Weekend (April 14-15, 2018) Gulf Coast Cold Front

map of gulf coast with slight clouds

DTN Weather & new acquisition Wilkens Weather Technologies,
April 16, 2018

As most in the United States already know, a major spring storm system formed and pushed eastward across the center of the country over the weekend. A crippling blizzard developed across portions of Nebraska, South Dakota, Iowa, and Minnesota, with areas seeing snow totals up to 20 inches and peak wind gusts in excess of 60 knots. On the warm side of the storm, there were over 3 dozen preliminary tornado reports, at least 500 instances of wind damage, and widespread swaths of damaging hail across Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Impacts did not stop across land, however, as a significant squall line and post-frontal gales struck portions of the northern Gulf of Mexico from early Saturday morning into Sunday.

Thunderstorm activity developed along and east of the I-35 corridor across Texas late Saturday afternoon ahead of an advancing cold front. These storms slowly marched eastward through the evening and overnight hours, reaching the coast at around 3am. Severe wind gusts of 50 to 60 knots were reported as the squall line moved through Corpus Christi and Port Aransas. These winds continued offshore, with buoys and oil platforms across the northwestern Gulf of Mexico consistently reporting wind gusts in excess of 50 knots.

map of gulf coast cold front showing colorful thunderstorm activity

Winds remained elevated after the storms passed, with widespread sustained winds between 25 and 30 knots. This caused a significant surge in seas in locations further offshore. Peak seas of 13 feet were reported at a buoy in deep waters well off the South Texas coast early Saturday evening. Conditions were substantially improved closer to the coast, with locations around 20 miles offshore only seeing seas to 7 feet.

Although not unprecedented, this was a relatively strong and long-lasting cold front event for mid-April in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Thankfully it was well advertised, with DTN Marine Meteorologists forecasting winds in excess of 25 knots 6 days before the front moved offshore. As a result, interests in the oil and gas industry were able to plan well ahead, ensuring safe operations during adverse weather conditions this weekend.