March 10, 2011

Good Blow

As advertised, we had a nice, little windstorm today. The satellite image at 10 AM was beautiful (see below). The low/trough was within the hook-shaped clouds. We call this feature a bent-back occlusion or warm front and the strongest winds are generally on the western and southern portions of the hook. One rakish research paper calls this "the poisonous tail of the bent-back occlusion."

The central pressure of this low was not that impressive (perhaps 996 mb), but the track was perfect to give us the best such a modest system could muster.

Strongest winds were 60 mph in North Bend and 56 mph on Alki (which had the advantage of being surrounded by low-friction water). Many locations had gusts between 40 and 55 mph and several thousand people lost power. Kind of amazing to me that there are still trees and branches to come down after all the wind events we have had this winter.

Sitting in my house now I can hear the gusts... If you want to see some neat videos of today's winds...take a look at the video interface on the right of the blog.

One of the most dramatic events today occurred as the low moved inland and air surged eastward into the Strait. The leading edge of the strong winds often has very heavy precipitation, since the surging flow pushes the air in front of it upward. Here is a radar image at 5:35 PM showing how this looks. There are red echos in there...really pouring.

And take a look at the winds at 6 PM (below)....40 kt sustained winds at some surface locations. I would not want to take the Victoria Clipper today! (click to get big image)


  1. it was a crazy ride on the Water Taxi from Downtown to Vashon, especially passing by Alki. A large green wave actually crested the bow and water came into the passenger compartment.

  2. I was surprised at how late the NWS was in accurately predicting the track and duration of this storm. Even as of about 10:00 they were still predicting landfall on Vancouver Island instead of on the Olympic Peninsula, and the morning wind advisory for the North Interior only ran through 6:00 p.m. It wasn't until, as I recall, early afternoon that they extended the wind advisory to 9:00 and, even later, to midnight, which turned out finally to be the right call as the winds were still quite strong well ast 9:00.

    It appears that there is still as much art as science in predicting exact storm tracks and wind locations and speeds.

  3. Do you hear commentary from your fellow scientists about the weird events all occurring in one week?...massive Japanese earthquake, major solar flare, Hawaii volcano eruption, other earthquakes around the ring of fire, major fish die off coast in CA, and so many more...sort of creepy from our end as part of the 'general public', sitting here, watching, waiting, wondering, and chatting about it all...... it's just too close to home.

  4. Recorded 51 mph gusts just south of Lynden with 10-min average at 39 mph. Decent blow! Highest gust here since Oct. 1 (my weather year starts then) has been 53 mph.

  5. Scapycandy
    In 1980 we all know about our local mountain blowing its top, major earthquakes in Mexico and Algeria and a large Solar Flare on July 14 which nocked out fire repeters on mountain tops across the western us. And the hundreds of sword fish that wahed up off of cabo san lucas. Back then there wasn't CNN or the internet to deliver news 24 hours a day from every inch of the globe. To fill these slots you need lots of stuff, most of which wouldn't make it on the news 25 years agao.

    Though it is a bit wild...

  6. Cliff,
    The latest news after the Japan earthquake is that there may be radiation released from their nuclear reactors and that it would follow the jet stream to the west coast. Could you comment on how quickly that could happen and the likelihood that Seattle would be in its path.


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