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Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 10/26/2010

Massive, historic storm tearing through Midwest

By Jason Samenow

* Warm before storm: Full Forecast | Later: Storm to impact D.C.? *
* Upper Midwest radar | Ohio/Tennessee Valley radar | National radar *

midwest-storm-102610.jpg
Surface weather map showing historically deep low pressure over Minnesota. Circular brown contours are lines of equal pressure (isobars). These tightly packed lines indicate a strong pressure gradient and hence powerful winds. Source: NOAA

What may become one of the strongest fall storms on record, will rapidly intensify as it cuts through Minnesota today, landing at the Canadian border Wednesday morning.

This high impact, severe storm is already producing widespread damaging winds in the upper Midwest and Great Lakes. High wind warnings are in effect across parts or all of at least 10 states where sustained winds of 30-50 mph are likely, with gusts to over 60 mph possible. Significant airport delays and cancellations are likely in Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Chicago, Indianapolis, Detroit (especially later today) and smaller surrounding airports. Already more than 125 flights have been canceled at Chicago's O'Hare.

In addition to the vast, intense wind field associated with the storm, severe thunderstorms -- with the potential for damaging winds over 70 mph and significant tornadoes - are developing out ahead of the storm from western Indiana into the Ohio Valley.

spc-risk-102610.jpg
Risk for severe thunderstorms today (Tuesday, October 26, 2010). Source: Storm Prediction Center

Several tornadoes and wind damage reports have already come in today from eastern Illinois resulting from a squall line that passed through the region early this morning. In addition, a tornado touched down near Milwaukee causing damage to buildings but no injuries according to the Weather Channel.

Numerous tornado and severe thunderstorm warnings are active for this same squall line now cutting across Indiana and Ohio. The Storm Prediction Center has placed much of the central and western Ohio Valley in a moderate-to-high risk zone for severe thunderstorms late this morning through the afternoon. Tornado watches extend from Michigan to Mississippi.

The storm's barometric pressure is equivalent to a Category 2 or 3 hurricane, likely to plunge all the way down to 28.34 inches or 960 mb by tomorrow morning. Meteorologist Paul Douglas from the Star Tribune in Minneapolis indicates the storm's central pressure may drop to the lowest on record for the state of Minnesota. [Update, 11:54 a.m.: The Weather Channel reports a new state low pressure record of 962.1 mb was set in Minnesota this morning]. Even well to the east of the storm center, meteorologist Tom Skilling from WGN in Chicago suggests the Windy City could set a record for its lowest pressure reading observed in the month of October, dipping to around 29.05".

On the back side of the storm in northern Great Plains, colder air is pouring southward, changing the rain to snow. Blizzard warnings are in effect for much of North Dakota, where fierce winds combined with 4" or more of wet snow stir up the possibility of near whiteout conditions.

Although this fall storm will likely go down in the record books as one of the worst of its kind, the Midwest and Great Lakes have experienced ones like it in the recent and distant past. On November 11, 1998 a storm with similar characteristics moved through Minnesota, packing wind gusts over 60 mph in multiple locations in the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes while setting low pressure records. (I personally recall recording a wind-gust of 70 mph with a hand-held anemometer atop the Atmospheric Sciences building at the University of Wisconsin-Madison).

Thirty three years before practically to the date (November 8, 1975), an intense storm moving through the Upper Midwest caused the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald shipping vessel on Lake Superior, killing 29 crew members.

By Jason Samenow  | October 26, 2010; 10:30 AM ET
Categories:  U.S. Weather  
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Next: Midwest storm may bring severe weather to DC

Comments

Jason - I think you meant to refer to the November 11, 1998 storm, not 2008.

Posted by: afreedma | October 26, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

SPC's not playing around today. Looks like every cell that develops gets tornado warned, not that I would blame them.

Posted by: Brian-CapitalWeatherGang | October 26, 2010 11:00 AM | Report abuse

As Bombo has noted in previous threads, there was a truly historic blizzard in the upper midwest in 1940. Many deaths, as a lot of people were caught outdoors unawares. Minnesota Public Radio did an in-depth piece about this storm:
http://climate.umn.edu/doc/journal/top5/numbertwo.htm

Posted by: JerryFloyd1 | October 26, 2010 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Not to overlook the people in the crosshairs of this thing, we should all be concerned...

