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Severe Thunderstorm Watch This Evening;
I always eat hamburger cake while I watch radar

Andrew Freedman @ 1:16 AM

5:30 Update: The NWS has issued a Severe Thunderstorm Watch until 10pm for DC, Baltimore, and adjacent counties of Maryland, Virginia, and eastern West Virginia. Shortly before 5:00, Severe Thunderstorm Warnings were in effect for Fauquier, Rappahannock, Warren, Madison, Page Counties in Virginia. Some storms should be reaching the western and southern suburbs in the next hour or so.

I was at my friend Scott's house yesterday for a Memorial Day weekend barbecue when thunderstorms barreled their way across the Chicagoland area. Of course I rushed to his computer look at radar loops on weathertap.

Jason Samenow's Forecast

Forecast Confidence: HighToday: Partly cloudy and very warm. A slight chance of a late afternoon or evening thunderstorm. Highs in the upper 80s.
Tonight: Partly cloudy. Lows 62-67 (suburbs-city).
Memorial Day: Partly sunny with a 30% chance of afternoon or evening thunderstorms. Highs 83-87.

As I watched the patterns of red, yellow and green come to life on the screen, Scott posed a question so basic that I had trouble answering it.

"So how does a regular guy like me get to understand something like this?" he asked.

"Understand what?" I replied, before cursing at the atmosphere for sending the storms close enough to rain on us but too far away for us to experience their full impact. My philosophy is that if it's gonna rain, it might as well go all out.

"You know, the radar, so I can understand what I'm looking at," Scott said, eager for weather wisdom.

I was stumped. I stammered on about how the reds are heavier echoes, followed by yellows and greens, and told him there's an easy-to-understand key that tells you how heavy the precipitation is based on the color.

I wanted to tell him everything I know about how Doppler radar works, how the pattern of the storms that affected his barbecue revealed the location of a stubborn warm frontal boundary, and that there likely were going to be reports of wind damage based on the bow-like storm signatures.

But I've found that occasionally when I'm faced with the most elementary of questions, the "why is the sky blue?" type of inquiry, I sometimes freeze.

I tend to find every aspect of a complicated process equally fascinating, which makes it difficult to arrive at a Cliff's Notes version. It's why I once gave a lecture on cloud formation to my second grade class that lasted an hour.

And it's why I find my work as a science journalist to be so challenging, and why I admire the heck out of TV meteorologists. It can be tough stuff.

Speaking of difficult feats to pull off, today at the grocery store my little brother and I found the best barbecue food item in history: a hamburger cake.

It's an actual cake made to look like a hamburger. It's more American than apple pie!

When we sliced it, we discovered that the inside looked like a burger, with a red section for a tomato and a yellow layer for cheese, a chocolate section for the meat and the tan coating for the bun. Adorning the top were white sprinkles playing the role of sesame seeds.

The only downside was a mysterious layer of white frosting in between the meat and the bottom bun. Our guess was it was mayo.

I've forgiven the cake for this one transgression, because the existence of this baked good has restored my faith in humanity. I think I'll get another one today to take to the next rainy BBQ.

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