Elwell: Rare meteorology event brought severe winds to region

Published: Monday, July 17, 2017 @ 7:27 PM

Feeling like the 90s all week with a few storms at times.

One week ago, a very interesting and rare weather phenomenon occurred in a small, but populated part of the Miami Valley.

On July 11th, severe storms erupted across Indiana and began moving eastward very slowly. The storms were responsible for numerous severe weather reports around Indiana including funnel cloud sightings. However, as the storms moved closer to the Miami Valley, they began to weaken, and weaken fast. By the time the storms reached the Ohio state line around 1:30 p.m., they were producing little if any lightning strikes.

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As the storms fell apart, a wake low was formed producing wind gusts over 60 mph. So, what is a wake low? Well - first, let’s go back to what was happening at the time.

Early in the afternoon, a band of light to moderate precipitation pushing into the Miami Valley. At first glance on radar, nothing looked to ominous - but then - as the area of rain was pushing into Wayne County, Ind. - both meteorologist McCall Vrydaghs and I started to notice the wind speed being measured on doppler radar started to ramp up quickly. The wind speed about 2,000 feet off the ground was blasting through at nearly 80 mph. While typically wind speeds at this level of the atmosphere don’t usually make it to the ground, one way they can is with falling rain.

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MORE: Soaking rains keeping summer heat in check, for now

In a small geographical area about 40 miles wide and 80 miles long, the line of decaying storms started to bow outward in advance of the approaching line of rain, which helped bring down the higher winds being generated at higher altitudes. When this occurred, wind damage reports and power outages began to be reported. By the end of the wind event, over 50,000 people lost power across the Miami Valley. Dayton Power and Light said this was the worst storm related outage since the derecho windstorm of 2012.

So, if the storms were quickly weakening, what caused the severe winds? This is where the meteorology gets a bit more complicated, but let me see if I can explain what happens. Likely in school you remember learning about high pressure and low pressure on weather maps. You likely know that high pressure generally means good weather and low pressure typically means bad weather. You may or may not also remember that air typically moves from high pressure to low pressure. It turns out that these pressure differences can occur on a much smaller scale.

These big clusters of thunderstorms that form can generate mini- low and high-pressure systems. Both falling rain and the evaporation of rain create sinking air. This sinking air creates high pressure. Since air is being forced downward where it is raining, the area immediately behind the falling rain rises to “replace” the air moving into the mini-high pressure system. This becomes a cycle. This process begins to create a low-pressure system where the rain was expected. Sometimes the pressure gradient can increase rapidly which in turn, increases the wind speed. The higher the pressure gradient, the higher the wind speed .

It is believed that this is what happened in the Miami Valley last Tuesday. According to meteorologists from the National Weather Service, this rare weather event typically happens once every few years but is more common in the Plains. The legendary Ted Fujita, who is credited for coming up with the scale to measure tornadoes, is also credited for first describing wake lows back in 1955. For those who spent much of last week without power, I imagine they are hoping it is several more years (or longer) before we experience this event again.

Eric Elwell is WHIO StormCenter 7 Chief Meteorologist. Contact him at eric.elwell@coxinc.com or follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Passing showers possible this evening, colder for Thanksgiving

Published: Tuesday, November 21, 2017 @ 3:59 AM

On the road forecast for Tuesday.

QUICK-LOOK FORECAST

  • Windy and milder today
  • Few passing rain/snow showers in evening
  • Colder for Thanksgiving

>> WHIO Doppler 7 Interactive Radar

DETAILED FORECAST

Today: It will start off quiet and chilly, said Storm Center 7 Meteorologist Kirstie Zontini. Clouds will increase through the day. It will become windy with gusts up to 30 mph. Highs will climb to about 50. There’s a chance for passing showers from about 7 p.m. until midnight. Activity will be light and fast moving. The northern Miami Valley may see a brief rain/snow mix. Nothing will stick.

Wednesday: It will be colder in the morning with temperatures starting in the upper 20s. There will be plenty of sunshine with highs colder than normal in the upper 30s.

>> County-by-County Weather

Thanksgiving: It will be cold in the morning for those participating in Thanksgiving Day runs. Temperatures will start off in the mid-20s. Sunrise will be around 7:30 a.m. There will be plenty of sunshine through the day with highs in the low 40s, which is cool.

>> Winter Weather Awareness: What to have in your car kit

Friday: It will be a cold morning with temperatures in the upper 20s for early shoppers. It will be breezy with highs in the upper 40s, sunshine and a few clouds. A few showers are possible late night, mainly north of Interstate 70.

Saturday: Clouds will decrease through the day. Highs will be around 50 early in the afternoon, then turn colder.

WPAFB Tuesday Weather: Gusty winds today, showers this evening

Published: Tuesday, November 21, 2017 @ 4:15 AM

A quiet start to the day is expected with a mix of sun and clouds with temperatures hovering in the 30s, said Storm Center 7 Chief Meteorologist Eric Elwell.