But what impact will it have on our area? I note that the outermost band in your graphic above, "slight," laps into the DC metro area.

Wow, what a monster. Godspeed to ya if you're in it.

New on EWM: "Peeple of zee wurl, relax."
http://www.eyewitnessmuse.com/diary.php?p=277

Posted by: TheEyewitnessMuse | October 26, 2010 11:13 AM | Report abuse

This is when I am glad I don't live in Dayton anymore. The sound of the sirens going off used to make my stomach drop and I'm thinking a few of them are going to be going off before the day is done.

Posted by: SPS1 | October 26, 2010 11:17 AM | Report abuse

@TheEyewitnessMuse

Note the teaser at the top of this post -- "Later: Storm to impact D.C.?" ... Also, see our latest full forecast.

Posted by: CapitalWeatherGang | October 26, 2010 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Wow, that is one organized storm.

Posted by: Ann-CapitalWeatherGang | October 26, 2010 11:42 AM | Report abuse

The current national radar view is impressive, a NE to SW straight line of strong storms from NW Ohio down to central Tennessee, without a gap. And kicking off tornado warnings all along.

Posted by: dhb2 | October 26, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

So a bit of a dumb question; why does this front have such an impact on the midwest but we may get a few gusty winds and rain showers, nothing more? Does it have to do with it losing steam as it marches East?

Posted by: authorofpoetry | October 26, 2010 11:55 AM | Report abuse

NWS says 50 mph over ridgetops in Eastern Panhandle. (Wind advisories start further west in W.Va. for now.) I'm atop a 1,000' ridge facing the Valley and the south side of my house is the most vulnerable. We've definitely seen worse, often, but I'm already planning to be Elsewhere.

Posted by: tinkerbelle | October 26, 2010 11:59 AM | Report abuse

New low pressure record (AFAICT) in Duluth right now at 961.5 (28.39 inches) That is amazing.

Posted by: eric654 | October 26, 2010 12:11 PM | Report abuse

On the severe side of things, there are two descrete supercells in SW Tennesee right now that look particularly threatening.

Posted by: Brian-CapitalWeatherGang | October 26, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

@authorofpoetry

Good question, and basically your "losing steam" argument is on target. With this particular storm, the low-pressure center, both at the surface and higher up in the atmosphere is forecast to just kind of stall in the Upper Midwest and north of the border. So as the associated cold front moves eastward, it will become further and further removed from the parent low pressure. This will tend to decrease the intensity of showers and thunderstorms along the front, and also potentially make them more broken rather than a solid line. But there could still be enough umph left to give us showers and thunderstorms with strong winds late tonight into tomorrow, especially if the D.C. area happens to catch a more solid stretch of what may be a broken line of showers/storms on the larger scale. -Dan, CWG

Posted by: CapitalWeatherGang | October 26, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

@Eric654, according to the MPR piece, pressure dropped to around 29.00 during the historic 1940 storm; 28.39 is stunning!

Posted by: JerryFloyd1 | October 26, 2010 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Interesting, thanks Dan. My grandfather lives in Chicago and in so many cases related to weather he has mentioned the severity of storms there. But by the time they reach us, they are less severe. This also happens with cold temperatures as well, I assume.

Posted by: authorofpoetry | October 26, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

P.S. I just checked data from the 1993 so-called "Storm of the Century" and the barometer dropped to 28.28 at White Plains, NY, so Duluth is very near to that reading.
Source: http://ww2010.atmos.uiuc.edu/(Gh)/arch/cases/930312/hist.rxml

Posted by: JerryFloyd1 | October 26, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Jerry, the record pressure 28.28 is also the record for the Blizzard of 78 (the earlier midwest one, not the Boston one) near Cleveland OH. I see some 28.36 readings now http://forecast.weather.gov/obslocal.php?warnzone=MNZ037&zoneid=CDT

Posted by: eric654 | October 26, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

@authorofpoetry--
(Please note: I am not a weather professional. I just observe and try to enjoy)

The simplest answer is that there is nothing to stop the storms out in the midwest. I spent the first 27 years of my life in Indiana...if you're north of US50, it's flat. Out in the DC area, we've got the Blue Ridge to disrupt the storms somewhat, as well as the influence of the bay and ocean systems.

