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Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Archive for June 2013

Torrential Downpours Expected Over East Coast This Week, Flash Flooding Likely

Originally posted this in jaundice. Often forget that lots of you guys don’t go there anymore, so I figured I’d post it here. Oh, and hi! Long time no see.

A ribbon of deep tropical moisture is forecast to sweep across the east coast for the next week, leading to the potential for major rainfall totals and the potential for flash flooding for much of the east coast.

Precipitable water (PWAT) is a measure of how much rain would fall (in inches) if all the moisture in the atmosphere fell as rain all at once. The higher the PWAT value, the more moisture in the atmosphere, and the more rain would fall. PWAT values reaching 2.0″ is indicative of the presence of deep tropical moisture. These maps are a good way to predict how heavy rain will be in a thunderstorm. Higher PWAT values indicate the potential for torrential downpours, especially since the thunderstorms will be slow moving or stalled.

A deep ridge of high pressure over the Atlantic Ocean will serve as an atmospheric sump pump for Central America, sucking deep tropical moisture from near the Equator straight up to the northern Atlantic, as witnessed in the images below.

These are forecast precipitable water (PWAT) maps from this morning’s run of the GFS model, valid for later this afternoon and tomorrow afternoon, respectively. These maps will look pretty much the same straight through at least Wednesday.

This afternoon:

Tomorrow afternoon:

As the high over the Atlantic strengthens throughout the week, the ribbon of tropical moisture will tilt a bit, spreading into the Deep South and covering more of New England.

Here’s the forecast PWAT map for Friday morning:

Here’s a GFS forecast sounding from eastern North Carolina very early Tuesday morning. This is a SKEW-T/Log-P chart (a sounding) showing the temperature, dew point, and wind through a slice of the atmosphere. This is the same type of chart produced from the data collected by weather balloons, only this is a model forecast.

The red line is the air temperature, and the green line is the dew point. The fact that you can’t tell them apart (the dew point is more or less equal to the temperature) means that the atmosphere is 100% saturated — a testament to the amount of moisture in the atmosphere.

This deep tropical moisture mixed with the typical summertime pop-up thunderstorm regime will lead to potential flash flooding for everyone from Florida to Maine. The Weather Prediction Center/WPC (formerly the Hydrometeorological Prediction Center/HPC) issues quantitative precipitation forecasts (QPF) for up to a week out, showing how much rain they expect to fall across the country.

Their QPF (rainfall forecast) for the next 7 days reflects the deep tropical moisture — showing 8″ of rain in the Big Bend of Florida, with pockets of 5″ of rain over parts of the southeastern United States. The WPC mentions in their discussion that even these high rainfall totals could be a “conservative estimate” given the ample moisture in the region.

The National Weather Service uses flash flood guidance maps to determine the risk for flash flooding in each county/parish in the United States. By determining the moisture content of the soil in a certain area, the NWS can determine how much rain needs to fall over a 1, 3, 6, 12, or 24 hour period to create a flash flood. The more moisture present in the soil, the less rain will absorb into the ground, and the more will run off. If enough rain falls fast enough and runs off without absorbing, it could result in a flash flood.

Take the current flash flood guidance for the DC area (shown above) as an example. The colors in each county corresponds to the amount of rain that needs to fall in one hour to produce flash flooding. DC proper and Arlington County only need to see 1″/hour of rain to see flash flooding, mainly because they’re densely populated urban areas. They have more concrete/asphalt than soil, so it’s much easier for the rain to run off instead of absorb into the ground. Fairfax County needs to see 2.0″/hour for potential flash flooding. Prince William needs 2.25″/hour. Places like Fauquier and Culpeper Counties to the west of DC need extremely heavy rainfall — 2.75″/hour — since they’re relatively rural counties with extensive farmland and fields to absorb the rain.

If thunderstorms stall over an area or start training (one thunderstorm after the other moves over the same areas, like a train on tracks) over a longer period of time, it would require more rain to produce a potential flash flood. Thus, the 3 hour flash flood guidance is higher than the 1 hour, the 6 hour higher than the 3 hour, and so on.

