Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Pacific Hurricane

The southeast U.S. gets their intense tropical storms---hurricanes--with sustained wind speeds greater than 64 knots (74 mph). Well, we don't get tropical storms because of the cool waters of the Pacific, but we do get storms--known as midlatitude cyclones--with hurricane force winds! And one is about to visit our coast.

For many runs our numerical forecast models have predicted this event, and satellite imagery shows the storm revving up in the Pacific. Here are the sea level pressure predictions for 4 AM and 1 PM tomorrow (click to expand):

The central pressure of the low drops to roughly 965 mb (very deep low pressure) and the pressure differences (gradient) are HUGE. Huge pressure differences imply very, very strong winds. The low track takes it over the NW corner of Vancouver Island, which is too far offshore for the western Washington interior to get megawinds (like the Chanukah Eve storm for example) But the coast and offshore water will get hammered.

To illustrate, here are the prediction wind gusts from the UW WRF model for 1 AM and 10 AM tomorrow (with sea level pressures). At 1 AM there are gusts of over 75 knots along the southern Oregon coast and only 40-50 kts along the Washington coast. At 10 AM there is a whole area of greater than 75 knot gusts south of northern Vancouver Island.

Don't think that the western lowlands will escape this completely. It will be breezy everywhere, but NW Washington, and particularly the Strait of Georgia area....Whidbey up through the San Juans...will have strong winds as indicated by this plot of gusts at 10 AM tomorrow:40-60 mph gusts are quite possible in this locations...so be prepared.

The NOAA Wavewatch 3 model suggests 8-9 meter significant wave heights from this storm tomorrow at 10 AM--see graphic. Remember strong waves required high winds, large fetch, and duration. This fast-moving storm is doing it with mainly high winds.


Tonight and tomorrow would be a good time for coastal storm watching. Here is one of my favorite sites for monitoring the surf conditions along the coast:

http://www.surfwa.org/Surf-Report-WA-OR-BC.html


I really believe that storm-related tourism could be a major boon for our coast--and is relatively untapped. A few of us have suggested a museum of Pacific storms, tsunamis and shipwrecks in Ocean Shores and Westport. And organized storm watching with local hotels, b&bs, and restaurants participating. This could be a huge economic stimulus for the coast and fun for the rest of us. Here is the link to a previous blog about this:

http://cliffmass.blogspot.com/2009/11/pacific-storms-museum.html


But so far very little interest among the political folks on the coast! One politico there (who I shall not name but who was a mayor of a major town) laughed at the idea. And such a museum would be a great addition to the new coastal radar!

26 comments:

smokejumper said...

I'm thinking about sailing my dinghy about 300 NM out from Westport to send realtime barometric pressure readings back to ya.

Mikel said...

It's funny you mention storm related tourism. When I was younger my family would take advantage of the off-season rates and rent a cabin on the coast in February. We always had a great time and it was a nice way to unplug for a few days. My brothers and I still send our parents there every year!

Bob Triggs said...

Out here on the Olympic Peninsula Highway 101 is already a deadly corridor during wintertime. I believe that encourageing coastal "Storm Watching" tourism here would result in accidents, injuries and deaths that could be entirely avoided. Please do not encourage tourism on our highways during these winter storm events.

Austin said...

I think you're absolutely right about storm tourism along the WA Coast. The coast is a beautiful place to watch some waves and wind. Heck, the winter is my favorite time to go out to the coast; the wind is swirling sand around, the beaches are relatively empty, and the entire experience just makes me feel more whole.
If the political folks aren't helping any, maybe the sizable travel blogger population in Seattle (there are a lot of us) could step in and help highlight what people can do, where visitors can go, and why it's great.

Austin (http://www.travellious.com)

climo man said...

The real wind action on the west coast the past few days has been the "Taku" wind event up in the Juneau area. 80+ MPH winds in the most exposed areas.If this low "bombs" out and heads north as predicted,things might get even more intersting in SE Alaska!

Upupaepops said...

I wish I had the luxery of running to the coast for these events

anyone wanting a good place in Neah Bay contact

Bullmanbeachinn.com

I have visited them a few times and the units are cozy and right on the Strait est of town.

cgt said...

I find it irresponsible our government doesn't make an effort to maintain buoy 46087 (Neah Bay), when we have so much tanker and freighter traffic passing through the entrance to our fragile inland waters. An oil spill here would be devastating. This buoy has been out of service since 09'. I wonder how many million gallons of oil have passed through this corridor without the help of a buoy monitoring wind, wave and swell direction. Supposedly, this buoy will be back on line next month, we'll see.

mainstreeter said...

I pick Oregon, the wreck of the Peter Iredale, New Carrissa and the Col River Bar. Plus Astoria is moving up as a destination and Oregon has a nicer coastline and communities.

Michael Winter said...

RE: Bob Triggs

Come on here - that is ridiculous assertion to suggest that an increase in winter visits to the area would cause such an increase in accidents.

