Strongest storm ever recorded in the Midwest smashes all-time pressure records

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:09 PM GMT on October 27, 2010

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Tornadoes, violent thunderstorms, and torrential rains swept through a large portion of the nation's midsection yesterday, thanks to the strongest storm ever recorded in the Midwest. NOAA's Storm Prediction Center logged 24 tornado reports and 282 reports of damaging high winds from yesterday's spectacular storm, and the storm continues to produce a wide variety of wild weather, with tornado watches posted for Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia, a blizzard warning for North Dakota, high wind warnings for most of the upper Midwest, and near-hurricane force winds on Lake Superior.

The mega-storm reached peak intensity late yesterday afternoon over Minnesota, resulting in the lowest barometric pressure readings ever recorded in the continental United States, except for from hurricanes and nor'easters affecting the Atlantic seaboard. So far, it appears the lowest reading (now official) was a pressure of 28.21" (955.2 mb) reduced to sea level reported from Bigfork, Minnesota at 5:13pm CDT. Other extreme low pressures from Minnesota during yesterday's storm included 28.22" (956 mb) at Orr at 5:34pm CDT, 28.23" at International Falls (3:45pm), and 28.23" at Waskuh at 5:52pm. The 28.23" (956mb) reading from International Falls yesterday obliterated their previous record of 28.70" set on Nov. 11, 1949 by nearly one-half inch of mercury--a truly amazing anomaly. Duluth's 28.36" (961 mb) reading smashed their old record of 28.48" (964 mb) set on Nov. 11, 1998. Wisconsin also recorded its lowest barometric pressure in history yesterday, with a 28.36" (961 mb) reading at Superior. The old record was 28.45" (963.4 mb) at Green Bay on April 3, 1982. The previous state record for Minnesota was 28.43" (963 mb) at Albert Lea and Austin on Nov. 10, 1998.


Figure 1. Visible satellite image of the October 26, 2010 superstorm taken at 5:32pm EDT. At the time, Bigfork, Minnesota was reporting the lowest pressure ever recorded in a U.S. non-coastal storm, 955 mb. Image credit: NASA/GSFC.

Yesterday's records in context
Yesterday's 28.21" (955 mb) low pressure reading in Minnesota breaks not only the 28.28" (958 mb) previous "USA-interior-of-the-continent-record" from Cleveland, Ohio during the Great Ohio Storm of Jan. 26, 1978 (a lower reading in Canada during this event bottomed out at an amazing 28.05"/950 mb), but also the lowest pressure ever measured anywhere in the continental United States aside from the Atlantic Coast. The modern Pacific Coast record is 28.40" (962mb) at Quillayute, Washington on Dec. 1, 1987. An older reading, taken on a ship offshore from the mouth of the Umpqua River in Oregon during the famous "Storm King" event on January 9, 1880, was 28.20" (954.9 mb)--slightly lower than the 2010 storm.

The lowest non-hurricane barometric pressure reading in the lower 48 states is 28.10" (952 mb) measured at Bridgehampton, New York (Long Island) during an amazing nor'easter on March 1, 1914 (see Kocin and Uccellini, "Northeast Snowstorms; Vol. 2., p. 324, American Meteorological Society, 2004.) The lowest non-hurricane barometric pressure reading from anywhere in the United States was a 27.35" (927 mb) reading at Dutch Harbor, Alaska on Oct. 25, 1977. The lowest hurricane pressure reading was the 26.34" (892 mb) recorded in 1935 during the Great Labor Day Hurricane.


Figure 2. Storm reports received by NOAA's Storm Prediction Center from the October 26, 2010 superstorm.

The six most intense storms in history to affect the Great Lakes
According to the Chicago branch of the National Weather Service and Christopher C. Burt, our Weather Records blogger, the following are the six lowest pressures measured in the U.S. Great Lakes region:

1. Yesterday's October 26, 2010 Superstorm (955 mb/28.20")
2. Great Ohio Blizzard January 26, 1978 (958 mb/28.28")
3. Armistice Day Storm November 11, 1940 (967 mb/28.55")
4. November 10, 1998 storm (967 mb/ 28.55")
5. White Hurricane of November 7 - 9, 1913 (968 mb/28.60")
6. Edmund Fitzgerald Storm of November 10, 1975 (980 mb/28.95")

So, the famed storm that sank the ore carrier Edmund Fitzgerald in 1974, killing all 29 sailors aboard, was weaker than the current storm. Indeed, I wouldn't want to be on a boat in Lake Superior today--sustained winds at the Rock of Ages lighthouse on Isle Royale were a sustained 68 mph, gusting to 78 mph at 3am EDT this morning!

