We would say “hats off” to Oklahoma City and Omaha, Neb. -- windy cities with more big gusts than Buffalo since the start of 2018.
Except our hats may already be off — another gusty day was had Sunday in Buffalo.
Since January 2018, winds have gusted over 50 mph in Buffalo 11 times, according to the National Weather Service. That included a 57 mph wind gust clocked at 5:26 p.m. Sunday.
Oklahoma City and Omaha have had more such gusty days, 16 and 13, respectively.
Since the start of this year, however, Buffalo blows away the competition, according to a Buffalo News review of wind data from the nation’s windiest large cities, among the leaders in their regions.
• Buffalo’s winds have gusted over 50 mph six days this year. That’s more days than all of 2018.
• Those six days are more than recorded by San Francisco and Oklahoma City, 4; Chicago, 2; as well as Omaha and Boston, 1.
• The 69 mph gust clocked in Buffalo on Feb. 24 was the higher than than the biggest gusts in the other cities.
• In February, Buffalo’s 12.8 mph average sustained wind speed equaled Oklahoma City's mark and was higher than each of the other cities.
Even Chicago, the "Windy City,” hasn’t experienced the kind of winds Buffalo has over the last year.
Chicago only had four days of 50 mph gusts or greater since Jan. 1, 2018. None of them clocked over 60 mph.
“Definitely, February was a windy month overall,” said Steve Welch, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Buffalo.
So why all the wind?
The track of storm systems across the Great Lakes — and their relative strength — plays a huge factor.
Large deepening low-pressure systems that pass through the western Great Lakes to northwest of the Niagara Frontier often create the biggest problems here because of the southwesterly winds that are funneled into Western New York over Lake Erie.
“There’s less friction over the lake,” Welch said.
That funneling effect is exacerbated when Lake Erie is frozen. That’s been the case this season.
On average since Jan. 31, more than 85 percent of the lake has been covered in ice, according to data by the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory.
Fortunately, the data also shows the highest gusts in Buffalo tend to occur during the fall, winter and early spring. No gusts over 47 mph were recorded in Buffalo last summer.
“Especially in the winter — when there are no leaves on the trees — it doesn’t usually cause as much damage, where in the summer you’ll catch more wind in the trees and cause a little more damage,” Welch said.
The late-February windstorm in Buffalo was a bit of an exception because of its ferocity.
Those gusts knocked down trees and power lines, cutting electricity to tens of thousands of local residents, and shoved Lake Erie’s ice onto Western New York and southern Ontario’s shorelines by the ton.
Sunday’s windstorm wasn't nearly as powerful. And, it didn't last as long as that storm.