Senior meteorologist at The Weather Channel. Proud to be a weather-obsessed weather geek. Would be a DJ if not a meteorologist.
By: Stu Ostro , 3:20 AM GMT on October 12, 2012
October has a split personality. On one side is its reputation of being an exceptionally quiet month weatherwise, but when I hear that, I wince! I understand why it is thought of in that way, as when October is quiet, it can be really quiet, when there are no late season tropical cyclone landfalls or early season snowstorms and the atmosphere is not as unstable as in spring for severe convection.
But October also has a wild side! When the weather in this month is wild, it can be really wild, in fact some of the wildest weather events in U.S. history have occurred during October.
One of those occurred 50 years ago, on Columbus Day 1962. Here is more on that storm as well as a selection of other extreme ones in Octobers past.
THE BIG BLOW
The definitive meteorological analyses on this storm are this one from Wolf Read’s fantastic website on Pacific Northwest storms, and this Monthly Weather Review paper by Lynott and Cramer.
About that storm log above included in his analysis on his site -- note the inscription in larger letters in the middle of it -- Wolf writes, "This is the only time in the history of the Pacific Northwest that an officially supervised weather station had to be abandoned due to high winds."
And here’s Wolf’s summary graphic:
THE PERFECT STORM
One of the most unusual storms on the opposite coast of the country also occurred in October.
Who’s that dude in this video (from which is the screen capture below) with the not-ready-for-primetime eyeglasses?
I posted a full analysis of what was originally known as the Halloween Storm a few years ago on weather.com.
Another one of the wildest East Coast weather events in recorded history occurred in October: Hurricane Hazel in 1954, which remarkably so late in the season set the record for the farthest-north Category 4 U.S. landfall, near the SC/NC border.
Not only did Hazel cause coastal devastation where it made landfall, it produced extreme wind gusts up across the Mid-Atlantic/Northeast urban corridor and then tragic flash flooding in Toronto.
Image credit: NOAA, Paul Kocin
WINDSOR LOCKS TORNADO
Another October extremity in the Northeast involved a tornado. F/EF4s are uncommon in October anywhere, much less in Connecticut, but in 1979 one hit Windsor Locks.
The type of radar map that existed in 1979, shortly before the time of the tornado, from an in-depth analysis of the meteorological situation by Riley and Bosart.
(That was the name given by the Buffalo office of the National Weather Service, which has been naming weather events long before The Weather Channel!)
Another extreme convective event, this one involving snow!
Very cold air aloft in October 2006 associated with an exceptionally big and intense mid-upper level low (map below shows departure from average 500 millibar heights), occurring so early in the season on top of warm water, produced a lake-effect snow blitz which was extraordinary even by Buffalo standards. At the time, Tom Niziol, now TWC's winter weather expert, was meteorologist-in-charge of the Buffalo office of the National Weather Service.
From the NWS analysis:
"Words cannot do justice to the astounding event which opened the 2006-07 season. Not only was it the earliest named event by far (two weeks) of the over 120 in the 13 year record of our lake effect archive, but it was the most unique in regards to destruction of trees and power outages, directly because of its out of season factor. Almost a million residents of the Niagara Frontier lost power, some for as long as a week, and tree damage was the worst in memory, especially to the lush vegetation in the many historic parkways and parks in the Buffalo area."
Another exceptionally early snowstorm in the Northeast in which huge amounts of heavy wet snow fell on still-leaved trees.
The cyclone last year which produced it was also a meteorological bomb, the criterion being the central pressure dropping at least 24 millibars in 24 hours. Here's how that process looked on satellite imagery:
Image credit: NASA Earth Science Office
And, speaking of weather bombs, TWC on-camera meteorologist Mike Seidel dropped one on me a couple of years ago when I was at dinner in Moab, Utah, where I was hiking. He called me on my cellphone and said, "Have you seen what the models are showing?"
"No," I responded. "Do I want to know? I’m in Utah trying to get away from everything!"
Of course, being the weather geek I am, I couldn’t help but at least briefly look at what the models were forecasting. I was able to not further engage much with it, but then, upon departing a couple of days later and after a flight cancellation from Grand Junction which led to a 3-leg, all-night journey back to Atlanta via SLC and LAX, and wanting to just go home and sleep, I instead went into TWC and encountered this (about which shortly thereafter I posted a blog on weather.com with commentary on the event and the title, "Historic hype. Historic storm?") …
October 26, 2010 surface pressure chart from an in-depth analysis by the NWS in Duluth of the cyclone bomb and its record-setting pressures
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