Weather! Tropical Storm Emily progresses; does the heat relent?

All eyes are focused on Tropical Storm Emily as the system continues to intensify and makes its move westerly across the Caribbean and toward the US coastline. At home, we’ll start to get a little break from the heat, but not before some thunderstorms pop up this afternoon and evening.

The tropics are busy again. Tropical Storm Emily developed along the Windward Islands yesterday, and it is currently progressing westward into the Caribbean Sea. There’s a lot of concern about whether or not Emily will impact the United States; some models are hinting at the possibility, but it’s going to take further observation to say for sure. However, at this point, if you have travel plans to anywhere from the Outer Banks to South Florida, Bermuda, or the Bahamas between now and this weekend, you need to continue to pay attention to Tropical Storm Emily.

The current forecast track takes the center of the storm off the Atlantic coast; this afternoon’s models are strongly hinting that the storm may recurve out to sea and avoid landfall. It’s not a given, so don’t totally write it off, but know that there are multiple factors conspiring to limit Emily’s development, though the current forecast still intensifies Emily to hurricane strength as it approaches the east coast of the US. Primarily is the island of Hispaniola, whose mountainous terrain will do plenty to inhibit intensification. I think the biggest threat will be for rip currents (and maybe some minor coastal flooding) along the beaches as Emily makes its closest approach near the weekend. You don’t need to cancel your beach plans just yet, but you need to continue to monitor Emily’s progress over the next few days. Position and intensity data, along with storm forecasts, are updated every 3-6 hours by the National Hurricane Center.

Closer to home, we tied a record high temperature Monday of 99 degrees; the record had been set three times previously, in 1980, 1999, and 2002. Our streak of consecutive 90-plus days ended back on Sunday, but temperatures have quickly rebounded and we’re looking at yet another string of 90-degree days to come.

We hit 96 on Tuesday, which marks our 43rd day of temperatures at or above 90 degrees so far this year; 43 just happens to be the average number of days at or above 90 degrees we expect to see in a year. The averages expect 11 days above 90 in August and an additional three in September. We’re in no danger of the record (75, set last year), but we’re now guaranteed to end the year above-average.

Temperature-wise, Wednesday will be pretty similar, with highs in the mid 90s yet again. A low pressure system and associated cold front will approach from the Ohio Valley during the afternoon and evening hours, bringing with it some increased cloudiness and an elevated thunderstorm risk. Lightning, heavy rain, and strong winds will be the threats with any storms that do develop; most of the activity will be associated with the cold frontal boundary as it crosses Virginia. Overnight lows will fall into the mid 70s behind the front. The biggest concentration of storms will likely be north of the James River, and especially from the Fredericksburg area northward, where the Storm Prediction Center has highlighted a slight risk area for today. However, storms will be a possibility across the entire metro area.

Behind the front, we’ll see some cooler temperatures on Thursday, although cooler is a bit of a relative term, as we expect to see highs dip to near 90. Skies will clear after the front passes, and only some lingering cloudiness will keep Richmond from basking in the complete sun for yet another day. The storm threat will have departed with the cold front in the early morning hours, keeping conditions relatively trouble-free throughout the day and night. Overnight lows will again fall back into the low 70s.

Friday looks to be a near carbon copy of Thursday, with highs again around 90 and overnight lows in the low 70s. The first Friday in August ends with nary a chance of precipitation, marking a great start to the weekend.

Speaking of the weekend – look for temps to remain similar this weekend. The big question mark will be with regard to the approach of Emily, and how near to the coast the storm gets. As I mentioned before, the general consensus is that the storm will stay off of the coast, but may still bring some rain to areas closer to shore. A large trough may be the feature that steers Emily back out to sea; if that develops, rain showers and thunderstorms will pop up in the forecast again this weekend. I certainly don’t think we’ll be looking at anything like a washout, but outdoor plans may get interrupted briefly nonetheless.

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Weather Dan

Dan Goff is now a two-time former Richmonder, having departed the River City yet again in favor of southwest Virginia, where he is working on degrees in geography and meteorology at Virginia Tech. Have a question about the weather or weather-related phenomena?

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