Downslope Windstorms, Bears & Snow
We had our first downslope windstorm of the season Sunday night, Oct. 29. Crozet is infamous for these storms. This one was particularly nasty with wind gusts estimated to be 60mph. Some big trees came down all over town and closed off Crozet Ave. for a full day and a half. The whole town went dark at one point as falling trees took out power lines.
The windstorms are the result of complicated fluid dynamics but are actually pretty easy to forecast. When big storms move into New England, we sometimes get very strong northwest winds. When they flow perfectly perpendicular to the Shenandoah Mountain ridge just to our west, the wind accelerates down the lee side of the mountain with amazing force. The downslope acceleration is strongest right at the bottom of the mountains. While we were being pummeled with 60mph gusts, the Charlottesville airport never had a gust worse than 32mph.
In addition to the annoying wind, the strong northwest winds are cold, too. The morning after the windstorm, the mountains were white on top from snow. We got cold enough to dust the ground above 2,000 feet. Buck’s Elbow was gorgeous with the white mixed with the fall colors (pictured below). This was the third time in six years that we have had late October snow. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy produced the same effect and another similar storm struck in October 2013.
The Crozet downslope windstorms happen about once a week from October through April and range from run-of-the-mill to intense. Most of us hate the winds, but not the Crozet Bear. He loves the overturned garbage cans. When he is not hibernating, he has his own Twitter account: @CrozetBear. Check out his tweets and you’ll see town from a bear’s perspective!
October started off cold and finished with snow but overall the month was warm. The average temperature was 3.9 degrees above average. Ten days exceeded 80, including eight in a row. The coldest morning was 32 on October 27. Rainfall was a solid 4.08,” which helped with low reservoir levels.