Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Rain, Spain, Pain, and Bane

Scattered light showers are persisting in the Washington metro area, but the rain amounts have been generally heavier to the east. This is consistent with the "NAM" model forecast (and CapitalWeather.com) yesterday, although the total amounts have been lighter overall. The Official Rain Bucket at National has recorded only a trace since noon, after 0.09" fell earlier. To the north, Baltimore reported 0.13". Annapolis, on the other hand, has had a little over a third of an inch, and the amount at Patuxent River was more than twice as much, 0.83".

Temperatures were all in the 63-64 degree range at mid afternoon with humidities around 90%.

Tonight and Tomorrow

Clouds will persist through tomorrow, with lows tonight near 56 and highs tomorrow near 64. There is a 30% chance of showers throughout the period. Amounts should be generally light, under 0.10".

Tropical Beat

Vince dissipated early this morning as a Tropical Depression on the coast of southwestern Spain. The National Hurricane Center reports that this is the first time a tropical cyclone has made landfall in Spain. Maximum sustained winds were 35 mph and the central pressure was 1002 mb.

The large area of storms in the eastern Caribbean northeastward into the Atlantic is showing no signs of organization, but it is bringing flooding rains to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, where flash flood warnings are in effect. San Juan reported 4.27" in the 24 hours ending this morning, although amounts so far today have been light.

The remnants of what was once Subtropical depression 22 are also still hanging around in the Atlantic, now a couple of hundred miles east of Norfolk. No development is expected with this, either.

Gas Pains

Heating degree days (departures from normal in parentheses):
yesterday 1, month 6 (-32), season 11 (-53)

There's been a lot of attention on gasoline prices lately, but if you pay a natural gas heating bill, you're probably going to be a lot more interested in heating degree days in the coming months, even if we have a mild winter. Natural gas prices have been severely impacted by Katrita (Katrina/Rita) effects on the Gulf Coast. Although wholesale prices were down this morning about 10% from their recent high of $14.50, they are more than double what they were last year at this time. Some experts are predicting the price could go as high as $20 if there are weather-induced shortages. Since there is roughly a 10:1 ratio between this price and the price you pay Washington Gas per therm, that means that you're likely to pay at least $1.40 per therm to heat your house this winter, compared with the 75 cents you were billed last November. In fact, I see from the "Fixed Price Protection" offer I got in the mail last week from Washington Gas, the price on a 1-year contract is $1.39 per therm, and on a 2-year contract it's $1.45. Because there is a fixed-rate distribution charge built in to the bill, the increase in prices does not translate directly into an increase in the total bill, but their "Blanket Bill" offer shows a monthly amount which is a whopping 65% above the average I paid for the 12 months ending in June. (There was no decimal point in that percentage!) The rate for November's meter reading has already been posted at $1.69. In a worst-case scenario, the fixed-price offer could end up being a bargain, but if you do decide to sign up, I suggest you use a microscope to check out the terms in the 1-point type.

Frankenfish Report

The WaPo reports today that the heavy weekend rains were associated with a run of the snakehead "frankenfish" in Dogue Creek adjacent to Fort Belvoir in Virginia. At least 80 of the strange critters were caught Sunday and yesterday. They were literally jumping onto the banks as they chased minnows. It looks like fears of a massive infestation of the predatory species are being confirmed.

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