Thursday, February 21, 2013

Thursday Trekker - 2/21


Lake Frank - Montgomery County, MD
Miles of trails, wildlife, and a beautiful lake await you!


Lake Frank in autumn 2012. Photo by Kenny Lorber
Despite the vicinity to the bustling metro area, there are relatively large "islands" of wilderness nestled into the urban and suburban surroundings. Lake Frank, located in Rockville, MD is one of these islands. Access to the park is off of Avery Road or from the Meadowside Nature Center off of Muncaster Mill Road. The address for the nature center is 5100 Meadowside Lane Rockville, MD 20855. The nature center boasts a variety of educational activities (many geared towards younger visitors).

The flagship trail at Lake Frank is the "Lakeside Trail," which runs along the shoreline of the lake and a connected creek. About a third of the trail is paved, while the other two-thirds weave through the woods with occasionally steep terrain. For those wanting a bit of a more challenging trail, the "Old Nasty" trail connects with the Lakeside trail along the northern shore. Old Nasty is short but quite steep. There are various other trails that vary in difficulty within the park.

Visitors who park at the trailhead off of Avery Road are greeted by a steep incline that descends towards the dam. You will have a choice whether to start with the wilderness portion of the trail or the paved portion of the trail. Cross the dam first for the paved section, or take a left at a wooden post for the wilderness portion. If you complete the entire 3.23 mile circuit, you will have to cross a stream in the northern part of the park. This crossing may be difficult or impossible during times of high water. Overall, this walk is a bit challenging for people not accustomed to hiking, but an easy 3+ mile trail for seasoned hikers.

The road noise from nearby Norbeck Road is almost undetectable from within the park, and visitors are treated to a true wilderness setting while at Lake Frank. Weekdays provide the quietest park experience while weekends tend to show a spike in hikers and dog walkers. Just remember your trail manners!

Lake Frank pops out into brilliant color in the fall when the leaves begin to change. The water creates a wonderful foreground for photographers and casual observers alike. Once the leaves have fallen in winter, the lake itself is easily visible from almost all points on the trail (except where the trail follows the creek instead). Spring will feature flowers and trees blooming with an abundance of animals to observe as well.

Lake Frank in autumn 2012 from the southern shore. Photo by Kenny Lorber
It is strongly recommended that disabled and handicapped visitors access the park via Meadowside Nature Center due to the prohibiting terrain on the Avery Road side of the park.

Bikers can also access the trails at Lake Frank via the Rock Creek Hiker/Biker trail connector in the southern portion of the park. Using this connection, visitors can also access the Rock Creek trail system.

Lake Frank trail map available at
http://www.montgomeryparks.org/PPSD/ParkTrails/trails_MAPS/rock_creek.shtm

All in all, Lake Frank provides an incredible oasis away from the urban setting of the Washington area. It is a quiet place where everyone can enjoy the sound of running water, and the wind rustling through the trees. Make sure to pack water as there is only water available at Meadowside Nature Center. Pack light, though so you can fully enjoy the park and all it has to offer. Although locations like Sugarloaf Mountain in Comus, MD and the mountainous terrain of western Maryland are fairly close, Lake Frank provides a more easily accessible wilderness experience. The park is a good fit for people of all ages and lifestyles.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Washington Area Snow Drought

The official reporting station for Washington (DCA) has not recorded a 2-inch or larger snowfall in several years now. Will the streak be broken this winter, or will DC snow lovers have to wait until next winter for another shot?

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The last substantial winter storm to impact the Washington Metro area occurred on January 26, 2011. This was the infamous Commutageddon storm that stranded motorists during the evening rush hour that day. Approximately 5 inches of snow fell on the city during that storm, with significantly higher amounts in the suburbs in some cases.

Heavy snow accumulation during the January 26, 2011 storm.
With March fast approaching, many snow lovers in the area have been left to wonder if we will see another winter season end without a 2-inch or larger snowstorm. As it stands right now, various computer models are suggesting that a better pattern for snowfall may evolve as we head into the late February and early March period. However, given that every storm this winter so far has found a way to not come through for DC, the odds are likely against a big snowfall at this time.

