'November Witch' storm brings high winds to Great Lakes, Plains, Midwest

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A Big Concern: Damaging Wind

By weather.com

On par with past storms, known locally as the "witches of November" and virtually on the exact date of the storm that sunk the iron ore freighter Edmund Fitzgerald 40 years ago, a powerful low-pressure system is intensifying and has begun to spread a swath of high winds through the Plains states. Those winds will spread across the Upper Midwest, Great Lakes and Ohio Valley through Friday.

The low's central pressure had fallen to 986 millibars (29.12 inches of mercury) over north-central Iowa early Wednesday evening, the sign of a strong and still-intensifying cyclone.

SEE ALSO: Wreckage, records, video may hold clues to Ohio plane crash

Due to the pressure difference between the cyclone's low pressure and a zone of high pressure over the Northwest, strong damaging winds have developed.

(FORECAST: Severe Threat | Blizzard Conditions)

High wind warnings and less-serious wind advisories have been issued by the National Weather Service. The high wind warnings include several areas from South Dakota and Nebraska eastward to parts of upstate New York.

Sustained winds topping 35 mph and gusts up to 60 mph are possible in these areas. Such winds developed over a large part of the central and southern Plains Wednesday, and are expected to develop in parts of the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes Thursday.

cyclone

Those winds led to a variety of impacts Wednesday afternoon:

  • A roof was blown off a house in Pomona, Kansas.
  • A tractor-trailer was blown over in Ottawa, Kansas.
  • Winds gusted over 60 mph in the Kansas City area, causing more than 12,000 customers to lose power as of 3 p.m.
  • Trees fell onto houses in Topeka and Columbus, Kansas.
  • Trees and power lines were downed in many communities across eastern Kansas and far western Missouri.
  • Wildfires in Washington County, Oklahoma, just north of Tulsa, consumed a barn and other nearby structures.
In addition, other impacts are possible as this windstorm continues:
  • Areas of blowing dust on the Plains may also reduce visibility.
  • Enhanced wildfire danger across the southern to central Plains, particularly in areas that saw little to no preciptiation on Wednesday.
  • Large waves on the Great Lakes could result in some coastal flooding, including beach and dune erosion on downwind lakeshores.
  • Some flight delays are possible due to the winds, particularly at Chicago-O'Hare Airport.
cyclone

Here is a timeline of when and where the strongest winds are expected.

Thursday

Low pressure will track from Wisconsin to the Upper Great Lakes. The strongest winds will be west and south of the low-pressure center.

Strong west winds will howl through much of the Great Lakes, Ohio Valley, upper and middle Mississippi Valley, Missouri Valley and northern Plains.

The strongest winds will occur through the afternoon in these areas, with some gusts up to 60 mph possible.

While wind speeds typically die down after sunset, some gusts over 50 mph may persist over and downwind of southern Lake Michigan, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.

(FORECAST: Mpls./St. Paul | Chicago | Detroit | Cleveland)

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Incidentally, those cold winds will combine with the cooling and lift provided by a vigorous upper-level low-pressure system to change precipitation to wet snow in northeast Minnesota, northern Wisconsin and the western Upper Peninsula of Michigan late Thursday and Thursday night.

Friday

The surface low-pressure center will be slow to decay over eastern Canada or northern New England, so strong winds are likely to linger in some areas Friday.

Much of the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley will continue to see occasional gusts at least to 45 mph, particularly Friday afternoon.

The strongest winds again will be over the Great Lakes themselves, particularly over Lakes Erie and Ontario, as well as downwind lakeshores, where some lakeshore flooding is possible.

(FORECAST: Detroit | Cleveland | Buffalo)

cyclone

Wind gusts to 50 mph are also possible over the highest terrain of the Appalachians and Adirondacks.

A few gusts over 40 mph are possible at times in parts of the Northeast I-95 corridor, from southern Maine to the Nation's Capital.

Lake-enhanced snow and rain will persist in the Great Lakes, with several more inches of wet snow accumulations likely in the Lake Superior snowbelt. The combination of wind-driven wet snow accumulating on trees and powerlines may lead to downed limbs and power outages in these areas.

Past "Witches of November"

Early November – and late October, for that matter – has a long, notorious history of intense Midwest windstorms that have proven deadly for Great Lakes shipping.

