The state’s recent windstorm has left Miami University students and meteorologists wondering how a hurricane reached southwest Ohio.
On the morning of Sept. 14, the National Weather Service issued a high wind advisory for the southwest Ohio region. According to the National Weather Service, high wind advisories in the Midwest are typically associated with severe thunderstorms, when high wind gusts on the ground last only several minutes in localized areas.
According to Larry Handley, meteorologist for the morning and noon broadcast of Channel 9 WCPO News, the storm was a result of three factors-the remnants of Hurricane Ike, a descending cold front and the jet stream.
“A hurricane by definition is sustained winds of 74 mph or greater,” Handley said. “This area only experienced gusts reaching these speeds, but the consistent wind speeds were only between 55-60 mph.”
The National Weather Service reported the highest unofficial gust recorded in Butler County reached 84 mph, while the official reached 75 mph.
According to Hays Cummins, Miami University professor of geography, hurricanes consist of a warm core containing low-pressure air and moisture. With water as an energy source, hurricanes moving inland begin to diminish in strength.
When remnants of Hurricane Ike moved northeast and were over the state of Missouri, the wind speeds reached a tropical depression-a storm with wind speeds less than 39 mph. This tropical depression however, got caught up in the cold front and jet stream winds moving northeast.
“This upper-level jet stream moved the storm from the southwest to northeast very rapidly,” Cummins said. “And during that transition, it was transformed from a warm core tropical system to a more hybrid and intense mid-latitude system.”
This caused the mixture of a warm front, cold front, low-pressure system and a lot of moisture. The interaction of these elements caused high winds, but storm results differed depending on the relation to the storm’s center.
“Oxford was on the east side of the storm’s center and received very little precipitation compared to cities such as Chicago, on the west side, (which) received torrential rains,” Cummins said.
According to Handley, the cold front took about six to seven hours to completely pass over the area, which accounts for sustained wind speeds and damage in the region.
“I have been doing this for about 19 years, and I have never seen this kind of storm,” Handley said. “This area has definitely seen remnants of tropical hurricanes in the past with high winds and thunderstorms, but never winds of this intensity for such an extended period of time.”
Even so, Handley said he believed that the likelihood of a tropical storm affecting southwest Ohio is highly unusual and unlikely to happen again soon.
In the context of severe weather throughout the nation, the damage in Southwest Ohio was minimal compared to those hit by Hurricane Ike in Texas.
“We received just a taste of what the coastal residents experienced,” Cummins said.