Volume 1, Issue 4†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Winter 2002/2003

NWS Sterling Receives Dept. of Commerce Bronze Medal Award


The National Weather Service Forecast Office in Sterling, Virginia was recognized for ďtimely and accurate forecasts and warnings for the September 24, 2001 tornado [in Prince Georgeís and Howard counties, Maryland] that allowed officials and citizens to take actions that saved livesĒ.†† The award was presented at the annual NOAA Honor Awards ceremony on October 22, 2002 at the University of Maryland in College Park.


Damage at Laurel High School in Laurel, Maryland

Copyright 2001, The Baltimore Sun, Photo by Kenneth Lam


A large multi-vortex tornado with winds as high as 200 MPH moved through a highly populated area in the Washington D.C. suburbs between 5 and 6 PM EDT. It touched down near Hyattsville in Prince Georgeís County, tracked along the Route 1 corridor from College Park to Laurel, then crossed into Howard County.The tornado remained on the ground from North Laurel until it dissipated in Howard County about 1 mile east of Columbia.The tornado crossed several major roadways at the height of rush hour, including the Capitol Beltway and Route 1. In addition, the tornado damaged a high school, a research facility, a major shopping center, and buildings at The University of Maryland. The tornado killed 2 students traveling in an automobile on the University of Maryland campus, injured 55 others, and caused 100 million dollars damage.







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Inside This Issue


The End of an Era / Sterling Receives Bronze Medal


Skywarn Recognition Day


Skywarn Classes / How are Spotter Reports Used?


Spotlight on Jim Travers, Meteorologist-in-Charge


Historical Chronicle / Fall 2002 Climate Review


Regional Weather Review (July and August 2002)


























Reports continued from page 3

the next few months we look through all of the data that was collected for each storm and calculate how well our storm warnings and advisories verified county by county. We also write a storm summary for each significant weather event for the government publication, Storm Data and Unusual Weather Phenomenon. A draft of this submission is posted on our web site under 'Storm Reports'.Here's an example of the publication and how spotter reports add depth and content to our summary of an event.

Excerpt from Storm Data and Unusual Weather Phenomenon, April 23, 1999:

Winds over 55 MPH also downed trees and power lines in Frederick and Clarke County between 3:30 PM EDT and 4:15 PM EDT. Frederick County spotters reported between 1 3/4 to 3 1/2 inch diameter hail. The rubber membrane roof of the War Memorial Building in Winchester was punctured by hail the size of golf balls, allowing heavy rain to fall inside the structure and cause significant water damage. Numerous cars were damaged by hail, averaging $1300 in repairs. Winchester city police reported damage to 15 cruisers, and automobile dealers on Valley Avenue reported damage to over 150 cars. Hundreds of other privately owned vehicles received dents and broken windshields. Property owners also reported damage to roofs, siding, windows, and landscaping from the 10 minute deluge. Northwest of Winchester, strong winds left behind a narrow path of uprooted or snapped trees and minor trim damage to a home. Clarke County was the next location in the path of the storm. Hail of up to 1 3/4 inch in diameter tore leaves from trees, damaged siding and shingles on homes, and dented automobiles. Strong winds also snapped or uprooted trees between Beacon and the Shenandoah River. Next, Southern Loudoun County bore the brunt of the storm. Golfball to baseball sized hail broke store windows and damaged several vehicles in Middleburg. One resident reported the hail fell with such force it broke through fiberglass panels on a shed. Prince William County suffered damage from hail between 1 and 1 3/4 inch in diameter, resulting in damage to cars, roofs, and siding. Much of Western and Southern Fairfax County also received significant damage. Hail up to 2 3/4 inch in diameter was reported around Lorton. Hundreds of cars were dented, several windows and skylights were broken, trees and bushes were stripped of their leaves, siding and shutters were damaged, and roof shingles were chipped. Also, a funnel cloud was reported in Clifton near Highway 28 at 4:47 PM EDT. Damage across Northern Virginia from this storm system was expected to total around $50 million.



Jim Travers, Meteorologist-in-Charge

by Jim Travers and Michelle Margraf


Itís a sure bet that youíve heard the name Jim Travers if youíve worked with the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Sterling, Virginia.Jim has been the Meteorologist-in-Charge (MIC) of the Baltimore/ Washington DC forecast office since 1995. Heís been responsible for guiding the office through a very busy time when active modernization has resulted in significant changes in equipment, software, and staff roles.


In fact, Jim has played several different roles during his career with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

(NOAA). After graduating with his Masterís Degree in Meteorology from New York University, he started his career with what is now called the NOAA Corps. Since then he has worked at three regional forecast offices, National Weather Service Headquarters, National Weather Service Eastern Region Headquarters, and the National Centers for Environmental Prediction.


