” says Jon Lohse, an archaeologist with Terracon Consultants Inc.who studies the early history of the area and was not involved in the report. He does not think, however, that the structure itself is evidence of a settled lifestyle. “Monumental constructions by pre-sedentary people are not uncommon globally.”
What it does unmistakably show, Lohse adds, is an advanced ability for people to collaborate, probably in the strongly egalitarian fashion that he believes was typical of early societies in the Maya region. Inomata agrees, and thinks the platform was built by a community without a strong social hierarchy.
As potential evidence, Inomata points to the even older ceremonial site of San Lorenzo, 240 miles to the west in a region that was settled at the time by the Olmec people. Built at least 400 years earlier than Aguada Fénix, San Lorenzo features an artificial terraced hill that may have had a similar function. But it also has colossal human statues that may indicate that some people held higher status in society than others.
It may seem likely that the people who built Aguada Fénix were inspired by San Lorenzo, but archaeologist Ann Cyphers of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, who has worked at San Lorenzo, considers the sites “quite distinct,” adding that the pottery found there is also very different from that found at Aguada Fénix.
A checkerboard of colored soil
So what might have been the purpose for undertaking such a massive communal building project? Study coauthor Verónica Vázquez López of the University of Calgary believes that it might have been a statement of intent: a formal collaboration designed to bring different groups of people together over the course of several generations.
Some features at Aguada Fénix could suggest this collaboration, such as a cache of precious jade axes that may have symbolized the end of the collaborative construction project. Archaeologists also have noted that some of the layers of soil used to build the platform were laid down in a checkerboard pattern of different soil colors, which may have symbolized the contribution of different groups.
“Even today, people who live in different quarters of some Mexican towns each clean their part of the central church plaza,” Vázquez López observes.
By 750 B.C., the monumental structure at Aguada Fénix was abandoned, and by the Classic Maya period more than 1,000 years later, people in the region were building higher pyramids that became accessible only to the elite atop much smaller platforms with less space for broader communities to gather.
“In the early period, people got very excited,” Inomata says. “Later on, they became a bit less enthusiastic.”
People love to live by the water. For centuries, cities like New York, Miami, Honolulu and San Francisco have attracted residents and tourists from around the world. In fact, almost half of the U.S. population lives in counties on the coast, and that percentage is growing in footprint, density, number and population, reshaping and hardening coastlines in the process.
Coasts also provide habitat for great numbers of plants and animals and are typically biodiversity hotspots. But all this coastal development is reducing the amazing biodiversity along our shorelines.
Development has also reduced our coasts’ natural ability to resist and recover from natural disasters and has removed habitat that provides shelter for wildlife and ecosystem services for humans. Traditional coastal defenses like sea walls and levees are widely used to protect communities, but these artificial coastal barriers can lead to significant erosion or unwanted sediment deposition and negatively impact water quality. They are also time-consuming to build and cost billions to construct, maintain and repair.
Increasingly, engineers and planners are starting to pay more attention to the potential of “Nature and Nature-Based Features” (NNBFs) as environmentally friendly solutions—like mangrove forests, beach dunes, coral reefs and wetlands—that fulfill the same roles as an important weapon in the fight against coastal storms and flooding.
D. Rex Miller
NNBFs include natural defenses and human-built features that mimic them. Using NNBFs in coastal development decisions can therefore mean constructing new ones or protecting existing natural ones. NNBFs are often cheaper and require less maintenance and management. They can also make communities more resilient to climate change by adapting to changes in the environment. They are part of the larger concept of “green infrastructure,” or attempting to harness nature’s resilience to solve human problems. And its not all-or-nothing – NNBFs can complement artificial coastal infrastructure.
NNBFs like wetlands are essential to protect coasts from storm surges because they can store and slow the release of floodwaters, reducing erosion and damage to buildings. One study found that salt marshes can reduce wave height by an average of 72%. Coral reefs can serve as a barrier and reduce wave height by an average of 70%. These reefs protect coastal cities near them such as Honolulu and Miami, saving lives and preventing monetary damage.
Megan Joyce/Defenders of Wildlife
When Superstorm Sandy slammed the Northeast in 2012, homes on beaches fairly near to sand dunes were protected by these natural buffers, which can blunt the force of waves and wind. In many cases, homes on beach areas where dunes had been removed (often to improve ocean views) were completely destroyed by Sandy. Removing many of the mangroves that lined Biscayne Bay in South Florida may have helped spur economic development. However, it also removed another natural barrier against storm surge. This increased vulnerability of homes and businesses to the hurricanes that frequently hit Miami. Coastal communities in Indonesia hit by the devastating 2004 tsunami that had removed their mangrove forests suffered more damage and more lost lives than areas where mangroves had been allowed to remain. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently working on a number of projects that look at features like mangroves and their ability to protect coasts.