Weather Underground historian Christopher Burt discussed this in a 2010 blog written after another such storm – the "Octobomb"– raked through the Midwest Oct. 25-27, 2010, and set all-time low pressure records in parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Known locally as the "Witches of November" and mentioned in singer Gordon Lightfoot's iconic "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" about the 1975 storm responsible for sinking the huge iron-ore ship in Lake Superior, these Great Lakes storms don't always produce much snow, but their fierce winds are a signature feature.

cyclone

This storm's minimum low pressure near the Great Lakes may be comparable to the Edmund Fitzgerald 1975 storm, but its pressure gradient, which ultimately drives wind speeds, is expected to be less, according to winter weather expert Tom Niziolof The Weather Channel.

Another such storm 17 years ago was actually stronger than the 1975 Edmund Fitzgerald storm, and produced wind gusts over 70 mph in some areas of the Great Lakes.

For example, one of Minnesota's most notorious blizzards took place on Armistice Day 1940, where winds whipped snow drifts up to 20 feet deep and a number of ships were sunk on Lake Michigan. The blizzard killed 154, according to Burt. Sixty-six sailors were killed in the Lake Michigan ship sinkings.

RELATED GALLERY: See photos of recent weather in the US:

33 PHOTOS
Recent weather across the U.S., November
See Gallery
'November Witch' storm brings high winds to Great Lakes, Plains, Midwest
In this Nov. 20, 2015 photo, Shelly Aase embraces her dog Mattie Jo as they view damage in north Spokane, Wash., after storms left many without power. Aase is wearing a head lamp to see inside her house. (Dan Pelle/The Spokesman-Review, via AP)
In this Nov. 21, 2015 photo, Jake Hines, left, and Ross Rukke, of Capstone Construction, work to remove a fallen tree in Spokane, Wash., after deadly storms swept through the state leaving many without power. (Dan Pelle/The Spokesman-Review, via AP)
In this Nov. 20, 2015 photo, crews clear downed trees tangled in power and utility lines in Spokane, Wash., after deadly storms swept through the state leaving many without power. (Jesse Tinsley/The Spokesman-Review, via AP)
A group of men paddle a canoe across a flooded roadway along the Snoqualmie River near the peak of the river's height there, Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015, in Carnation, Wash. Cleanup crews took to the streets Wednesday in Washington state after a powerful storm killed three people, cut power to more than 350,000 residents and flooded rivers. The winds on Tuesday exceeded 100 mph in some areas of the Inland Northwest, where fallen trees were blamed for the deaths. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
A man tosses a piece of soaked carpet onto a pile while helping to clean-up a small apartment building flooded the night before, Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015, in Sultan, Wash. Cleanup crews took to the streets Wednesday in Washington state after a powerful storm killed three people, cut power to more than 350,000 residents and flooded rivers. The winds on Tuesday exceeded 100 mph in some areas of the Inland Northwest, where fallen trees were blamed for the deaths. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
A rainbow appears near the Snoqualmie River, made from mist thrown up by the adjacent falls, Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015, in Snoqualmie, Wash. Cleanup crews took to the streets Wednesday in Washington state after a powerful storm killed three people, cut power to more than 350,000 residents and flooded rivers. The winds on Tuesday exceeded 100 mph in some areas of the Inland Northwest, where fallen trees were blamed for the deaths. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Siri Erickson-Brown uses a "farm boat," an old Sears canoe with a shovel for a paddle, to float across the flooded Snoqualmie River and to her home about a half-mile away, Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015, in Carnation, Wash. Cleanup crews took to the streets Wednesday in Washington state after a powerful storm killed three people, cut power to more than 350,000 residents and flooded rivers. The winds on Tuesday exceeded 100 mph in some areas of the Inland Northwest, where fallen trees were blamed for the deaths. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
A downed tree that fell on power lines is shown blocking the NW Seabeck Highway near Bremerton, Wash.,Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015. Rain, high winds, and power outages were expected throughout the Puget Sound area into the night Tuesday due to a Pacific storm system. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Debris from the beach below is tossed up and over a seawall by wind-blown waves and toward traffic Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015, in the West Seattle neighborhood of Seattle. Rain and high winds snarled the morning commute in the Puget Sound area and the Inland Northwest braced for severe weather that could include wind gusts to 70 mph. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
A large tree lies across a street after being blown over by high winds near downtown Los Angeles on Monday, Nov. 16, 2015. The winds followed a front that moved through California during the weekend, dropping rain and snow while lowering temperatures. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
An American flag flies half-staff in a strong wind at Los Angeles City Hall on Monday, Nov. 16, 2015. The winds followed a front that moved through California during the weekend, dropping rain and snow while lowering temperatures. Flags fly at half-staff in Los Angeles in honor of victims of terrorist attacks in Paris. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