It seems that the pattern of having systems that are either too warm, or contain too little precipitation will continue for now. There are several weather systems being depicted on the weather models at this time. That being said, the systems that are projected to impact the metro area are shown to not be favorable for a substantial snowfall (or any snowfall at all for that matter. Even so, weather is a constantly changing/shifting thing and the models might shift accordingly as we head into March. Still, March is a transition month where snow becomes less likely quite fast. If one were basing a prediction off of the historical records, DC has about until the middle of March to cash in.

The blue line indicates the 850mb freezing line. Note that it is well north of the area.
At this point in time, all that can be said is that the pattern may improve for a CHANCE of breaking the 2 inch snowfall streak. However, we are at a period when we are battling rising sun angles and warming average temperatures. The average low is above freezing at DCA now! Spring is heading into the area...we'll see if old man winter can get in one last blow.

Kenny Lorber is the creator of The Capital Region Pulse. He has had a strong interest in the weather and climate since he was a young child. To send in comments, questions or suggestions, send an email to capregpulse@gmail.com 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

1 Day, 5 Colors, 86 Stations, Countless Memories

Speaking out FOR the DC Metrorail System (Part 1)
An unusual point of view about Washington's iconic rapid transit system

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This is the first part in a multi-part series about the positives of the WMATA rail system in the Washington area. The author is not an employee of WMATA and the opinions represented in this series are his own.

***

Thank goodness all of the cars we rode in had cool A/C!

On a seasonably hot day late last July, a relatively new friend and I set out on a journey to traverse the entire Metro system in Washington. There was no particular reason to take on such a task, but others had done it in the past and we happened to have an open day. So a few days prior, the plan had been finalized to meet at the Rosslyn station.

I parked my car at Glenmont and shuffled down the escalator with the typical mix of DC office workers and students. The night before, I had loaded an unlimited day pass onto my Smartrip card in preparation for this adventure. The turnstile registered the pass and I settled into a window seat on the train. Before long, the train lurched to life and began its journey towards Shady Grove (the western terminus of the Red Line).

After a transfer at Metro Center, I arrived to a hazy or smokey platform at Rosslyn. It also appeared that the power was out to about half the station. It was stuffy and rather uncomfortable in the station but the crowd exiting and entering trains seemed content. After exchanging a few text messages with Megan, (my adventure partner) we determined that the new meeting place would be Vienna.

From Vienna we traveled the entire length of the Orange Line until the train terminated in New Carrollton. Megan had been asleep for a portion of this leg of the trip. The train gathered a larger crowd as it approached the downtown area, and predictably the crowd tampered off significantly as we exited the city on the other side. One thing I noticed was how cheerful and enthusiastic the train operator sounded on this line. He seemed genuinely happy to be a WMATA employee on this summer morning.

Amtrak was rolling through New Carrollton as we waited for our train to depart.

From New Carrollton we returned to the Stadium-Armory station to head out to Largo Town Center on the Blue Line. Methodically, we checked stations off our lists and progressed through the system in an efficient manner. We got some strange looks from station employees at times (especially when our farecards refused to allow us to exit a station at one point). Nobody seemed to understand why anybody would want to devote 8 hours to riding on public transportation.

Throughout the adventure, one thing I noticed was that despite there being many types of people entering and exiting the trains we were on...the common trait was that we were all Metro riders. There was no point where I felt unsafe (even in some of the more sketchy areas). Surprisingly, we encountered no delays (save for a 1 or 2 minute stop on a part of the Red Line). Perhaps we got lucky? With that said, I seem to always get lucky when riding on this rail system. Perhaps it's the fact that I'm never a quick person to get impatient. I realize that I may be skewed from not having to ride Metro in an effort to get to a job or commitment. However, I think it's important that Metro riders take a moment to appreciate how much this system has expanded to cover more and more people since the opening in March of 1976.

My adventure partner Megan has put together a nice video of our trip last July.

Metro Challenge: July 30th, 2012 from Megan Buche on Vimeo.

We'll take a further look at some of the things that WMATA does right on their rail system in the next installment of this series.

