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

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Storm to Bring Damaging Wind, Hail, and Tornadoes

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 will spread a swath of high winds through the Plains, Upper Midwest, Great Lakes and Ohio Valley through Friday.

Computer models show that the low may have a barometric pressure reading of around 984 millibars, or 29.06 inches of mercury, Thursday morning.

This means the low will be strong. Due to the pressure difference between that intense low and a zone of high pressure over the Northwest, strong and potentially damaging winds are expected.

FORECAST: Severe Threat | Blizzard Conditions

High wind watches and warnings have already been issued by the National Weather Service from New Mexico and West Texas to Upstate New York. Sustained winds topping 35 mph and gusts up to 60 mph are possible in the warned areas. Sustained winds have already reached 35 mph in parts of western Kansas.

These winds may lead to a variety of impacts:

  • Blizzard conditions on parts of the High Plains, when combined with snow, could lead to near-zero visibility and road closures.
  • Areas of blowing dust on the Plains may also reduce visibility.
  • Strong crosswinds may overturn high-profile vehicles (tractor trailers).
  • Downed trees or tree limbs could lead to some power outages.
  • Enhanced wildfire danger for the southern High Plains in areas that see neither rain nor snow.
  • 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 and Denver International Airports.

See photos of recent weather across the US:

16 PHOTOS
Recent weather across the U.S., November
See Gallery
'November Witch' storm to bring high winds to Great Lakes, Plains, Midwest
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)
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)
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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Here is a timeline of when and where the strongest winds are expected.

Wednesday

Strong north winds will persist much of the day in the central High Plains of Nebraska, southeast Wyoming, eastern Colorado and northwest Kansas. Blizzard conditions are possible in open areas.

Gusts to 50 mph or higher are possible in these areas, which, when combined with falling wet snow, may lead to downed tree limbs and power outages.

Strong winds will expand eastward later in the day into eastern South Dakota, southwest Minnesota, the rest of Nebraska, Kansas and western Missouri.

In the southern Plains, west-southwest winds gusting up to around 50 mph or higher may produce areas of blowing dust Wednesday afternoon from eastern New Mexico and West Texas into Oklahoma, north Texas.

In those same areas, the winds will combine with a lack of precipitation to create conditions favorable for the rapid spread of wildfires if any should start. Winds in these areas should die down near or just after sunset.

FORECAST: Denver | Dodge City, Kansas | Okla. City

Thursday

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 may die down a tad Thursday night, some gusts over 50 mph may persist particularly over and downwind of the southern Great Lakes.

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

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

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 power lines 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.

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 Niziol of 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.

When there is snow accompanying these storms, the resulting blizzard can be crippling.

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: Click through to relive the major snowstorms of last winter

