Friday, December 12, 2014

Good-Looking Weekend Ahead!

By Jay Grymes & Steve Caparotta

WAFB First Alert Quickcast:

- warmer, stays dry through the weekend
- rain likely by the latter half of Monday

Some of you received a little sprinkle early this morning, with a handful of WAFB neighborhoods getting enough to register a couple of hundredths in the raingage (or rain gauge, if you prefer).  Those high clouds through the night carried just enough moisture down from the northwest to “wet the pavement” in some places before sunrise.

As expected, today was a day in-and-out of the clouds.  Those thicker early morning clouds not only dropped a few sprinkles in the area, but served as a warming blanket with sunrise temps in the mid to upper 40°s for many WAFB communities.  Through the day, periods of filtered sunshine between times when the skies were entirely overcast made for a not-so-pretty afternoon, but most of us still managed to get into the mid to upper 60°s during the afternoon.

The clouds stay with us tonight and linger into Saturday morning -- that’s why we’re keeping lows in the mid to upper 40°s for tomorrow’s sunrise.  We had been thinking that the winds would already have swung around, but now it looks like we won’t start getting flow off the Gulf until the latter part of Saturday.  But the morning clouds will thin and we should be under fair skies by mid-day with a mostly sunny afternoon.  That should warm the Red Stick to 70° or more by the mid-afternoon.

Skies will stay mainly clear Saturday evening into Sunday morning, with Baton Rouge area lows again in the mid to upper 40°s.  We’ll start Sunday under fair skies, going to partly cloudy by the mid to late afternoon with highs into the low 70°s for most WAFB neighborhoods.

Procrastinating shoppers will NOT be able to blame Mother Nature and the weather this weekend!

Finally, rain returns to the forecast on Monday as a cold front out of the Southern Plains moves into NW Louisiana on Monday morning and crosses the state through the day.  Unfortunately, many of you will be disappointed with the rain totals.  The early guidance is suggesting that most of us will receive less than 0.5” the way things look now, with many WAFB neighborhoods only getting 0.1” to 0.2” -- certainly not “drought denting” numbers.

The weather settles down by Tuesday morning, with moderately cooler air taking charge.  Our forecast is mainly dry through the mid-week, with our next chance for meaningful rain on Friday.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Cool Again for Thursday

By Jay Grymes & Steve Caparotta

WAFB First Alert Quickcast:
- another chilly wake-up on Thursday
- a little warmer for Thursday and Friday afternoons
- upper 60°s to around 70° by the weekend

The forecast for the next few days remains essentially unchanged: another round or two of chilly starts for Thursday and Friday, with morning lows in the upper 30°s to low 40°s for most WAFB communities. We’ll go with low 60°s for highs on Thursday and then mid to upper 60°s on Friday. It will be mild for the weekend with highs in the upper 60°s to low 70°s. And there is no rain in the forecast until early next week.

The air maintains a “dry feel” (low humidity) through Thursday, with winds veering to the east and southeast by Friday -- that will increase the Gulf influence on our region, not only adding a little moisture to the air (rising dew point temperatures) but also supporting the warming trend into the weekend.

So shoppers will have a good run of days to make their rounds … and the weather cooperates for those raking leaves and prepping their yards for the winter weeks ahead. The only real problem for some is the lack of rain that has persisted for most of us since the summer.

According to NWS estimates, rainfall since September 1st is averaging between 50% and 75% of normal across most of the WAFB viewing area, with some WAFB communities reporting only about one-third of normal rainfall for that period. What’s more, a large portion of the rain that has fallen in the past 100 days came in fairly large one-day doses. As you know, heavy rains produce greater amounts of run-off and are generally less effective and efficient at recharging soil moisture. A big rain is not a “good soaking” if it comes down too fast.

While the dry fall has been welcomed by some farmers because of good fieldwork and harvesting conditions, it has also led to increased wildfire threats. Pastures and ryegrass could be in better shape too. We’ll have to wait until the official release tomorrow, but we anticipate a further ‘downgrade’ across the viewing area in terms of the Weekly Drought Monitor, with expanding areas of moderate drought, especially for areas east and south of Baton Rouge.

So when can we expect some rain? 

We still see the next rainmaker arriving on Monday, possibly lingering into early Tuesday. If you are hoping for one of those “good soakers” we mentioned above … well, this one is looking less and less likely to deliver what we thought a day or two ago. We aren’t giving up hope just yet, but it’s currently looking like the main storm energy will stay to our north: good news in that it means a low severe-weather threat on Monday, but disappointing in that the rainfall projections for Monday/Tuesday are coming in at under one-half inch.

