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Getting out of Galveston

As Hurricane Ike heads in from the Gulf of Mexico, the governor of Texas is telling people on Galveston Island that it is time to get out of town.

Most are likely to listen. Galveston, a charming Victorian seaside town, rebuilt itself a century ago after being destroyed by a major hurricane in 1900. That storm was so thorough in its destruction that no one is certain how many lives were lost, putting the human cost at anywhere from 6,000 to 12,000 people.

The unnamed storm, believed to be a category 4, had winds estimated at about 135 mph, but it was  water, not wind, that did the most damage. The highest point in the city at the time was less than 9 feet above sea level. The storm surge was more than 15 feet.

Since then, Galveston has raised itself up, built sea walls, and weathered many other storms, including a direct hit by Hurricane Alicia in 1983. (Older residents will recall the traffic jams on I-45 as residents tried to evacuate.)

The Houston Chronicle is dedicating much of its Web site to the  storm, with a tracker on which you can watch its approach, and updated warnings for those in harm's way.

Holding tight in the Carolinas

  The Associated Press is reporting that officials in some southeastern states are advising their coastal residents to head inland as Tropical Storm Hanna heads toward shore. Storm trackers are adjusting Hanna's expected path, which earlier included Western New York on its rainy fringe, to a more easterly course, but it could still soak the seaboard all the way to Maine.

  This is wet news for all our friends and family members now living in the Carolinas, but it could be a drop in the bucket compared with the next act: Hurricane Ike is building strength in the Atlantic  and is already classified as a category 4 storm.

   Forecasters say it is still too early to predict when or where Ike will make landfall. They can only hope that, like Gustav, it wears itself out a little before it arrives.

   

One of city's oldest records broken

The high temperatures at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport hit 88 degrees at 4 p.m. this afternoon, breaking the old record for the date by one degree.

The old record was set 1877, only six years after the government opened a weather bureau in Buffalo. National Weather Service personnel confirmed this was one of the oldest records in the city's recorded weather history.

--- John F. Bonfatti

It's gonna be a cool night ...

   We interrupt our communal whining about how rainy it has been this summer to bring you the following news: It's going to be cold as all get-out tonight.

   The National Weather Service says the low temperature overnight will be 47 degrees.

   That would be our first foray into the 40s in quite some time. But there's no need to start looking for your mittens; summer still has a month to go and temperatures are predicted to bounce all the way back to the mid-80s by Thursday.

   In the meantime, get out another blanket and turn off the A/C.

   --- Bruce Andriatch

On this date ...

... in 1926, a nasty evening thunderstorm blew through the area, with lightning touching off several barn fires in Angola and Eden, 50-mph gusts knocking down telephone poles and flash floods overwhelming Hertel Avenue.

That's the kind of detail you'll find under Buffalo Weather history at the Web site for the National Weather Service's Buffalo office.

It won't tell you everything that happened on every Aug. 6 in the city's recorded weather history, but you can pick any date, and it will show you a year (sometimes two) when particularly memorable weather occurred on that date.

--- John F. Bonfatti

Buffalo in July: A weather recap

Normal.

That's what the statistics compiled by the National Weather Service office at Buffalo Niagara International Airport show for July. The rainfall total at the airport, 2.80 inches, was actually slightly below normal.

But go a few miles north of Cheektowaga, and you might find a different story.

Widely scattered, but at times intense, showers were a staple the third week of the month, and the Weather Service reports that as much as 6 inches fell in places like Amherst and Clarence.

The monthly average temperature, 71.4 degrees, was just slightly above normal. The airport saw two-thirds of the available sunshine, which is almost exactly normal.

All those hit-and-miss storms  led to a bumper crop of thunderstorms. In June and July, the Weather Service reported 17 days with thunder. Normally there might be 11 or 12.

--- John F. Bonfatti

Mostly rain-free weekend, nice week ahead

   The weather service says the bulk of the weekend will be rainfree, with Sunday looking to have the lower chance of precipitation.

   After the weekend, the week ahead looks like one of the nicest ones we've seen all summer, perfect for those taking the now-popular "staycation."

   There is a 30 percent chance of precipitation Monday, but dry, warm weather is set to remain through at least Thursday.

   --- John F. Bonfatti

Nasty stuff

   Radar screens lit up this morning as thunderstorms rolled across the western third of the state.

   The storms swept through metro Buffalo around 10 a.m., but about a half hour later, the radar showed a violent thunderstorm around Jamestown. An even bigger storm of similar intensity was centered around Dansville. There was also a line of pretty intense thunderstorm activity stretching from roughly Buffalo to Wellsville.

   The rain in Jamestown came on top of some pretty good rains in Chautauqua County overnight, so weather service forecasts remained concerned about the flood threat there.

   --- John F. Bonfatti

Be Careful What You Wish For

It's another partly sunny, partly dreary, partly rainy day around here, and some folks are beginning to fear that the summer of '08 might be a wash-out. Not totally, mind you, but there's been enough rain for people to complain about one too many canceled outdoor events, soggy picnics, and trips to the beach cut short by thunder and lightning.

Well, folks, at least our lawns are lush and green and our lakes have water.

The same cannot be said for the western part of the country.

Having just returned from a trip to California, I was shocked to see the state's hills and fields a sad shade of yellow or a scorched shade of black.

Everything is dry as a bone and fires rage all over the state. I was in Palo Alto, an area safe from fire (for the moment), but the morning air was still thick with smoke.

While flying toward the San Francisco Bay Area, the pilot told passengers that the fluffy white plumes seen below were not clouds but smoke from the fires ripping across Northern California. So much smoke, we could see it from 35,000 feet.

A week later, flying back into Buffalo, the land below looked beautiful - green, clean and fire-free.

It sure was good to be home.

--- Susan LoTempio

Messing with the weather

     With the 2008 Summer Olympics coming up, I'm intrigued by the weather headlines coming out of Beijing in recent months:

  China Planning Massive Weather Modification for Olympics.

  Beijing to Shoot Down Rain for the Olympics.

  China Moves to Enslave Mother Nature.

   China Plans to Halt Rain for Beijing Olympics.

These are stories about weather modification going on in Asia to keep the environment dry and sunny for the Olympic games. And they're not from some crackpot Web sites, the stories are appearing in respected media outlets such as CNN and the Los Angeles Times.

"Cloud-seeding is a relatively well-known practice that involves shooting various substances into clouds, such as silver iodide, salts and dry ice, that bring on the formation of larger raindrops, triggering a downpour," reports the LA Times. "But Chinese scientists believe they have perfected a technique that reduces the size of the raindrops, delaying the rain until the clouds move on."

  My question is: Where does that rain move on to?

Across the ocean and over parts of North America, perhaps, where the Midwest has been deluged most of the summer and the weather around these parts has been soggy since May.

If you subscribe to the butterfly effect -- the notion that a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon can cause a tornado in Kansas -- then this major attempt at weather modification half a world away could conceivably have an impact on the skies of Western New York.

According to the USA Today report on China's bid to control the skies: "It's a bold -- and, according to international scientists, dubious-- bit of stage managing."

Anyway, Buffalo's precipitation so far this year is above average (by almost 1 1/2 inches), and it's been a somewhat disappointing summer from the standpoint of local sun worshipers.

Who can we blame for that?

     -- Rick Stanley

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