Damage from Hurricane Sandy at Cape May National Wildlife Refuge, Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, homes on the Jersey Shore
Bringing Wildlife Back
People are not the only ones who can benefit from NNBF. Restoring or protecting habitat can bring back habitat for wildlife and provide space for wildlife to live alongside coastal human communities. This includes imperiled species.
For example, coastal dunes restoration can improve habitat for threatened species like the piping plover, red knot and seabeach amaranth. Restoring mangroves can help protect species like the wood stork and American alligator, and the endangered hawksbill turtle. Protecting coral reefs can help threatened elkhorn and boulder star corals, and ensure habitat remains for the hawksbill sea turtle. People and wildlife can both have space.
NNBFs can also improve water quality. Much of the rainwater and flood water that goes on vegetation or sand will sink into the ground where it is cleaned. Healthy coral reefs and healthy mangroves help improve marine waters. And by avoiding artificial coastal defenses, polluted runoff can be avoided. Improving water quality can help marine imperiled species. For example, manatees in Florida have been devastated by red tide in recent years. Similarly, water quality issues can stress or kill threatened corals that need clear water for photosynthesis. Even species far offshore, like orca, can be hurt by contaminated runoff from development. Creating habitat for wildlife can even have additional economic benefits beyond coastal protection. It can offer opportunities for economic activity like kayaking, fishing and birding.
Andrew S. Wright/USFWS
The Future of NNBF
In recent years, the U.S. Congress has become interested in the potential of NNBFs, instructing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to incorporate NNBFs into coastal defense projects where appropriate. The Corps’ research and development center has taken a leading role in researching NNBFs. Through its engineering with nature initiative, it has developed numerous projects exploring NNBFs’ potential. However, the regional offices have made less progress in taking advantage of NNBFs in their coastal defense projects. NNBFs should be a priority for the Corps and coastal communities around the country – and the world.
Advocating for NNBFs is part of Defenders of Wildlife’s mission to protect habitat and we believe they are a strong tool for addressing the overall biodiversity crisis faced by the planet.
Andrew works on wildlife conservation policy at the Center for Conservation Innovation, where he researches and analyzes conservation governance strategies and emerging policy issues, and works with other CCI members to develop innovative approaches to habitat and species protection.
Drone Disguised as Hummingbird Captures Incredible Footage of Monarch Butterfly Swarm by Usman Dawood 2-3 minutes Usman Dawood’s picture It’s not very often that I watch a video online and react by literally gasping and audibly saying “wow.” Watching Captain America stare down Thanos and his whole army, in an IMAX cinema, on a huge screen, was the last time I reacted in such a way. This time, even without the huge screen, resolution, and quality, this video is simply incredible. In a recent video from Nature on PBS, you’ll be able to get super close to resting Monarch Butterflies. As they wait for the temperature to rise, they huddle together to keep warm. Without disturbing any of the butterflies, they’ve managed to take close-up footage of the butterflies. The way they’ve managed to do this is by disguising a drone to look like a Hummingbird. As described in the video, hummingbirds are not a threat to the monarch butterflies, and for that reason they don’t react to it at all. Once the temperature rises sufficiently the butterflies take flight and the scene is simply magical. The butterflies are able to comfortably fly around and even land on the drone without being hurt. This is because the drone has been designed in a way to ensure it cannot harm the butterflies. As the narrator explains in the video, the drones moving parts have been shielded to keep them safe. This is precisely the kind of content I needed during this time and I’m very happy to have witnessed such beauty; even if it is just on a screen in my home. Usman Dawood is a professional architectural photographer based in the UK.
In May of 1977, an unusual snow event occurred across parts of the Northeast. Before it was all over, one to two feet of snow blanketed some higher elevations. The snow was accompanied by high winds. Extensive tree and power line damage kept crews working for days to restore power.
Snow is not unheard of in May over parts of the Northeast, but many residents will refer to the Mother’s Day event in 1977. Actually, Mother’s Day (May 8th) was chilly with rain across much of the region. That night and into the next day, some dramatic changes were occurring in the upper atmosphere which would usher in cold air and change the rain to snow.
From parts of the Mid-Atlantic through Upstate New York and into New England, the landscape became whitened with snow on Monday, May 9th and the following night. The last flake didn’t stop falling until early on the 10th.
Heavy wet snow was accompanied by fierce winds across parts of New England. Massachusetts was particularly hard hit. There were blizzard conditions at times in eastern Massachusetts. There were wind gusts to 55 mph at times.
