• From: "Andreas Ramos" <andreas@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "Lit-Ideas" <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 5 Jan 2005 20:50:16 -0800

(Julie, Marlena, Mike... stock up on food and beer! esp. the beer! -- andreas)

Threat of perfect storm in the air
By Seth Borenstein
Knight Ridder

WASHINGTON - Moisture-laden storms from the north, west and south are likely to 
converge on
much of America over the next several days in what could be a 
onslaught, meteorologists said Tuesday.

If the gloomy computer models at the U.S. Climate Prediction Center are right, 
we will see
this trio:

. The ``Pineapple Express,'' a series of warm, wet storms heading east from 
drenching Southern California and the far Southwest, which already are beset 
with heavy rain
and snow. It could cause flooding, avalanches and mudslides.

. An ``Arctic Express,'' a mass of cold air chugging south from Alaska and 
Canada, bringing
frigid air and potentially heavy snow and ice to the usually mild-wintered 

. A warm, moist storm system from the Gulf of Mexico drenching the already 
saturated Ohio,
Tennessee and Mississippi valleys. Forecasters also expect heavy river flooding 
springlike tornadoes.

All three are likely to meet somewhere in the nation's midsection and cause 
more problems,
sparing only areas east of the Appalachian Mountains.

``You're talking a two- or three-times-a-century type of thing,'' said 
prediction center
senior meteorologist James Wagner, who has been forecasting storms since 1965. 
``It's a
pattern that has a little bit of everything.''

Forecasters said the Bay Area can expect lower temperatures and lots of rain 
from the storm.

The exact time and place of the predicted one-two-three punch changes slightly 
with every
new forecast. But in its weekly ``hazards assessment,'' the National Weather 
Service alerted
meteorologists and disaster specialists Tuesday that flooding and frigid 
weather could start
as early as Friday and stretch into early next week, if not longer.

``It's a situation that looks pretty potent,'' said Ed O'Lenic, the Climate 
Center's operations chief. ``A large part of North America looks like it's 
going to be

Kelly Redmond, the deputy director of the Western Regional Climate Center at 
the Desert
Research Institute in Reno, where an unusual 18 inches of snow is on the ground 
said the expected heavy Western rains could cause avalanches. Since Oct. 1, 
California and western Arizona have had three to four times the average 
precipitation for
the area.

The last time a similar situation seemed to be brewing -- especially in the 
West -- was in
January 1950, O'Lenic said. That month, 21 inches of snow hit Seattle, killing 
13 people in
an extended freeze, and Sunnyvale got a tornado.

The same scenario played out in 1937, when there was record flooding in the 
Ohio River
Valley, said Wagner, of the prediction center.

Meteorologists caution that their predictions are only as good as their 
computer models.
Forecasts are less accurate the further into the future they look. ``The models 
tend to
overdo the formation of these really exciting weather formations for us,'' said 
Wallace, a University of Washington atmospheric scientist.

Yet the more Wallace studied the models, the more he became convinced that 
something wicked
was coming this way.

``It all fits together nicely,'' Wallace said. ``There's going to be weather in 
headlines this weekend, that's for sure.''

The converging storms are being steered by high-pressure ridges off Alaska and 
Florida and
are part of a temporary change in world climate conditions, O'Lenic said.

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