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Submitted by Tim Buckley on Wed, 10/27/2010 - 8:24am.
It's a storm that's produced over two dozen tornadoes, over a foot of snow, and numerous broken records for low pressure. It's no exaggeration to say that we're looking at a Midwest Monster that will be talked about for years to come.
It's impossible to look at the national map today and not notice the huge swirl of clouds in the Northern Plains. This low pressure system is extremely large - measuring nearly 2,000 miles across - and also extremely intense. Us meteorologists the strength of a low pressure system using the minimum central pressure; in other words the "lowest low pressure" in the storm. With this cyclone, pressure readings have been observed as low at 28.20" in northern Minnesota, shattering the all-time record for the Midwest US. This is the type of pressure reading typically found in a Category 3 hurricane. Just for reference, when Hurricane Floyd made landfall here in 1999, the lowest pressure recorded at ILM was 28.34" - a higher pressure than this current storm!
For some, the story has been severe weather - for others snow and crippling winds. Blizzard warnings are up for the Dakotas, and rightfully so. As much as a foot of snow could fall in North Dakota before the storm relents, in addition to the 40-50 mph winds that have gusted higher than 70 at times. Even without the falling snow, blowing and drifting snow becomes a huge problem with these types of wind gusts.
The snow on the back side of the system has been contrasted by destructive severe thunderstorms and tornadoes out ahead of the parent low. The cold front running out ahead of the system sparked a huge squall line yesterday afternoon that traveled from Illinois to Pennsylvania. Here's a look at the storm reports from yesterday alone. As you can see, there were 24 reports of tornadoes and a whopping 310 severe weather reports in total.
But where is all this weather heading? Looking into today's forecast, the fire zone for many of these storms will simply be farther to the East - although the outbreak does not look to be quite as severe. A zone from the DC area southward through central North Carolina and south through Georgia stands the chance at severe storms this afternoon. Most of the damage will be in the form of high straight-line winds, although tornadoes are still possible.
When will we finally see the heavy weather in our region? The focus for that will come overnight tonight into Thursday. That's when the approaching front will finally plow through our area. Look for a few heavy thunderstorms, especially in our western counties, overnight tonight. Many of these will be strong to severe with the main threat being strong straight line winds. Heading into Thursday, we'll see scattered strong storms throughout the day. While we are still concerned at the possibility for severe weather through Thursday, the outbreak does appear to be less widespread than seen out west.
Oh by the way, there's that temperature aspect to this storm as well. When we see huge storms like this across the country, they cause large shifts in wind patterns throughout the atmosphere. Ahead of a strong cold front, you see strong southerly breezes -- behind it, more northely breezes. This helps to create a huge difference in temperature with above normal temperatures ahead of the front, and below normal temperatures behind it. Not surprisingly, we're seeing unseasonably warm weather here right now and we should set a record high this afternoon. That being said, all that heat will come tumbling down on Friday with temperatures plummeting below normal only in the 60's for highs with lows near 40.
So with all that being said, get ready for summer-like heat and humidity, strong to severe thunderstorms with gusty winds, and don't forget to have your winter coat handy for those Friday night football games. Quite a two-day stretch here in the weather world!
By: Tim Buckley