Flooding rain and damaging winds possible in storms in D.C. area

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* Flood watch until 11 p.m. *

10 p.m. — Flood warning discontinued but still be on lookout for high water

The intensity of the rain has eased some but locally heavy downpours may continue for a few more hours so be careful out there. Standing water is still possible near streams and poor drainage areas. It may take until the predawn hours for the rain to break-up and become more showery. See the 7:15 p.m. update below for the forecast through Thursday.

This will be our last update of the night. We’ll have a recap of this event tomorrow — including rainfall totals and a report on the destructive thunderstorms that passed through Fredericksburg and Warrenton.

9 p.m. — Flood warning issued for District and nearby areas in Maryland and Virginia

A north-to-south-moving train of heavy storms has prompted the National Weather Service to issue a flood warning until 3 a.m. for D.C. and close-in portions of Montgomery, Fairfax and Prince George’s counties. See tweet below for the area covered by the warning, and remember if out driving, turn around (don’t drown) if you encounter a flooded roadway.

7:15 p.m. — More showers and storms possible tonight; not as severe but localized flooding still possible

Additional waves of showers and storms are possible through the night. Storms should be less of a damaging wind threat compared to earlier, but any rain could cause localized flooding, with as much as another inch or more in any spot that sees repeated rounds of rain. Otherwise, totals are more like a tenth to a quarter inch where rain falls. Lows range from the mid-60s to near 70. Winds are out of the east and northeast around five to 10 mph, with higher gusts.

It could remain showery into the midday or so on Thursday, with perhaps some occasional thunder. Rain odds tend to diminish heading into afternoon. Clouds may stay numerous, although we should see at least a little late-day clearing, as temperatures rise to the mid-70s for high temperatures. –Ian Livingston

5:00 p.m. — Scattered showers and storms to continue this evening with heavy rain threat after violent storm rakes Warrenton

A destructive storm with radar estimated winds of 60-90 mph swept through Fauquier County from the Plains through Warrenton and is now moving into Culpeper. But some good news is that trailing showers and storms to the north appear generally less intense.

Even so, heavy downpours, gusty winds and lightning are possible in intermittent showers and storms passing from north to south through the region over the next several hours. Isolated severe storms cannot be ruled out and flooding is also possible, especially in areas west of Interstate 95 which have already seen heavy rain.

The storm that charged through Warrenton caused “significant damage” according to WTOP’s Dave Dildine with scores of trees and branches down. There were also reports of power outages. “Terrible storm. Worst I have ever seen here,” tweeted @NTS. Dozens of trees were also reportedly blown down along Intertate 66 near Marshall in northwest Fauquier County.

The Warrenton storm was the day’s second destructive tempest. The first ripped through Fredericksburg around 2:30 p.m. on its way south toward Richmond. PowerOutage.US reports over 100,00 outages in Virginia, mostly between Fredericksburg and Richmond.

4:28 p.m. — Destructive thunderstorm sweeping through Fauquier County toward Warrenton

The National Weather Service warns a thunderstorm capable of producing winds up to 80 mph is charging through Fauquier County. The storm, currently near the Plains, could hit Warrenton or areas just to the west around 4:45 p.m. Numerous trees could fall from this storm.

3:50 p.m. — Storms northwest of Washington pushing south into western suburbs

Heavy storms that originated in Pennsylvania have pushed southward and stretch from roughly Martinsburg to Germantown. This activity is aimed at Loudoun and western Fairfax County over next 30 to 60 minutes. It will contain heavy rain, frequent lightning and some strong wind gusts. To the east, storms are more widely scattered and not as intense but could pass inside the Beltway some time after 4:15 p.m. or so.

Our next update will be arond 4:50 p.m. or sooner if severe weather is threatening the immediate area.

3:10 p.m. — Strong to severe storms racing into D.C.’s northern suburbs

A bowing line of storms is sweeping southward from Pennsylvania into northern Maryland, prompting a severe thunderstorm warning from northern Montgomery County north to the Mason Dixon line. It includes Thurmont and Frederick. The storms — which stretch from roughly Hagerstown to Westminster — may produce wind gusts to 60 mph in addition to torrential rain and lightning.

This line of storms, booking south at 50 mph, could reach the Beltway and D.C.’s western suburbs before 4 p.m.

2:10 p.m. — Severe thunderstorm watch issued until 9 p.m.

As intense storms have already erupted in the region, the National Weather Service has issued a severe thunderstorm watch until 9 p.m. Additional storms — some of which could be severe — are expected to sweep through the area into the evening. Many storms will unleash torrential rain and dangerous lightning while some could produce damaging wind gusts and hail.

The watch spans from central Virginia through central Pennsylvania, where the storms are developing and sweeping southward. It does not include counties along the Chesapeake Bay where storms are projected to be somewhat less numerous and intense.