***

Kenny Lorber is the creator of The Capital Region Pulse. If you have comments, suggestions or questions you may email the author at capregpulse@gmail.com

Sunday, October 28, 2012

SANDY COVERAGE + LIVE BLOGGING

SANDY SMACKS DC AREA
EXTREME CONDITIONS EXPECTED

Hurricane Sandy will severely impact the DC Metro area beginning tonight, and extending into the day tomorrow. Adverse conditions are expected until Tuesday. Widespread power outages are anticipated due to the heavy rainfall and damaging winds. Please check in at this LIVE blog for continuing updates!

06:15pm Monday (10/29/12)

*WORST WINDS NEXT 6-12 HOURS
*HEAVY RAINFALL CONTINUES
*POWER OUTAGES SPIKING

The winds continue to increase in intensity across the area. Lots of reports of damage have already been coming across via Twitter, Facebook and other methods of communication. Expect more damage to continue occurring through the night.

Fun fact: Local weather observing stations are closing in on their all-time record low pressure readings. They should attain those records in the next few hours as the center of the storm tracks inland and near the region.

Just about everything is shutdown tonight and tomorrow.

Feel free to submit your damage reports/photos.

04:15pm Monday (10/29/12)

*STRONG WINDS STILL INCREASING*
*SANDY NEARING LANDFALL*

Sandy is moving at a rather quick pace towards the west and north. The storm will make landfall somewhere near Cape May, NJ or possibly in Delaware at this rate. The exact landfall location will have very little impact on our sensible weather. We continue to anticipate very heavy rainfall and very damaging winds tonight.

Check out this radar image of the center of circulation moving towards the coastline.

Radar image of the circulation heading towards the east coast. 
Power outages continue to rise in the area. So far, the outages have been fairly slow to rise in the PEPCO region. At this time, the highest outage concentration is in PG County in Maryland. Outside of PEPCO, there are high numbers of outages in the Baltimore area as well.

Winds could gust upwards of 80mph tonight. DO NOT be outside during the height of the storm.

PEPCO outages as of 4pm



02:30pm Monday (10/29/12)

*POWER OUTAGES RISING*
*WINDS INCREASING IN INTENSITY*

The rain and wind continues around the DC area. Most area school systems have just announced closures for tomorrow. Montgomery Co. Schools in Maryland announced that admin offices will be CLOSED tomorrow as well.

Wind gusts are really cranking up areawide at this time. Some gusts in excess of 50mph are being estimated in the area. The winds will peak between 6pm tonight and 6am tomorrow morning. Wind gusts may approach 80mph in spots.

The National Weather Service has posted a BLIZZARD WARNING now for closer in counties like Shenandoah (hidden from map due to Flood Warning). See the latest warning map below -

Bright red is Blizzard Warning. Green is Flood Warning. Some warnings may be obscured.
Also, here is a look at a recent radar image taken from GR2Analyst. Notice that there is plenty of rain all around the area. No chance to dry out any time soon. 

No escaping the rain today in the Mid-Atlantic region. Winds are also on the increase. 


ALL MONTGOMERY COUNTY PARKS ARE CLOSED. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO USE PARKS OR FACILITIES. 

This is an extremely dangerous situation. Conditions will rapidly worsen into the evening. Nobody should be out on the roads during this portion of the storm. There have already been fatal crashes reported in the area. If you opt to go out, you are endangering yourself and potential rescuers. You may also be hit by flying debris. 

THE TIME FOR PREPARATION HAS ENDED. TAKE SHELTER NOW AND DO NOT GO OUTSIDE. TREES WILL FALL AND POWER WILL FAIL IN MANY AREAS.


02:00pm Monday (10/29/12)

CONDITIONS WILL RAPIDLY DETERIORATE THIS AFTERNOON AND THIS EVENING. 

Wind gusts are now approaching 50mph in many locations around the DC area. Expect these gusts to increase in intensity. Sustained winds will also rise in speed. Significant power outages will begin to occur quickly. Nobody should be out on the roads - there have been a few fatal accidents already today. DO NOT USE THE ROADWAYS. There is NO MASS TRANSIT operating in the Washington, DC Metro area.

Wind gusts may approach 80mph tonight.