>> WHIO Doppler 7 Interactive Radar

A quick warm-up is expected into the afternoon before a cold front arrives early this evening. Clouds will increase ahead of the front with gusty winds.

>> 5-day forecast

A few rain or even snow showers will be possible as the front goes by and temperatures drop quickly. Overnight lows will fall back into the upper 20s with chilly but dry conditions Wednesday into Thanksgiving.

Rain, snow could impact region this week

Published: Monday, November 20, 2017 @ 3:57 AM

Lots of sunshine this week, but cooler than normal.

QUICK-LOOK FORECAST

  • Lots of sunshine, but chilly today
  • Few showers Tuesday with rain/snow mix possible
  • Quiet for Thanksgiving

>> WHIO Doppler 7 Interactive Radar

DETAILED FORECAST

This evening:

Mainly clear skies are expected with temperatures dropping through the 40s. It will still be breezy at times.

5 Day Forecast with Meteorologist McCall Vrydaghs

Tonight: 

Skies will be clear with temperatures not quite as cold, holding in the middle 30s.

Tuesday: 

Clouds will be on the increase through the day. It will be breezy with highs near 50 degrees. A cold front will bring the chance for a few showers after dark. As temperatures drop, showers may mix in with flurries before ending.

>> County-by-County Weather

Wednesday: It will be cold again with temperatures in the morning in the 20s. A slick spot or two on bridges and overpasses can’t be ruled out where there were showers. There will be mostly sunny skies. Highs will only reach the upper 30s, which is about 10 degrees colder than normal.

>> Winter Weather Awareness: What to have in your car kit

Thanksgiving: We’ll have beautiful weather for Thanksgiving this year. It will be cool and sunny with highs in the low 40s and dry from start to finish.

Friday: It will be a frigid morning for Black Friday shoppers as temperatures will start in the upper 20s. Skies will be sunny, so it will warm to the mid-40s. It will stay dry.

Saturday: Expect some showers, mainly in the morning. Temperatures will fall from near 50 early in the day, through the 40s in the afternoon.

The 1950 OSU-Michigan ‘snow bowl’ highlighted one of Ohio’s most famous storms

Published: Monday, November 20, 2017 @ 10:55 AM

Vehicles and pedestrians attempt to navigate Main St. in downtown Dayton after nearly a foot of snow fell across the region after Thanksgiving Day in 1950. (Dayton Daily News File)
Vehicles and pedestrians attempt to navigate Main St. in downtown Dayton after nearly a foot of snow fell across the region after Thanksgiving Day in 1950. (Dayton Daily News File)

Thanksgiving week is upon us, and hopefully we all have plenty to be thankful for this year.

Weather-wise, we will also have plenty to be thankful for, as it appears there will be no major storms impacting us or any major travel hubs. However, there could be some minor impact this weekend as a cold front crosses through the Great Lakes, bringing with it a chance for showers Saturday.

Looking back, since 1893 when records started in Dayton, there have been 69 Thanksgivings with measurable precipitation and 54 Thanksgivings without.

Amazingly, we’ve only had 25 Thanksgivings with measurable snowfall in that span.

Of course, if you ask people what Thanksgiving weather they remember, anyone who has been around a long time will tell you about the year of the “snow bowl.”

» READ MORE: Waiting out the storm: A look at the blizzard of 1950

That was the Ohio State vs. Michigan football game played at Ohio Stadium on Nov. 25, 1950. On that Saturday, five inches of snow had already fallen before the game kicked off, and it kept falling during the game. Winds gusted to almost 30 mph, creating near white-out conditions at times. It was the worst blizzard to strike Columbus in 37 years. 

Although Ohio State, Michigan and the Big Ten Conference considered canceling the game due to the extreme conditions, they decided to play. If the game had been cancelled, Ohio State would have won the Big Ten title. Instead, Michigan won 9-3 with 27 total yards and without even one first down.

Workers had to repeatedly sweep the lines on the field so that the game could continue. Vic Janowicz kicked a field goal for the only Ohio State points, while Michigan players forced a safety and recovered a blocked punt for a touchdown.

» MORE WEATHER: Don’t count on an easy winter

It was an amazing storm, showing the sheer power of the “gales of November” across the Great Lakes. The storm continued through that weekend with accumulation reaching nearly three feet in parts of eastern Ohio.

Bulldozers were used to clear roads so that ambulances could reach those in need. The Ohio National Guard had to transport people to hospitals and deliver food to rural areas. Wires and trees were blown down by winds as high as 60 mph. Many buildings collapsed under the weight of two to three feet of snow, with even deeper drifts. 

It was 28 years before Ohio saw another similar, historic blizzard — and that one occurred in late January of 1978, which became an even more famous Ohio storm.