Friday, November 6, 2009

Incredible Thunderstorms, Coastal Waves Increasing

Generally the NW gets wimpy thunderstorms, but not last night and today. Right now it is pouring and thundering outside my window, but last night between 11 and midnight one of the most intense lines of thunderstorms I have seen moved through.


Earlier in the evening it was exciting enough...a strong cold front moved through the region with strong winds, gusts reaching 30-50 mph. The NWS forecast was quite good about this. Branches were downed, power taken out for thousands, lights flickering for most, and worst of all, someone died from a falling tree branch. The observations from the roof of my department is found above--if you look closely you can see strong winds, the drop in temperature, pulse of rain, and other features associated with the 11 PM thunderstorm and another later in the night.


Cold, unstable air followed the front...something obvious in the satellite picture (convective cloud field, see image). (For more information on why instability showers follow our fronts, check my book).

This convection was substantial..the line that came through after eleven had very high reflectivities (intensity of precipitation), including very high values (red) associated with small hail or graupel (figure). Amazing precip rates and winds. My dog was in a panic.

More convection is following today.

And there are the big waves...which are moving in. Take a look at the observations from offshore (46036) and nearshore (46036) buoys below. The offshore one had waves in excess of 30 ft. And this is not over. If anyone is on the coast later today, some pictures would be of interest.
And then there is all the talk about the reduced threat of the Howard Hanson Dam due to the successful grout curtain--which is very good. But there is something else no one talks about...we are well into the threat season. The big threat for flooding on that watershed is November and December. The dam is now empty and it is November 6th. Our computer models do not indicate any major rain events (Pineapple Express) through mid-November. So we will get through 1/4 of the big threat season ok.

45 comments:

  1. Moclips/Pacific Beach, WA - North Coast. Sustained winds of 25-30 at 8am. High Gust aof 51 mph at 12:30am with flashes of lightening. The winds and surf were so loud I did not hear thunder. This morning, the clouds are blowing away, the tide is coming in and the waves are at a moderate level -typical of this time of year.

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  2. Last night's thunder was a doozy for certain! I grew up in the Midwest and even with all of those thunderstorms, I don't know if I've ever experienced thunder that shook my house like an earthquake before. My cats also freaked, puffed up, and ran under the bed.

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  3. All quiet on the North Western front. No thunderstorms, little rain since late last night. Why does Seattle seem to get more thunderstorms?

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  4. Last night's thunderstorm passed right over my house at about midnight. (Lake Stevens, southeast side of the lake).

    It was AMAZING.

    The back of our house faces south and it took the brunt of that storm head on. I've never seen or heard such pounding wind and rain. The Lightning flashes were super bright and of course the thunder was wonderfully LOUD!

    It lasted about 45 minutes to an hour, perfect timing as my girlfriend had JUST arrived home from night class about 10 minutes before that front arrived. We got to settle into bed just at the storm hit.

    I love these storms!

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  5. Man, I wish I could get out to the coast today...dagnabbit.

    I hope someone will post pics today...I would love to see it.

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  7. "graupel"? I couldn't find this in my handy dictionary. Sounds french maybe?

    Spectacular bolts last night. Brought me back to my childhood in upstate New York where we'd sit in the garage with the door open and watch this sort of storm.

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  8. "graupel"? is this some sort of french precipitation?

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  9. We had a wild evening here in SEA. Wind was so strong it yanked the power cables like they were silly string, and in fact large, brilliant arcs flashed at the transformer and our power browned out. Then we were awakened in the wee smas by thunderstorms the likes I haven't seen since I lived in the Southeast. Still really breezy here this morning. Exciting! Would love to see photos of those Pacific waves coming in.

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  10. Check out http://burgess.members.winisp.net/boat/ for live webcams and wind data from Elliott Bay Marina

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  11. Shoot, It's events like that where I miss living in the dorms. Lived on one of the highest floors in McMahon with the balcony facing south. It was the ultimate weather observatoy.

    Also, my aunt lives right at the entrance of Fort Stevens State Park, and its a 20 minute bike ride to the plateform of the north jetty. Overlooks the entire Columbia Bar and Cape Disappointment. Wish i could have made it considering my hobbies are photography and surfing but don't think I'd try those triple overhead waves.

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  12. Nearly two inches of hail piled up next to the sliding door to my deck last night around 11:30 pm. The wind and hail also tore a few shingles, so I've been up on the roof this morning trying to stop a leak. I'm on the ridge of the White Center plateau, so we get the full force of the weather coming off the sound past the north tip of Vashon.

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  13. Sorry, forgot to leave this in my last post. The website I use when I do go on surfing trips and it has a few webcams of OR, WA, V.IS. coast.

    http://magicseaweed.com/Oregon-Surf-Webcams/15/

    Check out Lincoln City surf shop cam! Scary!

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  14. Here's a live, real time cam from Westport:

    http://www.rainbowsendcam.com/webcam32.htm

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  15. I believe I've asked before and I've never had an answer: Why does Seattle get so many more thunderstorms than Bellingham? They seem very rare here though there have been a couple this year. I hear more frequent reports from Seattle. Is it the PSCZ?

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  16. Hi Cliff,
    the storm on the 26th of october was credited with causing a catastrophic algae bloom of the coast. do you know if this new storm is going to have a similar impact? i'm very concerned about the bird life. thanks.

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  17. Cliff - will this cause another algae event like the one in late October?

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  18. Hey Cliff-
    You think those spikes on the radiation sensor are lighting? They seem to correspond with the timing of the T-storms that rolled through the Seattle area...

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  19. nothing here in chehalis. did the thunderstorms hit up north because of the convergence zone?