Yet Another Remarkable Mid-latitude Cyclone so far this Year!
Yesterday's superstorm is reminiscent of the amazing low pressures reached earlier this year (Jan. 19-22) in the West, where virtually every site in California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, southern Oregon, and southern Idaho--about 10 - 15% of the U.S. land area--broke their lowest on record pressure readings. However, the lowest readings from that event fell well short of yesterday's mega-storm with 28.85" (977 mb) being about the lowest recorded at any onshore site.

Commentary
We've now had two remarkable extratropical storms this year in the U.S. that have smashed all-time low pressure records across a large portion of the country. Is this a sign that these type of storms may be getting stronger? Well, there is evidence that wintertime extratropical storms have grown in intensity in the Pacific, Arctic, and Great Lakes in recent decades. I discuss the science in detail in a post I did earlier this year. Here is an excerpt from that post:

General Circulation Models (GCMs) like the ones used in the 2007 IPCC Assessment Report do a very good job simulating how winter storms behave in the current climate, and we can run simulations of the atmosphere with extra greenhouse gases to see how winter storms will behave in the future. The results are very interesting. Global warming is expected to warm the poles more than the equatorial regions. This reduces the difference in temperature between the pole and Equator. Since winter storms form in response to the atmosphere's need to transport heat from the Equator to the poles, this reduced temperature difference reduces the need for winter storms, and thus the models predict fewer storms will form. However, since a warmer world increases the amount of evaporation from the surface and puts more moisture in the air, these future storms drop more precipitation. During the process of creating that precipitation, the water vapor in the storm must condense into liquid or frozen water, liberating "latent heat"--the extra heat that was originally added to the water vapor to evaporate it in the first place. This latent heat intensifies the winter storm, lowering the central pressure and making the winds increase. So, the modeling studies predict a future with fewer total winter storms, but a greater number of intense storms. These intense storms will have more lift, and will thus tend to drop more precipitation--including snow, when we get areas of strong lift in the -15°C preferred snowflake formation region.

Invest 90L
A low pressure system (Invest 90L) in the middle Atlantic Ocean has developed a broad circulation, but has very limited heavy thunderstorm activity. NHC is giving 90L a 10% of developing into a tropical depression by Friday. Another area of disturbed weather a few hundred miles west of 90L is disorganized, and is also being given a 10% chance of developing.

Next update
I'll have an update on Thursday morning. I'm at the National Hurricane Center in Miami this week, as part of their visiting scientist program, and hopefully the weather in the rest of the country will slow down enough so I can write about goings-on here at the Hurricane Center!

Christopher C. Burt is responsible for most of the content of this post, with the exception of the commentary, which I wrote.

Jeff Masters

The Big Blow! (pjpix)
This photo and the other in my series were both take from the same spot ... just different directions and just a representative scene mirroring so many others here in the midwest. These were taken yesterday morning right after the thunderstorm front had gone through but the winds continued to increase in intensity as the barometer dropped ... to a record low in some midwest spots. The big Blow was the equivlant of a Cat 2 or Cat 3 hurricane and indeed a very unusual storm in the upper midwest for this time of the year.
The Big Blow!
Cell Rotation Animation (SunsetSailor)
Gif Created on Make A Gif
Cell Rotation Animation
()
Disappearing Pier 5 (mactoot)
I posted a video of continuous hits at youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ckrpWF-dXwU
Disappearing Pier 5
October Storm (cambuck1)
October Storm

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Hi blog thought i would finally register after lurking for years, hope to learn some more from the good folks here, cheers
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Hi all thought i would finally register after lurking for years, hope to learn some more thongs from the blog
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896. Jax82
NEW BLOG
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895. Jax82
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Quoting aspectre:
If you remember the '60s, you weren't there.
ROFL Well maybe not old enough to participate?
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XRichard is about to affect the CONUS, remember, the reason why it grew in thunderstorms yesterday is because wind shear has dropped to 10-20 knots as the jet stream lifted north before the trough. Nothing but a remnant low but eventually Richard was going to recurve, I had stated this days ago when it was struggling as a TS. It's October, not September and storms down there will recurve eventually.

Member Since: July 1, 2008 Posts: 13 Comments: 7387
Quoting reedzone:


You mean 92L :P


Sorry, I'm not considering 90 & 92 dangerous to land; I'm concerned about 91L....
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Quoting cat5hurricane:

94. Talk about some dry heat in the Space City.


Nah, dewpoints were in the 70s yesterday
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863 FlaBlondie "My "look alike" Marilyn Monroe... "

Ain't Holloween yet: no need to go braggin' that ya look like ya been decayin' for the past 50-odd years.
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Quoting caneswatch:


I'm with you on this one. So many things are wrong with that.


I have met quite a few girls over the years who have played to the monroe tip...Weird. I suppose it would be great for 1 nice long weekend. The weather in SWFL is downright muggy and too hot. This indian summer sucks.
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POSS. T.C.F.A.
INV/92L/XX
MARK
25.63N/58.55W
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 171 Comments: 53827
883. JRRP

Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 5802
Quoting cat5hurricane:

This one has the best chance out of all three.


