The National Weather Service determines what caused Easter Sunday's wind storm

Published: May. 22, 2020 at 9:34 PM EDT
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A strong wind event moved through the mountains on Easter Sunday knocking about 70,000 people without power.

Eastern Kentucky saw widespread 40+ mph wind gusts which lead to numerous instances of damage across the mountains. The Kentucky Mesonet station in Dorton recorded a 79 mph wind gust.

Kentucky Power reported 318 poles had to be replaced while a total of 33 miles of electrical wire were downed.

Given the magnitude of this event, the National Weather Service in Jackson decided to take a more in-depth look at the damaging wind event.

The NWS reports that several locations demonstrated significant surface pressure drops during the time of the strongest winds. This coincided with several features above the surface that are common with gravity waves.

What are gravity waves? They are a relatively common meteorological phenomenon that typically develops and dissipates in the mid to upper levels of the atmosphere without causing any readily apparent effects on our daily weather. They can be thought of simply as ripples moving through the atmosphere that cause a rapid fall and rise in pressure along with a corresponding strong downward and upward motion. Gravity waves often appear on satellite images at ripple patterns in the clouds.

Gravity wave wind events are very difficult to forecast and are often ongoing before forecasters are aware of their presence.

While events of this magnitude are rare, the NWS says they have happened in the past.

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