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If this winter feels windier than usual, there's good reason

Wind gusts of more than 50 mph blew Buffalo right back into winter Wednesday.

There’s a reason it seems like you’ve been grabbing your hat or chasing your recycling bins down the street more often this year.

Wind gusts over 35 mph have been recorded in Buffalo on more than one of every three days since Dec. 1, a Buffalo News analysis of National Weather Service data shows.

By midevening Wednesday, a gust of 51 mph had been measured at the National Weather Service office at Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

Gusts of 53 mph were reported in Dunkirk and 54 mph in Niagara Falls. Winds were stronger later in the evening further east. Gusts of 61 mph were reported in Batavia, where thousands were without power, and a 62 mph gust was recorded in Warsaw, according to the National Weather Service.

Only one winter season since 2009-10 has been windier: 2013-14.

There’s a meteorological explanation for this. It’s the way the weather systems have set up and moved through this winter, said Jim Mitchell, meteorologist at the National Weather Service.

Mitchell said when the centers of low pressure pass to the west of the Buffalo Niagara region, as occurred Wednesday, it means more wind.

“It’s just a classic setup,” Mitchell said. “Most of our high winds come from the west and southwest.”

The winds are funneled up Lake Erie and bank off the Chautauqua Ridge.

“It’s like an arrow shooting into Buffalo,” Mitchell said.

A meteorological winter – Dec. 1 to Feb. 28 – has 89 days. This winter, 32 days had wind gusts above 35 mph at the airport's weather station.

Data shows there were a dozen such days in December and February and eight more in January.

January’s gusts were stronger. A reading of 51 mph was recorded on Jan. 4.

Heavy winds blew off parts of the roof of St. Aloysius Gonzaga Church School in Cheektowaga in mid-January 2017. (Derek Gee/News file photo)

Then late on Jan. 10 and early on the 11th, the weather service clocked wind speeds of 51 and 60 mph respectively.

That was the night when tree limbs came down, power was knocked out to a few thousand customers and an aluminum roof was ripped off the gymnasium at the former St. Aloysius Gonzaga school on Cleveland Drive in Cheektowaga.

On Wednesday evening, National Grid reported about 1,700 customers without power at 8 p.m. in Erie and Chautauqua counties.

Most seriously affected was Hamburg, where 1,250 were without electricity. NYSEG reported on its website that more than 3,000 customers were without power, primarily around East Aurora and other suburban areas south and east of Buffalo.

In Batavia, a city police dispatcher confirmed that a canopy over some gas pumps at a West Main Street gas station had come down in the wind. No one was injured, she said.

When compared to the past couple of winters, this winter is wind-whipped. There were 26 and 23 days with gusts above 35 mph in each of the last two winters, respectively.

Prior to the windy wintry year of 2013-14, gusty days were recorded on 25 days in 2012-13; 31 days in 2011-12; 15 days in 2010-11 and 16 days in 2009-10, the data shows.

The strongest gust? That came on Jan. 17, 2012. A 67 mph gust was logged at the airport.

“Usually, that’s an early and late season phenomenon, but we’ve had that all winter,” Mitchell said.

News Staff Reporters Dale Anderson and Harold McNeil contributed to this report.

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