May 22 2022
For almost a decade I have been working with Johns Hopkins University to assist with weather information and decision support with their commencement activities. This is similar to what I get to do with them and other schools with winter weather events. Today, we had one of the hardest calls to make. It wasn’t my decision to make, but I believe the group collectively made the right one.
I wanted to share some of the information, as this may very well be part of the discussions many others conduct with their events,. Plus, this is an update with the expectation for the rain and storms later today.
Tough Decision To Be Made:
Ultimately the comparison was made to either take the risk for the commencement event this evening that may or may not need to be evacuated, or the guarantee of quiet weather Monday morning.
This evening the event could get truncated, including graduates not walking across the stage… We are close to near normalcy since Covid, and that would be an unwelcome disruption.
Monday morning would be nicer weather, but impact other traffic around campus AND some may have travel plans affected.
Note that Monday would have some limitations on volunteers and other factors.
Johns Hopkins University Wide Commencement (in the stadium) original plan.
- 5 PM Doors Open
- 6:30 PM Program Begins
- 9:30 PM Program Ends
Severe Storm Outlook
- Risk for thunderstorms is 60%, but the chance any single cell may turn severe is Marginal – Level 1 of 5
- Lightning: That chance is high, and it does not take a severe storm to drop a bolt out of the sky.
- Note: This is not Camden Yards when people can seek cover quickly… It is improper to compare a professional event to this once a year special occasion.
- 12 Miles: Lightning distance to alert production needs to prepare for equipment.
- 6 to 10 miles: Lightning distance from any event, evacuations are usually put in place. This is for baseball games and pools as well.
- 45 minutes: Time to evacuate the stadium given the crowd and family members of all age ranges..
- 3 hours: Time if there is rain to include carpet needing to be dried, and return of people.
A Guide Not Guarantee of Time Or Location
This is Potential NOT a Promise. Timing maybe off by an hour and locations with pop up storms can vary depending on local heating during the day.
I default to the HRRR Model in short range for best simulation of expected rain or storms.
Animation: 4 PM to 11 PM
There will be multiple cells of storms in a few waves. The first appears to be trending closer to Baltimore City, followed by a larger cluster with the cold front in the evening.
During our call, I got a new model update which trended to bring in more showers, closer to Baltimore City.
*Lightning can strike 10 to 15 miles away from the edge of rain. So we can’t just assume the storm center. The outer perimeter needs to be factored in.
Multiple showers and storm cells are possible during the early evening.
Much more widespread, heavy activity will develop in the mountains by sunset, then move into metro areas between 9 PM and 10 PM.
The cold front and main storm band will move through metro areas before midnight.
Monday Morning… Dry
Sunrise Temps start in the upper 50s to near 60ºF, then move through the 60s all morning.
A cooler breeze from the North will be more stable… Gusting 10 to 20 mph, but easing as the day progresses.
Johns Hopkins 2022 Commencement POSTPONED Until Monday Morning
Timing: 730 AM Open to 12 PM Close.
I had brought up in our meeting: Earlier this week Howard County Public Schools sent kids home early for the risk of severe weather, without even a ‘Watch’ in place. No storms hit them that day. Large hail did fall on Southern Maryland and lower Delmarva (see the hail storm recap here). There were people who were not happy and some will always voice their discontent.
I take many risks in life, but NOT with Public Safety. Not with a large crowd!
The group decided that it would be better to deal with an inconvenience rather than a safety risk.
So should there storms midd Baltimore this evening, at least the anxiety about the potential is removed.
Should there be a strong storm during that event window, the decision will be validated. I believe it is valid regardless.
I hope you have a safe day and always consider the worst case potential and your viable contingencies before making your decisions.
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*Disclaimer due to frequent questions:
I am aware there are some spelling and grammar typos. I have made a few public statements over the years, but if you are new here you may have missed it:
I have dyslexia, and found out at my second year at Cornell. I didn’t stop me from getting my meteorology degree, and being first to get the AMS CBM in the Baltimore/Washington region.
I do miss my mistakes in my own proofreading. The autocorrect spell check on my computer sometimes does an injustice to make it worse.
All of the maps and information are accurate. The ‘wordy’ stuff can get sticky.
There is no editor that can check my work when I need it and have it ready to send out in a newsworthy timeline.
I accept this and perhaps proves what you read is really from me…
It’s part of my charm.