‘Big Blows’ no match for world wind records

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The fall season is here, and we often see windy weather from time to time. At this time of year, the clash from the invading cooler air from the north and the warmer air to the south can often generate large windstorms. The bigger the collision of these air masses, the bigger the storms.

Strong winds around this region are sometimes called or known as Big Blows. They will form in the eastern Pacific Ocean and usually originate from the Gulf of Alaska. It’s not uncommon for Coeur d’Alene to experience at least several days each year with winds over 40 miles per hour. Last week, the Spokane International Airport had wind gusts to 40 mph. Cliff measured a gust to 38 mph last Tuesday.

The gusty winds over the last week may have served as a reminder of the huge windstorm nearly three years ago. On Nov. 16, 2015, a system of historic proportions slammed into the northwestern portion of the country. Very strong winds led to numerous power outages, downed trees and power lines and damaged buildings. More than 1 million people were left without power across the Northwest. In our region, about 180,000 people lost power.

On that November day, winds were gusting to 60 mph at Cliff’s station out on Player Drive. The highest wind gust at the Coeur d’Alene Airport was 58 mph. The highest wind speed reported in Idaho was in Bonner County at Colburn — a whopping 101 mph gust! In Kootenai County, winds at Huetter hit 67 mph. Magee Peak in Shoshone County had a gust of 82 mph. Worley reported 60 mph and Post Falls had a gust of 55 mph.

The strongest wind gust in eastern Washington last November occurred at the Mission Ridge Ski Area in Chelan County with an incredible gust of 137 mph. One observer near Wenatchee reported a gust of 101 mph. Comparing these wind speeds to hurricanes, a Category 1 storm has sustained winds of 74 mph. The wind gust at the Mission Ridge Ski area was in the Category 4 range of a hurricane.

Although those winds were very strong, the fastest wind speed to ever be observed happened on May 3, 1999 from a tornado between Oklahoma City and Moore, Okla. A Doppler on Wheels radar unit recorded a 3-second gust from the twister of approximately 318 mph. There is, however, a margin of error of 20 mph. The gust was reported at a height of 105 feet above the ground. That particular tornado was an F5 and resulted in $1 billion in damage.

On May 31, 2013, another mobile research radar measured a wind gust of 295 mph at El Reno in central Oklahoma from a tornado that moved through the region.

The fastest wind speed with a wind-measuring anemometer was an incredible 253 mph at Barrow Island in Western Australia. This happened on April 10, 1996, as Cyclone Olivia crossed over the western portion of the continent.

Outside a tropical cyclone, the highest wind speed was 231 mph on Mount Washington in New Hampshire, a place notorious for strong winds. That occurred on April 12, 1934.

The fastest daily average wind speed happened during a 24-hour period from March 21 to March 22, 1951. An average wind speed of 108 mph was reported at Port Martin in Antarctica.

As we all know, hurricanes will produce massive winds. Only three Category 5 hurricanes made landfall in recorded history. In 1992, a private residence measured a 177 mph wind gust as Hurricane Andrew moved over Florida.

In August 1969, Hurricane Camille hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast and estimated to have sustained winds of 177 mph. There were a few unofficial reports that the storm produced wind gusts of over 230 mph.

The third Category 5 hurricane that made U.S. landfall, known as the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, was estimated to have sustained winds of about 185 mph when it hit the Florida Keys.

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In terms of our local weather, the drier-than-normal weather pattern continues to hang on across much of the West, despite recent showers from the Pacific Northwest down into California. Most of the activity, however, is staying to our east as snow has been falling in Montana and eastward into North Dakota. There were reports of a few flakes of snow across Lookout Pass last week.

But, the Oct. 9 “new moon” lunar cycle begins Tuesday, and there is a chance of some moisture across North Idaho. Then, we’ll have some chilly mornings as colder air moves in from Canada, bringing us some frosty temperatures.

As we get toward the middle to the end of next week, Cliff and I see rain increasing in the lower elevations with snow in the higher mountains. Upcoming weather patterns in the West seem to be changing.

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Contact Randy Mann at randy@longrangeweather.com.

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