Boston only picked up .50 inches of snow but that set a record for the latest measurable snowfall. Foxboro, Massachusetts picked up 10 inches and 7 inches fell down to Providence, Rhode Island. For Providence, it was their only measurable snowfall in the 20th century. Heavier amounts of snow fell west of Boston with Worcester picking up 12.7 inches from the event.
One driver gave this description on a message board from www.americanwx.com about the storm :
I was out driving around the communities between 128 and 495.. Lincoln, Sudbury, Concord…
It was absolutely crazy. Tree branches were crashing down, roads blocked, no plows out… I called my boss and said, “I need to come in the driving is dangerous out here”. He acted like I was crazy. I told him we had 8 inches of snow on the ground and it was snowing heavily.
Here is another account:
We lived in Lexington at the time and lost many tree branches. My Dad was at a meeting at my school that evening, a mile and a half away from home, and couldn’t get home for more than a day because all the roads were blocked. He had to stay with friends that night.
Farther west, the Berkshires of Massachusetts picked up 10-20 inches of snow. 500,000 customers were without power across Massachusetts. Extensive power outages also extended westward into eastern New York and down into Connecticut.
In New York, a foot of snow fell in higher elevations west of Albany and 5 inches fell in the Glen Falls area. Parts of the Mohawk Valley saw 2 to 3 inches of snow. A couple of locations in the Finger Lakes region picked up 4 inches of snow. One location in the Catskill Mountains reported a whopping 27 inches of snow.
Crews attempt to restore power in western Massachusetts while snow is falling on May 9, 1977. Credit-WMEC.
The higher elevations of northern Connecticut picked up over a foot of snow. Hartford recorded 1.5 inches.
Photo of snow on the ground at Tolland, Connecticut, on May 9, 1977. Public Domain.
Only a trace of snow fell around New York City but that was the latest snowfall on record. Trace amounts fell over New Jersey and much of Pennsylvania. Thunderstorms in southern Pennsylvania were accompanied by 70 mph winds.
The only good thing about the storm was that temperatures in the lower elevations were above freezing and with the higher sun angle, most of the roads didn’t become snow covered.
Northern New England also saw snow but only light amounts fell.
Snowfall map for the May 9-10, 1977storm. Map Credit-Kocin-Uccellini/Northeast snowstorms.
On May 8th there were two areas of low pressure that were moving eastward. The first one was moving across southern Ontario while the other was moving into southern Pennsylvania. These systems were responsible for chilly temperatures and areas of rain.
Around the East Coast, there was a deep trough of low pressure developing. At the surface, the Pennsylvania low became the one dominant low around coastal New England, with, with a deep upper-level trough aloft. Coler sir flowed down into the Northeast region from Canada. There was also some very cold air aloft that was manufactured by the upper trough.
Map 0Z May 10, 1977, showing a deep upper-level trough on the East Coast. Map Credit-Kocin-Uccellini/ Northeast Snowstorms.
As temperatures fell on May 9th, the rain changed to snow in many locations. Due to the time of year, it was mainly an “elevation” snow event, but parts of southeast New England was proximate to the upper-level trough so significant snow fell at the lower elevations as well.
Surface weather map for May 9, 1977, shows a strong low-pressure system along the East Coast and associated precipitation. Map Credit- NOAA Central Library (Daily Weather Maps).
With leaves on the trees and heavy wet snow falling all you had to do was add significant wind to create havoc with trees falling on power lines all over.
The second meteor shower in as many weeks will dazzle the eyes of stargazers around the globe tonight.
The second meteor shower in as many weeks will dazzle the eyes of stargazers around the globe, but the light show will be battling against the glow of a nearly full moon when it reaches its peak.
The Eta Aquarids is an annual meteor shower in early May, and this year, reaches its climax on Monday night and the pre-dawn hours of Tuesday morning.
“This shower happens to be one of if not the best in the Southern Hemisphere,” AccuWeather Astronomy Blogger Dave Samuhel said. “It is a moderate shower for the Northern Hemisphere.”
People living south of the equator may count as many as 40 shooting stars per hour at the height of the celestial light show, the American Meteor Society (AMS) said. This includes Australia, New Zealand, Africa and South America.
“From the equator northward, they usually only produce medium rates of 10-30 per hour just before dawn,” the AMS added.
This year, the meteor shower will be peaking just two nights before the final supermoon of 2020. The bright moon may make it difficult to see some of the fainter meteors, but it should not completely wash out the shower.
Of course, weather and cloud cover will significantly factor into how well sky gazers in different parts of the country are able to witness the meteor shower.
Onlookers across the southern U.S. and the interior West are forecast to have the best viewing contains for 2020’s iteration of the Eta Aquarids. Mainly clear conditions are also on tap for parts of New England and into Quebec.
