Blockbuster Storm Spells Aches & Pains

The doctor is in the house this Tuesday morning and he is prescribing plenty of pain medication. Tony blogs about a rare weather and medical event.

Late Monday night as I waited to do MY Z 10, I did a calculation that shocked me. From dawn Tuesday until sunrise Wednesday the atmospheric pressure will drop more than 30 millibars (1 inch of mercury). That will be confirmed by the spinning needle on your backyard barometer.

To the casual weather observer that means we are in for a windy rain storm. But for the more astute of the population who suffer from a trick knee, sports injury or arthritis, I want you to know something unpleasant is about to occur. My hope is you will read this in time to take your pain medication (naturally as prescribed by your doctor).

Here's the scoop.

A powerhouse storm that will in time earn Blizzard of 2009 status in some circles is forming early this Tuesday in the Southern Rockies. With some minor fanfare, this storm will pass into western Oklahoma by Tuesday afternoon with thunderstorms on its eastern flank and a developing snowstorm behind it to the west.

For us, this storm will provide a shot of heavy rains that will flood some streets on Tuesday night. The wind will also pick up by nightfall Tuesday making for a nasty night for evening Christmas shoppers.

All the while this developing tempest will be garnering energy and turning itself into a big bag of wind. In the heart of the storm, winds will pick up first to 30 then 40 and 50 and finally 60 even 70 miles per hour.

Areas in the upper Midwest that get a foot of snow will see drifts reach 3-5 feet in the developing whirlwind. Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota come to mind for BLIZZARD CONDITIONS.

By Wednesday, the storm will have moved from western Oklahoma all the way to Green Bay, a so-called Panhandle Hooker (named for it's curved path that starts in the Oklahoma panhandle and veers to the west of Chicago). Like a winter hurricane, the storm will generate a huge drop in atmospheric pressure. Folks near the center of the storm will feel their ears popping.

This drop in pressure will conjure up a round of high winds locally. Our region will be strafed on Wednesday by a day long siege of strong winds gusting to 50 miles per hour. Unsecured Christmas decorations will be ripped apart. Local power outages are likely. Flights from airports will be delayed. Drving on elevated interstates like I-79,77,64 will be a challenge.

To understand the wind, one must understand pressure. Think of the pressure as the driving force behind the storm, like an engine in a car. The storm inhales warm air(its fuel) and exhales cold(its exhaust). This change in heat drives the storm's intensity kind of like putting the petal to the metal in a car. And the more exchange of heat, the more forceful the winds.

Now for the medical punchline. As I learned many years ago reading JAMA (The Journal of the American Medical Association), our bones are rather sensitive in coping with changes in pressure. Since pressure measures the weight of the air on our bones, a change in the weight (aka in pressure) will cause a reaction by our bones.

A falling pressure actually causes less weight to be imparted on our bones. That should in theory be good for us. The converse of course is that a rising pressure (aka increased weight on our bones) should cause a flaring of arthritis and rheumutism.

But my beloved departed physician Dr. Jose Ricard once schooled me into the pressure-Arthritis link. "The bones are indeed resilient. All they ask is for a constant pressure. Whether high or low, just stay the same and the bones will be fine."

In this case we are in for a double whammy with a massive pressure fall Tuesday into Wednesday morning followed by a huge spike up in pressure Wednesday afternoon into Thursday.

Add it up and your trick knee or hip replacement is apt to aching big time the next 2 days.

And oh yeah, a rising pressure comes when a colder more dense air mass moves in. As stated, there is plenty of cold air exhaust on the back side of this cyclone. So when the wind swirls around from the northwest on Wednesday night and Thursday, a surge of frigid air will channel our way. Those arctic blusters will be accompanied by a new round of snow showers.

Isn't winter fun?

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