Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Cool & Dry for New Year's Eve

By Jay Grymes & Steve Caparotta

WAFB First Alert Quickcast:

- skies continue to clear tonight with lows falling into the 30°s
- sunshine but staying cool for Wednesday afternoon
- clouds slowly return New Year’s Eve evening, 40° in Baton Rouge near midnight

As expected, the day began with a thick overcast.  What was a surprise was just how persistent that clouds would be through the day.  Cloudy skies and a north wind through the day kept things much cooler than we had anticipated -- many WAFB neighborhoods never got out of the 40°s! 

We will see slow thinning and gradual clearing this evening.  Clearing continues overnight, with the cold-and-dry Canadian air mass finally taking full control.  Thankfully, we won’t get a full-on Arctic blast this go-around, but look for lows to drop into the mid 30°s for both Wednesday and Thursday mornings.    Light freezes will be possible to the north and east of metro Baton Rouge on both mornings, although the Capital City should remain above freezing.

We’re expecting mainly sunny skies through the daytime hours for Wednesday-- New Year’s Eve.  Highs on Wednesday will be cool-ish -- mid to upper 50°s for most.  The fair skies don’t last long, however.  Heading into Wednesday evening, expect a slow return of clouds, with partly to mostly cloudy skies at midnight as the Red Stick drops in downtown’s Town Square.  Temperatures at midnight will be around 40°, but it stays dry for the nighttime fun.  A light NE wind will add a little Louisiana winter ‘feel’ to the late night air, with a windchill in the 30°s.  Cold? Yep, but not miserably cold.  Just be sure to dress for it if you plan to spend much time outdoors.

The weather picture for Thursday and into the weekend remains relatively unchanged from yesterday. 

After a Thursday morning start in the 30°s under mostly cloudy skies, we’re thinking highs in the 50°s again for the afternoon, with rain chances slowly increasing through the latter half of the day.  By Friday, rain is a sure bet as a low in the western Gulf drifts northward.  The Gulf storm system strengthens (“deepens”) as the low moves into the Bayou State late Friday and early Saturday, with a warm front lifting to our north, putting the WAFB viewing area in the “warm” sector.  That not only means another wet day, but Saturday -- especially the first half of the day -- could be a little stormy at times as we wait for the complex to head east into the Southeastern U.S. later on Saturday and into Sunday. 

It’s still a little too early to confidently assess the severe weather threat for the end of the week -- that’s something we’ll want to watch in the coming days.  For now, a widespread severe weather outbreak appears unlikely.  However, area-wide rain totals of 1.5” to 2.0”, with locally-higher amounts, are possible if not probable, with the heaviest rains occurring Saturday.​

Monday, December 29, 2014

Hoping for Sunshine on Tuesday

By Jay Grymes & Steve Caparotta

WAFB First Alert Quickcast:

- stays cool through the rest of 2014 with a welcomed dry-out over the next two days
- chilly but dry for New Year’s Eve festivities
- rain likely for Friday and Saturday 

We’ve had a little bit of everything over the last few days, dominated by “wet.” Since the weekend, most of the WAFB area has seen from 0.5” to 2.0” of rain, with some pockets well above 3.0” -- thankfully, however, the feared deluges and subsequent flood threats failed to materialize. It was awfully muggy for the first half of the weekend but a cold front finally brought a return of winter-like temps.

Now that the front has moved through, 50°s have replaced the 70°s, although we still haven’t been able to get out from under the clouds. So today was a damp, occasionally-drizzly, rather disagreeable day. But there is hope: sun returns to the forecast!

Although the rain is long gone, it’s looking like the clouds will linger through the night and into Tuesday morning. But clearing should be underway by the afternoon, if not sooner, giving us some afternoon sunshine and fair skies by Tuesday evening. Tuesday morning clouds will help insulate us a bit, keeping overnight and early morning temperatures in the 40°s, while the afternoon sunshine will help offset some of the chill of the post-frontal air mass, with Tuesday highs expected in the upper 50°s to around 60° or so.

