Thursday, May 7, 2009

Heaviest rains should pass off to our south

(Early afternoon update). Check out the map in the upper left corner (click on it to bring it up full-screen). This is the latest NAM/WRF prediction for rainfall amounts. The heaviest rain bands set up south of the Twin Cities - we'll definitely get a little rain later this afternoon and tonight, but the biggest puddles should pass off to our south. The latest model run prints out anywhere from .17 - .23" of rain, most of that falling tonight. That said, it still looks like a cool, damp start to the Fishing Opener. Look at the bright side: no sleet, hail, snow (or lightning!) It could be worse....I think.

Fishing Opener Update: latest computer models print out anywhere from .17-.23" of rain late Friday and Friday night; most of the rain should be over by 4 am Saturday morning. Plan on a wet start early Saturday, but skies should still dry out rapidly during the morning and midday hours, clouds linger, the only chance of light rain much of the day coming over the Minnesota Arrowhead and BWCA region.

The Fishing Opener kicks off midnight Friday night (when it should still be raining). Most of the showers push east into Wisconsin by breakfasttime Saturday morning, but we'll all be waking up to puddles, no doubt. A damp start gives way to a drier northwest breeze, blowing from the northwest at 10-20 mph, strong enough to warrant a heavy jacket out on that boat. Plan on a choppy ride, temperatures holding in the 40s much of the day from Leech to Gull, Pelican and the Whitefish Chain - the mercury may reach the low to mid 50s by mid afternoon, especially from Mille Lacs on south to Lake Minnetonka and White Bear Lake. The sun may peek through, but I think clouds will linger most of the day - it may look and feel a little more like early October than mid May.

Sunday (Mother's Day) looks better - naturally! The sun should be out most of the day, a weak bubble of high pressure drifting overhead treating us to lighter winds and highs in the upper 50s to near 60. If you have a choice in the matter you might want to plan your outdoor adventure for Sunday, which will look and feel more like spring than Saturday. Giive your mom and extra hug or two - take my advice and take nothing for granted, especially good health. My mom of 80 years is suffering from dementia, it's hard to see her in this condition. I realize I'm not the only one dealing with aging parents - but it's still hard to comprehend some days, especially when she's half a country away. I tried to convince mom and dad to spend their retirement years out here, but they looked at me like I was crazy. I guess I am a little nutty, come to think of it. A sane person wouldn't attempt to predict Minnesota's manic skies.

Are you a white-knuckle flier? Does your heart skip every time the plane shudders, dips or bumps? My wife was the ORIGINAL fearful flier, after we hit a pocket of severe turbulence on a flight to Hawaii (and the pilot came on the intercom shouting "code 4! code 4", which she was convinced was code for "we're going down!") In the late 80s she took a Fear of Flying class from Northwest Airlines. There were classes describing what kept a plane in the air, the physics behind flight, detailed explanations from experts and pilots, all culminating in the final exam: a flight, with the rest of her classmates, to Fargo and back. Ever since then she's been much better in the air, she can actually relax, read and even nap. I tried explaining to her that it's a little like going over a pothole in your car, or a speed-bump - you don't scream every time you hit a pothole (do you?) It's the same in the air - there are always small, swirling eddies of rotating air, flowing at a slightly faster or slower speed, and that's why you encounter bumps in the air.

This is a map from Weather Underground which shows areas of expected turbulence nationwide, based on jet stream winds, terrain and other meteorological factors. Colorado is almost always a hot-spot for turbulence, the result of air flowing over the Rockies. Keep that in mind on your next flight to Phoenix, L.A. or Las Vegas. BTW, I usually don't get nervous in the air: clear air turbulence is a fact of life (and yes, airplane wings are meant to "flap", as disconcerting as that looks when you're staring out the window). The only time my blood pressure starts to rise is flying into (or near) thunderstorms. The erratic winds in the vicinity of T-storms can cause an airplane's wings to lose lift, with potentially tragic results. Most pilots won't think of landing or taking off during a thunderstorm - they'll usually wait for the storm to move away from the airport, that's the safe thing to do.

To call up your own turbulence forecast for the USA, based on something called the "Richardson Number", click here. (the areas where turbulence is most likely show up as bright orange and red).

* Thursday winds up being an almost perfect spring day: 75 degree high in the Twin Cities.

* Friday rain still on track, best chance comes late Friday and Friday night.

* Computer models are widely contradictory (again) ranging from .45" (NAM) to nearly .71" (GFS).

* Fishing Opener Saturday: Wet start, but a stiff northwest wind dries things out rapidly. Clouds linger, few PM sprinkles/light showers far northern Minnesota. Pack warm: temperatures hold in the 40s (north) to low 50s (central lakes). Winds blow from 10-20 mph from the northwest, making it feel cooler. Choppy on area lakes.

* Sunday: less wind, sun reappears, 5-10 degrees milder.

* Warming up again next week, another chance of rain by Tuesday PM into Wednesday AM.

Paul's Outlook

Friday: Increasing clouds: showers arrive by afternoon. Winds: North 5-10. High: 63

Friday night: Periods of rain, possibly heavy at times. Low: 48

Saturday (Fishing Opener): Damp start, mostly cloudy with a cool breeze. A few sprinkles/showers possible up north. Winds: NW 15-25. High: 56

Sunday: A nicer day to be outside. Plenty of sun, milder. High: 61

Monday: Partly cloudy and milder. High: 67

Tuesday: Clouds increase and thicken, chance of showers/T-storms later in the day. High: 72

Wednesday: Showers taper, cool breeze. High: 65

Thursday: Mix of clouds and sun. High: 62

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