Well, it is December, and you probably know what that means.
No doubt there will be a little year-end and holiday chaos and confusion with hopefully a little good cheer thrown in. Also, we are rapidly approaching the solstice also known as the shortest day of the year.
Now, on the night of Dec. 2, we had one heck of a wind storm, luckily combined with rather mild temperatures and I counted four small power outages. It reminded me of storms I survived on the barrens and, if you ever want to experience the full force of a storm, spend it in a tent on the barrens where you wonder what you would do if your tent literally blew away.
Also the snapping, flapping, shaking and shuddering of the tent adds a sound track and a whole lot of worry to the storm. As well, on the barrens, the amount of drifted snow you can get can be measured in metres and really bury anything you left outside.
Environment Canada in Yellowknife measured a wind gust of 82 km/h, while an independent station clocked it at 108 km/h and a station out on the lake came in at 117km/h. Apparently, the ice level in Yellowknife dropped 10 in. during the storm. That is impressive and shows the power of the wind.
So the official wind speed for Yellowknife was a mere 82km/h, but I think it is safe to say parts of town got significantly higher wind gusts. Big windstorms are like that. Imagine that you had 10 official wind stations you get to set up wherever you wanted. Depending on where you put them, they could give you dramatic differences.
If you set one up on top of the highest building in town, I expect it would give you the highest reading. If you put one at street level in an area sheltered by houses and trees, it might give you the lowest. If you put one between two high-rises that created a wind tunnel, you might get a much higher reading. If you put one in the lea side of a building, it could give you a much lower reading and it might even give you an entirely different wind direction.
So when a weather station reports, it is only reporting for that location. If you had 10 stations scattered around, it would give you a much more detailed look at how the storm was behaving in the area, and you would probably learn that some areas are prone to much higher wind speeds then others depending on topography, the other building around and the forested areas.
In a way, a forest is like the hairs of a fur coat: they dampen the wind down considerably. If you are on the lake or on the barrens, trust me — the winds end up being a whole lot stronger and faster. During the latest storm, one side of our house got the full force of the wind and streams of air went around and over the building. Then at the back, there was an area where it was much calmer. But the snow making it to the ground was much more and, hence, deeper.
Down south at businesses and universities which study storms, they set up wind tunnels with little models for building so they can see what effect they have on storms. Unfortunately, we don’t have anything like that up here, so sometimes big buildings get put in without any consideration on how it is going to affect the building around it. This is really something we should take seriously because it could really affect neighboring buildings not just for wind, but also for drifting snow.
It is always interesting after a storm to go out and take a good look at the snow drifts. In some cases, they really are quite beautiful and dramatic. In one place, the wind swept the road clean while in others, a drift developed and they certainly make driving interesting.
It was a great storm and I remembered being out on the barrens in a tent during such storms. Believe me — weathering a big windstorm in a tent is an experience you don’t soon forget.