'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)

cyclone

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:

16 PHOTOS
Recent weather across the U.S., November
See Gallery
'November Witch' storm brings 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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