That same dry continental air mass and fair skies for Tuesday night into Wednesday morning will allow temps to drop into the 30°s for Wednesday morning -- possibly flirting with a freeze along and north of the LA/MS state line. Wednesday afternoon highs should reach the mid 50°s for the Red Stick under fair skies. But clouds will begin a steady return by Wednesday evening -- that’s not necessarily a bad thing since the clouds will slow the evening temperature fall. We’ll stay dry Wednesday evening into early Thursday -- area temperatures around midnight will run in the upper 30°s to low 40°s. For Red Stick Revelry in the heart of BR’s downtown, it may even be a degree or two warmer: certainly not mild, but not bitterly cold -- and more importantly, dry!

It’s down to the low to mid 30°s for many by Thursday’s sunrise, with highs in the 50°s again for Thursday. We’ll also start to slowly re-introduce rain chances through the latter half of the day. By Friday, it’s wet as a low in the western Gulf drifts northward, bringing “overrunning” rains and a warm front into coastal Louisiana. Our current guidance suggests that the Gulf low “tightens up” along the upper Texas Coast, possibly near Sabine Pass, and then marches east along the Louisiana coast on Saturday, making for another wet day before the frontal complex shifts to the east. The rains end on Sunday, with another run of cool days to follow.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Strong to Severe Storms Possible on Tuesday

By Jay Grymes & Steve Caparotta

WAFB First Alert Quickcast:
- potential for another round of area fog tonight and early tomorrow
- “marginal” threat for severe weather this evening into early Tuesday
- “slight risk” for severe storms on Tuesday, especially from mid-day into the early evening

The next 24 hours could be rather busy for some residents of the central Gulf Coast as a variety of weather features combine for a potentially stormy Tuesday. The trade-off is that by early Wednesday the weather takes a turn to the “good” and delivers a back-to-back cooperative winter days for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Yes .. we said winter, as Sunday was the Winter Solstice, making today the first ‘full’ day of winter. However, today certainly didn’t have much of a winter feel with highs in the 70°s. A mild and moist air mass over our region promoted fog development earlier today, and the same set-up means another round of fog possible for Tuesday’s start -- if the winds subside enough. At the same time, a warm front moved northward out of the Gulf today and is headed well to our north. The Gulf air behind the warm front will add even more moisture (dew points at 60° or more) to the lower levels which will increase low-level instability. 

We’ve seen a few passing showers today and we’ll keep isolated rains in the evening and late night forecasts too. 

At the upper levels, a deepening trough and southwesterly flow over the central Gulf Coast will work with the moist and unstable air mass, providing lift that could be sufficient to generate a few storms from this later this evening into the early morning. That’s why the NWS Storm Prediction Center (SPC) has just about the entire central Gulf Coast under a “marginal” risk for severe weather through tonight. The set-up isn’t the best for active-to-severe storms, but the SPC sees that enough is in place for one or two strong-to-severe storms to possibly develop somewhere along the Gulf Coast rim. (Remember, “marginal” means that chances are 5% of a severe storm developing within 25 miles of any location -- that’s very low but not a “zero” chance.)

The greater threat for active weather arrives during the day on Tuesday as an approaching cold front provides an even better lifting mechanism to take advantage of the region’s unstable air mass. We’ve got rain chances through the day on Tuesday at 80% or better - - let’s face it, just about everyone gets wet. It won’t be an all-day rain, but we can expect periods of showers and occasional t-storms starting in the morning hours and extending through the afternoon. We’ve got the front moving into the WAFB viewing area from the west sometime close to the evening “dinner hours” and we’ll be on the watch for a developing squall line of storms ahead of the main cold front. 

The severe threat will be mainly in the form of damaging winds although a few tornadoes cannot be excluded. Large hail is also a possibility with the larger thunderstorms. For the WAFB area, the severe threat should end from west to east during the late evening hours on Tuesday, depending on the forward speed of the front.

Once the front passes, the weather will begin to improve, albeit somewhat slowly. It looks like we could still be under a mostly cloudy sky for Wednesday’s sunrise, but the clouds should slowly clear throughout the day. By Wednesday night into Christmas morning, we’re expecting mainly clear skies with a light freeze possible for WAFB’s northern and eastern communities. Christmas day should be mainly sunny but cool, with highs in the 50°s.