If you think of moving the storm systems as akin to rolling a ball--going across most of the Midwest is like rolling a ball across a nice flat parking lot. Then the ball has to go up a hill, and it loses steam. Of course, if you have enough force behind the ball, it will go up the hill just fine...

Looks like the system might have spit out a couple of small tornados in Kokomo and Greenfield, IN (90 minutes due north of Indy and 30 minutes due east of Indy). I've got family in Greenfield, and they said the sky turned green right before all heck broke loose. Nothing official yet, though.

Posted by: technomuse | October 26, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Although Midwesterners are talking "Armistice Day Blizzard" [1940], my take on this storm tends to favor the October 10, 1950 "Land Hurricane" as a better analog to this storm. Nonetheless there could be some snow and blowing snow in northwest Wisconsin by the time the storm moves into Canada.

As for the "losing steam" issue, the reason we won't get much more than the frontal thunderstorms is because the main body of the storm is moving north into Canada; thus we don't get the "comma head".

In order for us to get something like the Armistice Day blizzard, a storm of this magnitude and intensity needs to develop about 250 miles or so off Myrtle Beach, SC or Wilmington, NC; it needs to crawl very slowly up the coast, taking two or three days to move up to the latitude of the Delmarva Peninsula; it needs to intensify very rapidly and strongly,[while maintaining a very slow forward speed!], and above all, we must have the SUBFREEZING AIR IN PLACE AT ALL LEVELS [!] over the Washington Metro area for the ENTIRE DURATION of the storm!!! In short, we need to be within the comma head for quite a while, with no changeover to liquid precipitation. This is difficult to accomplish here in Washington. We have come rather close a couple of times recently; first the Superstorm of Mar., 1992 [it changed to sleet & rain here] and again in last February's Snowmageddon blizzard [the storm moved too rapidly]. It would also help if a lot of wrap-around snow continues for several hours after the main storm passes north of Delmarva [this RARELY happens around here]. In short, the "Armistice Day, 1940" scenario is very unlikely around here, but not totally impossible, and maybe it might happen some winter if the Arctic ice cap keeps shrinking during the summer, and we have another Greenland block in place .

Posted by: Bombo47jea | October 26, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Tom Skilling's WGN data shows that it is still raining as far northwest as St. Cloud MN, with the changeover to snow still near the Fargo/Moorhead area. It will take a few hours for the snow to get as far southeast as the Twin Cities and the Menomonie/Eau Claire area.

In Chicago, it's still in the fifties, though wind gusts of 48 mph [tropical storm force] have been recorded at the major airports there.

Posted by: Bombo47jea | October 26, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

Bombo, small correction, the superstorm was 1993

Posted by: eric654 | October 26, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Tom Skilling @ 1:30 pm...Chicago temp. 61; wind gusting to 61 mph.

Snow should hit western Wisconsin by this time tomorrow.

Squall line is moving through Ohio; uncertain when and how strong it is when it gets here...will it break up over West Virginia, or will we get a "cold-weather derecho"??? Big issue may be whether it hits here before I'm home at 11 PM from tonight's Clarendon Balroom dance. It's moving mighty fast...to 65 mph.

Posted by: Bombo47jea | October 26, 2010 1:47 PM | Report abuse

@eric654...Thanks for the correction...I keep thinking "1992" for some reason--should have said "'92 or '93".

What I DO remember about the Superstorm is all that disappointing sleet & rain around here while points north and west were being socked with snow. One more reason why it's so difficult to get a huge blizzard down here...even in the dead of winter the rain/snow line can move west of here giving us nothing more than buckets of icy cold plain old rain...