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  20. We're getting hit again right now in Seattle. Bright to the southeast but to the west and north, socked in. Had one thunder and lightning event about 5 minutes ago. Rain is slacking off for the moment.

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  21. Thuderstorm is over Capitol Forest moving east towards Olympia

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  22. On Dexter Ave, just east of the Queen Anne hill, we had a ton of hail last night around 10 or 11 PM. It dumped hail intensely for maybe 3-5 minutes, then stopped abruptly. The entire street was covered in white -- it looked like it had just snowed, it was so dense.

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  23. Jeffm...

    Graupel is a form of soft hail or sometimes call snow pellts as they look kinda triangle shaped as they fall to the groud when there is a thin layer of slightly warmer air aloft.
    http://farm1.static.flickr.com/221/483222856_8fabb0ce2a.jpg

    I to had a few flashes of lightning and abit of thunder as well, but main action was a little south of me.

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  24. That storm that just rolled through Bothell (ran from west to east) had a lot of thunder and lightning..roughly 30 minutes ago. I was on the phone with my buddy who lives in Mill Creek, said they had a lot of lightning.

    It didn't reach far enough north to effect us in Lake Stevens though. Just a lot of wind up here today and an occasional rain/pour passing through.

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  25. Just had a nice t-storm roll through Lacey about 5 minutes ago...pea to dime sized hail and winds.

    Solid. :)

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  26. Hey Cliff
    What effect will this storm have on the bark beetle population?:)

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  27. Moclips - North Washington Coast - After a few hours of sun and a lull in the wind (but not the waves) we are at high tide. 1:58pm The Westerly winds are at 14 miles per hr and the skies are darkening to the West as it heads towards shore. Barometer 29.80 and steady. Something is approaching.

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  28. natchrl8r - I believe the PSCZ is one of the main reasons why the Seattle area has more T-storms than we do up here in B'ham. Another reason could be because of the Olympic rain shadow that affects us when the flow is from the SW. When that happens the South Sound gets all the action. BTW - The south part of town did have a t-storm around 1:30AM today.

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  29. I sure was waken up by the hail and wind.

    Also had to attend school without mains power for 3 periods (8:00 - 11:00ish) after a 40 minute bus ride because Woodinville-Duvall Road was closed. One one light per room off a emergency generator. KIRO says we were closed incorrectly along with PSE saying "any minute now you'll get your power back" all day.

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  30. People: in the name of all that is just, where are the PICTURES?!

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  32. Thanks for sharing the link mainstreeter. To me, it looks like a shelf cloud in the still pic.

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  33. I don't know how to post photo's on the comment box, thus I made a link. The high waves did go way beyond any I have ever seen on our beach in Moclips. It was a fascinating event.

    http://moclipsvacationblog.blogspot.com/

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  34. We had a cell pass over South Lake Forest Park / North Seattle at 5PM today. Very heavy rain mixed with approx 3/16" hail. In the span of 5 minutes or so there was about a 1/4" to 3/8" white covering over everything... reminding me of Winter past and Winter approaching!

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  35. With these kinds of Sea States I can only recall the sight and sound of green water over the bridge.

    Haze Grey and Under Way!
    Note: that Significant wave hT products are for blue water not coastal surf. Very different animal.

    http://usmilitary.about.com/library/milinfo/milsounds/allhands.ram

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  36. Thanks B'ham guy. I live in S. B'ham so apparently the storm wasn't loud enough to wake me. I did hear about a big thunder boomer at Oyster Creek too. It makes sense that we would fall in the Olympic rain shadow somewhat with storms from the southwest.

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  37. High gust so far today at our house 28 mph from the SW, rain at 1.32" so far today... East Bellevue just up the hill on the ridge line west of Lake Sammamish at SE 3rd.

    This has been quite a rain event.

    Does anyone know (educated guess is all I'm looking for) if the surf will have calmed down at Port Townsend by lunchtime Sunday? It seems like things will have dissipated by then, but we're trying to decide about making a road trip or not.

    Thanks

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  38. Lucky you. We got no such thunderstorms in the Vancouver (WA) area. We had a burst of hail on Friday afternoon, but no thunder, no lightning, and just mild wind. Sigh.

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  39. Moclips, WA (north Washington coast)
    Thunder this morning ...looks to be more of the same...rain, sustained winds of 25-30mph and BIG WAVES.

    http://moclipsvacationblog.blogspot.com/

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  40. 3 wind advisories in a row (possible monday for Bellingham)!!

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  41. Went to La Push yesterday. Lots of surf; but the big waves break way way out, reshape themselves, roll in. The whole shore zone covered in surf but doesn't look at all like a video taken at Mavericks :-)
    http://bit.ly/akzVK

    Way way out, I saw a wave impact and splash right up over Dahdayla, one of the offshore islands.

    The foam alas is not clean, but is the brownish persistent foam which works itself up from the algae bloom, the stuff that's causing seabird problems. Lots of it both on First Beach and on Rialto Beach.

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  42. I'm late to this thread but am wondering about the different sounds that thunder makes. There is the "crack" when thunder and lightning are close, and the "boom" when you can count the seconds between the flash and the report. But on Friday there were flashes of lightning and then a rolling rumble that I could almost point to as it made its way across the horizon. Can anyone explain?

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  43. And now, going completely off subject:
    I've been following Hurricane Ida and see that it may transition to an extratropical cyclone before it arrives at the coast. It appears to be a very complicated forecasting problem. As I understand it, an extratropical cyclone is no longer dependent on the heat of the ocean for energy and draws energy from colder air high in the atmosphere. My question: Is it possible for such a storm to regain tropical storm force or is it still too warm? Fascinating phenomenon, extratropical transition!

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