We’ll bring a slight chance of showers to the forecast for Friday with scattered showers and a few thunderstorms possible on Saturday. That should clear things out for a nice Sunday.

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.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Warming Trend Underway...

By Jay Grymes & Steve Caparotta

WAFB First Alert Quickcast:

- warming trend is underway, stays dry through Friday
- still watching for the potential for severe weather over the weekend

So this morning makes four morning freezes for the Capital City in just six days with this morning’s freeze lasting the longest (about 11 hours at Metro Airport) and being the coldest with a morning minimum of 27°. There will be no more of that for a while: in fact, some of the long-range guidance suggests that the Red Stick may not see another freeze before month’s end. 

Trivia fans: it has been a very chilly November thus far based on climate history. We looked back through November daily records since 1893 -- 122 Novembers -- and found that there have only been six prior Novembers with four or more freezes on or before November 19th. The last November with four or more freezes by the 19th was 1991, which also happens to tie 1951 with the most freezes (seven) by this date. And in terms of the average temperatures, November 2014 ranks among the ‘coldest’ Novembers on record (thru the 19th) with the ‘coldest’ November 1-19 period since 1997.

However, the winds have come around and are starting to bring mild Gulf air into the region. After that bone-chiller of a morning start, we’ve begun a steady warming trend that will continue through the weekend. Thursday morning will start in the upper 30°s to low 40°s for most WAFB neighborhoods with a Thursday afternoon high in the upper 60°s to near 70° under partly cloudy skies. We’ll stay partly cloudy for Friday with a high in the low 70°s for many, then warm into the low to mid 70°s by Saturday afternoon. Sunday could see some upper 70°s for daytime highs.

So the weather stays quiet through Friday as we watch the next upper-level trough swing towards us from the west and help energize a storm system into the weekend. The warm-and-moist Gulf air that takes us into the 70°s over the weekend will also fuel a potent low-pressure system that gets organized over the Southern Plains. 

Just how active the weather becomes across our viewing area from Saturday afternoon into the early hours of Sunday is still unclear but we suggest that you get prepared for some strong-to-severe storms. Regardless of the thunderstorm/tornado threat, this weekend’s system is shaping up to be a wet one, with early indications from the NWS Weather Prediction Center showing 1” to 3” or rain possible for the WAFB area.

Then once again, following the frontal weather over the weekend, temperatures drop back to below-normal next week, although we are currently keeping minimums above freezing through Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Another Freeze Warning Tonight

By Jay Grymes & Steve Caparotta

WAFB First Alert Quickcast:

- another freeze for Wednesday morning
- warming trend for the rest of the week
- stormy weather possible for the weekend

Fool me once: shame on you … fool me twice: shame on me. But fool me three times, and we say, “Hey, what’s going on here?”

Yep -- we know -- our early morning temperature forecast was a bust! In fact, our forecast lows for each of the three recent morning freezes (last Friday and Saturday mornings plus earlier this morning) have all been too cold. Our guidance tools haven’t done well at all: one of the normally more-reliable models, the American GFS, has been calling for lows that have been as much as 3° to 6° too low. What’s more, we think it may be doing it again for tomorrow morning.

We remind you that last night we mentioned the potential that some high clouds and light winds might be enough to keep Baton Rouge in the upper 20°s … in the end, those clouds were considerably heavier than we had expected. As a result, the low didn’t drop below 30° for almost all WAFB communities and the freeze line barely extended south of the Capital City. 

While that’s good news for keeping the home a little warmer overnight and it means that freeze-protection efforts were more than adequate, being “too cold” with our forecast by 3° to 4° is a bit disappointing for us. And some of you may be grumbling about the preparations that you undertook that weren’t really necessary.

As a reminder: how do the clouds impact the falling temperatures? Essentially, they “capture and return” some of the heat lost at night from the ground and air near the surface. In reality, the ground gives off heat to the atmosphere at about the same rate whether we are under clear or cloudy skies. However, when clouds are present they re-direct some of that energy back towards the surface. In the end, under cloudy skies, the energy being “sent back” by the clouds means that the NET energy loss from the ground and low-level air is lower. A lower NET energy loss means a slower drop in air temperatures near the ground. 

