Tropical Storm Cindy Could Cause Major Flooding Across the Southeast This Week

A water vapor image of Tropical Storm Cindy on June 20, 2017. Darker green indicates higher moisture in the atmosphere.
A water vapor image of Tropical Storm Cindy on June 20, 2017. Darker green indicates higher moisture in the atmosphere.

The stewing heat and humidity of a young summer finally gave way to the first tropical cyclone to threaten the United States this year. Tropical Storm Cindy is gathering steam in the Gulf of Mexico this week, and it promises to bring heavy rains to just about everyone in the southeastern United States. It won’t be a strong storm when it makes landfall, but wind isn’t as much of a concern as the copious amounts of tropical moisture being dragged northward, culminating in lots of precipitation and the potential for flooding.

As of Wednesday, June 21, 2017, tropical storm warnings are in effect for parts of the Gulf Coast from areas west of Houston, Texas, to as far east as Pensacola, Florida. Tropical Storm Cindy had winds up to 60 mph at 8:00 a.m. EDT Wednesday morning, and forecasters expect the storm to maintain winds of around 50 mph as it nears landfall. Winds of 45 mph are what you'd see in a healthy thunderstorm, but constant blustery winds over wet soil will make it easier for trees and power lines to topple over.

The traditional hurricane forecasting map—showing the forecast track of the center of the storm with a cone of uncertainty sweeping along its expected path—doesn't do much good in this situation. Sure, some areas will see gusty winds and power outages, but the real story with Tropical Storm Cindy is its rain. Cindy is a lopsided tropical storm with almost all of its heavy rain and wind shoved off to the east of the low-pressure center by wind shear higher up in the atmosphere. That's common to see in a weak, early season storm like this. Cindy's heavy rain will extend far beyond the center of the storm due to its lopsidedness and large size, so the forecast tracks we're all used to seeing don't go far enough to cover the threat posed by this storm. (If you'd like to see for yourself, forecasts are always available on the National Hurricane Center's website.)

Rain forecasts for Tropical Storm Cindy
The Weather Prediction Center’s rainfall forecast from June 20, 2017, through June 27, 2017
Dennis Mersereau

Tropical Storm Cindy will produce rainfall totals in the double digits in some locations through the end of the week, and the moisture from its remnants will continue to track inland through the weekend. The Tuesday morning precipitation forecast from NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center called for a widespread area across the Southeast to see more than three inches of rain by the time the storm finally clears out of the picture at the end of the week. Moisture from a landfalling tropical system is usually bad enough, but this storm will run into a pesky stationary front draped across inland areas of the Southeast. This front will help wring out the moisture and make it rain harder and longer than it would have otherwise.

This much rain over a short period of time will lead to widespread flooding concerns. If you live in or are visiting affected areas, make sure you know more than one route to get to where you're going. More than half of all deaths in a tropical storm or hurricane are caused by drowning. It's impossible to tell how deep the water is on a road before you drive across it, and it takes a surprisingly small amount of moving water to lift a car and sweep it downstream.

Lake Michigan Has Frozen Over, and It's an Incredible Sight

Scott Olson, Getty Images
Scott Olson, Getty Images

A polar vortex has brought deadly temperatures to the Midwest this week, and the weather is having a dramatic effect on one of the region's most famous features. As the Detroit Free Press reports, parts of Lake Michigan have frozen over, and the ice coverage continues to grow.

The Lake Michigan ice extent has increased rapidly throughout January, starting around 1 percent on the first of the month and expanding to close to 40 percent by the end of the month. Yesterday was the coldest January 30 in Chicago history, with temperatures at O'Hare Airport dropping to -23°F. Even though it's frozen, steam can be seen rising off Lake Michigan—something that happens when the air above the lake is significantly colder than the surface. You can watch a stream of this happening from a live cam below.

Lake Michigan's ice coverage is impressive, as these pictures show, but it's still far from breaking a record. Though Lake Michigan has never frozen over completely, it came close during the winter of 1993 to 1994 when ice reached 95 percent coverage.

Midwestern states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, and Indiana aren't the only places that have been hit hard by the cold this winter. At the United States/Canada border, Niagara Falls froze to a stop in some spots, a phenomenon that also produced some stunning photographs.


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[h/t Detroit Free Press]

Why You Need to Keep Your Car's Gas Tank Full in Cold Weather

iStock.com/Chalabala
iStock.com/Chalabala

Schools, trains, and the U.S. Postal Service have shut down this week as a polar vortex brings negative double-digit temperatures to the Midwest. Even if residents won't be doing much traveling as long as the dangerous weather persists, they'd benefit from keeping a full tank of gas in their cars: According to the Detroit Free Press, it's an easy way to prevent fuel lines from freezing.

One common reason cars struggle to start in cold weather is blocked-up fuel lines. These tubes are thin, and if there's any moisture in them when temperatures drop to extreme levels, they can freeze, causing blockages that prevent fuel from flowing.

Gasoline, on the other hand, doesn't freeze as easily. It maintains its liquid state in subzero temperatures, like those currently hitting parts of the U.S., so when a gas tank is full, those fuel lines are better equipped to handle to the cold.

If you filled up your tank before the recent cold snap and your car still won't start, it may have something to do with your antifreeze levels. Your car's radiator needs water to work properly, and antifreeze is what keeps the water liquid when temperatures dip below 32°F.

Of course, if temperatures have already dropped to dangerous levels in your area, it's not worth it to drive to the gas station to refuel or run out to stock up on antifreeze. Instead, keep these car maintenance tips in mind for the next time an arctic blast rolls in to town. And when it is safe enough to drive again, resist heating up your engine in the driveway: Letting your car idle in the cold can actually shorten the engine's lifespan.

[h/t Detroit Free Press]

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