Nor’wester made its presence known in Western Tidewater

Published 7:20 pm Friday, March 9, 2018

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Susan and Biff Andrews

Usually it’s a nor’easter. A low pressure rides up the East Coast or travels inland from the Gulf of Mexico and explodes off Cape Hatteras — rapidly intensifying, while a high pressure moves in from the northwest. The clockwise wind from the high and the counterclockwise winds from the low funnel 35-50 knot winds from the northeast, gusting to hurricane force. Because the winds are off the ocean, they push water into the Bay, specially into creeks and rivers facing north.

In North Carolina, they build up water in the southern ends of the Sounds, especially the Pamlico. The result is coastal flooding. The twin nor’easters of a year or two ago inundated Hatteras Village to record levels. Norfolk did not fare well either. Note that both areas are at the south end of a bathtub-like bay or sound.

Not this time.

The past week saw a strong nor’wester. We rarely get them. The difference? The low pressure moved off the coast to the north. There was still a following high pressure system to funnel the winds, but with the winds to the west of north, the water was pushed more to the east and south. It didn’t build up as much in our creeks and rivers. Results? Only minor flooding.

Pity the folks around Boston who got those winds as onshore flow at the same strength.

This was a “bomb cyclone”— a storm that intensifies so quickly that it drops 24 millibars of barometric pressure in 24 hours. The winds howled. Trees came down, branches down, beautifully manicured lawns were leaf-covered because of some whacko master naturalist down the street who never rakes … it was awful.

At the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel they had sustained winds of 70, gusting to 84. I think I saw steady 48 here in Suffolk, gusting to 59. It was howling. We lost a section of roof from our potting shed. A boat gas tank wound up across the street.

But, as always, such events have their positive aspects. First, the 37 branches that came down will clear out the detritus for a couple of months. No more branches down for the next two months. Leaves in our yard? What leaves? And best of all, we got to watch extreme cats’ paws. We live above a small arm of Lake Meade. When the wind gusts come, we see riffles, wavelets, even white water on the lake below. They are sudden, random, and spectacular. I’d rather watch them than a dozen Oscar winners; God’s brush strokes on the water.

So, slowly the winds subside. Another storm has passed. BUT fear the nor’easter and its rising water! Fear the norwester and its howling winds, rare as it is. And — always, always— enjoy the cats’ paws.

SUSAN and BRADFORD “BIFF” ANDREWS are retired teachers and master naturalists who have been outdoor people all their lives, exploring and enjoying the woods, swamps, rivers and beaches throughout the region for many years. Email them at