A Windswept Explainer

Wednesday's winds took their toll. Now TC has a pseudo-hurricane explainer as to why the high winds.

Memories of the Wind Storm

Your e-mails said it best. Wednesday’s high wind storms scared many and impressed most. As for me, I was cooped up in the weather office for the event, so I barely had time to stick my head out around 10 PM when the second rush of wind was arriving.

For my 11 o’clock live shot, I likened the day’s event to being in a hurricane. I have been thru a few tropical storms (Doria and Delia in the 1960s) in Philly, so you might say I have some experience at weathering the big tempests.

The front side of a hurricane behaves like our daylight hours yesterday. Ahead of the evening squall line, the afternoon sun beat down and warmed temperatures within a few degrees of record highs. Here in Charleston where I am authoring this blog, the temperature soared to 75 May-like degrees.

As the air warmed, it also became lighter and easier to push around. Since warm air weighs less than cool air, the winds increased ahead of the soon to arrive evening cyclone..

From 4:30 thru 7 PM the storm swept across the WSAZ.COM region packing a quick punch. First the winds increased to tropical storm force (39 miles per hour). As the thunder squall swooped in (and there were only a few rumbles), a downburst of air was sucked from the heavens producing the strongest winds of the day. 50 to 60 mile per hour winds were pedestrian. A Chris Bailey blogger measured a 70 mile per hour gust in Martin County. That was within 4 miles per hour of hurricane force!

No sooner had the storm line hit that it ran. Only a quarter of an inch of rain fell in the sudden downpour before the skies opened up with sunshine. The double rainbow effect so common in spring spelled a Kodak moment for many of our readers.

By 7:30, the region was in a relative lull in wind as gusts had dropped to 10-20 mph. I called this the eye or calm of the storm. You see at the same time winds were again being clocked in the 50-60 mile per hour range in Lexington and Louisville and Cincy to our west. It was just a matter of time before the back side winds would arrive.

By 9 in Huntington and 11 in Charleston, the winds were again picking up to storm force but this time from a westerly direction. This would have been analogous to the back side of the passage of a hurricane. The rafters at WSAZ were shaking again and a night of high winds kept many folks up.

Power outages were exacerbated by this new round of strong winds. This second bout with wind lasted for several hours thru dawn. Even when the sun came up, strong winds were mixed down from the sky all day long. At Snowshoe, daytime gusts to 70 miles per hour closed all but 2 ski lifts and several prime ski trails including Shay’s Revenge and Jean Claude Killy’s pride and joy, Cupp Run.

Why did the big wind machine come in two separate pieces? Well, the battle between tropical summer warmth (which has Daytona in the 70s this week before what could be a damp Great American Race) and frigid arctic blusters (which still dominate Canada and promise a week of cold and snow here next week) helps conjure up big spring storms. These storms behave like pseudo-hurricanes in that they produce two distinctly different but equally impressive rounds of wind. Only difference is, this spring storm came in late winter.

By the way, no return to spring weather is in the cards in the next 2 weeks, so no spring wind storms are forseen!
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