Storm systems, terrain contribute to high winds

Spring has arrived, and with it comes seemingly endless howling winds, dust storms and brownouts.

This year's windy season has already brought its fair share of damage, with gusts reaching 60 mph, causing a train derailment near Fort Sumner.

"It's been a pretty active late winter and spring so far, but it's nothing atypical," said Steve Kersh, chief meteorologist for KVII-TV in Amarillo.

Kersh said the windy conditions in eastern New Mexico this time of year can be attributed to a number of factors, including passing storm systems, changing seasons, and the high, flat terrain on our side of the state.

When a storm system travels to the north, there is a greater chance for strong, dry and dusty winds coming off the mountains to the west, Kersh said. The transition from cold winter weather to a warmer spring with longer days can also cause changes in the atmosphere that further intensify the wind.

"The winds are faster the higher you go up in the atmosphere, so our elevation is another reason for our persistent, stronger winds," Kersh said. In addition, "trees slow down the wind through friction and without them, the wind blows unabated."

The average annual wind speed for the eastern New Mexico area is 11.6 mph, according to the Western Regional Climate Center in Reno, Nev. In the spring, the average wind speed goes up to 13.2 mph, but is a mere 10.2 mph in the summer, 10.7 mph in the fall and 12.3 mph in the winter.

While the wind across the region might seem brutal, the strongest winds in the U.S. occur at Mount Washington in New Hampshire, where the average annual wind speed is 35.3 mph.

"I don't really like the wind," said Martha Aylesworth, who has lived in Clovis on and off for the past 50 years. "You have to have some wind, but sometimes it gets to excess. I'm sure they had it this bad in the (Dust Bowl) days, but I haven't seen it this bad in my lifetime."

Kersh anticipates typical spring weather for the area, albeit with above-normal temperatures, based on the average amount of wind activity we've seen so far this spring.

Average springtime wind speeds in our area

Albuquerque: 10.4 mph

Amarillo: 15.0 mph

Cannon AFB: 13.2 mph

Lubbock: 14.5 mph

Roswell: 10.4 mph

Tucumcari: 12.5 mph

Source: National Climatic Data Center

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