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:
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:
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!