Weekend weather event wreaks havoc

By Cyndi Sellers

Early Saturday morning, during the passage of a strong late-season cold front, coastal Cameron Parish experienced a rare weather event which caused wind damage including pushing over utility poles in Holly Beach, ripping up the paint canopy around the Cameron water tower, and pushing at least one camper off its blocks. The Lake Charles National Weather Service office explained that the phenomenon is known as a Heat Burst.

“In Calcasieu Pass,” the NWS reported, “sustained winds of 57 MPH with a gust of 70 MPH occurred at 1:30 a.m. CDT. Over a 12-minute period shortly after, the temperature increased from 63.9 degrees to 82.8 degrees (an increase of 18.9 degrees). 82.8 degrees also served as the maximum temperature for the day. A pressure drop of 4.9 millibars also occurred during this time.

“Heat Bursts occur when strong downdrafts from powerful thunderstorms bring dry air aloft down adiabatically to the surface. This leads to strong winds and a drastic increase in temperature over a short period of time. Heat Bursts can cause damage even when the storm is not directly overhead, as the outflow from the storm can lead to strong winds far from the storm’s center.

“There was a similar Heat burst back on Apr. 19, 2015 that caused a lot of wind damage from Lake Charles to Jennings. Jonathan Brazzell (NWS Lake Charles) and Ben Terry (KPLC TV7) presented a paper to the American Meteorological Society Conference about this.”

What makes Heat Bursts so rare is “dry air aloft combined with a thunderstorm strong enough to bring that air down to the surface,” the author said. “In western states this phenomenon is more common, since the air is drier on average.”