Joe Fitzwater Weather Discussion

There has been much chatter over the last couple of days over the potential for heavy rainfall in our region this weekend. Fitzweather is here to break down what you can expect during the coming rainstorm.

A stalled frontal boundary just to our south will push north through our region as a warm front early Friday. In its wake will be yet another pattern consisting of a warmer and more moist southwesterly wind flow. Expect another very warm day, with high temperatures in the middle to perhaps upper 70s. Only a slight chance for scattered storms is expected, which is only possible due to the amount of heat and humidity that will be in the atmosphere in proximity to that passing warm front just to our north.

As we roll into the weekend, a slow-moving cold front will approach the area from the west. Rain will be likely Saturday evening through Sunday morning as a result, with some locally heavy downpours possible.

Some forecasters are mentioning for the potential for 2-3" of rainfall, and I'm just not seeing the evidence to support that at least in our area. The focal point of heavy rainfall will be along the warm front, which will be across the Ohio River corridor in Pennsylvania Friday night, then for Saturday, the primary area of heavy rainfall will be where the warm front coincides with the cold front across portions of southwest Ohio. For our region, a general 0.75"-1.25" of new rainfall is likely, with a few local amounts up to 1.5" being possible. Given how saturated our area is, even an inch of rainfall would be a sufficient quantity of rain to cause ponding on the roadways and some problems in low-lying areas. However, widespread flooding in our region, even to the extent of last week, is not at all likely for our area.

Farther west, tributaries in Ohio will be running quite high as a result of an additional 2"-3" of new rainfall expected. That will likely cause some very high water in southeast Ohio, which will eventually empty into the Ohio River. As a result, serious flooding looks probable at this point along the Ohio from Wheeling down to Huntington and everywhere in between. The official Fitzweather rainfall forecast through Sunday is shown below.

So why is our area still so saturated? Our area averages 3.2" of rainfall during the month of February, yet during the last 30 days, our area has seen anywhere from 6"-10" of rainfall (first image below). That runs anywhere from 3" to as high as 6" above normal (second image below) for the month. 9" of rainfall is not far off the expected rainfall our area receives from January 1st all the way through March 31st (10.10"). In fact, only 7 of the 22 days in February thus far have been dry. At an official total of 6.15" in Charleston, February 2018 is now the 3rd wettest February of all-time, only behind 1955 (6.89") and 2003 (7.46"). I think by the end of the month, Charleston will have a good shot at breaking that all-time record.

No flood watches are posted for our area at this time. If that changes, I'll let you know. In the meantime, next week begins a slightly drier trend for the region, which should allow a chance for thr ground to dry up a bit before spring arrives. If you're not a fan of winter, then you'll be happy to find that mild temperatures looks to continue in our region for some time.

Last updated at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 22nd, 2018


RECORD WEATHER REPORT BULLETIN: With a high of 81 degrees Wednesday, Charleston broke the previous all-time high temperature of 80 degrees. In no other time in recorded history has the temperature been above 80 degrees in the month of February in Charleston aside from Wednesday.

In addition, with a high of 81 degrees, Charleston tied the all-time departure mark for the city at 92 degrees (All-time record high temperatures is 81 degrees, and the all-time low is -11 degrees). This ties with January 20th for the all-time departure mark in the capitol city.

Last updated at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 22nd, 2018


February 20th has provided some very unusual weather for our region in recent years, and today will be no different. There is a chance that in just the span of three year's worth of February 20ths, our area could experience a 100 degree departure.

What exactly do I mean by departure? On February 19th, 2015, our region was in the midst of extreme cold. Charleston, WV set a record low temperature of -11 degrees, but farther outside of town, many regions dropped to as low as -25 degrees. At the weather station in Clay County, the temperature dropped to -19.1 degrees, with the below image proof to show that temperature.

By departure, I mean the overall change in temperature, meaning to take the highest temperature and subtract that value from the lowest temperature, which results in the departure value. So, for a random day, if the record high temperature is 80 degrees, and the record low temperature is 20 degrees, then the departure would be 60 days.

Charleston, WV does not have a single day with a departure greater than 92 degrees. On January 20th, 1920, the record high temperature for the day was set at 77 degrees, while on January 20th, 1985, the record low temperature was set for the day at -15 degrees, a departure of 92 degrees. Officially for Charleston, the record low temperature for today, February 20th is -11 degrees, set just three years ago on February 20th, 2015. The record high temperature is 77 degrees, and thanks to a south/southwesterly breeze, I think we have a great shot at hitting 80+ degrees across the region.

Weather models are only showing high temperatures in the middle to upper 70s for our region. However, models do tend to have a hard time picking up on warm air advection, which will definitely be taking place in our region today. With that said, I feel confident that our temperatures will be a good 4-6 degrees warmer than what the model is suggesting above, which would put Charleston in the 80-82 degree range.

