TIME weather

Christmas Eve Storm to Bring Chaos to East Coast, Midwest

Some regions can expect a white Christmas, but most will get rain

The weather outside really is going to be frightful this Christmas.

A major storm is predicted to hit the East Coast and Midwest beginning Dec. 23 and building to a climax on Christmas Eve. While snow may accumulate from Wisconsin to Western Pennsylvania, regions to the east can expect heavy rain and thunderstorms.

Strong winds will bring turbulent flying conditions and treacherous driving conditions along the Interstate-95 corridor. AccuWeather recommends bringing forward Christmas travel to Monday or Tuesday to avoid getting stuck on the road or in an airport.

But if you’ve no place to go… you’ll probably be alright.

[AccuWeather]

TIME natural disaster

See the Worst Natural Disasters of 2014

When it comes to acts of God, 2014 wasn’t a particularly active year. No powerful hurricane struck the U.S. like Sandy in 2012 or Katrina in 2005. There was no singlecatastrophic event like the Asian tsunami of 2004, which killed nearly 300,000 people, the Haiti earthquake of 2010, which killed over 200,000, or even the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland in 2010, which disrupted air travel for weeks.

But while there wasn’t a single iconic catastrophe, Mother Earth was still plenty busy in 2014. A volcano in Hawaii, a typhoon in the Philippines, wildfires in California and seven feet of snow in Buffalo—this year has witnessed its share of extreme weather and other natural disasters. The photos that follow are a reminder that when the Earth moves or the heavens strike, the results can be gorgeous to see—provided you’re not caught in the middle.

MORE: The most beautiful wildfire photos you’ll ever see

TIME weather

Tornadoes at a Record, Unexplained Low in U.S.

Double Tornadoes, Pilger, Nebraska, Weather
A pair of tornadoes barrel toward Pilger, Neb., on June 16. The twisters uprooted trees and flattened houses across the tiny village (pop. 352). Two residents, including a 5-year-old girl, died as a result of the storm. Eric Anderson—AP

Fewer twisters than in any three-year period since records began

The United States has seen a major lull in the number of tornadoes to strike in each of the past three years, fewer than any three-year period since accurate record-keeping commenced in the 1950s.

Tornadoes are rated EF-0, weakest, to EF-5, the strongest.

In an average year the U.S. sees roughly 500 tornadoes rated EF-1 or stronger. According to data from the Storm Prediction Center reported by USA Today, so far this year the country has seen just 348 EF-1 tornadoes. In 2012 there were 364 EF-1 or stronger tornadoes and 404 tornadoes of that strength or greater in 2013.

Scientists say there’s no consistent reason year to year for this stretch of calm but point to a similarly calm period in the 1980s.

Despite the decline in the number of tornadoes, deaths from the storms remain roughly around the annual average of 60 year on year—many fewer than the unusually high number of deaths from tornadoes in 2011: 553.

[USA Today]

TIME weather

Storm Brings Tornado to Los Angeles

The 'Pineapple Express' brought extreme weather to southern California Friday

The storm system dubbed a “Pineapple Express” swept through California Friday, triggering a tornado that tore off rooftops and felled trees in southern Los Angeles. The severe weather also brought rain that unleashed mudslides and prompted river rescues, and winds that knocked out power.

The National Weather Service confirmed that a small EF0 tornado — the smallest type of tornado with winds reaching 65 to 85 mph — touched down at about 9:20 a.m. Friday. The twister knocked down trees, blew out windows, damaged an apartment complex’s roof and the roofs of two homes and a steel billboard, NBC Los Angeles reported.

Read more from our partners at NBC News

TIME weather

Watch Surfers Take On 7-Foot Waves On Lake Tahoe

The "Pineapple Express" storm is roiling the lake's waters

A huge storm hit Northern California on Thursday and stirred up the waters of Lake Tahoe enough that surfers were able to catch waves on the lake’s shores.

According to the National Weather Service, the “Pineapple Express” storm (so-called for its Hawaiian origins) caused waves to hit around 7 feet, and conditions were considered “dangerous” for water activities. But that didn’t stop thrill-seekers from putting on their wetsuits and hitting the chilly waters. Surfing is normally only possible on the lake during storms like this.

[Mashable]

TIME weather

California Storm Hits South After Drenching North

"Pineapple Express" storm caused widespread flooding

LOS ANGELES — A dangerous storm that flooded Northern California freeways, kept thousands from work and school, and forced scores of evacuations moved into the southern part of the state, spreading light showers in the Los Angeles area that will intensify as Friday progresses.

Rain began falling on parts of the San Fernando Valley late Thursday night, and powerful winds that were pushing the storm southward caused power outages for thousands around Santa Barbara and other parts of the coast.