Please don't assume that everyone is stupid and can't drive safely.

I too used to live west of Port Angeles for many years and what you assert in terms of cause and effect is totally absurd and not supported by any factual data.

Please get your facts straight before suggesting that people not go somewhere or do something

Scott K said...

If I wanted to storm watch on the coast, which is the better location to go? Ocean Shores or WestPort? They are both exactly the same distance from me.

Michael DeMarco said...

Folks over that way can go ga-ga about the Twilight books/movies but anything to do with "nature" or "science" just doesn't cut it. Now if you could figure out how hook it up with "Storm chasers" or possibly "Rescue at sea" reality TV series it might fly. Just don't mention National Park.

barnacle said...

Really appreciate the compliment on our site Cliff! I hope more people can appreciate and experience the power and energy of these storms. It can be exhilarating and humbling - and anyone with common sense can have a perfectly safe experience. (Tourism would probably encourage a safer experience). I completely support the idea of a museum on the coast, let us know how Surfwa can help!

driley@mofo.com said...

I completely agree re: storm-related tourism. My wife and I once (inadvertanly) spent the night along the Mendocino coast during a very bad winter storm. We are both weather geeks, and it was spectacular.

Christopher said...

As of 8 pm the NWS hasn't even issued a wind advisory, let alone a wind warning, for the NW Interior. Windy, yes, but if they're right, nothing particularly unusual. Thank goodness.

Mark said...

Surfwa site is interesting. Barnacle: Can you say a few words about how wave height and period are predicted? What are the factors and relative strength of each?

lighthouse2006 said...

Cliff you are dead on with the tourism aspect, the only thing is it's hard to go from Mukilteo to the coast in a few hrs notice, there is nothing better than feeling the true force of a storm on the coast, especially the Oregon coast after it stirs up agate's , we weather nerds need to start our own storm getaways just like the chasers in the midwest.

HR Koole said...

Storm tourism is alive here in BC and places like Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island actually charge more for 'winter' rates because of the storm season. They also sell 'storm watch' packages. It can get pretty wet and wild on Long Beach and it's definitely being marked as such. More power to you folks in WA for getting this tourism venture started!

Fruitbat said...

How about storm museum combined with a shelter? If the storms were strong to a certain point, it would draw tourists. If the storms were too strong, it would offer shelter to residents.

There was talk of Seaside, OR (maybe it was another town) building a tower/tsunami shelter. It make sense to combine a tourism/educational/practical shelter structure.

Tim King said...

How about the mountains? Is this major wind going to play havoc with all our fresh snow? (from a skiers perspective, anyway)

alpinenick said...

Can someone fill me in on why temperatures stay cold, even with all the wind barbs pointing from the SE?

When I look at the infared loop for the PAC-NW it looks like all air around the low is from close in.... Just spilling around from washington and BC.

Is that why there's still snow forecast for the mountains even with a big ocean storm?

jewalden said...

Westport has the best access to the beach and is uncluttered with the really bad architecture that tends to populate Ocean Shores!

Before the crash, a big developer was creating an 18-hole golf course (Scottish style) to compete with Bandon Dunes in Oregon. The property was right on the coast. He had a permit to build a big hotel near the town off Half Moon Bay. His project is dead, however, due to lack of funding but I heard he's willing to sell it and the permit! Perhaps this is the best way to get a Stormwatching presence like this done.

Cliffmass, you can do the deal yourself if you find investors! Lol!

greg mueller said...

I have done some backpacking trips along the Olympic coast and can second the storm watching tourism suggestion. You really get to see systems move in off the water - the clouds are impressive!

doppler said...

Wow... check out the latest telemetry for the Mt. Baker Ski Area. Gusts of up to 116 mph this afternoon!

http://www.nwac.us/weatherdata/mtbakerskiarea/

Christopher said...

Sometimes it's surprising how the NWS doesn't seem to know what's actually going on. Both their morning and afternoon (3:30) forecasts for the San Juans called for south winds, but in most of the islands they have been west or WSW since about 10:00 and still are at 3:45. At 7:10 this morning they finally issued a wind advisory, to expire at 2:00; the winds did diminish briefly at 10:00 but since then have ramped back up again.

Seems weird that at 3:30 they would issue a forecast significantly contrary to what is actually happening outdoors.

mainstreeter said...

Ocean Shores was a scam from the beginning. Pat Boone and others were behind it the 60's. It's not a place I think of visiting just because of the amenities or lack thereof. I've been to the Oregon coast more and I live an hour from Grays Harbor

DeAnne said...

Better than Ocean Shores is north about 12 miles to Pacific Beach and Moclips. Fantastic vantage points to see up and down the North Coast. We have three vacation rentals right on the coast and two you can just sit back and watch like a movie screen. Would love to get together with the local restaurants, bakeries and other vacationhome owners to create the storm special events during storm season. Usually kicks off just after Thanksgiving...and ends in March, sometimes April. Best time to be there for the weather buff.