What is it about?

Severe winds (in excess of 50 knots or 58 mph) brought widespread damage across the mid Mississippi River Valley on the mornings of 11 April 1995 and 28 April 1996. These severe winds were unusual and unexpected as they trailed behind areas of rain where severe weather is not normally expected. The wake lows on 11 April 1995 and 28 April 1996 appeared to be generated by different physical mechanisms, but both ultimately produced severe winds from an unusual easterly direction.

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Why is it important?

Because wake lows are short-lived and small-scale phenomena, they are generally not well understood by the operational forecasting community and have been nearly impossible for forecasters to predict. With an evaluation of some of the differences and similarities in the generation and maintenance of severe wake lows, operational forecasters can better understand these potentially severe phenomena and provide the public with useful information on these unusual events.


These two severe wind events were generally unexpected by operational forecasters in the Memphis, TN and St. Louis, MO areas, and both events produced damaging winds from an unusual easterly direction. This paper examines how these unusual winds formed, and offers some suggestions on how forecasters can better anticipate these type of events in the future.

David Morris Gaffin
National Weather Service

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Wake Low Severe Wind Events in the Mississippi River Valley: A Case Study of Two Contrasting Events, Weather and Forecasting, October 1999, American Meteorological Society, DOI: 10.1175/1520-0434(1999)0142.0.co;2.
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