Palm fronds line the banks of Echo Park Lake after severe winds near downtown Los Angeles on Monday, Nov. 16, 2015. A cold front that whipped up a damaging tornado in a central California town moved south Monday, buffeting the Los Angeles area with gusts topping 60 mph. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
A man climbs Bernal Heights Hill on a cloudy day in San Francisco, Monday, Nov. 9, 2015. A storm system moving across California is bringing cool, wet weather to the low lands and snow in the Sierra Nevada mountains. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
A man carries an umbrella as he walks across a street in San Francisco, Monday, Nov. 9, 2015. A storm system moving across California is bringing cool, wet weather to the low lands and snow in the Sierra Nevada mountains. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Storm clouds gather over Port of Oakland cranes as viewed from Berkeley, Calif., Monday, Nov. 9, 2015. A storm crossed the region Monday morning, bringing rain, thunder and lightning to the drought-parched region. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
SANTA ANA, CA., NOVEMBER 9, 2015: Sarad Lopez (cq) holds an umbrella while her mother shops on Fourth Steet in Santa Ana during a light rain November 9, 2015 (Mark Boster/ Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
SANTA ANA, CA., NOVEMBER 9, 2015: Keisha Flores holds her umbrella while she shops on Fourth Steet in Santa Ana during a light rain November 9, 2015 (Mark Boster/ Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Emergency workers transport an injured woman following a multi-vehicle collision on Interstate 80 in Berkeley, Calif., Monday, Nov. 9, 2015. A storm crossed the region Monday morning bringing rain, thunder and lightning to the drought-parched region. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 06: A plane flys above the Tidal Basin on a warm evening November 6, 2015 in Washington, DC. Unseasonably warm weather in the Eastern U.S. has made the first few days of November feel more like late Summer. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Leaves change color on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, November 4, 2015. AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 06: A woman rides a bicycle around the Tidal Basin on a warm evening November 6, 2015 in Washington, DC. Unseasonably warm weather in the Eastern U.S. has made the first few days of November feel more like late Summer. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
People walk along Times Square in New York on November 6, 2015. New York recorded its hottest November 6 in nearly 70 years, as skaters splashed through puddles on a much-loved ice rink and commuters strolled around in T-shirts. AFP PHOTO/ JEWEL SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman has an ice-cream on a cone as she walks along a street in New York on November 6, 2015. New York recorded its hottest November 6 in nearly 70 years, as skaters splashed through puddles on a much-loved ice rink and commuters strolled around in T-shirts. AFP PHOTO/JEWEL SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 06: A helicopter flies above the Tidal Basin on a warm evening November 6, 2015 in Washington, DC. Unseasonably warm weather in the Eastern U.S. has made the first few days of November feel more like late Summer. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
JACKSON, MS - NOVEMBER 07: Volunteers exit the course after play was called due to inclement weather during a continuation of the second round of the Sanderson Farms Championship at The Country Club of Jackson on November 7, 2015 in Jackson, Mississippi. (Photo by Michael Cohen/Getty Images)
Fallen autumn leaves on the road on Friday, Nov. 6, 2015, in Mundelein, Ill. As the cold front that triggered showers and thunderstorms overnight moves off to the east, colder air will ride gusting west winds into the Chicago area Friday. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
MAMMOTH LAKES, CALIF. -- TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 3, 2015: Snow making in full force after a fall Sierra Nevada storm dropped nearly a foot of snow at Mammoth Mountain and less in town in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., on Nov. 3, 2015.(Photo by Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
MAMMOTH LAKES, CALIF. -- TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 3, 2015: A bike rose rides through snow in town after a fall Sierra Nevada storm dropped nearly a foot of snow at Mammoth Mountain and less in town in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., on Nov. 3, 2015.(Photo by Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
MAMMOTH LAKES, CALIF. -- TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 3, 2015: A fall Sierra Nevada storm dropped nearly a foot of snow at Mammoth Mountain and snowmaking is piling on in anticipation of a November 5 opening day in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., on Nov. 3, 2015.(Photo by Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX - OCTOBER 30: Residents of the Onion Creek neighborhood were evacuated in the morning October 30, 2015 in Austin, Texas. After Hurricane Patricia's passing last week, the region was hit with more torrential rain and possible tornadoes. (Photo by Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX - OCTOBER 30: Residents of the Onion Creek neighborhood were evacuated in the morning October 30, 2015 in Austin, Texas. After Hurricane Patricia's passing last week, the region was hit with more torrential rain and possible tornadoes. (Photo by Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX - OCTOBER 30: Residents of the Onion Creek neighborhood were evacuated in the morning October 30, 2015 in Austin, Texas. After Hurricane Patricia's passing last week, the region was hit with more torrential rain and possible tornadoes. (Photo by Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images)
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