Extreme Wind Event
February 25, 2013

 

Late in the day on Sunday, February 24, a strong low pressure system developed just east of the Rocky Mountains in New Mexico. Over the next 36 hours, this storm system moved across the the southern Plains, causing extreme west to northwest winds across the Lone Star State.  Blizzard conditions were observed across the Texas Panhandle and western Oklahoma.

Low pressure over eastern New Mexico   Water vapor satellite animation of low pressure moving across Texas

A low pressure system, black circle, developed in eastern New Mexico late in the day on February 24th, 2013

(Image from the Storm Prediction Center)

 

This animation shows the low pressure system tracking over north Texas from February 24th to February 25th

(Image from National Center for Atmospheric Reasearch)

While West Texas maybe known for being windy, this was not a typical West Texas event. The highest wind gust observed across West Central Texas was at Mathis Field in San Angelo. At 12:22 PM the wind speed measured 61 MPH. This gust was well short of the record 81 MPH on May 15th, 1975. It was, however, only 2 MPH short of the February record of 63 MPH, set February 20, 1997. These records run from 1975 to present.

Observations from noon on February 25th

Winds at San Angelo and Brownwood were over 30 MPH at Noon on February 25th. Some locations in the Texas Panhandle had winds over 40 MPH.

(Image from the Plymoth State University Weather Center)

Several other stations across the Concho Valley, Northwest Hill Country, and North Edwards Plateau saw peak wind gusts over 50 MPH. Winds were a little lighter across the Big Country and Heartland, due to a little more cloud cover, which kept the atmosphere a little more stable. The Abilene Regional Airport had a wind gust to 48 MPH. Winds remained strong through evening, before the low pressure system had moved out of the area.

 

Location Max Wind
Gust (mph)
San Angelo 6 SW 61
Ozona 2 N 58
Barnhart 10 S 57
Junction 1 N 54
Mertzon 3 NNE 53
E.V. Spence Res. 52
San Angelo 7 NW 51
Sterling City 4 WSW 51
Wall 1 E 49
Abilene 3 ESE 48
Brady 3 NNE 48
Brownwood 7 NNE 48
Mason 3 ESE 47
O.H. Ivie Res. 47
Sonora 2 NNW 46
Haskell 1 NNW 45
Coleman 2 ENE 44
Sweetwater 4 W 44
Colorado Bend St. Park 40
Hamby 2 SSE 38

Observations from automated weather stations.


Tree Damage in Ozona   Siren Down in Brownwood

A downed tree in Ozona

(Image from the Ozona Stockman)

 

A downed siren in Brownwood, TX

 (Image from the Brownwood Bulletin)

Minor damage from the wind was widespread. Many roofs could not withstand the strong, sustained winds, resulting in many lost shingles. Numerous tree limbs and even some trees were downed throughout the area. Power outages were reported in Taylor, Tom Green, and Schleicher counties. Ironically, in Brownwood, one of the severe weather sirens was knocked over.

Not only did the area experience strong winds, portions of West Central Texas received a little snow. The northern Big Country, mainly north of Interstate 20, saw accumulating snow, though amounts remained less than one inch.  This snow, combined with the very strong winds, resulted in signficantly reduced visibilities. Light snow flurries were observed as far south as San Angelo, though it was too warm for anything to accumulate. 

 

 
What causes wind?
Illistration showing high and low pressure with the wind

Pressure is shown in blue lines, with winds shown with blue arrows.

(Image from the COMET Program)

Ever wonder why we have wind in the first place? The atmosphere has high and low pressure systems that move across the planet. These pressure systems are largely the resulted in differential heating between the equator and the poles.  The atmosphere is always trying to move toward a balanced state.  To achieve this, air must move from areas of high pressure toward areas of lower pressure.  This air movement is what we call wind. The strength and direction of the wind is affected factors such as: the rotation of the Earth, latitude, depth of the boundary layer, local topography, friction, and the magnitude of the pressure difference. The difference in pressure, or pressure gradient, controls how much air needs to move to bring the pressure into balance.. The greater this difference, the more air that needs to move. The relative strength of the wind due to the difference in pressure can be seen on a weather map by looking at the lines of pressure, or isobars. The closer together the lines are, the greater the pressure difference and the resulting wind.

 
Large pressure difference during wind event

The strong winds were caused by the every large difference in pressure, as seen here by the close lines of constant pressure, isobars, located across the Texas Panhandle and West Texas.

(Image from the Storm Prediction Center)


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