Editor’s note: Wednesday’s storms knocked out power and kept Answer Line from her appointed rounds. So, today we’re bringing you answers from years gone by about — what else? — the weather. Tune in Saturday for a fresh set of questions and answers.
QUESTION: When we left California and moved to Texas in the late 1960s, there was this unique thing in the weather here. It was called a “blue northerner.” You could see it on the horizon — just a dark blue/black line. When it got here it was bitterly cold. I have not seen one of these in many years now. Why? (Asked September 2010)
ANSWER: You didn’t mention what part of the state you moved to in the 1960s, and that could play a part in why you haven’t seen one.
Jason Hansford, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, told me “blue northers” — as they’re actually called — are more associated with Central and West Texas than East Texas.
Here’s the deal, as Hansford explained it to me: This weather event’s name is rather obvious — a strong arctic cold front moves in from the north and invades the warm or hot air mass ahead of it. The temperatures can drop quickly by 30 to 50 degrees, and the winds will increase to 30 mph to 50 mph. And yes, the collision of the two temperatures creates a dark blue or black line on the horizon.
In East Texas, cold fronts are more shallow — we’re a few thousand feet closer to sea level than Lubbock or Abilene, for instance. Also, the mountains in Oklahoma act as a “dam” to the approaching arctic cold front, and our trees act as another buffer.
Still, Hansford said our part of the state will sometimes see a blue norther during the winter.
Hansford said it’s possible we don’t hear so much about blue northers because younger folks — including younger meteorologists — might not be familiar with the term that’s been around since the 1930s and 1940s.
Q: I have a friend who tells me his mother was struck by lightning while she was in bed. Is this even possible? (Asked October 2011)
A: A meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Shreveport told me that would be highly unlikely. He said the only thing he could think of that would cause such an occurrence would be if lightning struck something on the house and moved through the house through electrical wires, and somehow to the bed.
Q: Why is Longview’s official rain gauge at the East Texas Regional Airport? Wouldn’t it make more sense for the gauge to be located inside the city limits? (Asked May 2015)
A: The National Weather Service says there are a couple of reasons it make sense to have located the city’s official climate station at the airport.
The climate station, first, records more than just rainfall. It measures high and low temperatures, and cloud cover. Cloud cover, though, needs a person.
“Where is the best place that people look out for clouds? The airport,” said Dayvon Hill, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Shreveport. The FAA would have staff at the airport most of the time, he said, and those people can watch cloud cover as well as augment the automated information the climate center collects. They can note drizzles, for instance, that wouldn’t register in the rainfall gauge.
Also, Hill noted the airport is within a 5-mile radius of the city. That meets the weather service’s climate policies as still representative of the entire area. It still provides a good representation of what’s happening in the city.
“Nothing can be perfect,” he said, adding that a climate station in downtown Longview, for instance, wouldn’t necessarily reflect what’s happening at LeTourneau University.
The only way to capture what’s happening at different areas in the city would be to have multiple climate stations in the city.
“Which at this point, funding for something like that would be almost impossible,” Hill said.
It’s not a perfect system, he said, but it’s the best option under the circumstances.