Precautionary evacuations brought on by fear of mudslides began at 10 p.m. in the Los Angeles suburb of Glendora, where the foothills were stripped bare by a major wildfire earlier this year.

Forecasters predicted winds would pick up speed as the storm moved further south.

Denise George, who sells boats in Marina Del Rey, said that was her main worry.

“We make sure the halyards are secure, the canvasses are fastened so nothing gets blown off or opened up, so yes we are battening down the hatches for sure,” George said.

On Thursday, the brunt of the storm and its torrential rains hit the San Francisco Bay Area and the surrounding region, pushing waterways toward flood stage, toppling trees, and cutting power to thousands.

“It’s a big storm, as we expected, and it’s headed south with very powerful winds and heavy rainfall,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Will Pi.

In Oregon, the winds proved deadly. A falling tree killed a homeless man who was sleeping on a trail, and a teenage boy died after a large tree fell on the vehicle in which he was riding, causing it to swerve and hit another tree.

Falling trees also injured a man in southwest Washington state, and a sixth-grader at an elementary school in Santa Cruz, California.

The system’s powerful winds temporarily knocked out power to more than 150,000 customers in western Washington state.

This “Pineapple Express” storm carried warm air and vast amounts of water in a powerful current stretching from Hawaii to the West Coast and up into the mountains, where gusts up to 140 mph blew through passes.

The current left San Francisco drenched but balmy, with 60-degree temperatures, about 5 degrees above average for this time of year.

Waves slammed onto waterfronts around the Bay Area, ferries were bound to their docks, airplanes were grounded and many schools and businesses told people to stay home.

The gusts made motorists tightly grip their steering wheels on the Golden Gate Bridge, where managers created a buffer zone to prevent head-on collisions by swerving cars.

The iconic suspension bridge is engineered to swing in cross winds, so “the concern we have right now is more about vehicles,” spokeswoman Priya David Clemens said.

Sonoma County authorities recommended that hundreds of people evacuate at least 300 homes in the lowest lying areas near the Russian River, which was expected to start overflowing overnight. Peak flooding in the towns of Guerneville and Monte Rio was anticipated by 10 a.m. Friday, forecasters said.

Authorities warned of minor flooding along the Sacramento River in Tehama County and Cache Creek in Yolo County.

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. crews worked to restore power to 110,000 people, down from 166,000 earlier Thursday.

There were multiple accidents on flooded roads, and several trees crunched cars. Interstate 5, California’s critical north-south thruway, was closed by flooding in the northern town of Weed. In Marin County, heavy rains washed out a portion of state Route 1.

Disembarking from a ferry in San Francisco, Malcolm Oubre said some people were overreacting.

“I know it’s a big storm supposedly, but they’re treating it like it’s a hurricane,” he said.

Teenagers drove trucks through a flooded Safeway parking lot to make waves for kayakers in Healdsburg as grocery shoppers trudged through several feet of water to get supplies.

East Coast kids revel in snow days, but closures are rare on the West Coast, so Thursday’s canceled classes were a novelty in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Sonoma and Santa Cruz County.

Surfers welcomed big, choppy swells from the same high seas that sent towering sprays of water airborne along breakfronts in San Francisco and Monterey.

Ski resorts in the northern Sierra Nevada — where schools and roads were closed by whiteout conditions and power outages — were hoping for 3 feet of snow once it all settles.

While rains were expected to continue through Friday evening across much of California, California’s farmers would need more storms this size to even begin to recover from a record drought.

TIME weather

A Rare Weather Phenomenon Is Causing a Sea of Clouds to Fill the Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon Clouds
This photo provided by the National Park Service shows dense clouds at the south rim of the Grand Canyon on Dec. 11, 2014 in Arizona. Maci MacPherson—;AP

The fog is able to stick and build up in the Grand Canyon when there is no wind

A rare weather phenomenon has caused the Grand Canyon to fill up with fog.

The weather pattern is called a “total cloud inversion” and occurs when clouds are forced down by warm air and cannot rise, the Associated Press reports.

Instead of the usual stunning views, visitors to the national park gaze out over a fluffy white blanket.

The National Weather Service in Arizona says the phenomenon happens every few years.

For those planning on visiting one of the world’s most famous natural wonders, the fog is expected to dissipate after Thursday.

[AP]

TIME

Storm Hitting California May Be Worst in 5 Years

Hurricane-force winds, sheets of rain and heavy snow in the mountains

A storm described as perhaps the strongest to hit California in five years barreled in from the Pacific Ocean on Thursday and hammered the state with all manner of weather misery — hurricane-force winds, sheets of rain and heavy snow in the mountains.

More than 200,000 customers lost power in and around San Francisco, including more than 80,000 when a power station was flooded.