In order for Charleston to beat the city's all-time departure value for a single day of 92 degrees, the high temperature today would need to reach 82 degrees (82 degrees + (-11) degrees = a departure of 93 degrees), which is entirely possible given how strong our warm air advection will be today. Consider this: With the -19.1 degree reading I recorded outside of town in Clay County, a high temperature of 80.9 degrees would create a daily departure of 100 degrees! Too bad the weather station is not there anymore.

I'll provide a post follow-up this evening on whether we break the all-time daily departure!

Last updated at 9:15 a.m. on Tuesday, February 20th, 2018


Please check here for a discussion on high water that took place in our region Friday.

Last updated at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, February 17th, 2018


A series of systems moving across our region will keep at least a slight chance for high water issues in our area through the weekend, particularly north of the region. In the meantime, a very mild airmass will keep temperatures well above normal for this time of year.

A warm front moved through the region on Wednesday, creating abnormally warm conditions across the region. The record high temperature for Charleston today is 77 degrees set in the year 1950. Though we won't see temperatures quite that warm, temperatures in the low 70s is a good bet for our area, which is nearly 30 degrees above the normal high temperature of 46 degrees.

In the midst of the passage of the warm front Wednesday, scattered showers will be possible across the region with the front still being in close proximity to our region. However, despite the cloud-filled day expected, a stiff south/southeasterly breeze will keep the mercury climbing on the thermometers. Perhaps if more sunshine were forecast, we would have approached record temperatures today.

The warm front that passed through our region will be followed by a cold front, which will pass through the region late Friday afternoon. Given the warm and moist environment thanks to the southerly wind flow, the chance for heavy rainfall will be possible, particularly north. Streams, creeks, and rivers in our region are still elevated in level from the past couple of week's worth of rainfall, and it won't take much rain for levels to increase even more. The latest rainfall forecast through the end of the weekend is shown below, with the heaviest rain being focused to north-central West Virginia, where up to 2 inches of rainfall is possible through early Saturday. A flood watch continues for our region through Saturday as a result of the expected rainfall.

In our region, the river of particular concern will be the Little Kanawha River, which according to hydrological forecasts, will be running close to flood stage by Friday night into Saturday morning. The Elk River is currently not expected to approach flood stage at this time. We will keep an eye on the river levels and let you know if any flood warnings are issued.

In general, a much warmer pattern is taking place across our region, thanks to a weak upper level ridge that has set up across the eastern 2/3 of the country. This warm pattern looks to last for a few weeks to come, thanks to an area of high pressure that is blocked in its position east of Florida. The current 300mb upper level analysis is shown below.

We will let you know on the latest flood watches and alerts both on here and on the Fitzweather Facebook page.

Last updated at 9:15 a.m. on Thursday, February 15th, 2018


A few areas reported high water in our region, but thankfully, rainfall totals fell a little under what was forecast, with a general 1-2" of rain falling across the weekend for most of the region. The heaviest rainfall took place across portions of southern West Virignia, where flooding problems persist Monday.

Here's a short list of some of the rainfall totals we received this past weekend:

Numerous flood warnings were issued during the course of the weekend, particularly for regions south of I-79, including Kanawha, Braxton, Nicholas, and Clay countie s in our region and on up into the mountains. Though our region did see a respectable 1-2" of rainfall during the course of the weekend, those kind of values usually don't warrant a lot of flood warnings in our region. The reason we saw them is due to how saturated our area is. We went through a couple of recent snowfall events, followed by a signficant rainfall event early last week, which set the table for streams and creeks being vulnerable to spilling over rather easily. In fact, our area has seen a good chunk of rainfall over the last week, which is shown in the image below. Our area sees around 3.5" of rainfall on average during the month of February, so during this past week, we saw anywhere between 50% and 70% of the average rainfall we see during the entire month.

We will see a mild week this week, with temperatures approaching 70 degrees by Thursday thanks to an area of high pressure. The area of high pressure will move into the region behind this morning's mix of rain and snow showers, which will keep temperatures cool for our Monday. However, by Tuesday night, that area of high pressure will move to our east, and the clockwise flow of the area of high pressure will give us a south/southeasterly wind flow, setting us up with more warm conditions and yet another chance for heavy rain for the end of the week, as another frontal boundary approaches. In the image below slated for Friday morning, an area of low pressure moves just to our north from the midwest, with the trailing frontal boundary providing steady to heavy showers much like the setup of this past weekend's storm system.

This could cause more high water concerns given how saturated our region already is. Currently, forecast models are projecting the area of focus for high water to be across north-central West Virginia, where a general 1-2" of additional rainfall could fall between Thursday morning and Saturday morning. I'll be watching to see how this low pressure develops in the upcoming days.

Last updated at 9:15 a.m. on Monday, February 12th, 2018


The threat for high water this weekend continues for central West Virginia, as a moisture-rich airmass sets up along a frontal boundary to produce the potential for heavy rainfall across the region.

