posted on 10 Apr 2013
A potent, cold, windy and dynamic upper-level storm system swooshed southeastward into the 4-corners region on Sunday and Monday, April 7 and 8. This was an “inside slider”-type storm, so moisture was meager, and rainfall was slim to none for most of Southern California. But, these systems are really good at blowing stuff around! Surface pressures dropped precipitously over NV/UT on Sunday, and upper-level winds from the W and NW came in with a vengeance on Monday. On Monday morning I was ready to get out on the road for a wind chase!
Where would the best place be to observe strong winds within, say, a 2 to 3-hour drive from here? Did you say “a 2 to 3-hour drive from here” as I requested? I considered the Banning Pass/Whitewater area northwest of Palm Springs, but opted for the closer Antelope Valley and Mojave area. Winds here, especially around Mojave, are fairly predictable and nasty in setups such as today’s, but I have headed out there in the past, and usually seem to miss the most intense phase. Maybe this time would be different.
I picked up my chase buddy Danny Gonzales in Granada Hills and we headed up I-5 to Hwy 138, which heads east right into the western edge of the Antelope Valley. Northwest winds through the I-5 corridor were increasing at the time (around 9 a.m.) as the dry front had just passed. Some remote weather stations in the area were showing gusts into the 40s. With the best winds aloft soon overspreading the region and with some sun to help mix the lower atmosphere, I figured that the peak of the event in the western Mojave and Antelope Valley would be anytime in the next 3-4 hours. As we headed east toward Neenach and Fairmont, we were aided by tail winds of perhaps 30 mph. There was a little dust in the distance to the east, and the Poppy Park weather station showed gusts to 63 mph! That wasn’t too far away. We stopped in Fairmont for breakfast, and continued east and north. There were some areas of dust here and there, but winds were generally unimpressive. I thought that our best bet for strongest winds would be up towards Rosamond and Mojave. At 10 a.m. and 11 a.m., Poppy Park reported gusts of 63 and 66 mph, respectively —- maybe we should have stayed toward the south, closer to the San Gabriel Mountains. Hmmmm.
We puttered around Rosamond, had lunch, and started towards Mojave and stopped. Winds were gusting to maybe 35 to 40 mph now and then where we were, wherever we were, and they seemed to be stronger every where else, according to the obs! I was keeping Danny very safe and dust-free. Halfway between Rosamond and Mojave, we looked north. No dust up that way —- continuing to Mojave seemed like a bad idea. We went back south on the 14 Freeway to Rosamond and beyond, into the northern part of Lancaster. There was a bit more dust and wind here, but this was not the wind and dust havoc we had hoped for. To our northwest, there looked to be an area of dust building again, so we went west on Avenue H, I think, to 60th St, W. There were some dusty photo ops here, but winds continued to be disappointing —- again, maybe gusts from 40-45 mph —- whoopie. A little farther north, near Avenue D/Hwy 138 and 70th St. W., the dust was building skyward again. In a couple of short minutes we were quickly engulfed by dust at low levels which cut visibility to less than 100 feet! The winds increased to an estimated 50 to 60 mph with gusts close to 70 mph. I stopped in the shoulder of the road to get video and stills. Dust and tumbleweeds and grit and pebbles smashed the vehicle, and the inside of the car was covered with dust. The wind and dust blast let up a little and I tried driving north a bit on 70th St. W, but soon I could not even see the yellow line or the side of the road. Danny guided me onto the shoulder again and we waited out the onslaught. Somehow we had found what we came for —- or the weather found us! The sandstorm/duststorm lasted for maybe 15 minutes, and a weather station west of Rosamond recorded gusts to 60 mph. The wretched conditions no doubt spread eastward towards the 14 Freeway, which was shut down from Rosamond to Avenue G. We were about 5 or 6 miles southwest of Rosamond, and 4 miles west of the 14 Freeway.
Winds decreased quite a bit and the dust moved off to the east, and we had had enough — cough cough.