Trees were toppled, cars crashed, and scattered flooding was reported. In Santa Cruz, an 80-foot tree fell and pinned an elementary school student for 15 minutes until rescuers freed him with chain saws. He was in good condition at a hospital…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME weather

Thousands Lose Power in San Francisco

California Storms
A bus passes through a flooded roadway on Dec. 11, 2014, in Mill Valley, Calif. Eric Risberg—AP

More than 50,000 affected by storm blackouts

The major storm moving through northern California is leaving a trail of power outages in its wake.

More than 21,000 PG&E customers were without power in San Francisco early Thursday morning, CBS reports, and there was no estimate of when the power will be restored. PG&E later said the outage was affecting more than 50,000 people.

The region is getting drenched by a storm that the National Weather Service predicted would be one of the area’s “strongest storms in terms of wind and rain” in five years. More than four inches of rain had already been reported in Sonoma County before dawn, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

TIME weather

A Powerful Storm Is Pounding Northern California

A massive system of moist moves across California's west coast. Weather forecast has dubbed it as the largest storm to hit the region since 2009. Dec. 11, 2014.
A massive system of moist moves across California's west coast. Weather forecast has dubbed it as the largest storm to hit the region since 2009. Dec. 11, 2014. Corbis

As much as 8 inches of rain could fall on coastal mountains over a 24-hour period

SAN FRANCISCO — A storm expected to be one of the windiest and rainiest in five years pushed across parts of Northern California early Thursday as schools canceled classes and residents stocked up on supplies.

Moderate rain and gusty winds hit the area north of San Francisco with heavier rain expected in the coming hours across the region, the National Weather Service said. The storm could also cause debris slides, especially in areas affected by this year’s intense and widespread wildfires. Big waves are expected along the coast.

As much as 8 inches of rain could fall on coastal mountains over a 24-hour period, the weather service said.

“It’s a short amount of time for that amount of water,” forecaster Diana Henderson said. “We are anticipating some localized flooding, maybe some downed trees and downed power lines. It could have an effect on a wide range of people.”

Meteorologist Charles Bell predicted that major elements of the storm would hit the San Francisco Bay area by late morning.

The storm is “going to be advancing toward the south through the day today,” Bell said Thursday. Winds were also picking up, he said, noting gusts of up to 50 mph were hitting some buoys off the coast.

Residents rushed to buy emergency supplies, with some stores running out of water, batteries and flashlights. Some cities announced on their Twitter accounts that they had no sandbags or sand left by Wednesday evening.

The Citrus Heights Police Department tweeted Wednesday: “Sandbag locations in CH are closed. All bags and sand has been taken. All sand & bags were taken in 3hr period.”

Ski resorts in the northern Sierra Nevada could get more than 2 feet of snow.

The storm is expected to later pound parts of Southern California before a weakening system moves east through Nevada, Idaho, Arizona and New Mexico. Those states could get rain and snow, but nothing like what California is expected to experience, forecasters say.

In San Francisco, where as much as 4 inches of rain was forecast, crews cleared storm drains and removed loose rocks from a hillside to prevent them from crashing down. Residents were advised to sweep up leaves and debris in front of their properties to prevent them from clogging drains.

“We have crews working starting tonight in 12-hour shifts,” said Rachel Gordon, a spokeswoman for San Francisco’s public works agency. “It will be all hands on deck.”

Public schools in several Bay Area cities, including San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley, and some private schools canceled Thursday’s classes.

Wind gusts of up to 70 mph were expected on mountain tops, creating possible blizzard conditions in the Sierra. Rain, pounding surf and gusty winds were forecast for Southern California starting Thursday evening.

The weather service issued a high-surf advisory from the Central Coast to Ventura County, saying “waves will over-top jetties and sea walls at times” and “will potentially wash into low-lying beach areas or parking lots.”

In California’s agricultural heartland, farmers were looking forward to the dousing after three consecutive dry years. Parts of the state have experienced above-average rainfall this year but not enough to make much of a dent in the drought.

James McFarlane, a third-generation farmer in Fresno County, said workers would have to stop picking citrus crops during the storm, but rain this time of year makes fruit bigger, allowing it to fetch higher prices.

“If we’re not getting some Mother-Nature-dictated time off out in the field, that probably means we’re going to have a hard time finding surface water in the warmer months,” he said.

The rain and the snow in the Sierra Nevada fill reservoirs that supply irrigation water during hot, dry months.

Farther north, a series of strong weather fronts with high winds and heavy rains could lead to flooding and landslides in western Washington.

The weather service expects as much as 14 inches of rain between Monday and Thursday in the Olympic Mountains west of Seattle.

Saturated soils will bring the risk of mudslides, while winds could topple trees.

High winds were also forecast in Oregon.

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