POWER OUTAGE NUMBERS:

PEPCO = 877-737-2662
BGE= 877-778-2222
SMECO = 877-747-6326
Dominion = 866-366-4357
Delmarva = 800-898-8042
Delmarva = 800-898-8045

01:45pm Monday (10/29/12)

Power outage map for Maryland as of 1:45ish PM ET



11:45am Monday (10/29/12)

Hurricane Sandy has continued to intensify this morning. The central pressure is now down into the lower 940mb range. There is a slight chance that the storm will intensify to a category two storm before making landfall. This is an extremely serious situation. You can see from the satellite image below that the storm is producing new convection over the center of circulation.

The orange/red colors are new areas of storms near the center.
This is a verifying factor in seeing that the storm is still intensifying over water. Extremely heavy rainfall will continue to impact the area. Just about every (if not all) transit services are shutdown over large parts of the northeastern seaboard. Additionally, most schools are closed in the area as well.

Recent visible satellite image of Sandy. 



09:30am Monday (10/29/12)

Just a quick update as clarification - The pier that was destroyed overnight in Ocean City, MD was the fishing pier. The carnival type pier is still intact at last check.

Here's a look at a recent satellite image of Sandy as she turns back towards the east coast. Stay safe!

Hurricane Sandy intensified somewhat overnight. VERY dangerous storm on the way. 


08:40am Monday (10/29/12)

BREAKING NEWS:

An official from Ocean City, MD confirms that the downtown pier was destroyed overnight as Hurricane Sandy lashed the coastline. At this time the boardwalk is underwater and further damage is likely if not certain.

DEVELOPING STORY:

Flooding now reported on Conn Ave. between Woodley Park and Cleveland Park. Avoid this area, and DO NOT try to cross flooded roadways. Remember - Turn around, don't drown.

08:30am Monday (10/29/12)

The boardwalk at Ocean City, MD is underwater. Their situation down there will only get worse with time this morning. As mentioned in a previous update, the Fishing Pier in OC may collapse this morning.

Webcam from OC, MD this morning.


08:00am Monday (10/29/12)

EMERGENCY WEATHER MESSAGE -

Hurricane Sandy is already throwing copious amounts if rainfall back into the DC area. Some roads are already closed, and most (if not all) flights into and out of the area have been canceled. All Amtrak service in the area has been suspended along the NE Corridor. There is also no mass transit in the area. Most trash collections in the area have also been suspended.

The time for preparation is OVER. Prepare at once for extreme conditions and potentially life threatening wind gusts. The strong winds, combined with the heavy rainfall will cause the potential for millions of power outages in the metro areas. Wind gusts on the bay could reach 85mph in spots.

This is an emergency situation. The Capital Region Pulse will be LIVE on BlogTalkRadio beginning at 9am ET for weather coverage.

06:45am Monday (10/29/12)

Sandy has begun to turn back towards the coast at this hour. It is now only a matter of time before conditions really take a turn for the worst. The Capital Region Pulse cannot stress enough how bad of situation this is going to be. If you were in an evacuation zone and did not evacuate, you have placed yourself and your family at risk. Many locales may cut off emergency response as well if you refused to evacuate.

The wind field associated with Sandy is INCREDIBLE -

Just look at the vast amount of area the winds cover. 
This is by no means a "light" situation. Many areas will probably be federal disaster areas by the time this is over. There are also reports that the ocean water is touching the boardwalk in OC, MD at this time. Additionally, reports were received last night that the Fishing Pier in OC is in danger of collapsing today. 

The time to shop at the store is OVER. DO NOT travel if at all possible during this storm. There is a real risk for flying debris and major flooding. DO NOT drive through a flooded roadway. You may end up with no other options for escape.

Winds will increase to 35-45mph SUSTAINED. Gusts will exceed 70mph in spots (especially near the bay). 

The National Weather Service local warning map this morning.
Most (if not all) schools are closed around the area. The federal government is also closed. Most county services have been shutdown and transit services are also not operating today. Most people DO NOT HAVE AN EXCUSE to be out and about today. This is NOT a normal storm. TAKE SHELTER NOW!



06:00am Monday (10/29/12)

The Hurricane Hunter aircraft has found Sandy to be intensifying overnight. The central pressure is at 941mb and maximum sustained winds are up to 85mph. Additionally, heavy rainfall is beginning to overspread the entire DC area. The heaviest rain is still to the east, however. The National Weather Service has increased the wind gust potential - some areas could see gusts of 75-80mph.