Of course, all that can change between now and the weekend, so we’ll remain hopeful that Monday’s frontal passage will be more productive rain-wise, yet without the severe threat.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Cooler on Wednesday

By Jay Grymes & Steve Caparotta

WAFB First Alert Quickcast:

- mornings in the 30°s and cooler afternoons for Wednesday & Thursday
- warming temps into the weekend
- stays dry through Sunday

We got a little chillier this morning than expected. As it was, our Tuesday morning forecast of 39° for Baton Rouge was below most of the computer models and the NWS forecast too. However, it wasn’t low enough: the Red Stick dipped to 36° this morning, with mid to upper 30°s over much of the Florida Parishes and into SW Mississippi. There were even some reports of light, early-morning patchy fog for the morning commute.

Other than the patches of light-to-moderate fog, it was a mainly-clear sky start to Tuesday and we stayed that way through the day. Sunshine helped push afternoon highs to 70° or more for some WAFB communities. Skies will stay mainly-clear through this evening and overnight.

A reinforcing dose of dry Canadian air is sliding through the Bayou State and that sets us up for a pair of cooler days for Wednesday and Thursday. Look for afternoon highs in the upper 50°s to low 60°s across the WAFB viewing area under high, cirrus clouds for much of the day then go to partly cloudy skies for Thursday. We’ll stay under a north to northeast flow for both days as well. So which of the two upcoming mornings will be the coldest? 

We’ve noted in the past that it is often the second morning that sees the lowest readings after a continental (Canadian) air mass surge. What may get in the way of this soft rule-of-thumb is the potential for a better cloud deck from Wednesday into Thursday morning. So for now, we call for mid to upper 30°s for Wednesday morning for metro Baton Rouge, with some of our northern viewers potentially getting close to a freeze. Then its upper 30°s for Baton Rouge on Thursday morning with mid 30°s for Thursday’s sunrise along the LA/MS state line.

By Friday, winds will swing around to the east, possibly even to the southeast later in the day ... and that will signal the start of a warming trend. We’re thinking the low to mid 60°s for Friday afternoon, then the upper 60°s for Saturday and up to around 70° or so for Sunday. But throughout the period, we stay dry. (Good news for shoppers but we really could use some rain!)

As mentioned yesterday a large, lumbering storm system currently over the eastern Pacific will move into the West Coast over the coming days. By Sunday, the latest NWS guidance shows double-barreled lows associated with the western upper trough and storm system: one surface low over the upper Mississippi Valley and another low in the Southern Plains. 

The southern low looks like it will be a rainmaker for us on Monday, but the intensity and severe threat remains unclear. Yesterday’s guidance suggested a better potential for strong storms than today’s model runs, but as you well know, Monday is just too far down the road for us to have forecast confidence at this stage. So stay tuned ….

Monday, December 8, 2014

Cool, Dry Through the Week

By Jay Grymes & Steve Caparotta

WAFB First Alert Quickcast:

- stays cool through the work week
- stays dry right through the upcoming weekend

Our run of November/December mild-to-warm days ended on Saturday with the weekend frontal passage. Now we’re into a run of cooler-than-normal weather that began Sunday. 

We’ve said it many times: during the “cool” months (October thru April), daily temperatures are often above- or below-normal for a large portion of the time. Unlike the summer months, what daily temperatures can be nearly identical day after day, it is not uncommon during the cool months (frontal periods) with fewer than half of all days being near-normal in terms of temperatures. We’re either positioned to the south of the front, making for warm days … or to the north of the boundary, giving us a taste of cool, continental or Pacific air. Many of the days that end up “near-normal” are transition days as we see-saw from warm-to-cool (or vice versa).

Normal lows for most of our viewing area at this time of year are in the low to mid 40°s while highs are generally in the mid 60°s. Many WAFB communities dipped into the upper 30°s this morning, although we did warm into the mid and upper 60°s under sunny skies for the afternoon. We’re calling for a “repeat” for Tuesday: upper 30°s to around 40° for Baton Rouge’s Tuesday morning low with mid to upper 60°s under sunshine once again. After that, we’ll cool things down a bit as a reinforcing dose of Canadian air makes its way to the Gulf Coast overnight Tuesday into early Wednesday.

That means morning lows in the upper 30°s for the Red Stick on Wednesday, Thursday and possibly even Friday mornings. We’re not anticipating any freezes for metro BR, but some WAFB viewers north and east of the Capital City -- especially along and north of the LA/MS state line -- could get close. Our forecast calls for highs in the upper 50°s to around 60° for Wednesday and Thursday, with low 60°s for highs on Friday. 

