March 15, 2011

Revenge of La Nina

Putting aside the cross-Pacific radiation issues for this blog (again, absolutely no reason to be concerned here on the West Coast), we have had notable very heavy precipitation during the past several days. Slides have stopped north-south train traffic, strong thunderstorms with thunder and lightning have pummeled the lowlands, and some mudslides have blocked local roadways. Slides on the rail right of ways has become a major problem--take a look at the video on the side bar (to the right) to view a typical NW landslide on to the tracks between Seattle and Edmonds.

Lets start with the precipitation over the last two weeks at Sea-Tac (see graph): roughly twice normal--so half way through the month we have "enjoyed" a normal whole month's total.

Here is the cumulative precipitation (top figure) this season for the Cedar/Tolt rivers (the main water supply of Seattle). Yes, we are ahead of normal (consistent with La Nina). The bottom panel shows snowpack for these watersheds--rapidly catching up to normal after being well below normal. You will be able to water your lawn this summer.

Looking at the precipitation for the last 48h from Seattle Rainwatch
An amazing 4 to 6 inches from north Seattle westward. No wonder there were slides on those tracks!

For days we have been getting very heavy bands of convective showers moving through. Take today at 2:30 PM (see below). Lots of yellows (heavy rain) and even some reds (downpour and or hail).
One very heavy thundershower moved through this afternoon and an image shown on the KOMO-TV website (reproduced below) strongly suggests a rotating "wall cloud". I would not be surprised at all if someone saw a funnel coming out of this feature.

More rain tomorrow...but believe or not, Thursday and early Friday should be dry!

Returning briefly to the tsunami turns out that my idea of building safety towers has been considered for a long time (should have known) is called vertical evacuation. There are a few projects being considered on the Oregon and Washington coasts...but nothing sufficient to deal with the problem. What will it take to make the investment to build enough vertical evacuation facilities to have a hope of saving most of our coastal population in case of NW tsunami? This is also homeland security--for a fraction of the funding used to building that fence along the Mexican border we could protect all our coastal folks.


  1. Question: will the new shift in the earth's axis have any effect on weather?

  2. I will pass this idea onto our family member, emergency management, in the Seaside, OR area

  3. i'd be interested in seeing a plan for such tsunami towers. i can't picture them. but if they were open to the public, under supervsion, they would be very cool visitor areas! great views, a suspension bridge out over looking the ocean? they would pay for themselves one would think.

  4. Thank you! I will pass on your site so that our relative in, Emergency Management, in the Seaside, Oregon area will be aware of it.

  5. Some sort of unusual wild blast came through my yard in Olympia at 10:30 pm. A very POWERFUL howling gust of wind accompanied by rain that began instantly and left within minutes. Short as it was, I heard branches cracking outside.

  6. There's a phrase you might find useful here. It's "equinoctal storms". I first heard it from a traditional sailor, along with gems like "red sky at night, sailor's delight" and "red sky at morning, sailors take warning."

    Marrowtone Island

  7. I work in Canyon Park , Bothell, just north of 405.

    We had a red cell come over yesterday afternoon and the thunder lightning and hail was amazing. I cannot recall seeing hail come down this hard. They did not even appear to bounch. At 430 when I went home, the remaining stones were about 1/2 inch wide.

    The water running in the parking lot tumbled the hailstones in wonderful patterns. I posted 2 pics on my Flickr page.

    so happy to see the snowpack up where it needs to be for the Ag people in the east.

  8. Be careful with that border fence talk! I'd hate to see your funding stripped to "cover the deficit"

  9. Most of the deaths from what I here so far are in the areas of long minimal elevation gain plateaus like in Sendai. Initial estimates put the first wave at 30-40 minutes after the quake.
    Most of the Oregon Coast you can get to higher ground fairly quickly without the heavy congestion of population per squire mile like you have in Japan and with quick elevation gain. If it were a race to a tower it could go either way for time. Of course this is all speculation.

  10. Cannon Beach, Oregon, may build nation’s first tsunami evacuation structure.

    Integration of a shelter into the top floor of a multilevel parking garage may be appropriate and cost-effective in some coastal communities. Because of their design (large live loads and open construction), they resist damage by wind and flood and tsunami currents.

  11. Please see "Guidelines for Design of Structures for Vertical Evacuation from Tsunamis" and "Oregon may build nation’s first tsunami evacuation structure" (Cannon Beach).

  12. " . . . for a fraction of the funding used to building that fence along the Mexican border we could protect all our coastal folks"

    Not to mention, have a SUPER spot for everyone to put those video recording devices to work!

  13. This is also homeland security--for a fraction of the funding used to building that fence along the Mexican border we could protect all our coastal folks you're into it. security/fear of the others versus from "mother nature". politically those two remain lamentably in two very separate very emotional purses, (for instance, 2nd amendment doesn't exactly apply to climate, does it? ;)

    anyway: from here:

    So it's really Oregon and Washington that should be worried?
    They already are nervous. Oregon is more worried about a tsunami, because more of its population lives on the coast. Seattle, on the other hand, sits directly on top of a big fault, and an earthquake over 7.0 would be devastating, and could send a wall of water down the Puget Sound to Tacoma and other cities. On the plus side, neither state has active nuclear power plants.

  14. No Concern?!?

    What happens when the radiation increases?

  15. I shouldn't say anything because I don't want you all to move to the islands but here in the San Juans it has been a fairly dry week.

    Good comment Just AboveNOAA! If we prioritized all our defense needs for all conceivable threats, both natural and man made, we would be spending our tax dollars very differently. I've been lobbying for NOAA, as some shortsighted politicians want to cut its budget by 20% or more. That's about what I would like to see our military budget cut.

  16. JustAboveNOAA, there is an active nuclear power plant in Washington, the Columbia Generating Station near Hanford. But it's a long way from any possible tsunami. Hmm, I wonder what would happen if one of the Columbia dams broke.

  17. Patrick,
    To the best of my knowledge, all large dams are required to create and make public a contour map of water depth resulting from a sudden dam failure. At least that is true for all dams in Southern California.

  18. On escape towers: A very short distance inland from the high tide line, you see a rushing slab of water which never appears to be more than 15-20 feet high; this is what kills the most people. This suggests that special "towers" are not really needed for tsunami refuge. Any decently constructed concrete structure, set back a modest distance from the high tide line, and more than 2 stories high able to survive the offshore quake shake seems to provide lots of elevated safe area. Ordinary beach resort housing and parking garages seem to work very well for tsunami escape without being "special" in any way, other than concrete construction.

  19. Good idea on the tsunami protection. Also, we're thinking probably a good idea to stock up on canned/non-perishable goods, a couple weeks worth. And, we have several bicycles, and are in great shape, so if worst came to worst and we had no electricity or gas here, we could say bike to friends in Spokane.

    In more mundane news, picked up 5.63 inches of rain so far this month in north Tacoma.


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