In addition, just a little wind at night helps mix some of the slightly warmer air well above the ground down towards the surface. (Remember, during a routine afternoon, the air near the ground is warmer than the air aloft. But at night, the air near the ground usually becomes a little cooler than the air just a few tens of feet above the surface). Mixing the warmer air from above downward towards the ground further slows the “effective” cooling rate and can keep overnight and early morning temperatures a bit warmer than had there been no wind.

And late last night into early this morning, we had both: a decent cloud deck and a little wind.

So we’ll prepare for another freeze tonight into tomorrow morning, and we’ll go with a Wednesday morning low that proves colder than this morning’s minimum … but we won’t go as cold as the latest GFS and NAM models are suggesting. As of this afternoon, both models were calling for a Baton Rouge low of 25°. 

We are expecting mainly clear skies tonight. In addition, winds for most of the night should be near calm thanks to surface high pressure sitting right on top of us for much of the overnight hours (before shifting to the east early Wednesday). So, we’ll concede an overnight low in the upper 20°s but not the GFS’s mid 20°s.

After that, it’s “Goodbye freezes!” … probably for at least for the next 7 to 10 days or more.

A warming trend begins in earnest on Wednesday with Red Stick area highs expected around 60° or so under sunny skies. For Thursday, after a morning start around 40° we’ll plan for a sun/cloud mix with highs in the upper 60°s for metro BR. Then it’s back to the 70°s for Friday, Saturday and Sunday ... and possibly Monday too.

We’ll call for spotty showers on Friday afternoon with the weather becoming much more active as we head into mid-day Saturday. Our current guidance is suggesting that a fairly potent storm system will be sliding across the mid-Mississippi Valley through the weekend, promoting an active thunderstorm event across the Bayou State.

Our current thinking is that the weather could become very active from the latter half of Saturday into Sunday morning, with the potential for another round of severe weather that will be much like what we saw on Sunday evening. The NWS Weather Prediction Center is currently calling for widespread rains in excess of 2” between Saturday and early Monday for our viewing area and the NWS Storm Prediction Center is already calling for a 30% chance of severe storms this weekend over southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana. Given the 5-day window, that’s close enough to get our attention.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Hard Freeze Warning!

By Jay Grymes & Steve Caparotta

WAFB First Alert Quickcast:

- HARD FREEZE WARNING for the northern half of the viewing area tonight and Tuesday AM
- clear & cool for Tuesday
- another freeze and into the 20°s again for Wednesday morning  

Before we get to the forecast … we’ve received the Damage Survey from the National Weather Service that headed into Livingston Parish today to assess the tornado damage there last evening.  The survey team has confirmed what appear to be a pair of tornado touchdowns: (1) the first of EF-0 intensity extending a little over one mile between 7:45-7:50pm, about 6-7 miles southwest of Walker … and (2) a stretch of EF-0 to EF-1 damage over a nearly four-mile track  between 8:20-8:40pm to the north of Livingston.  Fortunately there were no injuries but “two distinct segments” (NWS quote) of damage.  Meanwhile, the big storms that rolled through dumped from 1” to more than 3” of rain around the area.

So the active weather is gone but you could probably tell by the weather’s behavior today that another blast of very cold air is on the way.  The skies steadily cleared through the afternoon but the winds have stayed up so far. 

The big question for tonight: “Just how cold?”, and the winds could be play a big role in determining the answer.  The National Weather Service has issued a HARD FREEZE WARNING for the northern half of the viewing area with a FREEZE WARNING in effect across the southern half of the region.

For now, we’re going with an overnight low of 27° for Baton Rouge -- of course, microclimate factors will result in local temperatures ranging from the mid 20°s to near 30° around the metro area.  Freeze durations north of the I-10/12 corridor could be from 6 hours along the interstate to as much as 10 hours or more near and north of the LA/MS state line.  Durations drop off south of the interstate corridor, with some sections of the coastal margins potentially dodging freezing temps.

We think the winds will die down overnight but two of our reliable models are suggesting some thin, high clouds moving in before dawn.  That should be just enough to keep us from a temperature free-fall overnight as indicated by one or two models which suggest low 20°s tonight for the Red Stick.

