Friday, August 28, 2015

Katrina - Ten Years After - From A Louisianan

It's been ten years since the pummeling of the Gulf Coast by Hurricane Katrina. Our coverage of the storm's tenth anniversary over the past days has shown the area to have had a mixed recovery - some doing very well, others struggling to not only rebuild but get back to the way life was. Others have left the area. Change was universal along the Gulf Coast - geographically, economically, sociologically. Some things, at the surface, remain the same but many things have changed.

One of our readers, Christopher Howell, lived in Louisiana when Katrina struck and has since relocated to Mount Laurel. He was generous enough to share his experiences with us. They, like many who lived near New Orleans, tell a similar tale of escape, return, and dealing with the shift in life that the storm brought.

Howell evacuated from his Mandeville, LA, home the day prior to Katrina's arrival, heading to Monroe, LA. Staying at a motel for two days, the Howell and his pregnant wife were booted out by the motel manager as a result of price gouging.   He and his wife had lived in New Orleans' Gentilly neighborhood for a number of years until relocating to Mandeville, on the north side of Lake Pontchartrain, after being victimized in a carjacking.

The Howell's old home received thirteen feet of water from levee breeches in the wake of Katrina. His new home received some wind damage to the roof. He was lucky; his in-laws were not, as they also resided in the city and were victims of eleven feet of storm surge.

Chris and his wife headed to Baton Rouge for about a week before returning home...and then twelve days after Katrina struck, New Orleans.

"The way I describe the city after the water went down, some twelve days later...imagine standing in front of your house, do a 360 degree turn and everything is black and white. Trees, plants, lawns all dead from the toxins in the water," Howell recalled.

"You look at your house and see numerous water lines on the house, one where the water crested and another where the water slowly was pumped away. Cars drive by, kicking up dirt and soot of leftover mud and debris. Your front door has been kicked in and you have a bright orange circle with an X through it. Marked on this was the date the home was searched, the number of bodies, number of pets, and which agency searched the property. Then notice which of your neighbors had holes in their attic, from which they had to crawl out to be rescued."

"Walk into your house and you will see all of your furniture tossed and moved into different rooms as it floated. Then you notice the toxic mold growing on your walls. The smell and sight is something that I will never forget."

Looting, which was common in New Orleans, also occurred outside of the city - including Mandeville - as well. This lead to additional problems. "The big ticket item was copper wiring or pipes. People who started to rebuild would show up at their home to see the house flooded, not by a storm, but by criminals who stole the pipes and did not shut off the water."

Additionally, electronics and jewelry were also taken. "It was commonplace that when you evacuate you move TV and valuables that you are not bringing to the second floor of the house. So criminals had free access to what was left behind. This happened to my mother-in-law, who kept jewelry hidden in an upstairs bedroom but was found in the looting and stolen."

The Howells moved to South Jersey in 2006.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Life Moves Pretty Fast

...if you don't stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it.

It's rarely easy to make a tough decision. In my case, the decision to fundamentally change the course of this site was one that wasn't easy to make but one that is necessary.  I don't like letting things slip or trend in a direction that isn't good for quality for the site's brand. However, with the changes going on in life and the commitments that I have going on in my community, job, and family (not necessarily in that order), my commitment level to this site wouldn't be able to continue at the level that everyone is used to seeing.

I contemplated walking away from an active role with the site in late summer but had not decided to reach a final decision until getting back from my week of vacation in October. After some discussion and figuring out whether we could make things work with me in a reduced role, we realized that all of our paths in life were changing and our ability to cover for each other had become more difficult...and we realized aspects of the site were about to slip a bit in the coming weeks and months.

I'm not a fan of doing things at half speed -- I try to be fully in or fully out...and if I can't be fully in, I need to know what to cut out. Knowing that our team is stretched as well between school, life, work, it wasn't the easiest choice but it was the necessary choice to be made.

We're shuttering's blog aspects, effective today.  The content will remain through this blogspot domain so you're welcome to bounce in and read our old posts. Thanks be to Google for that.

Facebook and twitter are not going away -- I will remain on those and remain active. Writing a quick forecast and tweeting out weather information is still very much arenas I'm interested in as those are time-friendly. Unfortunately, the longer form writing is becoming tougher to pull off without a 3:30 AM date with a forty of coffee.

Tweets may not be as frequent but there will still be a fair amount of information sent out via social media. If you haven't followed us on twitter, do it. If you haven't liked us on Facebook, like us.

We are also tweaking and reimaging the look of our social media spaces, effective Sunday. If you visit, you get redirected to, which is a message board set up by a meteorologist and a weather enthusiast that are local to the area. The site provides really good weather discussion and we will link to event-specific discussion via's social media presence online.  The best part is that the said discussion is relatively low-hype and higher-brow, which is why working with them was a natural fit when I decided to change gears with the site's approach. has a number of National Weather Service meteorologists among their regular contributors, as well as other meteorologists and people who like weather like you and I do. Some of the discussion is probably a bit more technical than what you have seen here...and some of it is above my level of understanding...but it is a good site with good membership. So, yes, I encourage you to join in and enjoy the discussion. Those with the red colored names are meteorologists over there.