92L is at 60%, should become a Subtropical Storm very soon, the 91L is next in line for Thomas I believe.
Member Since: July 1, 2008 Posts: 13 Comments: 7387
POSS T.C.F.A.
INV/91L/XX
MARK
7.58N/48.88W
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 171 Comments: 53827
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Houston set a record yesterdy at 94. This morning winds are blowing 30 gusting to 40mph and dewpoints have tanked into the 20s with red flag warning in place.
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Quoting sunlinepr:


The only dif. is that olga looked like this N of RD... 91L looks like that more than 900 miles away....



You mean 92L :P
Member Since: July 1, 2008 Posts: 13 Comments: 7387
STOP THE PRESSES!!!!!!!
ENTERPRISE, ALABAMA IS GETTING RAIN!!!!!!!

Man, it's been dry over here!

Anyhow, I see the NHC website has decorated their map for fall. All the Red, Orange, and Yellow colors really spruce things up! I have to look through here and get the full synopsis.

Right after I get a coffee!
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Quoting Buhdog:


(double takes....questions many things) moves on


I'm with you on this one. So many things are wrong with that.
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I originally didn't think that 91L would develop, but it's looking very good this morning.

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Quoting reedzone:
92L reminds me a heck alot of Olga in 2007, the structure that is..


The only dif. is that olga looked like this N of RD... 91L looks healthier more than 900 miles away....

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Quoting FlaBlondie:


Oh no my dear, we don't want any more of that old nasty Wilma stuff coming here and messing up a perfectly good Halloween..







(double takes....questions many things) moves on
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92L reminds me a heck alot of Olga in 2007, the structure that is..
Member Since: July 1, 2008 Posts: 13 Comments: 7387
Quoting Skyepony:
I know I probably shouldn't~ but I couldn't help but draw all over the Graphical TWO...it's still their forecast.


Very creative...and nice to see your lighter side.
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Quoting FlaBlondie:


Oh no my dear, we don't want any more of that old nasty Wilma stuff coming here and messing up a perfectly good Halloween..



Haha I know, I was speaking of 91L.
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Quoting aspectre:
If you remember the '60s, you weren't there.


My "look alike" Marilyn Monroe was very much a live and living life back in the 50's and 60's...



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Quoting Grothar:
Anyone think we will be hit in the CONUS??


I think Conus hits from now on will come from the West....
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We already got the hyperactive season this just adds to it ;)
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If you remember the '60s, you weren't there.
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Quoting Grothar:
Anyone think we will be hit in the CONUS??


Knowing that i've been through Wilma, anything is possible.
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Quoting Grothar:
Anyone think we will be hit in the CONUS??


Jeff alluded to the jet stream being so far south screaming at 120MPH that it's improable that CONUS would be affected by 91L under those circumstances; that is, unless the jet stream pulls back.
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Quoting Skyepony:
Looking at 91L, where the heat is left in the Caribbean, big pic WV loop I'm a little concerned for Haiti/DR. HWRF takes it more toward PR but watching the run 92L isn't nearly as strong as it is on the HWRF run for 92L. I lean toward global models when multiple blobs are in play. GFS doesn't seem to inish 91L well on the last run. CMC has outpaced the rest on 90L 61nm error last 24hrs, 2nd is HWRF with 83nm. Notice CMC is leaning toward Hispaniola.


Good model analysis....
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Quoting sunlinepr:
Here in PR the only fact that can help us right now, is that shear keeps it from developing (doesn't seems so), so that it will reach us as a wave or TD.... Else, it looks serious, for me, at this moment....

I am not taking this one lightly..it's late and climatology is against it and right now shear is 30-50 knots to it's north.. but the 120HR upper air forecasts have that shear relaxing..
And right now it looks to be developing before it gets to the shear so it will have to be torn apart..which takes time..
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Quoting sunlinepr:


Man, what a big spinnin monster...
91L is growing...
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21193
Is there any blogger here that looks like JFK??? You May anwser that post please....
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We may get that hyperactive season after all..
PEOPLE IN THE ISLANDS BEWARE..
While 91L is going to have to fight off shear it got a well defined well stacked circulation on RGB satellite, especially for a storm so far south. Plenty of moisture, warm ocean TCHP everything going for it. Until it goes north.
There is 50KNT of shear over us now but that may relax a bit as the upper level low causing 92L becomes more organized and moves NW which incidentally will suck 91L North over some islands right now looks like the DR but my feeling is it will be farther east..

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Quoting Grothar:


The 60's, boy you must be old to remember that.
Well at least they didnt try to carbon date me. You on the other hand...;)
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21193
Here in PR the only fact that can help us right now, is that shear keeps it from developing (doesn't seems so), so that it will reach us as a wave or TD.... Else, it looks serious, for me, at this moment....
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.