After nearly 38 years with NOAA and its predecessor, Jim has a lot of memories. Some of the most memorable experiences have been planning weather support for Operation Sail on July 4th, 1976 and the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York. He also remembers vividly working as a forecaster during the Washington area Presidentís Day Storm in 1983. Outside of work, Jim keeps busy traveling and working with community organizations. In his younger days, Jim was a skier and snow lover. As heís matured, sun and sand have become more to his liking.



While Jim has been MIC at the Baltimore/Washington D.C. Forecast Office, the office has been awarded two Gold Medals, four Bronze medals and two Governorís awards (from Maryland and Virginia), as well as numerous other smaller forms of recognition.


The challenge of working in the Nationís capital is unique in many ways. Where else do you get to provide the weather support for the presidential inauguration?Daily briefings of high level government officials are routine and of course thereís always the discussions with the local and national

Travers continued on bottom right side of page

Travers continued from left side of page


media. Expectations are very high and so is the stress. A key part of Jimís job has been to try and manage theseexpectations. Perfection is a goal, however not yet a reality.

The most satisfying aspect of his career has been the people heís met and worked with both inside and outside the government. Despite the tremendous advances in technology and science, itís the people that make it work.



Fall 2002 Climate Review

By Dewey Walston, Senior Forecaster


Autumn 2002....The heavens finally open up with beneficial and welcomed rainfall.


Severe drought conditions continued into September and the first half of October. During the second half of October, the weather pattern finally changed and we saw above normal rainfall. The above normal rainfall continued into November bringing an end to severe drought conditions in the region.


Here is the breakdown of rainfall by month for Washington DC.


September†† 2.10 inches (1.69 inches below normal)

October†††††† 5.00 inches ( 1.78 inches above normal)

November†† 4.34 inches (1.31 inches above normal)


For the autumn season...the rainfall totaled 11.44 inches in Washington which was 1.40 inches above normal. This is in stark contrast to last autumn when Washington had only 2.65 inches of rain. The driest autumn on record in Washington was in 1930 when only 1.83 inches of rain fell. The wettest autumn was in 1934 when 21.78 inches of rain drenched Washington DC.


Here is the breakdown of rainfall by month for BWI airport


September†† 3.17 inches (0.81 inches below normal)

October†††††† 6.01 inches (2.85 inches above normal)

November†† 3.78 inches (0.66 inches above normal)


For the autumn season, the rainfall totaled 12.96 inches at BWI airport which was 2.70 inches above normal.This is in stark contrast to last autumn when BWI airport had only 3.21 inches of rain.The driest autumn on record in Baltimore was in 1930 when only 1.87 inches of rain fell. The wettest autumn on record in Baltimore was in 1902 when 17.75 inches of rain fell.




During meteorological autumn (September, October and November) temperatures in Washington DC averaged 59.6 degrees which was 0.5 degrees above normal.The warmest autumn on record in Washington was 1973 when the temperature averaged 63.1 degrees. The coldest autumn on record in Washington was in 1917 when the temperature averaged 52.9 degrees.


During meteorological autumn, temperatures at BWI airport averaged 56.6 degrees which was 0.5 degrees above normal.The warmest autumn on record in Baltimore was 1931 when the temperature averaged 64.7 degrees.The coldest autumn on record in Baltimore was in 1976 when the temperature averaged 53.8 degrees.






Sterling NWS Historical Chronicle

The "Knickerbocker Storm" of Jan. 1922

†† Research by Barbara Watson, WCM

 Exactly 150 years after the "Washington and Jefferson Storm" which dropped 3 feet of snow on the region, came the deepest snow of the 20th century to the greater Washington and Baltimore region. The snow came on the heels of a cold spell. High temperatures did not climb above freezing from the 24 through the 28th of January 1922 and the low temperature dipped to 11įF on the 26th. Snow began at 4:30 p.m. on the 27th and continued until just past midnight on the morning of the 29th. A record 21 inches fell in a 24 hour period on the 28th. The heavy band of snow stretched across Richmond (19 inches), Washington, DC (28 inches), and Baltimore (25 inches) immobilizing the region. Strong north to northeast winds accompanied the storm drifting snow into deep banks. Roads were blocked. Main highways were the first to open in 2 to 4 days.


On the evening of the 28th, the weight of the snow became too much for the Knickerbocker Theater on 18th Street and Columbia in Northwest Washington, DC. The horrible scene was described in the Washington Post on January 29th and 30th and was reprinted in the Post on January 19, 1996 following another big snow. They described it as "the greatest disaster in Washington's History". The theater was crammed with an estimated 900 movie goers. The roof of the theater collapsed taking the balcony down with it. Ninety-eight people crushed to death and another 158 were injured.A small boy squeezed into small holes between crumbled cement slabs to give those injured and trapped pain pills. From this disaster, the storm became known as the "Knickerbocker Storm".