Here’s a current example of thunderstorms training southwest of Charlottesville, VA.

It’s worth noting that it will require much less rainfall over places like Pennsylvania and New England to produce flash flooding due to the copious amounts of rain these areas have seen in recent days. For instance, in almost all of Vermont, it will only take about 1.5″ of rain falling in a 3 hour time frame to produce flash flooding.

You can check out flash flood guidance for every state in the country at this link.

Almost half of all flash flood deaths occur in vehicles. Cars can be swept away by less than two feet of moving flood water. People can be swept away by just 6 inches of moving water. You can’t tell how deep the water is, even if you think you know how deep it is. Heed the NWS’ saying: “turn around, don’t drown.” It’s your own damn fault if you do. Don’t risk the lives of the people who have to swim out there to rescue you.

It’s summer. Torrential summertime downpours are common. But this is expected to be a prolonged event with lots of very high rainfall totals. These storms will also be slow-moving or stalled over one area. Flash flooding is likely, especially where the storms set up and train or stall, and even more so in New England where the soil is already saturated from recent heavy rains. Pay attention to your local National Weather Service office for potential flash flood alerts.

UPDATE: The National Weather Service has issued flash flood watches for the counties shaded in green. Active flash flood warnings are the dark red polygons. Expect more of these watches to be issued as the week progresses.

Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader? (Voting Rights Edition)

Are you smarter than a 5th grader? This was the question posed by Jeff Foxworthy’s (the “you might be a redneck if….” comedian) trivia game show. As viewers quickly learned, no, most of the contestants were NOT smarter than a 5th grader. Facts of history, geography, grammar and more had long slipped from their memories…while the same facts remained fresh in the minds of the 5th grade kids.

 photo smarter-5th-grader.jpg

The show was mildly entertaining…the contestants were playing for money and the kids seemed to be having a good time. Whether one was as ‘smart’ as a 5th grader or not really didn’t matter, it was a game show, everyone was having fun.

Not so in 1960’s Louisiana…where whether or not you could prove yourself smarter than a 5th grader directly affected your right to vote.

At least, that is, if you were Black.

FreedomWorks Is Sounding the Alarm and Sinking Nearly $8M into … Texas

In the midst of Texas state Senator Wendy Davis’ epic filibuster of SB 5 on Tuesday evening, GOP strategists apparently decided it was time to leak their plans to counter Democrats’ efforts to turn Texas back to blue (my emphasis):

Battleground Texas logo photo BattlegroundTexaslogo_zps8a701385.jpgThe conservative outside group FreedomWorks has drawn up plans to spend nearly $8 million mobilizing and expanding the GOP base in Texas, in a move to counter state and national Democratic efforts to make the state more electorally competitive, POLITICO has learned.

In a twelve-page internal strategy document obtained by POLITICO, FreedomWorks says that the Republican Party should be alarmed in particular by the Democratic group Battleground Texas, which several Obama campaign officials founded this year with the mission of organizing liberal-leaning constituencies that currently vote at below-average rates.

Several weeks ago, Steve Munisteri, Chairman of the Republican Party of Texas, announced that they will receive help from the national GOP, which is an indication of how seriously the Republicans are taking the threat that BGTX poses to their continued control of Texas. It’s the equivalent of national Democrats’ spending large amounts in California, or even New York.  

Munisteri has also vowed to raise 10 times as much as Battleground Texas:

“They talk about they’re going to be putting tens of million into Battleground Texas,” said Munisteri. “If there ever were a significant threat because somebody put $20 million in, our business community would probably spend that on Republicans by a factor of several-fold; $75 million was raised just from Texas for Romney. None of that money was spent in the state. Over a six-year period, the RNC raised $41 million in Texas and spent about $400,000. Those dollars can easily flow back the other way if we need them, so if they spend $10 million, we can spend $100 million.”

