January 17, 2010

The Storm

A really interesting event is occurring--one the shows the strengths and weaknesses of weather prediction technology. Here is the latest infrared satellite image (for 5 PM) of the approaching storm. Can you see the swirl of clouds off of the Oregon coast? The low is closely associated with that swirl. However, there is some hint of a double center (the second one NW of the obvious one).

As the occluded front associated with the low moved up the CA and Oregon coasts there was a strengthening of the coastal winds, with 30-50 kts winds all over the place. At Cape Blanco, a normally windy spot (the ID is K92S), there were sustained winds of 67 knots with gusts to 80. This is hurricane force.

Now a big problem for the weather community is that many of the offshore weather buoys are A map of coastal buoys from NOAA

broken. All the NOAA buoys along 130W..which could have given us a good idea of what we are dealing with are broken! The further offshore buoy (46006) is broken. Every year this seems to happen...a few good storms and the buoys go kaput. A lot of the fishermen/women in Oregon and Washington are angry about this issue, but it is expensive to fix those offshore buoys and it doesn't seem to get done. Another reason why a coastal radar will be very helpful---it isn't taken out by rough seas.

A major forecast issue is then---where exactly is the low and how strong is it? Single or double? How good are this morning's numerical forecasts? My viewing of the imagery and what observations we do have suggest the storm is further south and west of the predicted location. (If had a radar on the Oregon coast we would know for sure!). That implies that the northern Oregon and Washington coasts are going to get hit harder...with more potential for the western interiors to pick up some winds.

Thankfully two close in buoys are still working! 46089 is due west of the Columbia River bars shows rapidly falling pressure and winds surging to nearly 45 kts. Buoy 46050, just west of Newport, is showing the same kind of thing.

Anyway, we will have a fun few hours this evening finding out what will happen. The strongest action won't be till after midnight along the north coast. A good night for a coastal storm party...but have plenty of flashlights and candles. The National Weather Service has a high wind warning out for the Oregon and Washington coasts. This is going to be a powerful wind event on the Washington coast--I expect some power outages and some downed trees.


  1. Ok Cliff - we are counting on you you have hit it right on the money here with the past storms! We are ready!

    Ocean Park, WA

  2. Waiting for the winds to pick up here in Eatonville too! Early Thursday morning we had sustained winds of 25-30 with gusts to 52....we always get hit hard with the southeast winds....can't wait to see what the next couple of storms bring us! They've started to pick up a little in the last half hour... only sustained at about 15 so far though.

  3. I'm in lake Stevens, approx 300' (SE side of the lake).

    I noticed that weather.com shows the pressure at 29.33 and rising...however, a local weather station (actually several of them here) show the pressure MUCH lower, at around 29.03.

    If I am reading the weather reports right, the low pressure of the storm off the coast is around 980mb, well my pressure gauge here shows us at about 982mb right now.

    That doesn't seem right to me, unless there's a ridge of high pressure somewhere between Lake Stevens and the low center of the storm.

  4. Drove down from Chehalis to Pacific Beach at 10AM, and very few signs of severe storm. One truck working on limbs. No large tree (trunks) that had been blocking the road. Nor many limbs on the side of the road.


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