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Recent Questions

Question: Can you tell me the closest place to Raleigh where I can experience totality during the eclipse for at least 2 minutes? — Cleo

Answer: From Raleigh, the closest location that will meet your criteria is about 165 miles to the south-southwest, along a line from just south of Sumter, SC to Kingstree, SC. There is a great interactive Google map on a NASA site that shows you the location of the the path of totality, and when you click on any point on the map it will place a marker and show you the time of the eclipse at that location, along with the duration of totality. There is a "clear markers" button below the map in case you check a number of locations and want to reduce the clutter. The map is located at eclipse2017.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/interactive_map/index.html.
Jul. 28, 2017 | Tags: astronomy, cool sites

Question: Holly Springs seems to always miss out on the rain. When watching the radar it appears as if Fuquay-Varina, Apex, and Cary will get a substantial amount of rain while it just goes right around us. Is there something with our topography that causes this or is this just in my head? — Brian

Answer: We answered a very similar question just yesterday from someone in Apex, who feels all the storms miss that town and go around north or south (which would put some of them over Holly Springs!). As you may have seen in that answer, we suspect this is mostly an issue of perception, due to the combination of the hit or miss nature of warm-season convective rainfall on many days (a lot of people have dry weather on those days, but see or hear storms in the distance), and the tendency for radar to make it appear rain is covering a little more area than it really is. Also, with our local radars located over southeastern Wake County, it isn't unusual for cells that approach from the west to appear to shrink/split as they draw closer because they are moving closer to the radar location. Due to the increasing width of the beam with distance, the radar picks up increasing detail as the storms get closer and may show gaps in coverage that are "smeared over" when the cells are more distant. Also, the height of radar beams increases with distance, and there are times when you see considerable coverage at a distance from precipitation aloft, some of which doesn't make it to the surface. This effect decreases as the cells draw closer to the radar, since the beam is then sampling the rainfall closer and closer to the surface.
Jul. 27, 2017 | Tags: rain, thunderstorms, weather radar

Question: I live in Apex and would like to know why the majority of rain storms pass either to the north or to the south of Apex. In the last week alone I have had 0 drops of rain fall in my yard. But I can look out my windows and see lighting and dark grey storm clouds both to the north and south of me. This happens all the time. Unless there is a major storm the rain just seems to go around us. — Dave Nordaby

Answer: We suspect you're having a common perception that most of us do through the warmer half of the year, when convective showers and storms tend to occur in cells, clusters and small line segments that on a lot of days may only affect 10 or 20% of the area, so that by definition many more people see storms in the distance, hear thunder, or see them peppered about on radar displays (which tend to exaggerate a little how much surface area is actually receiving rain) than actually get rained on. This leads to the feeling that storms are almost always missing to the east, north, etc. However, we receive questions or comments to that effect from pretty much every corner of our viewing area, and when we check combined gauge and radar-based precipitation totals over the course of several weeks or months (along with long-term averages of those readings), we do not see notable small scale variations in the "normal" amounts, indicating that over time the coverage evens out. Through the course of late spring to early fall, almost all of us in the region can say that the majority of showers and storms pass us by, while a minority do cross over our locations and provide the sporadic rains (often including an occasional heavy downpour) that make up our overall precipitation during that span of time.
Jul. 26, 2017 | Tags: folklore, rain, thunderstorms, weather radar

Question: The new High Resolution Weather Sat image detail is great. Is it possible to place those images on your WRAL TV Weather web site too? If not, is there a web link that you can post to allow us to view them? — Rich Ben

Answer: We will probably have some of those GOES-16 images and loops on our web site eventually, however that may not be the case until the satellite is fully operational and moved to its final location as GOES-EAST, most likely sometime later in the fall. In the meantime, there are a couple of sites where you can check out the imagery on a provisional basis. You can see some multimedia examples of the range of capabilities of the new satellite at www.goes-r.gov/multimedia/goes-16DataAndImagery.html, and also note that near the top of the page there area some links to real-time products from a number of NOAA's academic partners. One that isn't listed there that you might also like to check out, is available at weather.cod.edu/satrad/exper/.
Jul. 25, 2017 | Tags: cool sites, instruments

Question: What happened over Bath, NC today that caused rain clouds to disperse in a growing ring around 6:45 am this morning (07/19/2017)? I saw it on weather radar. — Phil Parry

Answer: Those were not rain, or clouds, but instead a concentration of tens of thousands of purple martins that roost at a site on the far side of the Pamlico River and a little ways downstream from Bath, actually close to the PCS Phosphate plant near Aurora, NC. The expansion you are seeing begins just before sunrise most days, and shows the martins as they swarm outward and upward to go out in search of food to start the day. This kind of image on radar is known as a "roost ring." It's something we covered in a bit more detail in a blog post from a number of years back. See www.wral.com/weather/blogpost/1631522/ for more, and note that the post references an image "above." To see that image, you'll actually scroll down and click on a thumbnail a little below the text toward the right side.
Jul. 24, 2017 | Tags: cool sites, weather radar, wral.com