This is a VERY serious situation - DO NOT TRAVEL today.

11:05pm Sunday (10/28/12)

And so it begins...

Around 1,600 customers are without power in the state of Maryland tonight as Sandy approaches. The Capital Region Pulse will continue to provide updated information as the night goes on.

Ocean City, MD is reporting that the Fishing Pier may collapse during the next high tide cycle.

10:40pm (Sunday (10/28/12)

Delaware Governor Jack Markell has ordered that no one will be allowed on Delaware roads after 5:00 a.m. Monday except for emergency and essential personnel.
09:55pm Sunday (10/28/12)

Radar shows that rainfall is continuing to develop and move into the immediate metro areas. This trend will continue. Additionally, winds will continue to gradually increase through the night. The true damaging winds may not be present until tomorrow morning.

Radar around 09:50pm ET - Sandy is well out into the Atlantic right now. 


09:20pm Sunday (10/28/12)

So far, there have been NO reports of damage in the immediate metro area. Earlier, there was an unrelated tree branch that fell onto two vehicles in Glover Park.

If you see damage where you live, report it to the National Weather Service. Additionally, you may send damage reports to us via the comment section or via Facebook/Twitter. If you have storm photos that you would like to share, submit them to capregpulse@gmail.com - We might post them with your permission!

09:00pm Sunday (10/28/12)

Capital Bikeshare in DC will cease operations due to Sandy at 1:00am tonight. Although...I don't see why it would be a good idea to ride a bike in these conditions.

Another thing to note is that DC parking enforcement has been suspended for tomorrow due to the closure of the government. I would strongly recommend staying off the roads after midnight tonight. With Sandy beginning her turn, it is only a matter of time before adverse conditions begin to overspread the area. There was already some minor coastal flooding reported along the bay in spots.

08:50pm Sunday (10/28/12)

Notice on the following satellite image the storm beginning to take a bit of a northerly turn. This movement was expected. This will eventually turn the storm towards the coast.

Shortwave-Infrared satellite loop of Sandy. 


08:45pm Sunday (10/28/12)

Some light rain has developed across the area. For eastern parts of the area (Eastern Shore etc), heavy rainfall has been ongoing for a good part of the day. Breezy conditions are present - especially to the east of the metro areas. However, this wind is expected to gradually pick up overnight.

Most area school systems are closed, along with many local governments. Additionally, the federal government will be closed. See the OPM website for details on the closure.

WMATA will suspend all operations after closing tonight. There will be no Metrobus, Metrorail, or MetroAccess service tomorrow. MARC trains will also not operate. The same can be said for VRE trains and many Amtrak trains in the Northeast Corridor.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Extreme Storm Threatens East Coast

HURRICANE SANDY
THURSDAY UPDATE

All eyes are on Hurricane Sandy in the Bahamas today. Sandy has the potential to bring extremely hazardous conditions to portions of the east coast of the United States in the coming days. At this time, it appears as though the computer models are converging on a solution where the storm "hooks" back into the coast somewhere between MD/VA and New England. Exactly where this hook happens will determine the exact conditions at various locations. 

With that said, large portions outside of the exact center of the storm will see severe weather conditions. Coastal areas where the wind blows onshore for prolonged periods will see moderate to potentially severe coastal flooding. The cyclones wind fields will expand greatly allowing for potentially damaging winds far outside of the center of circulation. Heavy rainfall will also cause inland flooding.

Residents in the DC area (and areas of the Northeastern United States) should begin to prepare for flooding and potential long term power outages. This storm poses a unique situation that is extremely rare in meteorological terms. The Capital Region Pulse will continue to provide updates as the situation unfolds. Our team is committed to providing up to date coverage of this potentially dangerous storm system.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

HEAT ADVISORY IN EFFECT

The National Weather Service has issued a *HEAT ADVISORY* for today! Hot and humid conditions will reign over the region today. During the heat of the day, the heat index (how hot it feels) could approach or reach 105 degrees. It's important to stay in a cool place during the heat of the day, and to drink plenty of fluids - even when you are not thirsty.
The areas in orange are under the heat advisory. 

The heat will continue tomorrow with similar conditions expected. The Pulse would like to remind everyone to stay cool and safe today during the hot conditions.