Posted by: Bombo47jea | October 26, 2010 1:57 PM | Report abuse

Have a pair of 28.30 readings to the NE of Duluth. http://forecast.weather.gov/obslocal.php?warnzone=MNZ020&zoneid=CDT

Posted by: eric654 | October 26, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Looks like we've tied the lowest pressure ever recorded in a non-tropical system in the U.S. at 28.28 inches http://forecast.weather.gov/obslocal.php?warnzone=MNZ020&zoneid=CDT

Posted by: eric654 | October 26, 2010 2:52 PM | Report abuse

Looks like a new U.S. low pressure record (non-tropical) at Orr MN (in northeast MN) at 28.27 inches http://forecast.weather.gov/obslocal.php?warnzone=MNZ011&local_place=Orr+MN&zoneid=CDT&offset=18000

Posted by: eric654 | October 26, 2010 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Our world is paralyzed by fear. Every day you turn on the news and see evidence of our impending doom. To lighten the mood, you might flip over to the Discovery or History channel to disengage only to learn the latest theory on how we're all about to die. Pretty depressing stuff! Fortunately, there's good news! There is hope. See for yourself: Story4.Us/2050.

Posted by: GoodNews316 | October 26, 2010 3:36 PM | Report abuse

What are the chances for further air traffic disruptions at ORD tomorrow? And turbulence along the way? Two poor EPA employees want to get home from Chicago.

Posted by: afriesen24 | October 26, 2010 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Eric, thanks for the pressure updates. Even more mazing to see these readings in October. Usually the wild stuff doesn't hit the upper midwest 'til Novemberm and if for no other reason than the low pressure readings, this has become an historic storm.

Posted by: JerryFloyd1 | October 26, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Koch heads; making a killing on breaking records.

Record Windstorms across the midwest as well as Flooding, Death's, Homeless, Rising temperatures and sea levels....and I'm talking about Arizona, Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, Florida, Kentucky, and Tennessee. For poor countries, Global warming damages affects Millions of people. Send the Bill to the Oil & Coal Industry and the Koch brothers. When they try and bill the public, people will invest in clean energy and save trillions while creating millions of manufacturing jobs.

Fossil Fuel Lobbyists and investors: How is that Oil spill, Flood, Tornado, and Biblical Tropical Storms in Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, Florida, Kentucky, and Tennessee working out for you? How about that 1000 year flooding in Nashville and that Camp ground in Arkansas? Good times huh? Send the bill to the Koch’s; they can afford it.

The Koch brothers are worth $21.5 Billion each and tied for the 5th richest persons in the World (let’s take them down a few pegs for the benefit of mankind)

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/22/AR2010092206003.html

“Charles Koch, the 74- year-old chairman and CEO of Koch Industries Inc., tied for fifth with his brother David Koch, 70, with $21.5 billion.”

Posted by: Airborne82 | October 26, 2010 5:45 PM | Report abuse

Hmmm, well that disaster movie about super low barometric pressure winter cyclones that literally created near outer space temps and in days caused an ice age comes to mind. I wonder if that is even possible?

Posted by: periculum | October 26, 2010 9:06 PM | Report abuse

periculum, it is doubtful that the dynamics of tropopause folding (the most applicable feature of strong storms like the current one now in Canada) would change enough to allow anything like to happen. An article documents.irf.se/get_document.php?group=P1&docid=89 talks about folds of 1-2 km where the tropopause is about 11 km at the poles to 17 km at the equator. It is essentially impossible, given the dynamic constraints on atmospheric motion, that a fold would reach the surface or anywhere close. Even if it did, it would be a quick and temporary shot of stratosphere-troposphere mixing.

Posted by: eric654 | October 27, 2010 7:47 AM | Report abuse

Excerpts from an editorial at radfilms.com:

PROFITING FROM GLOBAL WARMING AND OIL POLLUTION
by Robert Carl Cohen
(Up dated June 17, 2010)

Enough of the growing cacophony of ineffective whining by misinformed do-gooders. Global warming is not only unavoidable, it's the best thing for big business since the Serpent convinced Eve of the benefits of the pleasures of population proliferation. Why? Because unless one has one's head buried in the sand, the opportunities it provides for increased profits are virtually unlimited:
1. The warmer the climate and the heavier it rains and snows, the greater the demand for insulation, air conditioning and heating - a boon to the manufacturing and construction industries.
2. The increase in demand for electricity required for both cooling and heating leads to ever-increasing prices, and profits, for all sectors of the energy industry.

Posted by: bobcoco | October 27, 2010 2:33 PM | Report abuse

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