It sunshine for the next several days, but most of us will head back down into the 20°s for Wednesday morning -- in fact, Wednesday’s wake-up looks to be as cold or colder than Tuesday’s sun-up!  Neither day breaks a record low but this is still too early for this kind of stuff!  A quick look back at Baton Rouge records to 1930 shows that there have only been four other years when there were four or more freezes by November 20th -- we should match that with Wednesday morning’s freeze.

Staying cold?  No .. it’s back to the thermal roller coaster.  We’ll be back up around 60° for a high under sunny skies for Wednesday and then upper 60°s under partly cloudy skies for Thursday.  Our forecast gets even warmer for Friday and the weekend -- up to 70° or more -- but it comes with scattered rains on Friday and Saturday and another wet Sunday on the board.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Another Freeze Warning for Saturday AM

By Jay Grymes & Steve Caparotta
WAFB First Alert Quickcast:
- another FREEZE WARNING for tonight into Saturday morning
- warmer but very wet for Sunday into Monday
- another pair of freezes for next week
It was an extended freeze for most WAFB communities this morning although it didn’t get quite as cold as we have expected -- and we doubt that anyone is complaining about that!  Besides, we’ve got another chance for a freeze tonight into Saturday morning and it looks like it could get a degree or two colder for Saturday’s sunrise.
Metro Airport dipped below freezing before 2:00am earlier this morning and stayed at or below freezing until roughly 7:30am -- run of nearly six hours.  Even with today’s afternoon sunshine, some of us never got out of the 40°s today.  Now take today’s clear skies and add-in the expected light winds this evening and many of us will be set up for freezing temperatures by or before midnight.  That should let temps dip to or below this morning’s low readings by Saturday’s sunrise. With that in mind, the National Weather Service has once again posted a Freeze Warning.
So a little colder and a little longer in duration for the overnight freeze, but still not quite a “pipe wrapper.”  Look for temps at or below 32° for upwards of 6-9 hours in and around much of metro Baton Rouge, especially in those regular “cold pockets” where some of you live and always seem colder than the airport.  Expect an additional couple of hours of freezing temps for most areas north and east of the Capital City.
After that chiller of a start on Saturday, mainly sunny skies will be accompanied by a slow wind shift to the southeast by Saturday afternoon, bringing milder and slightly-more moist air off the Gulf.  We’re expecting a high on Saturday around 60° for the Red Stick -- still well-below normal for mid-November but quite a nice change compared to yesterday’s and today’s high temps. 
The change will also deliver a warmer overnight low for Saturday night into Sunday morning: we’re calling for Sunday morning lows in the mid to upper 40°s for metro BR.  At the same time, an upper-level system will tie-in with a low over the western Gulf, generating increasing clouds by Saturday evening with a very slight chance of rain before midnight.  The complex will make for a very wet Sunday: Sunday’s high gets into the 60°s with rains -- along with a thunderstorm or two -- continuing throughout the day.  The rains taper off on Monday but not before delivering from 1” to more than 2” of much-welcomed rain for many of us.
Skies clear late Monday into early Tuesday as our next Canadian air mass moves in ... and with that comes another pair of freezes for Tuesday and Wednesday morning!  So keep the heavy coats and comforters nearby!
Meanwhile, staying nice and quiet across the tropical Atlantic.​
Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Freeze Warning Tonight/Friday Morning!

By Jay Grymes & Steve Caparotta

WAFB First Alert Quickcast:
- FREEZE WARNING late tonight into Friday morning
- another morning freeze for Saturday
- substantial rains for Sunday and Monday

A damp, raw and ugly start to Thursday ... and while the skies stated clearing from west-to-east through the late afternoon and into the evening, it was too late to provide a sunshine-aided afternoon warm-up. In the end, most WAFB neighborhoods topped out in the mid to upper 40°s for their Thursday highs.

The clear skies, very dry air (low dewpoints) and north winds are a clear sign of what’s to come later tonight: a significant freeze event. We’re calling for lows in the mid to upper 20°s for metro Baton Rouge, with all but the extreme coastal areas experiencing at least a dash of freezing temperatures. Looks like we’ll threaten some record lows across the region.