The forecast also says leave the umbrellas at home through the weekend -- good news for holiday shoppers! 

While we can expect a northerly to easterly low-level flow through mid-week, winds will come around to a more southeasterly direction toward week’s end. That means milder air off the Gulf as we climb back into the low 60°s for Friday afternoon then into the upper 60°s to around 70° for the weekend.

In the extended range, guidance is highlighting a developing storm system located over the Southern Plains on Sunday, making for “rain likely” by Monday as the system marches east. It is too early to tell right now, but Monday could prove to be a stormy day: we’ll get a better bead on any severe threat in the coming days.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Waiting on the Weekend Cool Front

By Jay Grymes & Steve Caparotta

WAFB First Alert Quickcast:
- another round of morning fog for Saturday
- cool front arrives Saturday afternoon/evening

The fog this morning didn’t get quite as dense or widespread as we had feared: great news for the Friday morning commute. But you likely noticed the warmth today -- in fact, today’s high clipped the 80°s for some neighborhoods. For Metro Airport (BTR), today was the third 80°+ over the last six days. Today’s 82° is the warmest of the lot, and just 2° shy of the daily record, which happened to be set last year.

So with this warmth (and humidity), lots of people are looking for a change to something a bit more normal, if not downright wintry. We’ve got a weak cool front sliding through the Bayou State on Saturday: that will bring a modest rain chance to the region through the day and also deliver a cooler and less-humid air mass over the weekend.

But before the “cool down,” we’ve got to get through Saturday. As we’ve seen for the past several mornings, fog will once again be a concern for the overnight and early morning hours. As of 3:30pm, the NWS Office in Lake Charles (NWS/LCH) had already posted a DENSE FOG ADVISORY (DFA) for areas along and west of the Atchafalaya Basin. The NWS/LCH DFA will be in effect from midnight until 10:00am on Saturday.

The NWS Office in Slidell (NWS/LIX) has yet to follow suit with a DFA for their service region as of 4:00pm. They still may issue one later this evening, but for now they are anticipating that the winds and cloud deck will inhibit the formation of widespread dense fog on the east side of the Atchafalaya Basin as well as around metro Baton Rouge and the tidal lakes. We aren’t entirely convinced, as just about all the key factors appear to favor another round of fog tonight and early Saturday, with areas of dense fog (visibility under ¼-mile) likely. However, given that this morning’s fog failed to achieve DFA criteria (even though conditions appeared favorable), we understand the hesitance by NWS/LIX. In either case, if you are planning some late night or early morning travel, be prepared to encounter some dense fog pockets, especially in and around those “usual suspect” locations.

We’ll also toss in some rain chances for Saturday as the weak cool front slides from NW-to-SE across the state. We’re going with spotty-to-isolated rains (less than 20%) for the early to mid morning then raising those chances to around 30% from the late morning into the afternoon. With these limited percentages, it is evident that most stay dry tomorrow. What’s more, even if it does rain over your backyard it won’t amount to much: we’re expecting most rain reports to come in at under one-tenth of an inch.

By Saturday evening, the front should be moving towards the coastal waters, the winds will have already come around earlier in the day, and cooler-and-drier air will be filtering into the region. We’ll call for partly cloudy skies for Saturday night into Sunday morning with no fog threat for Sunday and morning lows down in the 40°s for the northern half of the WAFB viewing area. Skies will continue to slowly clear through the day on Sunday, with an afternoon high in the mid to upper 60°s.

Our extended outlook is a dry one through next Friday under fair to partly-cloudy skies, with daytime highs all week long in the 60°s -- at or slightly below the seasonal norms. Morning starts will be in the 40°s on most days, although a secondary surge of cool, dry Canadian air near mid-week could result in the 30°s for some WAFB communities, but we don’t see anything close to a freeze based on the current guidance.

Enjoy your weekend!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Cool & Dry Week Ahead

By Jay Grymes & Steve Caparotta

WAFB First Alert Quickcast:
- stays cool and dry for Thanksgiving week
- warmer but still dry for the upcoming weekend

There’s not a lot to chat about, so we’ll keep this short …

We enjoyed a nice autumn day today: started the day in the upper 50°s and saw temperatures climb into the upper 60°s across the metro area under a mainly sunny skies -- just a few, thin cirrus clouds. As expected, a “dry” cold front moved through the region earlier in the day, delivering a less-humid air mass. A substantial cool-down begins this evening with local conditions remaining dry and pleasantly cool through the rest of the week.