36 PHOTOS
Northeast snowstorm - snow - storm - winter weather
See Gallery
'November Witch' storm to bring high winds to Great Lakes, Plains, Midwest
CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 01: A man walks down a snow-covered street on February 1, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Fifteen inches or more of snow is expected to fall on the city before Monday morning. The snow has caused power outages and forced about 2,000 flight cancelations at the city's airports. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 01: Passengers walk through snow to catch an L train on February 1, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Fifteen inches or more of snow is expected to fall on the city before Monday morning. The snow has caused power outages and forced about 2,000 flight cancelations at the city's airports. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 02: A man walks through Humboldt Park on February 2, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Snow began falling in the city Sunday morning and did not stop until early Monday morning, leaving behind 18 inches. It was the fifth largest snowfall in the city's history. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 21: A woman with a red umbrella walks on a snow covered pavement during snowfall as Washington is affected by the cold weather called 'Siberian Express' on February 21, 2015. (Photo by Erkan Avci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A woman jogs in the snow outside the White House in Washington, DC, on February 21, 2015. Some 3 to 5 inches (7.5 to 12.5 cm) of snow are expected in the US capital. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
People walk in the snow past the White House in Washington, DC, on February 21, 2015. Some 3 to 5 inches (7.5 to 12.5 cm) of snow are expected in the US capital. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
A man jogs in the snow outside the White House in Washington, DC, on February 21, 2015. Some 3 to 5 inches (7.5 to 12.5 cm) of snow are expected in the US capital. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Ice covers 94 percent of Lake Erie on February 19th, 2015. 
CAMBRIDGE, MA - JANUARY 27: Snow covers a car on January 27, 2015 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Boston, and much of the Northeast, is being hit with heavy snow from Winter Storm Juno. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 02: A plaw moves down a snow covered street on February 2, 2015 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. Another winter storm has brought inclement weather to much of the Northeast, canceling schools and hundreds of flights throughout the area. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK NY - FEBRUARY 02: Michael Musto rides his bike through the snow in Soho on February 02, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Josiah Kamau/BuzzFoto via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 02: Cars drive at slow speed during a snow storm in Manhattan, New York City on February 02, 2014. (Photo by Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 02: Cars drive at slow speed during a snow storm in Manhattan, New York City on February 02, 2014. (Photo by Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 02: A man rides a bicycle on a snowy and icy Manhattan street on February 2, 2015 in New York City. Another winter storm has brought inclement weather to much of the Northeast, canceling schools and hundreds of flights throughout the area. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 02: Pedestrians navigate the snow, ice and puddles along a Manhattan street on February 2, 2015 in New York City. Another winter storm has brought inclement weather to much of the Northeast, canceling schools and hundreds of flights throughout the area. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 02: A teen looks out of a Brooklyn subway window during a storm bringing a wintery mix of snow and ice to New York City on February 2, 2015 in New York City. Another winter storm has brought inclement weather to much of the Northeast, canceling schools and hundreds of flights throughout the New York metro area. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 02: People walk during a snow storm in Manhattan, New York City on February 02, 2014. (Photo by Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 02: People walk during a snow storm in Manhattan, New York City on February 02, 2014. (Photo by Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 02: Marcus Neris digs his car out of the snow on February 2, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Snow began falling in the city Sunday morning and did not stop until early Monday morning, leaving behind 18 inches. It was the fifth largest snowfall in the city's history. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 02: Marcus Neris digs his car out of the snow on February 2, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Snow began falling in the city Sunday morning and did not stop until early Monday morning, leaving behind 18 inches. It was the fifth largest snowfall in the city's history. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 02: A residents clears snow from a car on February 2, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Snow began falling in the city Sunday morning and did not stop until early Monday morning, leaving behind 18 inches. It was the fifth largest snowfall in the city's history. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 02: Brittany OBerien (L) and Jessica Moser (R) dig their car out from the snow on February 2, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Snow began falling in the city yesterday morning and did not stop until this morning, leaving behind 18 inches. It was the fifth largest snowfall in the city's history. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 02: Residents dig their cars out from the the snow on February 2, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Snow began falling in the city Sunday morning and did not stop until early Monday morning, leaving behind 18 inches. It was the fifth largest snowfall in the city's history. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 02: Residents try to free a stranded car after it became stuck in the snow on February 2, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Snow began falling in the city Sunday morning and did not stop until early Monday morning, leaving behind 18 inches. It was the fifth largest snowfall in the city's history. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 02: Brittany OBerien (L) and Jessica Moser (R) dig their car out of snow on February 2, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Snow began falling in the city yesterday morning and did not stop until this morning, leaving behind 18 inches. It was the fifth largest snowfall in the city's history. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 02: Residents try to free a stranded car after it became stuck in snow on February 2, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Snow began falling in the city Sunday morning and did not stop until early Monday morning, leaving behind 18 inches. It was the fifth largest snowfall in the city's history. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 02: Cars are burined in snow along a residential street on February 2, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Snow began falling in the city Sunday morning and did not stop until early Monday morning, leaving behind 18 inches. It was the fifth largest snowfall in the city's history. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 02: A man clears snow from the sidewalk in front of an aprtment building on February 2, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Snow began falling in the city Sunday morning and did not stop until early Monday morning, leaving behind 18 inches. It was the fifth largest snowfall in the city's history. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 02: Residents dig their cars out from the snow on February 2, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Snow began falling in the city Sunday morning and did not stop until early Monday morning, leaving behind 18 inches. It was the fifth largest snowfall in the city's history. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 02: A dog plays in the snow in Humboldt Park on February 2, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Snow began falling in the city Sunday morning and did not stop until early Monday morning, leaving behind 18 inches. It was the fifth largest snowfall in the city's history. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 01: Aryn Sothbarr clears snow from the sidewalk outside her home on February 1, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Fifteen inches or more of snow is expected to fall on the city before Monday morning. The snow has caused power outages and forced about 2,000 flight cancelations at the city's airports. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 01: A man digs out his car along a snow-covered street on February 1, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Fifteen inches or more of snow is expected to fall on the city before Monday morning. The snow has caused power outages and forced about 2,000 flight cancelations at the city's airports. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 01: A cyclist takes cover from the snow on February 1, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Fifteen inches or more of snow is expected to fall on the city before Monday morning. The snow has caused power outages and forced about 2,000 flight cancelations at the city's airports. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 01: Pedestrian and motorists navigate a snow-covered street on February 1, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Fifteen inches or more of snow is expected to fall on the city before Monday morning. The snow has caused power outages and forced about 2,000 flight cancelations at the city's airports. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 01: Drew Maurer clears snow from the sidewalk outside his home on February 1, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Fifteen inches or more of snow is expected to fall on the city before Monday morning. The snow has caused power outages and forced about 2,000 flight cancelations at the city's airports. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
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