December 10, 2010

Pineapple Express Update

I don't want to overhype this event--it should not be one of the "great" flooding events--such as December 2007, January 2009, or November 2006, but it will probably bring enough precipitation to cause flooding on a number of local rivers and to cause localized urban flooding, particularly south of Seattle. The latest infrared satellite figures says a lot--a current of warm, moist air is headed our way.

Here is something I haven't shown before--the 48hr precipitation total, in this case ending 4 AM Monday. 5-10 inches on the windward slopes of the mountain in "favored" locations, with over an inch in the lowlands from Seattle south.

You will note the profound rain shadowing over western Washington--with less than a third of an inch NE of the Olympics. A substantial gradient of precipitation over Seattle! Seattle Public Utilities will undoubtedly be dealing with more incidents on the south side of the city.

How much uncertainty is there in this forecast? Much less than for the snow predictions of two weeks ago (thank goodness!), but the amounts could vary substantially from the above. For example, there are often waves on the fronts associated with such warm currents and such waves are very hard to predict--thus, there could be some modulation of the timing and distribution of the rain that the latest model runs do have have correctly. A coastal radar could have given us some short-term (0-9 hr) information about such waves, but that will have to wait until next year.

The National Weather Service River Forecast Center in Portland uses observed rainfall and model predictions to provide forecasts of levels of major NW rivers. The latest is shown below. Red indicates basins with predicted flooding, orange indicates basins where the rivers are running bank full.

The weather should be decent over the area until lunchtime, by which time light rain should have made it to Puget Sound land--a good period to rake those leaves from the street drains and clear out your gutters.

There is a lot more to talk about.

There should be snow tomorrow afternoon on the eastern Cascade slopes as the precipitation comes in and cold air holds for a few hours. Strong winds along the coast and over NW Washington on Sunday. And substantial avalanche danger Sunday and Monday. Cross Cascade travel later on Saturday and Sunday will not be great...and road closures for avalanche work is probably inevitable. And there is a real risk of freezing rain in the passes later on Saturday and early Sunday before everything turns to rain.


  1. I'm pretty stoked for this storm here E of the crest. 24hr totals paint about 10inches of snow or above .64 precip. Thats impressive here for the desert.

    I was concerned about how warm it was today for snow tomorrow, but its still clear here at 2am and its a chilly 24 degrees, setting the stage.

  2. Cliff - love your blog and all the information you constantly provide us with but I thought your phrase, "great flood event" was a bit insensitive to all those in flood prone areas. Maybe significant or major or devastating would have been a better choice of words. I seriously doubt those with 3 feet of water in the living room are saying, "Wow, this is a great flood!" I've always lived on a hill away from creeks and rivers for a reason but feel terrible for those who's homes fill with water when flooding does occur. Unimaginable!

    With that said, I too love a strong storm and will be interested to see just how much rain my CoCoRaHS rain gauge collects. Record so far this year is 1.19" - twice.

  3. On the topic of "intense expresses", the longest lasting, warmest, rain on new snow event I remember was Feb 8, 1996. It made a big mess! Just wouldn't move on through. Hope this one does!

    Here is an interesting report on the impact of that one.

  4. You said strong winds over NW Washington on Sunday, but did you just mean the Olympic Peninsula or were you including the NW Interior? The NWS zone forecasts for the Salish Sea area only calls for a south wind 15-26 mph. Up here in winter, we consider that virtual calm.

    Who's going to turn out to be right, you or the NWS?

  5. Definition of Great: notably large in size, huge, of a kind characterized by relative largeness.

  6. Cliff, this is from the NWS long range forecast for PDX.

    In fact...some of the longer range models such as the GFS...Gem...and European model (ecmwf) suggest low elevation snow is possible Thursday through Sat. The question is just how low snow levels will get. 12z/18z GFS suggest wintry precipitation is possible in the Portland metropolitan with cold high
    pressure east of the Cascades and low pressure approaching from the southwest. Not quite ready to bite on this solution yet...but it is something to keep an eye on.

    Snow this week in Portland?


Please make sure your comments are civil. Name calling and personal attacks are not appropriate.

More Rain for the Northwest is Good News for Wildfires

After a very pleasant dry spell, another rainy period is ahead for the western side of the region and the Cascades on Friday and Saturday.  ...