We’ve talked about it a number of times this week: a “freeze” at mid-November is certainly “early” but not unprecedented. However, mid to upper 20°s for mid-November? Since 1893, we’ve only found four occurrences with lows of 26° or below this early in the fall for Baton Rouge.

Next question: how long do the freezing temperatures last? We’re looking at something on the order of 5 to 8 hours of temperatures at or below-freezing for the Red Stick. Areas north and east of Baton Rouge could see the freeze last as much as 7 to 9 hours or more; of course, the durations drop off as you head towards the coast.

So our assessment is that this is NOT going to be a “pipe-wrapper” freeze -- it doesn’t last long enough to be a serious threat. But don’t forget the pets … bring the tender plants under the carport … and check on family, friends and neighbors that might have problems staying warm tonight. And please be extra cautious with the portable heaters -- they are the cause of too many home fires at this time of year!

Sunshine on Friday will allow temps to climb to near 50° but that’s about it. Then it’s another overnight/early-morning freeze for Saturday. Into Saturday afternoon, fair skies and a windshift with the winds off the Gulf will help temperatures climb to around 60°.

A storm system over the U.S. Plains will be gathering steam over the weekend and that will deliver a wet Sunday and Monday for the WAFB region. We’re expecting widespread rains of 1” or more for the viewing area over the two days, with some of the guidance indicating 2” or more for the two-day event.

But once that system clears the state, it’s “Hello again!” to another chilly air mass with freezes expected again for Tuesday and Wednesday mornings.

So it looks like we get some much-needed rain over the next several days, but it comes with a chilly price.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Chilly Weather Continues!

By Jay Grymes & Steve Caparotta

WAFB First Alert Quickcast:

- cloudy, damp and chilly into Thursday morning
- slow clearing but staying cool for Thursday afternoon
- FREEZE WATCH for Thursday night into Friday morning

Today was a rather ugly, raw November day under the clouds with occasional sprinkles and passing light rains that kept things just damp enough to add to the air’s ‘winter-ish’ feel. And today was one of those upside-down temperature days, with the high occurring right at midnight with temperatures generally trending downward for most of the day.

The mid- and high-level clouds moving over us from the west and southwest had just enough moisture to occasionally squeeze out a sprinkle or a brief light shower through the day. That will continue tonight and into Thursday morning -- not enough rain to make a difference for the backyard but just enough to require an occasional swipe by the windshield wipers and to keep the air feeling colder than it really is.

Add in a Thursday morning start in the upper 30°s for the Red Stick and you’ve got a classic January morning right in the middle of November. Clouds will start to clear during the latter half of Thursday -- too late to allow for much of a warm-up but soon enough to allow temperatures to start a near free-fall under mainly-clear skies after Thursday’s sunset. We’ll call for a high around 50° for Thursday -- that’s better than 20° below normal for this time of year.

And then? Time for the down comforters and flannel pajamas for Thursday night!

The National Weather Service has issued a FREEZE WATCH for most of the WAFB viewing area for Friday morning -- expect that to be upgraded to a FREEZE WARNING later tonight or early Thursday. We’re calling for upper 20°s for most of metro Baton Rouge and that could mean a couple of WAFB’s communities along and north of the LA/MS state line could sneak down to the mid 20°s.

We are not too concerned about the freeze duration for this event: this will NOT be a “pipe-wrapper” ... but please remember the pets. And what about those extra-tender plants? You may not need to bring them all the way indoors but get them under the carport or under an extended overhang.

After the morning’s “first freeze” of the season, Friday afternoon remains cool under sunny skies. And then here comes another freeze for Saturday morning: not quite as cold, however, with lows around 30° for the Red Stick. Saturday afternoon should be mainly fair with highs climbing to near 60°.

Heading into Sunday, we’ll warm things up considerably as an upper-air disturbance brings Gulf warmth and moisture into the region. Rain is likely for Sunday into Monday: goods news for most of us with the NWS Weather Prediction Center currently suggesting as much as 1” to 2” of rain for most of our area.

