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NASA
NASA

Snowpocalypse 2016 Has Begun

NASA
NASA

What is sure to be remembered as the Blizzard of 2016 is in full swing across the East Coast this afternoon as the storm winds its way through the Carolinas and heads for the Atlantic Ocean, where it will rev up into a powerful nor’easter. Blizzard warnings are in effect from the Washington D.C. metro area through New York City and Long Island, and winter storm warnings stretch west all the way to the Mississippi River. Heavy snow is on its way, and the storm will likely land in the record books by the end of this weekend. 

Total forecast snowfall, in inches, from the National Weather Service as of 10:00 AM EST January 22, 2016. Image credit: NWS EDD

This is a complex storm with lots of moving parts, but the headline hazard is the extremely heavy snow getting ready to bury communities from Virginia to New York. A foot or more of snow is likely from Virginia to New Jersey, with 2 to 3 feet possible in western/northern Virginia and throughout the Washington D.C. area. New York City and its suburbs will be on the northern edge of the storm, where snowfall totals are a little more uncertain, but forecasters seem confident in predicting 12 to 18 inches of snow in and around the country’s most populous city.

Snow has begun to fall in Washington D.C., and it should descend in the evening hours in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and reach New York City overnight on Friday. The snow will end on Saturday night and Sunday morning from south to north.

Not only are we dealing with heavy snow, but the wind will play a major role in this storm as we head into Friday night and Saturday morning. A blizzard warning is in effect for the cities lining Interstate 95 from northern Virginia through New York City in anticipation of strong winds and blowing snow leading to whiteout conditions. A blizzard is defined as 35+ mph winds creating blowing snow that limits visibility to one-quarter of a mile for at least three hours, creating a life-threatening, highly disorienting whiteout.

The strong winds will also coincide with a full moon, so high tides are expected to run 2 to 4 feet above average. Coastal flooding is a real concern for coastal communities in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, so if you live along the coast, prepare for flooding on top of wintry precipitation and very strong winds.

Total forecast ice accretion, in inches, from the National Weather Service as of 11:00 AM EST January 22, 2016. Image credit: NWS EDD

Snow isn’t the only concern with this storm. Warmer air along the southern edge of the low-pressure system is leading to an icy mess across the Carolinas today. The snow is mixing with freezing rain and sleet (ice pellets) in northern North Carolina, which is compacting the snow into a dangerous concoction of partially frozen slush, and freezing rain is entombing parts of North and South Carolina with a thick crust of solid ice. Some communities along Interstate 85 from Greenville, South Carolina, through Raleigh, North Carolina—including Charlotte—could see a half-inch to an inch of ice from freezing rain, which has the potential to cause extreme damage. Significant tree damage and power outages are likely in towns that see major ice accretion.

The weather models have done an excellent job with this storm, locking in on the greatest hazards nearly a week ago, giving forecasters confidence to warn the public well ahead of time. This is one storm where nobody can honestly claim they were taken off guard. The models have gone so far as to predict extreme amounts of snow in the Washington D.C. area, in particular—so much so that the city could rival its all-time snowfall record if the storm lives up to what the models show could happen.

The most snow ever recorded in one storm in Washington D.C. was 28 inches back in January 1922 during the Knickerbocker blizzard. The city’s official recording station is now located at Reagan National Airport just across the Potomac River in Arlington, Virginia, and if that station records more than 20 inches of snow, it will claim the second spot on the city’s list of biggest snowstorms. Washington D.C.’s suburbs often get much more snow, and the biggest storm ever recorded at Dulles International Airport—located in suburban Virginia about 25 miles west of the city—was 32 inches back in February 2010. It’s unlikely that Dulles Airport will see its heaviest snow ever recorded, but it’s possible that this could be its second largest on record. 

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MegaSecur, YouTube
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Design
The Self-Deploying Flood Barrier That Could Keep Cities Dry Without Sandbags
MegaSecur, YouTube
MegaSecur, YouTube

For many places in the world, the future is going to be wet. Climate change is already intensifying heavy rains and flooding in parts of the U.S., and it’s only expected to get worse. A recent study estimated that by 2050, more than 60 million people in the U.S. would be vulnerable to 100-year floods.

Some cities plan to meet rising waters with protective parkland, while some architects are developing floating houses. And one company has figured out how to replace piles of sandbags as emergency flood control, as Business Insider reports. Water-Gate, a line of flood protection products made by a Canadian company called MegaSecur, is a self-deploying water barrier that can be used to stop overflowing water in its tracks.

The emergency dam is made of folded canvas that, when water rushes into it, inflates up to become a kind of pocket for the water to get trapped in. You can roll it out across a street, a canal, or a creek like a giant hose, then wait for the water to arrive. In the event of a flash flood, you can even deploy it while the flood is already in progress. It can stop waters that rise up to five feet.

According to MegaSecur, one Water-Gate dam can replace thousands of sandbags, and once the floodwaters have receded, you can fold it back up and use it again. Sadly, based on the flood projections of climate change scientists, heavy flooding will soon become more and more common, and that will make reusable flood barriers necessary, saving time and money that would otherwise be spent buying, stacking, and getting rid of sandbags. The auto-deployment also means that it can be used by a single person, rather than a team of laborers. It could just as easily be set up outside a house by a homeowner as it could be set up on a city street by an emergency worker.

As climate change-related proposals go, it sounds a little more feasible than a floating house.

[h/t Business Insider]

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Weather Watch
Thanks to Desert Dust, Eastern Europe Is Covered in Orange Snow
iStock
iStock

Certain areas of Eastern Europe are starting to look a bit like Mars. Over the last few days, snowy places like Sochi, Russia have experienced an unusual snowfall that coated mountains in orange powder, according to the BBC.

The orange snow was the result of winds blowing sand from the Sahara east to places like Moldova, Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, and Russia. The sand mixes with precipitation to form orange-tinted snow. According to the BBC, the phenomenon occurs semi-regularly, turning snow orange about once every five years, but this year is especially sandy. As a result, skiers are navigating slopes that look like they're from a different world, as you can see in the video below from The Guardian.

The Sahara rarely gets snow, but when it does, the landscape can look somewhat similar, as you can see in this image of the Atlas mountains in Morocco.

Instagram is currently filled with photos and videos from Eastern Europe featuring the odd-looking snow. Check out a few samples below.

[h/t BBC]

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