Storm Highway by Dan Robinson
Weather, photography and the open roadClick for an important message
Storm Highway by Dan RobinsonClick for an important message
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                   Sunday, April 13, 2008 - 12:25AM

Snow returns tonight, mobile data upgrade

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A major upper level trough this time of year usually brings with it severe thunderstorms, but unfortunately also can pull the retreating cold air south again, giving winter another chance to impose on spring. Models are in good agreement about Sunday night/Monday morning seeing a widespread snow event across the state of West Virginia. Cold air aloft will succeed in getting the surface air at or near freezing in Charleston, while dropping temps below freezing in the mountains. At the same time, a good slug of precip shows up through the night, locking the snow into the outlook. At this point I don't see how I will be able to avoid another night of being on icy road coverage standby, as much as I have already 'let go' of winter.

The Saturday night (00z) runs of the GFS and WRF have eased off on the temps slightly, putting Charleston more in the 34-32°F range. That's enough to get the snow sticking to things like metal signs, guardrails and grass. With the highs in the 70s and 80s we've had in recent days, the ground is much too warm to support any accumulations. Bridges are iffy, but in my experience it needs to get down to at least 30F during heavy snow to get bridges coated. With the warm ground and the just above or at freezing temps lasting only a couple of hours (just before daybreak), I doubt there will be icy bridges outside of the mountains. In the higher elevations, it's another story - the bridges and overpasses will likely be slick for most of the night. In fact, several inches of snow is possible above 3,000 feet - which could even get spots like I-77 at Flat Top covered.

I am currently in Raleigh for the week, doing some dog-sitting for vacationing family along with the usual web design sales/work. So, the snow event could throw a wrench into this week's schedule. I'm waiting until midnight tonight to make a decision on whether I'll need to take the dog on a 5-hour 'car ride' back to Charleston so I can cover yet another incursion of this stubborn winter weather. If Charleston can stay safely above 32°F, then I'll be able to save a 10 hour round trip and another $110 in gas.

Mobile data! And related changes....
For the first time, I will have full-time internet access both at home and on the road. My company picked up an Alltel USB cellular aircard that I'll be using for my primary internet access both at home and in the car. In fact, this is my first blog post using the new aircard here in Raleigh. With my main internet connection being portable now, this will open up some new possibilities and close the door on others, particularly in the realm of the web cameras.

The fixed ground and sky cameras at the house will unfortunately be discontinued, since there will be no internet there when I'm traveling. However, I will now be able to run a live camera from the car, and just in time for storm season. It may seem like I'm simply jumping on the latest fad bandwagon in the storm chasing world, which is live video streaming - but the timing of my aircard acquisition is business related, and purely coincidental. I'm not sure I want to run a 30fps stream to begin with anyway, but I should easily be able to start with a 1 or 2 minute update cycle on a static image.

Regarding video streaming, I haven't been too optimistic about it after seeing Alltel's upstream speeds I've been getting - 50 to 80kbps in many spots, even with a bar of EVDO. If I can get a decent EVDO signal in downtown Charleston, and if I end up covering an icy bridge event there overnight - then I may give the 30fps streaming an initial test run. In the meantime, I will try to get an updating static image going for the next trip back to Charleston - which could be later tonight. Stay tuned!

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