The storm that swept across the center of the United States on October 26 and October 27, 2010, was memorable to those who experienced it because of its strong winds, rain, hail, and widespread tornadoes. Meteorologists get excited about the storm because it set a record for the lowest pressure (not associated with a hurricane) measured over land in the continental United States. At 5:13 p.m. CDT, the weather station in Bigfork, Minnesota recorded 955.2 millibars (28.21 inches of pressure). Pressure is one indicator of a stormís strength, and this measurement corresponds to the pressure seen in a Category 3 hurricane.
This image, taken by the GOES satellite on October 26, shows the storm system circling around the area of extreme low pressure. Such extratropical cyclones form over the United States in the spring and fall, when the temperature difference from north to south is large. Warm, high-pressure air rushes toward the cooler, low-pressure air in the north. Because the Earth is rotating, the air moving in ends up circling the area of low pressure, creating the cyclone shown in the image. The intensity of the storm is determined by the pressure difference between the center and the outer edges. Extreme low pressure in the center of the storm, therefore, is an indicator that the storm was very intense.