Month: June 2015

About those clouds over Wrigley

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Twitter: @CubsWhen I first saw the images of those scary-yet-pretty mammatus clouds hanging over Wrigley Field Monday night, I of course thought, “Wow, I have to write about this for The Rainout Blog.”

But, wait. What do I write? I’m no cloud scientist.

But you know who is? Dr. Robert Houze, professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington.

I asked Houze Wednesday, via email, to describe mammatus clouds and tell us what non-experts, like you and me, can interpret from those clouds.

I lofted a few softball questions at Houze, such as: Do mammatus clouds mean sever weather is imminent? Or, perhaps, can we determine from their presence that the threat of bad weather has passed?

“It could be either, but more commonly they precede the severe weather,” said Houze, recipient of the 2014 Symons Gold Medal of the Royal Meteorological Society. “They occur on the underside of upper level clouds extending out from the thicker raining cloud. The upper level clouds on the leading side of the storm are more extensive, so it is more likely that the storm is approaching.”

Severe storms had swept through Chicago earlier in the day, which caused flooding in some parts. According to reports, those mammatus clouds – which often are “emanating from a strong nearby thunderstorm,” Houze said – appeared in the Windy City between 8 and 10 p.m.

As Houze suggested, fans watching the Cubs and Dodgers at Wrigley could have determined from the clouds that more storms were approaching.

They could have used that sign in the sky to grab their umbrellas and practice draping themselves with ponchos because, sure enough, another round of storms swept over the city and rain doused the ballpark.

Chicago was under a tornado watch much of Monday as strong storms swept through the Midwest. Nine tornados were confirmed by the National Weather Service to have touched down in Illinois that evening.

The sight of mammatus clouds lead many to believe there is a strong chance of a tornado.

“The clouds that produce strong tornadoes are called supercell thunderstorms, and supercells often feature very pronounced mammatus,” Houze explained. “Of the supercell storms that occur, only a few actually generate a tornado whereas many produce mammatus. Therefore it is possible that a tornado may be in the vicinity but not certain.”

The professor, who is a sports fan of “sadly the Mariners, but more happily the Seahawks,” said mammatus clouds are not always associated with supercell thunderstorms. However, “such storms provide the best examples of this type of cloud.”

Houze said mammatus can occur in many of places, “but supercell thunderstorms are most common over the central U.S.”


This week in poncho theater

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Note: If you’ve ever struggled with a poncho and embarrassed yourself silly at a sporting event, I’d like to hear from you for a fun story on The Rainout Blog – particularly if your epic struggles happened on national TV. Just click on the contact tab at the top and send me a message.

“It’s more important, at this point, to find the face hole.”

Truer words could not have been spoken Monday night when, once again, fans – yes, there were two this time – at a Major League ballpark struggled with the basics of donning a poncho.

I’m not making fun of the fans. Clearly, these poncho things are far more complicated than we might think.

Let’s set the scene of the most recent attack…

The Cubbies were batting against the visiting Dodgers in the top of the eighth inning when rain began to fall on Wrigley Field. The Dodgers’ TV crew spotted a couple of female Cubs fans quickly trying to protect themselves from the precipitation. Dodgers’ broadcaster Charlie Steiner, who gave us the “finding the face hole” quote above, describes the action.

Take it Charlie…

Watch the Video

(I have yet to confirm a rumor that Steiner jumped out of the press box to help the two fans, yelling “Follow me! Follow me to freedom!” )

This week’s poncho tussle is far less agonizing to watch than last week’s fight against death in Washington, D.C. We thought that guy was going to need medical assistance if he didn’t get air soon.

Also worth noting, the two Cubs fans received a helping hand from a friendly woman sitting behind them at the Friendly Confines. That didn’t happen last week in D.C.

Nope. “The two clowns behind him,” as Keith Olbermann called them, were too busy taking a selfie and one was chugging a beer.

Thankfully, each of the fans – the one at Nationals Park and the two in Wrigleyville – survived what could have been vicious poncho attacks.

I’m sure – although I haven’t checked – ponchos come equipped with safety instructions warning of potential suffocation. But after these two incidents and another way back in spring training, poncho labels should also read… Warning: May cause public humiliation at ballparks and on national TV.

Is this a sign?

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As Tom Brady’s appeal hearing dragged on for more than 10 hours at the NFL offices in Manhattan Tuesday, this was the scene at Gillette Stadium.


Could these dark storm clouds be a sign of impending doom for the Patriots’ quarterback? Or, is this a caught-on-camera moment of the Evil Empire summoning all of its power to wreak havoc on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell if Brady’s four-game suspension is upheld for his supposed role in the uber-important issue of deflating footballs?

I think the latter is more probable than not.

Rain at Wimbledon: It’s part of the experience, even for hopefuls

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Wimbledon is my favorite tennis major, and it is very close to being my favorite sporting event – period.
Qualifying is underway today for 224 white-clad hopefuls looking to make their play their way on to the main stage when the tournament begins in seven days.

And you know I wouldn’t be writing about Wimbledon qualifying unless… Yep, there’s rain. It seems only fitting that qualifiers should have to endure a rain delay. It’s part of the Wimbledon experience.
The day began with tarp – excuse me, “covers” – on the courts.

