First Alert Weather Alert: Flood Warning expires at 8:00 PM on 4/28, issued at 10:03 AM Bryceville, FL | Callahan, FL | Fernandina Beach, FL | Glen Saint Mary, FL

Developing Storm System... Pine Pollen... California Drought, NASA Visualization Award

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Updated: 2/19 10:50 pm
A fast-developing storm over the Midwest Thu. will turn into a monster low pressure system near & north of the Great Lakes by Thu. night/Fri.  The low will push a cold front to the east coast & through the First Coast Fri.  So Thu. will be another warm day with a mix of high clouds & sun.  By Fri. morning, temps. will be warm but clouds will be increasing & thickening.  Rain -- + a few rumbles of thunder -- should move into Waycross & Lake City by mid to late morning.... & into Jacksonville late morning/early afternoon.
It still looks like the front will be far enough south Sat. so that the day begins mostly dry but with some afternoon showers... with scattered showers continuing Sunday.  Temps. will be in the 60s & 70s.

The rain will be good news for our high pine pollen counts.  Pine problem will remain a problem -- with only short-lived relief during & shortly after rain or if there's a freeze -- through early to mid March.  Oak pollen will get into the act within a few weeks (when the new oak leaves start to emerge)....grass pollen will follow.

This storm will produce severe storms from the Mississippi River to the Appalachians.  The Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) lists some reminders which are always good to review:

  1. Stay inside a sturdy building and stay tuned to a battery-operated radio for weather information.
  1. If you are caught outdoors, avoid natural lightning rods such as tall, isolated trees in an open area or the top of a hill and metal objects such as wire fences, golf clubs and metal tools.
  1. Bring outdoor items in. If you have furniture and other outdoor equipment on your patio or deck, bring them inside when strong weather threatens.
  1. Turn Around Don’t Drown! More deaths occur due to flooding each year than from any other thunderstorm or hurricane related hazard. Many of these deaths are a result of careless or unsuspecting motorists who attempt to drive through flooded roads. Never drive through floodwaters or on flooded roads. If your vehicle stalls, leave it immediately and seek higher ground. Water only two feet deep can sweep away most automobiles.
  1. Anticipate a possible power outage. If you have space in your refrigerator or freezer, consider filling plastic containers with water, leaving about an inch of space inside each one (remember, water expands as it freezes so it is important to leave room in the container for the expanded water). Place the containers in the refrigerator and freezer to help keep food cold if the power goes out.
  1. Now is the time to back up computer files and operating systems.
  1. Keep a supply of flashlights, batteries and a battery-powered radio on hand. Do not use candles as they pose a fire hazard.

Staying Safe If Hail Falls

  1. If hail is forecast for your area, close your drapes, blinds or window shades to prevent potential injury from broken glass blowing inside. Do not try to go outside to protect your property during a storm. Stay indoors until the storm has passed.
  1. Stay away from skylights, windows and doors.
  1. After the storm has passed, verify that you can safely move around outside.  Avoid any broken or downed branches and power lines.
  1. Check the trees, shrubs and plants around your house.  If they are stripped of their foliage, there is a possibility your roof is damaged.  Dented patio covers, screens or soft aluminum roof vents could also indicate roof damage.
  1. Cover any broken windows and holes in your roof to prevent water intrusion following hail damage.

From NASA:

Persistent dry weather has grown more worrisome in the American West, with nearly two thirds of the region experiencing some level of drought. By most measures, the state of California is suffering through the worst of it. The effects of the dry spell are visible in the mountains, where snow pack is lacking, and now in the vegetation cover on the landscape.

Nearly all of California was in a state of extreme drought at the end of January 2014. The past three months (November to January), six months (since August) and twelve months were all the driest periods in California since record-keeping started in 1885. From February 1, 2013, through January 31, 2014, a statewide average of 6.97 inches (177.04 millimeters) of rain fell; the norm is 22.51 inches (571.75 millimeters).

The map above shows the impact of drought on California’s farms, forests, and wild lands. Based on data from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites, the map contrasts plant health from January 17 to February 1, 2014, against average conditions for the same period over the past decade.

Shades of brown depict where plant growth, or “greenness,” was below normal for the time of year; shades of green indicate vegetation that is more widespread or abundant than normal. Grays depict areas where data was not available (often due to cloud cover). The map is based on the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), a measure of how plant leaves absorb visible light and reflect infrared light. Drought-stressed vegetation reflects more visible light and less infrared than healthy vegetation.

There is some surprising greenness along the edges of the Sierra Nevada range. “In a normal year, much of the green areas near the mountains would be snow-covered,” said Ramakrishna Nemani, a vegetation sensing expert at NASA’s Ames Research Center. “Since there is not much snow this year, the evergreen vegetation appears anomalously green. In fact, that is bad news for this time of the year.”

The coastal mountains from north of San Francisco to south of Los Angeles are snow free and dry, as is much of the Sierra Nevada. In the midst of California's Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys, there are a few patches of green indicating some farms that still have access to water for irrigation. But much of the region is brown—signs of land suffering from drought stress or left fallow when it would normally be planted with crops.

“If you showed me this image without the date, I would say: ‘This is California in early fall after a long, hot summer, before the fall and winter rains and snows arrived,’” said Bill Patzert, a climate scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “This is no California winter postcard.”

Though northern and central California received a burst of rain and snowfall in early February, the drought remains deep. “Although there were short-term local improvements from this week’s ample precipitation, the long stretch of subnormal precipitation dating back to 2011-12 wet season has accumulated large deficits, leaving rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and snow packs well below normal,” wrote David Miskus of the NOAA Climate Prediction Center. “Even though this storm was welcome, the central Sierra still needs 3 to 4 more copious storms to bring this wet season close to average. Unfortunately, little to no precipitation fell on southern California and the Southwest.”

Image below courtesy NASA:

Also from NASA: A jury appointed by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Science magazine has selected "Excerpt from Dynamic Earth" as the winner of the 2013 NSF International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge for the Video category. This animation will be highlighted in the February 2014 special section of Science and will be hosted on and

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