A flood watch is in effect for our region, beginning this afternoon and lasting through the evening on Sunday, as the potential for two inches or more of rainfall, combining with already-saturated grounds from our previous storm earlier this week, could cause high water problems.

As mentioned in the previous discussion below, an area of high pressure to our east is allowing a south/southeasterly wind flow to transport more moist air into our region. At the same time, a frontal boundary with winds pushing it from the opposite direction from the west/northwest is slowing down. That front, though almost to the Ohio River Saturday morning, will take its time passing through our region. Meanwhile, a series of disturbances will ride along the frontal boundary, and as it interacts with the rich and moist environment in our region, will allow for the chance for heavy rainfall in our region through Sunday afternoon.

You can already see in the image below taken at 5:30 a.m. Saturday of the first couple of waves of rainfall about to move into our region. The best chance for heaviest rainfall looks likely Saturday evening into Sunday morning. Notice that our area is NOT under a flash flood watch, but instead is under a flood watch. At this time, hourly rainfall rates are not expected to exceed 1/2" per hour, but a prolonged period of rain rates of 1/5" - 1/3" of rain per hour could yield to high water issues, particularly on larger creeks and rivers. Some river flooding is certainly not out of the question as a result.

Rainfall forecasts for our area are in the neighborhood of around 2" of rainfall between Saturday afternoon and Sunday afternoon. The heaviest of the rainfall is forecast to be focused over southeastern Kentucky and the West Virginia coalfields south of our region. As a general rule of thumb for this storm, heavier rainfall appears likely the farther south you drive. Along US-33 and up into the West Virginia mountains of Randolph and Tucker counties, rainfall is forecast to be less, with a general 1-1.5" of rainfall expected. Though flood watches are posted for these areas as well, I anticipate the main areas for concern of high water will be from just north of I-64 and points south. For the Kanawha Valley, I forecast approximately 2" of rainfall occurring. I'll have my rain gauge out recording for online, so you will be able to see how much rain has fallen in the Kanawha Valley right off the homepage. The first of two images below shows the rainfall forecast for Saturday morning through Sunday morning. The second image shows the rainfall forecast from Sunday morning through Monday morning. Notice the heavier rainfall totals forecast for areas farther south of our region.

Interested in what the SREF plumes that I showed here yesterday are showing this morning? Here are the models below. Notice a couple of things: 1) There is much less spread in the forecast rainfall totals according to the models, which means that a general consensus is being met among the models. Other than a couple of small outliers, most models now for central West Virginia are in the 1.5"-2.5" rainfall total area. 2) The mean rainfall forecast (black line) is slightly higher than yesterday, with today's forecast mean being right at 2", versus around 1.5" yesterday.

Last updated at 6:00 a.m. on Saturday, February 10th, 2018


Original Discussion from Friday, February 9th, 2018

A series of disturbances along a frontal boundary will bring a chance of heavy rainfall for our region this weekend.

A Flood Watch has already been issued for our region, taking effect Saturday morning and lasting through Sunday afternoon. The potential for over two inches of new rainfall is possible during the course of the weekend, and in combination with recent rainfall, could cause high water concerns.

We currently have an area of high pressure just to our east across the Delmarva peninsula. The clockwise flow of the high pressure system will give our area a south/southeasterly breeze Friday and Saturday, ushering in a warmer and more moist air mass that we are more accustomed to seeing in the spring time.

As that area of high pressure ushers in a warmer air mass from the south/southeast, a cold front will approach our region from the west attached to an area of low pressure that is dropping a hefty quantity of snow over Illinois Friday. As the cold front interacts with the opposite-flowing southeast wind flow, the front will slow down and nearly stall over our area. As it stalls, disturbances will ride along the stalled cold front, keeping chances for heavy rain at times possible in our area through Sunday afternoon.

At this time, it appears that the heaviest rainfall will be likely Saturday night into early Sunday morning. Rainfall totals are quite varied still, as certainty is not known on just how 'juicy' our air mass will become thanks to the south/southeasterly flow. A general 1-2" though is a likelihood. Anybody that receives more than 2 inches of snow will be susceptible to some high water issues, especially considering that much of our region is still fairly saturated from the last round of rain.

Shown below are the NCEP SREF Plumes, which displays forecast rainfall totals for our region from over 20 models. As you can see in the chart below, the models are still pretty uncertain on just how much rainfall we will see. On the lighter end, models are indicating between 1/2" and 1" of rainfall by Sunday afternoon. On the heavier end, models are indicating over 3" of rainfall by Sunday afternoon. But the mean value of all of the models (indicated by the black line) indicates between 1.5" and 2" for our region by Sunday afternoon - still enough rainfall for high water concerns in low-lying spots.

By Sunday night, that cold front will begin to move past our region to the east, and we'll see our chances for rain end.

Last updated at 9:00 a.m. on Friday, February 9th, 2018