Rare weather observed Monday evening

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Rare weather observed Monday eveningA weather outburst on Monday evening that kicked up massive amounts of sand and wind left locals wondering if Ridgecrest had just experienced a haboob — a violent, oppressive windstorm common in the desert.

“A haboob is similar to what we experienced in terms of the results, but the weather setup that caused it is a little different,” said Tamera Walters, lead forecaster of the China Lake Weather Office.

“What we saw were the strong winds associated with a collapsing thunderstorm,” she said. “What’s so interesting is that this storm was a good 25-30 miles away from us, but it was so huge we all felt the impact.”

One of the most high-profile casualties of the event was a mesquite tree that has been shading Norma Street just off Argus for decades.

“Did you feel it?” asked a report released Monday evening on social media, prepared by Sgt. Nathan Lloyd of the Ridgecrest Police Department.

“A few light gusts of air came mingling through our fair city cooling things down. While most of us enjoyed the lighter temperatures, the brief gusts of air took a page from the big bad wolf’s playbook and blew down a monstrous tree.”

The roadway was temporarily closed while city crews “tamed the mangled wooden beast that was left behind.”

Walters speculated that in addition to the high winds, our wet winter played a role in the collapse. “We had a lot of rain last winter — more than we’ve had in a long time,” she said.

That moisture loosened up the caliche around local trees, she said. “So some of these tree roots are not going to have the same grip in the soil they once had.”

She noted that gusty afternoons are going to be more common as thunderstorm season approaches. “Looking at the long-range pattern, I’m seeing some indications that there will be quite a bit of atmospheric instability coming up. But with these kinds of storms, it’s very difficult to predict when and where they will break and how much rain might come of it.”

Pictured: A mesquite tree on Norma Street, felled during the aggressive winds on Monday, is shown after the tree had been moved from the roadway by city crews — Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2019-06-21