If so, for a national Democratic donor that would mean for every dollar spent in Texas, Republicans would spend $10, money they wouldn’t be spending elsewhere. That’s not a bad return on investment.

The Republican Party of Texas is going to need all the help they can get from the Koch brothers via FreedomWorks as well as from their national party, but it still isn’t going to be enough. There are approximately 200 volunteers in the inaugural group of Battleground Texas Summer Fellows, and we have been organizing and registering voters all over our state. Every single day.  

Out the Back Window: Survival 101

We go for walks several times a week. There are often interesting things to note along the way. Sometimes we bring the camera. This time, we are glad we did. Nature is always showing scenes of the struggle for survival. The most fit or adapted will usually succeed. Here are a few examples of this principle.


We had to study this scene up close for a minute before we really grasped what we saw. The half-mouse was strange enough to see. But, the Brown Harvestman feeding on it was an odd sight. It looks like it has eaten half a mouse. Something had killed the mouse and eaten the front half. The Harvestman was an opportunist in the right place at the right time. It was getting some nourishment. By the way, the Brown Harvestman is not a spider and does not have very deadly venom.

I want to see more of this story of survival.

A Revealing Story About Russia’s Mind-Set

By: inoljt,

Sometimes the least noticed things show something quite revealing.

Such is the case with a recent Times story. This story, titled “Russian Official Suggests Weapon Caused Exploration Spacecraft’s Failure,” was one of those stories which people read and then forget in a few days. It didn’t deal with an important event, it wasn’t followed up by any other stories, and it didn’t involve an issue that tugs at people’s emotions.

More below.

How rejecting Obamacare advances the Gay Agenda

The title is, of course, ironic, but after reading about Chris Cristie’s rejection of Medicaid Expansion under Obamacare for New Jersey, and considering that in light of his position opposing marriage equality in New Jersey, I began to think about the linkage between these two seemingly distinct issues.

While watching the NewsHour’s excellent coverageof the SCOTUS decision in US v. Windsor to throw out Section 3 of DOMA,  I found this quote from Kathleen Sibelius :

Today’™s Supreme Court decision finding the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional is a victory for equality, which is a core belief of this administration. It is also a victory for families, especially those children whose parents’ legal same sex marriages can now be recognized under federal law.

As a result of today’s ruling, the federal government is no longer forced to discriminate against legally married same sex couples. The Supreme Court’™s decision on DOMA reaffirms the core belief that we are all created equal and must be treated as equal. The Department of Health and Human Services will work with the Department of Justice to review all relevant federal statutes and ensure this decision is implemented swiftly and smoothly.

Our Promises…

This week had important news impacting many people regarding our promises to each other.

First concerned the SCOTUS ruling striking down an important provision of the voting rights bill. The citizens of this country rely on the right to vote promised by our constitution. Protection of that right has been needed many times, and still is. We can’t allow the promise to be broken for certain groups in our population. Diligence is needed.

Second concerned the affirmation of the promises two loving people make to each other in the bond of marriage. The two SCOTUS rulings are welcome. Last evening, we watched our favorite show as it highlighted the marriage in CA of two plaintiffs in the case, Kris Perry and Sandy Stier. That was followed by the live broadcast of the marriage of the other two plaintiffs, Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo. Tears welled up in our eyes. The promises we make privately, and those we make publicly, are essential threads in the fabric of our societies around the world. Many devoted and loving people are going to become parts of that colorful fabric in CA soon. Many more in other states should follow. It is important.

Third concerned the promise exchanged between our military and those who serve for our protection. The military leaders expressed support for removing DOMA prior to the ruling this week. They understood the difficulties and contradictions faced when certain groups within their ranks were treated unequally. They knew the importance to our peace and future security also rests in the equal treatment of all of our citizens, especially those who promise to defend and support with their lives if needed. They felt in an untenable situation. They appear to be leaders in this just cause.

The progress this week was positive movement overall. We need to continue. We promise to help make that happen and gladly join our friends here and elsewhere, neighbors, families, and leaders to that end.

Jim and Melanie