Rain halted the beginning of play…

And then pushed qualifying back a bit later, no doubt increasing the butterflies in the stomachs of the Wimbledon hopefuls.

Just to be honest, I really don’t know what’s happening here. Anyone care to give me a clue?

Finally, the rain stopped, and play began. Qualifying runs through Thursday at the Bank of England Ground in Roehampton. Players aiming for a spot in the singles tournament must win three rounds on the grass surface. There will be 16 men and 12 women to qualify for their respective singles tournaments at Wimbledon. Four pairs each will qualify for the men’s and lady’s doubles events. And speaking of ladies, we had a Maria Sharapova sighting today. It’s always a plus when she’s carrying an umbrella.

Oh, the humidity

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Max Scherzer’s bid for a perfect game on a sticky Saturday afternoon in Washington, D.C., was spoiled only by a diving left elbow.

The Pirates’ Jose Tabata stood at the plate in the top of the ninth with his team having yet to get a base runner against the Nationals’ righty. Scherzer fired a 2-2 pitch inside to Tabata and the pinch hitter, doing what good competitors do, learned into the pitch with his heavily padded left elbow.

Home plate umpire Mike Muchlinksi signaled Tabata to first base, and just like that, Scherzer’s perfect day vanished.

However, pitching through humidity nearly as thick as the chocolate syrup his teammates doused him with during the customary post-game TV interview, Scherzer retired Josh Harrison on a long fly to left, securing a no-hitter, only the second in the Nationals’ 10-year history.

Scherzer not only had to battle the red hot Pirates – they had won eight in a row before losing in Washington Friday night – but also the thick humidity at Nationals Park.

“It was pretty exhausting out there; it was pretty hot and humid,” Scherzer said in the post-game press conference. “Going through the first six innings, it was pretty tiring and exhausting, just mentally.”
Scherzer said the Nationals’ offensive outpouring in the sixth inning – the team scored four runs in that frame – helped him catch his breath and cool off.

“Guys just stepped up to the plate and did their job,” he said. “I just felt like that gave me a break, you know, just gave me some time to recuperate, sit in the clubhouse in some air conditioning to kind of rest up. And then I felt strong. I felt like I could get out there and come with my best fastball for the last three innings.”

Scherzer was asked about his in-game superstitions throughout pitching a perfect game and whether he talked with teammates between innings.

“No, I’m not really talking to teammates, it’s just either get some water or I need a new jersey and a new shirt,” he said. “And so I’m just changing my jersey and shirt to try and stay dry because it was pretty humid. I was sweating pretty good today.”

The Nats ace said he changed his jersey about every inning.


Raining Ks

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Nats-Ross-11Ks-RainAs rain fell in the top of the seventh inning Friday night at Nationals Park, Washington righty Joe Ross recorded his 11th strike out, a career best for the rookie. Ross gave up only six hits in leading the Nats to a 4-1 win over the Pirates.

See the video

He also got his first Major League hit on a miscommunication when Pirates infielders failed to cover first base.

Hey A-Rod, can 3,000 wait until Sunday?

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When a sports milestone is looming, I admit I root for bad weather. Nothing big, just a few showers so I can write about it here.

For example: Yankees’ slugger Alex Rodriquez is one hit shy of 3,000 for his career.

And yeah, when he gets that hit, I hope a cloud bursts just as the bat meets the ball. Umbrellas pop open. Fans wrestle with ponchos. And, the tarp goes rolling out over the infield.

I mean, if Rodriguez gets his hit on a clear night in the Bronx, it would spoil the integrity of this blog – The Rainout Blog – if I post a story about it. Right?

Rodriguez’s next chance at smacking a base hit is tonight when the Yankees host the Detroit Tigers at Yankee Stadium. But guess what. It’s not looking good for us sports/weather fans.

The forecast is calling for a partly cloudy night and doesn’t give much hope for a cloud burst.

But, if A-Rod can hold off until Sunday… There’s an 80 percent chance of thunderstorms that day. If that 80 percent comes through, then we have something to write about.

Elsewhere around the league:

All times local

Pirates at Nationals: Game time high of 82/Mostly Cloudy – 7:05 p.m. first pitch

Cardinals at Phillies: 82/Mostly Cloudy – 7:05 p.m.

Orioles at Blue Jays: 64/Clear – 7:07 p.m. (retractable roof)

Rays at Indians: 68/Partly Cloudy – 7:10 p.m.

Marlins at Reds: 77/Chance of Thunderstorms – 7:10 p.m.

Mets at Braves: 86/Partly Cloudy – 7:35 p.m.

Rangers at White Sox: 62/Clear – 7:10 p.m.

Red Sox at Royals: 80/Clear – 7:10 p.m.

Cubs at Twins: 78/Clear becoming Partly Cloudy – 7:10 p.m.

Brewers at Rockies: 93/Clear – 6:40 p.m.

Angels at A’s: 69/Clear – 6:35 p.m.

Padres at Diamondbacks: 111/Clear – 6:40 p.m. (retractable roof)

Astros at Mariners: 65/Clear to Partly Cloudy – 7:10 p.m. (retractable roof)

Giants at Dodgers: 78/Clear – 7:10 p.m.