Friday, March 10, 2017

Violent, Far-Ranging Storm Was Extreme Example Of "March Winds"

A tree knocked down by high winds in Michigan this week
smushed this car. 
The nearly coast-to-coast wind storm I talked about yesterday, the one that caused all those wildfires in the Plains and damage around the Great Lakes and the Northeast, was an extreme example of that "March Winds" cliche.

The folklore is that March is the windiest month.  As the viral video at the bottom of this post shows, most people learn about this early spring gustiness at an early age. And not always pleasantly.

March isn't necessarily the windiest month of the year in many parts of the country. However,  in March, early spring, you are often more apt than most times of year to get gusty winds.

Here's why:

In the winter, upper level winds are often quite strong. This state of affairs usually continues well into March, sometimes April, as winter-like storms cross the country.

But the sun is stronger in March than it was earlier in the winter. The sun heats the ground, which causes pockets of rising air.

What goes up, must come down. The rising air bumps up against that fast-moving air above, displaces it, and sends pieces and gusts of that strong wind down to the surface. That's a large reason why you got the destructive sharp wind gusts in many parts of the country this week.

That fast-moving upper level air is cranking earlier in the winter, too, but the sun that time of year is weaker, and is less prone to causing those updrafts that trigger these gusts.

Later in the spring and summer, the sun is much stronger than in March, but by then, the upper level winds are much weaker. So you're less likely to get that very gusty weather.

As of Friday morning, some areas of Michigan and western New York were still without power as crews cleaned up the mess left by winds gusting to over 70 mph Wednesday

Though March winds are common, this was an extreme version of it. The upper level winds, normally strong over the northern tier of the United States this time of year, were really, really screaming this week.

Winds are still gusty across the North Country today as we get more invasions of wintry Arctic air. This means wind chill alerts are up for parts of the Northeast as the temperatures plunge.

It's March. Bundle up and hang onto your hat.

Here's a video of a little girl in Ohio having a bad time of the strong winds Wednesday. The four-year old got caught in a big gust of wind when she tried to open her front door. She wasn't hurt. Watch:

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