Question: We had a pretty severe thunderstorm in Archer Lodge yesterday afternoon and as I was watching the dual Doppler, I noticed out flow boundaries from two different cells that seemed to converge over our area. Would that lead to a more intense storm? — Doyle McGlone

Answer: There may be a small effect on intensity of storms that form when outflow boundaries converge because that process might deliver a more intense initial lifting of air to start the process, but we're not aware that there's a strong correlation there. Converging boundaries may increase the odds of new storm formation at that location a bit more than a single boundary passing through (which can also set off new development), but the intensity of the resulting storm is likely more related to the overall structure of the atmosphere in terms of the vertical profiles of temperature and humidity prior to the arrival of the boundary, along with how larger scale winds vary in speed and direction with height. When those variables all favor an intense storm, the manner in which it is triggered plays a fairly small role by comparison.
Jul. 23, 2017 | Tags: general meteorology, thunderstorms, weather radar

Question: I have a unusual question that I have searched the Internet and cannot find an answer. About a month ago in Rocky Mount we had tornado warnings it was very windy and the rain was hard and I thought my roof is going to fly off. Anyway I did have some damage to my roof and need to know the date in which that happened. — Tammy Weatherly

Answer: Based on the date you sent your question and the time frame you mentioned, we're pretty sure you're referring to a tornado warning that was issued at 5:39 PM on June 5, 2017. The warning was cancelled at 5:52 PM. While no tornado was observed or confirmed with the storm, there were strong gusts and heavy rain, as you mentioned, and there were storm reports in the warning area for flash flooding and also for a tree blown down onto a mobile home at Brook Valley Mobile Home park.
Jul. 22, 2017 | Tags: past weather, severe weather

Question: I'm trying to figure out the best time to mow my lawn today so that I'm mowing at the most comfortable / least humid time. The hourly forecast shows that from 11AM to 8PM the dew point will be steady at 72 degrees. However, relative humidity fluctuates from 64% at 11AM to 54% at 4PM. Am I better off mowing at 11AM (with a temperature of 86 degrees) or 4PM (with a temperature of 91). Or, with a steady 72 degree dew point, will it feel just as uncomfortable no matter what time of day I choose? Having just travelled home from Las Vegas where the 105 degree temperature and low humidity resulted in my not having a single drop of perspiration in my eyes, I realize that I much prefer high heat / low dew point to being coated in perspiration with little to no evaporation cooling me down. — Matthew Walter

Answer: You make a good point at how much different it can be dealing with heat in the absence of much humidity. On a day like the one you mentioned around here, you'd probably be best served looking at the combination of temperature and humidity, not just the humidity value. One way to approach that would be to take the forecast air temperature and the dew point (or relative humidity) and calculate the heat index at various points during the day. Whenever that is lowest may be the best time for cutting the grass or other strenuous activities. Of course, the choice can be complicated a bit by whether different times of day will put you in more direct sun or in shade, or whether there might be a strong breeze that helps a bit at some point in the day, so keep those factors in mind as well. There are any number of calculators on the web to estimate the heat index with temperature and either dew point or RH as humidity inputs. One example is at www.weather.gov/ffc/metcalc.
Jul. 21, 2017 | Tags: cool sites, heat, humidity/dew point, weather & health

Question: I have noticed over the last year or so that WRAL calls the Triangle Raleigh, Durham, Fayetteville. What happened to Chapel Hill? In any weather alert notification the counties of Alamance, Chatham, Durham are mentioned, NOT Orange. What's the deal? — David

Answer: We're a little surprised that you've gotten that perception. While Fayetteville is certainly a very important part of our viewing area, we don't consider that a part of the Triangle, which we continue to consider roughly the area bounded by Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill. As for weather alerts, those are generally based on watches, warnings or advisories issued by the National Weather Service, so the counties included will be those which they listed in the issued product. It may simply be that in some of the recent severe events, Orange County was fortunate to be missed by the most intense storms that warnings were issued for.
Jul. 20, 2017 | Tags: maps & codes, preparedness, severe weather

Question: Given that the shortest and longest days of the year (solstices) are when the sun is over the respective tropical meridian, it marks the beginning of winter or summer. It seems to me that the season would straddle the short and long days. Is my logic failed? — Aat

Answer: If we're interpreting your question correctly, your logic is exactly the reason we refer to both "traditional" or "astronomical" seasons, which are defined as starting with the solstices and the intervening equinoxes, and "meteorological" or "climatological" seasons, which align more so with the highest and lowest average temperatures for summer and winter, with the transition seasons falling in between. For mid-latitude regions like ours, this results in "meteorological summer" running from June 1st to August 31st, and "meteorological winter" from December 1st to the end of February. One could, in principle, adjust these even more finely into roughly three-month periods that start and end on dates that would vary some depending on latitude and regional topography, but that would probably become a fairly unwieldy source of additional confusion. We would guess that "meteorological" winter, spring, summer and fall probably correspond fairly closely to what you had in mind, and this definition tends to be used in keeping and referencing weather and climate records.
Jul. 19, 2017 | Tags: astronomy, general meteorology, maps & codes

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