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Beyond the Weather: Astronomy apps

Throughout the year, I like to feature many things you can view in the heavens above. This includes finding planets, stars and constellations. I let you know when to see the International Space Station and when the best meteor showers can be viewed. There are times, however, that you may be out and would love to be able to identify things in the nighttime sky. Here are some of my favorite apps that I use to view beyond the weather. SkySafari is a great app to figure out what you are seeing. It also gives you the ability to see a map of a future or past sky. Starmap is fun as well, since it can recommend what to see on a particular night. Solar Walk is more interactive, using 3D models of the solar system. It is a great learning app to understand our solar system. If you look at the sky and point your phone at the night sky, Star Walk will give you an exact picture of what you are seeing. This really helps locate some of the items we talk about beyond the weather. Happy stargazing!

Overnight flurries are still the only snow chance for a while

A weak disturbance passing through Wisconsin overnight might squeeze out scattered flurries in eastern Iowa, but most of us will not get anything. Those who do won’t get any accumulation, since whatever may manage to fall will be brief and light. The next weather system to come close to the area will do so on Sunday. However, it looks like it should pass just far enough to our southeast to keep rain out of our area. If it does end up nudging northwest a bit, then some showers would be a possibility south of Interstate 80. If you’re looking for snow, you’ll be waiting about another week. The next potential for that is still expected to happen next Thursday or Friday. That’s still a long way out, though, so it’s far too early to know any details on how much snow will fall, if any.

Cedar Rapids’ first measurable snow will be among the latest on record

Much of the area has not yet gotten measurable snow – at least a tenth of an inch. The odds of measurable snow are looking pretty much non-existent until the end of next week at the earliest. Since 1895, the average date of the first measurable snow in Cedar Rapids is November 18. The latest date to get the first measurable snow was January 6, 1913. December 13 is a tie for the 8th-latest first snow, and the current forecast would be at least a tie for 4th-latest. The average date for the first half-inch of snow is November 25. The latest was January 31, 2002. December 13 is a tie for the 18th-latest. Moving up to an inch, the average date is December 2, and the latest first inch didn’t happen until February 11, 1944. 32 years since 1895 had the first inch of snow fall after December 13. This is the latest first measurable snow in Cedar Rapids since 2012, when it happened on December 20. The current forecast has us surpassing that date, and the only times later than that are December 21, 1905; December 23, 2001; December 27, 1939; and January 6, 1913.

Strong winds slowly drop off Wednesday night

Wednesday was another day of strong winds, and these were our strongest yet. Official wind gusts were as high as 41 mph in Dubuque; 49 mph in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, and Waterloo; and 55 mph in Washington and Oelwein. Winds will still gust in the 35 to 45 mph range through Wednesday evening. Gusts to 35 mph are still likely through the first half of the night, gradually coming down by daybreak on Thursday. By that point, they should be mostly around 5 to 15 mph. A weather disturbance passing through the Plains on Thursday may bring scattered flurries to our area late in the day into Thursday night. However, most of us will get nothing, and those who do will probably not have any accumulation.

Turn down the wind, please!

Tuesday’s wind was the lightest it has been in a week. Going back to December 4th (the afternoon of thunderstorms and a big cold front), the wind has gusted to at least 26 mph each day. There have been multiple occurrences of gusts over 40 mph as well! The forecast for the next week suggests it’ll be tough keeping these gusts down, so we should probably get used to it. In fact, we’ll gust to 40 mph again going into tomorrow.