Although milder temperatures will come with the rain, we recommend that you keep the winter coats handy for next week. Another shot of cold Canadian air follows behind Sunday and Monday’s wet weather, with another round of freezes in the extended outlook for the early to middle part of next week.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Big Chill on the Way!

By Jay Grymes & Steve Caparotta

WAFB First Alert Quickcast:

- front moves through metro BR tonight
- a few light rains, cooler for Wednesday
- Arctic air mass delivers a “first freeze” for many on Friday

After a morning low in the upper 50°s (as we predicted), most Veterans Day ceremonies went off without weather issues. Doppler radar was showing a few pockets of mainly-light showers well west of metro BR during the afternoon and the day warmed considerably, with highs in the upper 70°s to around 80° for many WAFB communities.

A cold front continues to slowly push southward through the Bayou State this evening and overnight, but will still be stretched across the northern Gulf waters on Wednesday. Wednesday morning lows will be near 50° to the low 50°s for most of the WAFB area, running a little higher closer to the coast. But under the clouds and with a colder air mass taking residence, daytimes high only make the mid to upper 50°s. With the front still close and clouds lingering, we’ll keep isolated light rains in the Wednesday forecast -- rain chances for the day will sit around 20% or so, with the best chance for a shower or two coming during the first half of the day. Regardless, whatever and wherever rain does fall, it won’t amount to much and will provide no relief to the dry conditions in the region. 

(We anticipate that the U.S. Weekly Drought Monitor will officially acknowledge the onset of “drought” conditions for portions of the Florida Parishes with its Thursday 8AM release.)

While this mid-week front will be a disappointment in terms of delivering some needed rain, it will make its presence felt when the Arctic air mass behind it fully arrives. Fortunately, this will be more of a sideswipe than a direct hit in terms of a winter chill. We’ve been showing you the plunging temperatures to over parts of the northern U.S. over the past 24 hours, including some locations in the High Plains where temperatures dropped more than 50° in less than a 24-hour period! Thankfully, we’ll have nothing like that.

What we are anticipating, however, is the first fall freeze for much of the northern half of the WAFB viewing area. We’ll call for a sun/cloud mix on Thursday with a morning start in the upper 30°s for metro BR and an even cooler daytime high for Thursday in the low to mid 50°s. As of this afternoon, we’re calling for a Baton Rouge low near or below freezing on Friday morning with lows dipping into the upper 20°s near and north of the LA/MS state line.

We said this cold air episode would be more of a sideswipe rather than a long-lasting direct hit. But it will be cold: many get a freeze on Friday morning and highs on Friday afternoon struggle to reach the 50°s for some of WAFB’s northern viewers. And some of WAFB’s northern communities could flirt with another brief freeze for Saturday’s sunrise. Thankfully, most of us will get back into upper 50°s to near 60° for Saturday afternoon.

Heading into the late Saturday and Sunday, here comes our next frontal system … and this one looks like it has some potential to be a decent rainmaker. A low out of the western Gulf will meet-up with a cold front diving southeastward from the Plains. Based on the current guidance, that is a set-up for rains of an inch or more centered on Sunday. The Plains cold front will also reinforce the cold air that arrives at the end of this week with some potential for another round of light freezes early next week.

We talked about this yesterday, but it is worth revisiting. If Baton Rouge hits freezing on Friday morning, that would be early for the metro area but not something unusually rare. Records back to 1893 for the Red Stick indicate that roughly 1-in-3 autumn seasons record the first freeze on or before November 15th. However, since 1981 (33 autumns) there have only been five seasons with the first freeze occurring by November 15th: that’s a ratio of less than 1-in-6. Indeed, if we look at different periods over the past 100+ years for the Baton Rouge records, we get differing “average dates” for the first fall freeze for the Capital City:

Period Fall Freeze
1901-1930 Nov 28
1931-1960 Nov 20
1961-1990 Nov 26
1991-2013 Nov 26

Global warming? Climate change? Well, yes, even in Louisiana, the climate is always changing. This is also why we can call Thanksgiving Day as the rule-of-thumb date of the average first freeze, since the calendar date for Thanksgiving also changes, ranging from November 22nd to the 28th.