When I started in 2005, I didn't think the site would be as successful as it has been. We've had over three million page views, covered weather events with an independent and low-key presentation style that has helped to attract readers that don't need meteorologists screaming at them about "BIG STORMS ZOMG" coming their way, and had fun in the process. I've developed friendships with a number of you over the years because of this site and have been very blessed to work with a great team who puts up with my high expectations for reality forecasting and low hype. We may not have 800,000 followers on Facebook but I'd rather get a forecast right more often than not...and I think we've solidly accomplished that objective over the years.

Thank you Brian, Doug, Kevin, Mark, Matt, Ryan, and Jeannine for all of your contributions over the years.  Thanks also to my wife for her patience and tolerance in allowing me this space given the time commitments it took over the past several years. Lastly, thank you all for being a part of the ride in this space. Hope you learned something, hope you enjoyed the forecasts, the discussion, and me running my fingers (er, mouth) opining about all things weather.

As much as it isn't a good bye as much as it is a change of pace, it is also the closing of a pretty lengthy chapter of a book that continues on. That book just won't be in this space or this bandwidth any more...just through social confines. And it is my hope that you'll continue to follow us along.

Another Chilled Day Ahead

For many, skies were clear overnight last night and that allowed temperatures to drop into the teens and 20's through the region on yet another January-like morning in the end of November. Today will feature a relatively tranquil but chilled scene as skies generally trend mostly cloudy over the course of the day. We should see a bit more sun on the front end before clouds sneak in from the south and west later on.

Temperatures will get to near 40 in Philadelphia and south, while only getting to the mid and upper 30's to the north and west of the city for a high. Winds will be light, so added chill shouldn't be an issue, but it will still be another below average and brisk day in the Delaware Valley.

As we move into Sunday, skies will likely end up mostly cloudy. There could be some drizzle at the coast as moisture begins to nudge back into the region but the odds are that most of us end up pretty dry.

Friday, November 29, 2013

November 30th, 2013 Forecast

Another mostly clear and chilly night on tap for the Delaware Valley as we begin to close out the penultimate month of 2013.  Lows will drop into the upper teens to lower 20's to the north and west and into the lower to mid-20's both to the south and east and here in the city.  Winds will be from the north at 5 to 10 mph.  Tomorrow, just a plain ol' partly sunny day with highs ranging from the mid-30's to lower 40's.  Winds will shift from the east at 5 to 10 mph.

Sunday will feature a few more clouds but warmer with highs in the mid-40's.  Still, warmer and more sun during the daytime, but by night, we'll see some more clouds roll in.  Some models are toying with the possibility of some precipitation to accompany those clouds Monday night into Tuesday.  Although I'm not sold on forecasting a precipitation event at all, I'll just add that there could be some areas that see a passing rain or snow shower.  The best chance seems to be to the south and east, but depending on the track of the low, the precipitation shield could drift into the 95 Corridor.

Tuesday is like a transition day, with variable cloudiness and just a few ticks cooler.  Highs will be in the lower to mid-40's and lows in the mid-30's.  Wednesday, a great looking day with mostly sunny skies and a more upward trend in temperatures.  By Thursday, you'll still be eating leftovers underneath partly sunny skies and high closer to the 50-degree mark.  We could top 50-degrees by next Friday with times of sun and clouds and a possible shower passing through the region.  All-in-all a fairly basic week ahead.

Thanks for logging on.  

Tranquil Weather Into Next Week

By and large, relatively tranquil weather will dominate the Delaware Valley over the course of the next few days. It may not be perfectly ideal -- there could be some showers or drizzle around on Sunday and Monday, but we should skate through the next week with little in the way of active weather.

That changes at the end of next week.

First, a coastal low will organize off of the Carolinas late this weekend and push northeast, a bit too far to the east of us to cause any significant impacts. However, a few showers or a round of drizzle can't be ruled out Sunday and Monday as some energy interacts with the low and triggers some light precipitation a bit closer to the Jersey Shore.  Anything that does develop will be light and probably confined mostly to the Shore or just inland. It will probably keep clouds around for at least those two days despite not much, if anything at all, falling from the sky.

The next relatively active system in the pipeline is about a week out -- next Thursday into Friday appears to be the most likely timeframe. Given the general pattern supports a bit of a ridge of high pressure building aloft in the Eastern US next week as a trough digs down through the West, the result will be milder weather later next week (slightly above average, no 70's looming in sight at this point) in advance of this storm system.  Milder weather with a low pushing into Canada yields rain for us as it drags a cool front on through.

We should see temperatures get back into the 50's in the middle or latter parts of next week ahead of the front. It, like the chill over us now, won't last as we bounce back into a more chilled look for the second week of December.