Remember that a severe thunderstorm watch means conditions are favorable for intense storms, but not a guarantee. Stay weather aware. If a severe thunderstorm warning is issued for your location, it means a severe storm is imminent and that you should seek shelter.

The initial round of showers and storms that has already passed will make way for another wave developing in southern Pennsylvania arriving during the late afternoon. It may be more intense.

Original article from midday

The blissfully dry weather of the past several days has departed; a very warm, humid pattern is taking its place. But cooler air lurks to our northeast and northwest. We’re stuck in the transition zone where these contrasting air masses meet, a ripe setting for intense thunderstorms.

Storms are most probable between about 3 and 11 p.m., and some may be severe — containing damaging winds and hail in addition to heavy downpours and dangerous lightning. Some areas could be hit by heavy storms repeatedly — increasing the risk of flooding.

The National Weather Service has issued a flood watch for much of the region, except for Southern Maryland and counties next to the Chesapeake Bay, where showers and storms will probably be less numerous.

The heaviest rain and greatest flood threat will likely focus between Interstates 95 and 81. “Rainfall amounts of 1 to 3 inches are possible within the span of a couple of hours, with locally higher amounts possible,” the Weather Service cautions.

Rain totals will be highly variable throughout the area, depending on where the heaviest storm cells track — which can’t be predicted before they start to form. Some areas could see less than a tenth of an inch while some models show maximum totals over 5 inches, which is a serious amount of rain. This amount of rain would require heavy storms forming and reforming while tracking over the same area repeatedly — a phenomenon known as training. The greatest threat of training storm cells is west of Route 15, running from Frederick to Warrenton.

The Weather Service has placed the western half of our region in a Level 2 out of 4 risk zone for excessive rain; our eastern areas are under a Level 1 risk.

The flooding threat may be mitigated somewhat by the fact June has been dry so far — but if 2 or more inches falls in short amount of time, that could quickly cause streams to overflow and for poor drainage areas to be overwhelmed.

“Excessive runoff may result in flooding of rivers, creeks, streams, and other low-lying and flood-prone locations,” the Weather Service writes.

Remember to never attempt to drive across a flooded road as the water level is difficult to judge. Turn around, don’t drown.

In addition to the heavy rain threat, the Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center has placed the area in a Level 2 out 5 risk for severe storms that could produce “damaging winds and isolated large hail.” An isolated tornado also cannot be ruled out.

The most probable timing for severe storms would be in the late afternoon and early evening before the threat wanes toward dark. However, the risk of heavy rainfall could continue until 10 or 11 p.m. in parts of the area.

An unusual pattern is coming together for the next 12 to 18 hours.

As shown in the forecast surface chart (valid 8 p.m.) below, we have an approaching cold front from the west. Over the Bay and I-95 corridor, another slow-moving frontal boundary is approaching from the east: an odd direction, in fact, a process that’s called retrograding. Along this boundary, a weak area of low pressure is expected to develop.

So the region will be positioned in a zone in which the humid, unstable air mass in between the fronts is getting squeezed from both directions. This is called convergence of air, and the result will be a large mass of air forced to ascend.

Adding to the potency is a very high humidity content of the air. The morning weather balloon at Dulles revealed aggressive moistening of the deep atmosphere is underway, to the point where the “precipitable water” (total liquid equivalent depth of water vapor) will be between 2 to 2.5 inches — a value that is quite excessive for our region in late June — near record levels. These anomalously high values at 8 this evening are shown by the ribbon of red colors in the map below.

So we have very high moisture content, getting squeezed upward over the region between two fronts, in an atmosphere unstable enough to generate thunderstorms. These factors will intensify late this afternoon and likely be sustained until about midnight.

The deep airflow aloft is also anomalous for this time of year, from due north — so storm cells will develop in Pennsylvania and drift south into the Baltimore-Washington region.

We think the retrograding front draped along I-95 will act as a conduit along which storm cells will repeatedly fire and track from north to south. It’s difficult to say a priori the exact counties/locales impacted, but this “training” effect could lead to impressive rain totals for some, upward of 2 to 3 inches. One of the high-resolution forecast model simulations of radar coverage for through tonight is shown below — you can pick out the enhanced corridor of storm cells along and west of I-95.

Another area of focused, heavy rain may be near or just west of the I-81 corridor, where enhanced lifting of humid air by the mountains and the approaching cold front may wring out extra atmospheric moisture. Note, however, the above radar simulation is only a rough guide as to how storms may evolve; the actual timing and placement of storms could end up being quite different.

Locally severe storm cells may also generate damaging wind gusts, intense lightning and, perhaps, even a weak tornado. We don’t expect the severe weather coverage to be as widespread as the flood threat. But the wind shear (or increase in wind speed and change in direction with altitude) is sufficient, along with local “spin” generated along the retrograding front, for the threat of an isolated tornado.

Damaging straight-line winds are more likely, in the form of downbursts, in which the heavy mass of descending water in cell downdrafts drags the air down to the surface in a high-velocity impact.

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