Thursday, October 28, 2010

Extreme Winds Subside - Tree Damage Minimal?

Unless you remained indoors these past couple days you no doubt experienced part of a wind storm system that was historic for the Midwest.

On Tuesday, over southern Oregon, the wind speed at the level of the jet stream was recorded at near 220 mph. It was this powerful jet stream energy that fueled an intense low-pressure system over the Midwest on both Tuesday and Wednesday dropping to historic levels in northern Minnesota and Chicago as well. When verified these pressure readings will likely go down as the lowest ever recorded on the mainland U.S., from a non-tropical storm.

A National Weather Service pressure gradient map from about 1 p.m. Tuesday, just a few hours before the storm reached its lowest pressure at Bigfork, MN.

Information from The Weather Channel stated: 
This was a storm stronger than the infamous "Edmund Fitzgerald" storm in Nov. 1975 and an even stronger version almost exactly 23 years after that in Nov. 1998. 
The central barometric pressure was also on par with the infamous Superstorm of 1993, and is lower than the last 4 hurricanes of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season. 

Our on-site weather station recorded wind gusts of 49 mph, which was surprisingly less than I thought it would be. I guess I wouldn't want to experience winds greater than that! At one point while driving my cart back to our Grounds Operations Center, to get off the course for fear of flying objects, I felt like the wind was lifting under the cart's canopy nearly making it airborne! Visions of the movie Twister came to mind but thankfully no actual twisters developed.

Today, with the storm past, we began the cleanup process and we were pleased that damage was remarkably minimal. I expected trees down but there were none. Only several large branches fell along with a littering of small branches throughout the course. It was likely the fact that many tree species have already dropped their leaves and therefore did not act as huge sails, that limited the damage.
 Some of "Nature's" pruning

 A large broken branch on #6

Typical small branch littering throughout course

We were indeed fortunate that the damage was less than other locations throughout the Midwest but I do feel it may be some time before the full assessment will be known. The strength of these winds could very well have cracked or weakened significant structural portions of trees that we haven't seen yet or may not see until trees leaf-out (or lack such) next spring. Time will tell and I'll keep you posted.

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