"Baltimore is almost completely storm bound as the result of the heaviest fall of snow in twenty-four hours that the city has experienced since 1872."
An account of the
January 27-29, 1922 "Knickerbocker Storm" in "Baltimore's Worst Storm in 50 Years," The New York Times, January 29, 1922, p.1.

"the snow along the Pennsylvania lines out of Washington was three feet deep on the level and that the high wind had thrown up drifts on the tracks from twelve to sixteen feet deep.  An account of the January 27-29, 1922 "Knickerbocker Storm" in "Storm Dislocates Railroad Traffic," The New York Times, January 29, 1922, p.1.




Regional Weather Review

July and August 2002


by Michelle Margraf, Storm Data Focal Point


July 2nd-4th:High temperatures rose into the lower to middle 90s and dew points reached into the lower 70s.This resulted in heat index values up to 110 degrees.Heat index values only dropped into the middle 80s overnight in Baltimore and Washington D.C., resulting in little relief for people without air conditioning.In Baltimore County, 14 people died during the heat wave.Two people perished in both Montgomery and Prince Georgeís counties and one person died in both Harford and Prince Georgeís counties.


July 2nd:Thunderstorms dropped large hail over Highland, Pendleton, and Hardy counties.


July 5th:A thunderstorm downed trees near Gore in Frederick County, Virginia.


July 9th:Scattered thunderstorms with high winds downed trees and power lines in Augusta, Albemarle, Loudoun, Frederick (MD & VA), Washington, Carroll, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Harford, Hampshire, Morgan, and Jefferson counties.In Carroll County, high winds and driving rain toppled several tents at a community festival in Winfield.Ten people were injured.


July 22nd-23rd:Another round of hot and humid weather resulted in heat indexes between 98 and 105 degrees.A total of three people died from the heat in Baltimore County and Montgomery counties.


July 23rd:Slow moving thunderstorms with heavy downpours flooded creeks and roads in Hampshire, Shenandoah, Frederick (VA), Page, and Albemarle counties. In Page County, golfball sized hail and downed trees were also reported. Lightning caused structure fires in Montgomery County.†††


July 27th:Thunderstorms downed trees and flooded roads and creeks in Frederick (VA), Clarke, Fauquier, Fairfax, and Grant counties.††


July 28th -August 5th: Heat index values reached 100 to 110 degrees and power companies reported record electrical use.Heat was blamed for buckling train tracks that caused a passenger train derailment in Montgomery County on the 29th which injured 97 people.Seven residents of Baltimore County and three residents of Prince Georgeís County succumbed to the heat.


August 1st:Thunderstorms with high winds downed numerous trees and power lines in Alexandria in addition to Fairfax, Stafford, Prince William, Prince Georgeís, and Charles counties.The heaviest damage was reported in the Mason Neck and Mt. Vernon areas.


August 2nd:Thunderstorms with large hail and damaging winds downed multiple trees in Allegany, Harford, and


Continued from left.


Baltimore Counties.††


August 3rd:Numerous thunderstorms with high winds, large hail, frequent lightning, and heavy downpours moved through.Numerous downed trees, power lines and structural damage were reported region wide. One downburst of wind unofficially measured at 89.7 MPH at the Manassas Airport caused significant structural damage.A man standing on his back porch in Frederick (MD) was killed by lightning.Two other Frederick County (MD) residents and two campers in Augusta County were injured after being struck by lightning. In D.C. a man was killed and two women were injured when a large tree fell onto a van.


August 5th:Thunderstorms downed trees in Warren, Fairfax, Allegany, Frederick (MD), and Montgomery counties.Large hail was also reported in Montgomery County.††


August 12th-22nd:†† A record breaking heat wave pushed heat indexes to near 100 degrees.Three Baltimore City residents and one Prince Georgeís County resident died from the heat.


August 13th:An evening thunderstorm downed trees in western Allegany County.Early on the 14th, a thunderstorm downed trees onto railroad tracks in Montgomery County.


August 23rd:A downburst of winds up to 70 MPH downed trees near Urbana in Frederick County, MD.


August 24th: Scattered thunderstorms downed trees and power lines in Spotsylvania, King George, and Charles counties.Several lightning fires were reported in Spotsylvania County.††








Text Box: Sterling Reporter
Winter 2002/2003 Edition

Newsletter of the National Weather Service 
Forecast Office in Sterling, Virginia

Published quarterly. Available on the web at http://www.erh.noaa.gov/er/lwx/reporter/

National Weather Service
43858 Weather Service Rd.
Sterling, VA  20166

Editor:  Michelle Margraf

Graphic Designer:  Jim DeCarufel