Written by PinPoint Weather Intern Andrew Cook
The winter's latest cold front pushed through the Brazos Valley earlier today and brought with it walloping winds! Wind speeds are sustained between 25 and 30 mph with gusts above 40 mph! The cold front passage also dropped our humidity values into the teens prompting the National Weather Service to issue a Red Flag Warning for all of Southeast Texas.
Red Flag Warning
A Red Flag Warning was issued for all of Southeast Texas earlier today because of the strong fire danger present across the area. The high winds and low humidity values with this new airmass present the perfect opportunity for wildfires to burn quickly out of control. It is strongly recommended that no outside burning be done today while the winds are so high, because one loose spark may cause a massive wildfire that will not be controlled until the winds die down.
Why so windy??
The high winds associated with this cold front are due to a strong low pressure system, known as a mid-latitude cyclone, centered over North Texas and Central Oklahoma. Mid-latitude cyclones are the major weather events for the United States, and are caused by a multitude of factors including upper level flow, and air mass differences on the north and south sides of the low. These air mass differences are what fuel the cyclone. On the north side of the system cold dry air pushes south, while warm moist air on the south pushes north. As time passes the the air begins to wrap around the low in a counter-clockwise fashion creating a cold front that moves south and east, and a warm front to the north and west. This creates a strong temperature and pressure gradient centered around the low that causes high winds to develop in order to balance the unstable atmospheric conditions. A strong gradient is characterized by tight wrappings of isobars and isotherms, and the tighter the gradient, the stronger the winds. The pressure gradient in a hurricane is extremely tight and that is why winds speeds can exceed 130 mph!
The only place we will see a blizzard here in the Brazos Valley is at a Dairy Queen, but that is not the case to our north in the Panhandle and Oklahoma. This area is experiencing a record setting blizzard with wind speeds sustained between 25 and 35 mph plunging the wind chill below zero and creating snow drifts several feet high. This storm system has shut down all of the Panhandle, but as it heads east the blizzard will begin to cripple Central Oklahoma and Kansas. As of 5pm, The National Weather Service in Amarillo reported a 24 hour total of 19.0" of snow -- the second highest one-day snow total, ever, for Amarillo.
The Week Ahead
Tonight and tomorrow will remain windy, but winds will begin to diminish into mid week. Mild days and cold nights will stick around throughout this week as will mostly sunny skies. This is due to a high pressure system that will swing across the area in the wake of the powerful low to our north as it moves off to the east.