November 26, 2011 Strong Northwest Winds

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November 26, 2011

High Wind Event

Strong Northwest Winds Impact All of South Central Nebraska and North Central Kansas All Day Long,
Sustained Speeds Commonly 30-40 MPH with Gusts 45-55 MPH

Event Summary:

In the wake of a strong upper level low pressure system crossing the region, the combination of a tight surface pressure gradient and deep atmospheric mixing behind a cold front allowed very strong northwest winds to impact much of the Central Plains region for a 12-18 hour period on Saturday, November 26, 2011. In South Central Nebraska and North Central Kansas, the initial surge of winds arrived during the pre-dawn hours, but most locations didn't reach peak wind speeds until late morning or early afternoon. By sunset or shortly after, wind speeds quickly subsided across the region. 

The table below highlights peak sustained winds and peak gusts recorded by automated airport sensors (ASOS or AWOS) across the area. A few of the highest measured gusts included 55 MPH at Ord and 53 MPH at both Hastings and Lexington.

 Below are two images related to this high wind event...

  • Left image: This is a surface weather map of the Nebraska and Kansas region valid at 8 AM CST on the 26th. The dark blue lines cutting across the area indicate mean sea level pressure (MSLP), measured in units of millibars. Put in very general terms, wind speed is often directly related to how much of a gradient, or how much of a difference, exists in sea level pressure across a given area. If the pressure difference is small, winds are often light, and if this difference is large, winds blow stronger to help equalize this difference. By counting the number of dark blue lines of sea level pressure on the image, one can see that a roughly 20 millibar difference in pressure was in place across the state of Nebraska at 8 AM CST, ranging from around 1033 millibars in the western Panhandle to around 1013 millibars in the extreme southeast corner around Falls City. A similar difference existed across Kansas, ranging from around 1027 millibars in the far northwest corner, to around 1009 millibars in the far southeast portion of the state. Fortunately, there are only a handful of days each year that feature pressure differences of this magnitude or higher, and these are inevitably the windiest days of the year (aside from any thunderstorm activity, of course).  
  • Right image: The combination of the strong winds, along with very low relative humidity values dropping to near 20% or lower also resulted in elevated to critical fire danger across much of the region on Saturday the 26th. Often, NWS Doppler Radar is able to detect smoke plumes from ongoing fires as smoke rises well into the atmosphere. Although details of this particular fire are unknown, this radar image from 103 PM CST clearly captured a smoke plume from a fire centered near Alda, NE, in Hall County. Due to the strong northwest winds, this smoke plume can be seen stretching off to the southeast toward the Adams County line. The radar beam, originating from the dark "black dot" from near Blue Hill at the very bottom of the image, is detecting the smoke plume in Hall County at altitudes of 1500-2500 feet.

Click Images To Enlarge
Snowband Snowband

 Mean Sea Level Pressure map at 8 AM CST, 
November 26, 2011

 Smoke plume on radar imagery at 103 PM CST, 
November 26, 2011


This page was composed by the staff at the National Weather Service in Hastings, Nebraska.

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