We’ll have a real Louisiana autumn feel for the Thanksgiving week with temps running just a little below late-November norms through Friday. The weather cooperates nicely for those taking a little time off and for the school kids that get to enjoy an extended break.

After a Baton Rouge morning start in the low 40°s for Tuesday, our forecast calls for mostly cloudy skies for the afternoon. Just a weak disturbance making a fly-by and not enough moisture to produce any rain; we’re expecting highs on Tuesday in the upper 50°s to near 60° for the Red Stick.

Wednesday morning is shaping up to be the coldest morning this week with lows in the mid to upper 30°s. We don’t expect any significant freezes, although one or two of those usual “cold spots” to the north and east of metro Baton Rouge -- especially north of the LA/MS state line -- might briefly dip to near 32°.

We’ll keep mainly-sunny weather on the forecast board for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday with highs for all three days in the mid to upper 60°s for the Capital City. Yes, it’s looking good for the holiday gatherings on Thanksgiving Thursday and for those bargain hunters as we head into Black Friday and the weekend.

Even the weekend stays dry the way things look right now, although it gets warmer. We’re thinking 70°s for highs on Saturday and Sunday across just about the entire viewing area.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Strong Storms Possible This Weekend

By Jay Grymes & Steve Caparotta

WAFB First Alert Quickcast:

- warming trend into the weekend
- “SLIGHT RISK” for severe weather late Saturday

It turned a bit chillier this morning than we had expected, with Metro Airport (BTR) and McComb (MCB) both slipping to 37° and Hammond’s Airport (HDC) dropping to 34°. A handful of area Weather Watchers posted lows in the 33° to 36° range but we found no “freeze pockets” for the morning start. What’s more, the warm-up we’ve been chatting about kicked-in today as most WAFB communities saw highs in the upper 60°s to low 70°s -- something closer to the ‘normal’ high for this time of year.

The warming trend continues tonight into Friday, with morning lows in the upper 40°s and Friday afternoon highs returning to the low 70°s under partly cloudy skies. It will be occasionally breezy into Friday afternoon, but all in all it will be a nice November day and a great way to end the work week. 

The First Alert forecast calls for 70°s through the weekend and for Monday as well, with highs in some areas reaching the upper 70°s on Sunday. But the BIG weather story for the next few days is the developing stormy weather threat set for the latter half of Saturday into early Sunday morning. A storm system expected to gather strength over the Southern Plains on Saturday will get an energy boost from moist-and-mild Gulf air feeding into it as it marches to the east. 

Although the NWS Storm Prediction Center (SPC) currently centers the region of greatest severe-weather threat (“ENHANCED RISK”) across central and southeastern Texas, the entire WAFB viewing area is included under a “SLIGHT RISK” for severe weather from late Saturday into early Sunday. We’ll be on the lookout for an active squall line ahead of an advancing Pacific cold front with the main weather threats being damaging winds and isolated tornadoes for our area. 

In addition to the SPC’s severe weather potential on Saturday night, the NWS Weather Prediction Center (WPC) continues to call for area storm totals on the order of 1” to 2” with locally-higher totals. Rains of this magnitude will not be a serious flood threat but could produce another round of nuisance flooding in the typical spots, leave standing water in poorly-drained areas, and generate short-term headaches for area drivers.

Once the main line of action moves to our east early Sunday, the weather should steadily improve through the rest of the day. However, unlike what we would normally expect, a significant cool-down doesn’t begin until early next week. A second Pacific front will follow on the heels of Saturday’s system, so we won’t get the normal wind shift from the northwest. A southerly-to-southwesterly flow is likely to remain in place through Sunday, allowing for Sunday afternoon temps to reach the mid to upper 70°s for many of us.

That second front moves through the region on Monday morning: then the winds come around with a cooler-and-less-humid northwesterly flow that continues into mid-week. Look for morning lows on Tuesday in the upper 30°s to low 40°s with mid to upper 30°s for Wednesday morning.

At this point we aren’t expecting a significant freeze event for the viewing area next week, although we could see a brief, light freeze near and north of the LA/MS state line on Wednesday morning. What’s more, it looks like we stay rain-free from the latter half of Sunday right through Thanksgiving Thursday. Our extended outlook currently calls for a partly-cloudy and mild Thanksgiving Day. However, for those already making their shopping plans for ‘Black Friday,’ we think that the “to do” list may include carrying an umbrella.