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Posted at 12:40 PM ET, 12/01/2011

Massive wind storm batters West


Palm fronds line a street in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011 after high winds flipped over trees and trucks and knocked out power to more than 300,000 California customers early Thursday before moving inland, where schools in a Utah town closed because of 100 mph wind gusts. (Alicia Chang - AP)
A wind storm producing gusts over hurricane force has spread across six western states. High wind warnings and wind advisories are currently posted in parts of California, Utah, Nevada, and Arizona, New Mexico and Wyoming.

The ravaging winds have knocked down trees and power lines, damaged homes and buildings, overturned trucks, and delayed flights in the region. The National Weather Service (NWS) is calling this the strongest wind storm in the region in years.

Southern California is among the areas experiencing the powerful winds. Yesterday, a gust of 97 mph was recorded at Whitaker Peak in Los Angeles county. In Beverly Hills, a 55 mph gust was measured.

As for today, the NWS office in Los Angeles says to expect the following :

The combination of strong offshore flow and good upper-level wind support should produce damaging wind gusts to 80 mph or higher through the Los Angeles, Ventura, and Santa Barbara county mountains with gusts as high as 60 mph across the wind prone adjacent valleys and coastal areas. Impacts include downed trees and power lines as well as the potential for high fire danger with rapid fire growth due to the strong offshore winds and low humidity values.

Link: Model projection of winds in Southern California (NOAA)

Pasadena, Ca. has been hit particularly hard and is under a state of emergency. Weather.com reports at least 100 trees have been knocked down and more than 300,000 homes are without power.

Dangerous winds are also slamming the Northern Wasatch Front west of Salt Lake City. The National Weather Service in Salt Lake City has cautioned:

THIS IS A POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS SITUATION. EVENTS SUCH AS THIS HAVE TOPPLED SEMIS AND OVERTURNED TRAIN CARS...AND CAUSED WIDESPREAD DAMAGE TO PERSONAL PROPERTY. THERE IS NO GUARANTEE THAT THIS EVENT WILL BE AS DESTRUCTIVE...BUT THE POTENTIAL IS THERE.

In Centerville, Utah, sustained winds have reached over 70 mph with gusts to 100 mph. According to the Weather Channel, the Utah Department of Transportation says 10 trucks have been blown over on I-15. And around Farmington, Ut. “extensive damage” has occurred with some damage to “nearly every house.”


Model simulation of upper level low. Note tightly packed lines of equal pressure indicating strong pressure gradient, which creates strong winds. (UCAR)
The wind event is the result of a strong upper level low centered near the intersection of California, Arizona, and New Mexico. The counterclockwise circulation around the low is funneling strong winds from the east and northeast through mountain canyons and down the slopes mainly to the north and west of the low.

Some of the strongest gusts occurred yesterday along mountain ridges in southern and central California. Heninger Flats near Pasadena recorded a gust to 157 mph and Mammoth Mountain gusted to 150 mph.

Link: List of high gusts across western states

Later today and tonight, New Mexico will face some of the strongest winds as the low shifts east. Around Albuquerque, New Mexico gusts over 60 mph are forecast and a high wind warning is in effect.

Related: Santa Ana Winds Poised To Howl Through The Southland

By  |  12:40 PM ET, 12/01/2011

Categories:  Latest, U.S. Weather

 
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