Wednesday, 11:30 A.M.
Fresh off five days of much-needed downtime, I was really slapped in the face yesterday by the stark contrast between the cool, damp air we left in Connecticut and the sauna that greeted us by the time we were within hailing distance of the Tappan Zee Bridge. That was one well-defined warm front! Now the tropical air mass covers most of the Northeast, especially all of southern and western New England, New York and points south and west. To give you an idea of just how widespread the heat and humidity was on Tuesday, here's a sampling of highs across the country:
There are two cold fronts worth mentioning on the morning weather charts. The first stretches across the northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan southwestward toward northern Kansas. It basically separates the hot, humid air mass from one that is still relatively warm by mid-September standards, but without the midsummer humidity. The second one is moving across North Dakota and northern Minnesota at this hour, and there's a much cooler air mass building in behind that feature.
Of the two fronts, the one in the end that will matter will be the second one. The first will carry some of the shower and thunderstorm activity with it across the lower Great Lakes into the northern Ohio Valley this afternoon and early tonight, but it will more or less fall apart at that point. However, the one behind it will be ushered along more forcefully by an upper-level trough digging across the Midwest into the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley tonight and tomorrow. This, in turn, will spark another round of showers and thunderstorms as it encounters the very warm and sticky air mass ahead of it.
So, temperatures this afternoon will reach or exceed 90 degrees in a lot of places from the mid-Mississippi Valley and Ohio Valley to parts of the mid-Atlantic and New England, and places in the mid-Atlantic and maybe southern New England will get there again tomorrow.
Meanwhile, with such a strong buckling of the heights tomorrow, the whole column of air will cool. That means the Midwest will feel the effects of this tomorrow, but even more so tomorrow night as high pressure settles in, and the winds go calm under a clear sky. The 12z Sept. 11 NAM surface forecast for Friday morning:
That means a place like Chicago that tied a record at 95 on Tuesday, and that will be near 90 and quite humid this afternoon, will not get higher than the 60s Friday and will likely slip into the 40s Friday night. Or New York City, that ended up in the cauldron yesterday at 88, and probably over 90 this afternoon and near it tomorrow, will only be in the low to mid-70s Friday and may not get to 70 to start the weekend. By Saturday morning, that surface high will begin to spread out, so there should be little cloud cover and little wind from Pennsylvania on west Friday night, with temperatures easily getting down into the 40s away from the urban centers, with some 30s showing up in the normally colder spots.
Today being the 12th anniversary of 9/11, my quick story from that day in infamy involves the exact same thing I did yesterday - leave Connecticut to travel to Pennsylvania. As I did yesterday, I did then - listen to traffic reports on both WCBS radio 880, and 1010 WINS. Back 12 years ago, it was clear by about 8:30 that trying to go right into the city via I-95 and taking the Cross Bronx Expressway would be pointless, so I opted past New Haven to hop on to the Merritt Parkway, just as I did yesterday. Only that day was much, much different.
Not long after getting onto the Merritt Parkway, the traffic reporter for 880 WCBS talked about a big explosion that had just taken place at the World Trade Center. It wasn't too much later, with all live programming at that point, that the second plane hit the other tower. My grip on the steering wheel got tighter. By the time I made it to the Tappan Zee Bridge, a third plane had hit the pentagon. Seeing no east-bound traffic until cresting the top of the span, almost as if the police cruisers I finally saw were 'escorting' the traffic eastbound over the bridge, it was eerie, plain and simple. Then I gazed down the Hudson on that beautiful sunny, crystal clear day and could distinctly see two smoke plumes in the southern sky, unmistakeably the smoke from the Twin Towers just minutes before they collapsed.
There's more, but that's the essential part of what I saw. And that's all I really saw until I got home later that afternoon and could finally flick on the television to see what had happened.
On a far brighter note, the the trip back yesterday was uneventful for us, thank the Lord! It was the end of a five-day trip that I take annually the weekend after Labor Day, the center piece of which is a ride called The Flattest Century in the East out of UMASS-Dartmouth. Here's a picture from about mile 68 of Horseneck Beach:
It was part of a 100-mile ride that was simply awesome with great weather and sunshine and no rain! The beach, of course, was a bonus. As was the Drawbridge Ice Cream in Mystic afterward (which, I found out Monday evening, isn't a true drawbridge, but rather a 'bascule' bridge!). And the Mystic Pizza. And...but I digress!
Tomorrow I'll look at what happens after this next cool air mass invades.
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