High winds are usually associated with other weather hazards including tornadoes and thunderstorms. However not all winds are to be feared. Chinook winds bring a welcome relief in winter. Winds provide an opportunity for generation of electricity and wind is essential for some plant pollination.
As part of its efforts to support wind-generated electricity SaskPower has prepared maps of wind speed at various heights. Figure 1 illustrates average wind speed for southern Saskatchewan at the 50 metre level. The average wind speed is highest in the south, particularly the southwest portion of the province. This is the location of the SunBridge Wind Farm near Gull Lake, Saskatchewan’s first.
Environment Canada classifies strong winds as those blowing >= 60-65 km/hour or wind gusts of >=90km/hr or more. Figures 2 and 3 presents extreme wind data summarized for sites on the prairies in terms of highest wind gust speed and number of days with high wind speed. Extreme wind speeds are experienced across the southern prairie but there are relatively few days where the wind blows >= 63 kmh on average.
Extreme winds can damage buildings, trees and crops, erode soils, make travel difficult or dangerous, and cut power supply. When combined with cold, rain or snow, high winds can make conditions that much more challenging.
High winds on the evening of July 29th, 2011 fell many tree limbs in the Regina area, as evidenced by this large poplar. The maximum recorded wind speed at Environment Canada’s weather station at the Regina airport was115 km/h.
- Establish wind barriers or shelterbelts where useful.
- Prepare for power outages.
- Bury telephone and power lines.
- Ensure building codes are appropriately applied.
- Carry appropriate insurance.
- Environment Canada (n.d.): Atmospheric Hazards. Prairie and Northern Region http://pnr.hazards.ca/welcome_english.html [accessed December 4, 2010]
- Environment Canada (n.d.): Hazardous Weather http://www.ec.gc.ca/meteo-weather/default.asp?lang=En&n=15E59C08-1 [accessed December 4, 2010]
- SaskPower (n.d.): Wind Energy Resource Map of Southern Saskatchewan at 50 meters. http://generationprocurement.saskpower.com/wind.shtml