When we get these historic Winter storms like the one this past weekend in the mid-Atlantic, we tend to focus on the heavy snow. It is, after all, a Winter storm and the effects of the snowfall are so widespread they can shut down entire cities and states. There’s always another side to the storm that doesn’t get nearly enough play – the severe weather side. South of the heavy snow along the cold front, severe weather often fires with these intense cyclones. Last weekend’s storm was no exception.
As I mentioned on the wxtalk Twitter feed, tornado watches were issued for parts of central and southern FL as well as eastern NC. No severe weather reports were filed in NC, but four high wind reports came in from FL, including one that struck the Florida State Fair. An estimated wind gust of 60 mph brought down a 50 ft X 50 ft tent, injuring seven people in the process.
Of course, you don’t have to remind long-time residents of Florida how winter storms can dramatically impact their area. In 1993, the “Storm of the Century” or “Superstorm” slammed nearly the entire state with one of the more intense derechos on record. (A derecho is a long-lived squall line that produces straight-line winds in excess of 58 mph. A derecho may appear on radar in a “bow” or half-moon shape. You might hear the term “bow echo” associated with a derecho.) The 1993 storm’s derecho produced wind gusts in excess of 100 mph in some locations. It also produced a storm surge in excess of 10 feet in some Gulf Coast locations. The storm was blamed for 12 deaths in Florida; 5 were a result of tornadoes embedded within the derecho.