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Wednesday, May 22, 1996

So, why's it been so windy lately?

By Associated Press

DALLAS (AP) - If winds seem stronger than usual this year in Texas, it's because they are, the National Weather Service says.

There have been many days in 1996 with steady winds of 20 to 30 mph, with gusts over 40 mph. Abilene's been blown around its share, with an average daily windspeed so far in May of about 18 mph, said Mike Jamski of the Abilene NWS office.

Over the past decade, Abilene's May windspeed average has been 12.1 mph, according to NWS figures.

It's all part of a months-long weather pattern that has kept the wind howling through the normally calmer nights and mornings and kept the seasonal rain farther to the north, the weather service says.
The normal average wind speed for January through April is about 12 mph. This year, it has been almost 2 mph faster, according to statistics provided by the weather service. Abilene's average for the first four months has been 14.2, according to NWS figures.

Abilene's average for April was 14.7, 2 mph over the average for the past decade.

Skip Ely, forecaster in charge of the weather service in Fort Worth, said Texas' dry winds balance the Midwest's flooding rains.

Far to the east, just off the southeastern U.S. coast, is the center of a huge mound of air, a high-pressure system. Stretching from New Mexico to Illinois are the meteorological equivalents of valleys, low-pressure systems.

If air were water, it would simply flow downhill, from high to low pressure, like a river down a mountain.

But airflow is affected by the rotation of the earth. So winds that start out headed west out of the Atlantic high-pressure system take a right turn, producing the hot, dry southern breezes whooshing through much of the state.

That might change over Memorial Day weekend, Ely said.

The weather service's computer models strongly predict slow-moving rain and the possibility of potentially damaging thunderstorms, Ely said.

There were numerous predictions of spring showers that didn't come about this year, but Ely says these forecasts have a better chance.

"I'm thinking of taking tomorrow off, because I may have to work the weekend," Ely said.
The dry conditions resulting from the higher winds have increased the danger of grass fires.
Last week, the Texas Forest Service classified the danger of fire as moderate in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. This week, that's been upgraded to high, with much of West Texas classified as extreme.

Some firefighters spent last week training for the wind-driven blazes almost certain to break out if the weather doesn't change.

Besides a greater danger of wildfires, the unusually strong winds add to the hazards of aviation - (including increased wind shear at low altitudes up to 5,000 feet) and act as a hindrance to recreational activities such as boating, said Jamski.

The drought the high winds help produce, Jamski said, "is more typical of a July-August weather pattern."

Senior Staff Writer Jerry Reed contributed to this report.


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