Thursday, December 1, 2011

WEATHER ANOMALIES: "Once a Decade" Santa Ana Wind Event for California?! UPDATE: High Winds Cause Chaos at LA Airport!

All the ingredients are coming together for a severe Santa Ana wind event to unfold across Southern California tonight into Thursday with other areas in the Southwest also facing potentially damaging winds.

"A once a decade type wind storm," is how Western Expert Meteorologist Ken Clark is describing the impending Santa Ana winds. The populated Santa Ana wind-prone areas will endure gusts to 70 mph, while the highest gusts on the neighboring mountaintops will range from 80 to 100 mph. The strongest winds will howl late tonight into Thursday morning. "Winds of this magnitude will cause damage [to trees and structures] and widespread travel and power disruptions," warned Clark. "High-profile vehicles will be forced to not travel and even traveling in cars in the wind-prone areas will be dangerous" because powerful crosswinds can easily overturn trucks and campers and severely tug on smaller vehicles.

Bodily harm may not only result from falling trees and branches, but also as loose lawn items and Christmas decorations get tossed around and turn into what Clark describes as "airborne missiles." Despite declaring that this will be a "chilly Santa Ana event," Expert Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski cautions that the wildfire danger should not be taken lightly. "Dry air often accompanies Santa Ana events and makes the fuel, such as dry brush, more ready to burn. Any fires that get started and are not extinguished quickly could be whipped into a frenzy by the strong winds." It is not just Southern California bracing for potentially damaging winds. San Francisco, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City and other locations from Utah to California and far western Arizona will also be threatened. According to World Weather Expert Jim Andrews, "The Wasatch Range will experience especially powerful east to northeast winds in this situation from late tonight into Thursday evening." The setup in the Wasatch is known as a bora.

The fierce winds will progress from north to south across the Southwest into tonight, then will continue to howl into Thursday. In addition to damage, the winds could lead to flight delays. Motorists traveling through the deserts could also be faced with reduced visibility from blowing dust. There are two advantages to this wind event--dense fog will finally clear the San Joaquin Valley today and the same storm kicking up the wind will bring welcome snow to the ski resorts of the Four Corners region tonight into Friday. Friday is also when the wind event throughout the Southwest will ease, but yet another (though likely not as strong) may follow this weekend. - Accu Weather.
WATCH: Damaging Santa Ana Wind Event.

UPDATE: High Winds Cause Chaos at LA Airport!

Winds, including gusts of 97 mph, raced through Southern California, knocking out electric power and disrupting operations at Los Angeles International Airport. Power was off in some terminals and debris was scattered over runways at LAX Wednesday night. The weather delayed many travelers, with at least 20 flights diverted to other airports and others circling the airport waiting for the wind to die down, the Los Angeles Times reported. The 97 mph gust was recorded north of Los Angeles in the Angeles National Forest, the newspaper said. Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, said gusts were 40 knots or more, creating dangerous crosswinds as pilots attempted to land.

"We are trying to shoehorn a four-runway operation on to two runways, and add into that mix periodic strong crosswinds that prevent aircraft from taking off or landing, and you have a pretty interesting evening," Gregor said. Two runways were closed because of debris. In some of the darkened terminals travelers used cellphones as emergency flashlights. The Times said more than 25,000 customers in the region were without electrical service early Thursday. The wind put an AM news radio station, KNX, off the air for a time. Traffic lights in parts of the city were out. Forecasters said Southern California would experience high winds through Friday. - UPI.

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