A storm gathering over the central U.S. will spread disruptive clouds over much of the Midwest and into parts of Appalachia, obscuring the night sky.
Clouds could also spoil the meteor shower over the Pacific Northwest as a storm moves into the region.
The Eta Aquarids will be active on the nights leading up to and immediately following the peak, so people that have cloudy weather on Monday night may be able to spot some shooting stars later in the week when the clouds clear.
No special equipment is needed to watch a meteor shower, although people should pack some patience when heading out to spend some time under the stars.
“Give yourself a solid hour to look for meteors. Get comfortable. Lay down on a blanket, or a reclining chair,” Samuhel said.
People should also avoid looking toward the moon, which will be above the horizon for most of the night. Looking at the moon can make it harder to see meteors, so try to focus in the darkest part of the sky.
Where to see the Aquarids in 2020. AccuWeather
The best time to watch the meteor shower will be after midnight once the shower’s radiant point climbs above the horizon.
The radiant point is simply the part of the sky where the meteors originate, but you do not need to look in this direction so spot meteors. However, as the radiant point climbs higher in the sky, more and more meteors will able to be seen.
Many of the meteor showers throughout the year are caused by debris left behind by comets when they visit the inner solar system. When this debris enters the Earth’s atmosphere, it burns incredibly bright for a few brief seconds.
“The majority of visible meteors are caused by particles ranging in size from about that of a small pebble down to a grain of sand, and generally weigh less than 1-2 grams,” the AMS said.
The debris that causes the Eta Aquarids is actually dust left behind by one of the most famous comets – Halley’s Comet.
Halley’s Comet only orbits the sun once every 75 years, but each year in early May, the Earth passes through some of the debris that it left behind.
“The Eta Aquarids are one of two meteor showers sparked by Halley’s comet. The other being the Orionids in October.”
What are shooting stars? This graphic explains. AccuWeather
People that miss out on the Eta Aquarids will need to wait a few months before the next opportunity to catch a meteor shower.
According to the AMS, the next major meteor shower will not peak until late July.
Snow happens in April, we’ve even had some snowflakes in May, but there is one late-season snowstorm that ranks way above the rest. The major storm that fell from April 27-29 in 1928 with the bulk of the snowfall coming on the 28th. There was widespread snow between a 1.5 to over 3 feet of snow. This storm helped Somerset to achieve the highest April total snowfall in the state of 38.5″.
What makes this storm so special and damaging was not just because it was one of the heaviest snowfalls ever for the region, but it fell when there were leaves on the trees. This combined with the snow being heavy in weight brought down a tremendous amount of trees, limbs, roofs and entire buildings.
The storm started to form as an area of low pressure was shifting from Texas to the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf is warm at this time of the year and there was a chilly air mass sinking from Canada into the Central United States.
The storm’s pressure was falling rapidly on the morning of the 27th as it started to turn northward over the Southeast. Thunderstorms raked south of this storm but a windswept rain and snow was spreading northward along the Appalachian Mountains.
The storm bombed (a word for rapidly dropping pressure that is now being nicknamed as bomb cyclones) as it moved to the Mid-Atlantic coastline by the morning of the 28th. This is when the heaviest snow was falling across Central Pennsylvania. A perfect track that hit us while places like Pittbsurgh and to the west got little to no snowfall.
This storm made headlines. For it’s destruction.
Roofs were collapsed and keep in mind that with the leaves on the trees, there was that much more area for the snow to cling to and bring down more debris. It was a time before snowplows and modern technology. The area was crippled but fortunately, in late April the snow does not stick around too long.
Here is a list of snowfall totals for our region: LocationSnowfall (Inches)Somerset31.5Cresson27Altoona23Ebensburg20State College17.3Lock Haven8Huntingdon6.5Clearfield3
“He that takes truth for his guide, and duty for his end, may safely trust to God’s providence to lead him aright.” - Blaise Pascal. "There is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth and pursue it steadily" – George Washington letter to Edmund Randolph — 1795. We live in a “post-truth” world. According to the dictionary, “post-truth” means, “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” Simply put, we now live in a culture that seems to value experience and emotion more than truth. Truth will never go away no matter how hard one might wish. Going beyond the MSM idealogical opinion/bias and their low information tabloid reality show news with a distractional superficial focus on entertainment, sensationalism, emotionalism and activist reporting – this blogs goal is to, in some small way, put a plug in the broken dam of truth and save as many as possible from the consequences—temporal and eternal. "The further a society drifts from truth, the more it will hate those who speak it." – George Orwell “There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.” ― Soren Kierkegaard