December 11, 2014

Big Wind Tonight

The models are basically in agreement now on the track and intensity of the cyclone that is moving up our coast and the model evolution compares well with observations, so there is substantial confidence in the forecast I will describe.

The storm...I have seen better defined low centers.  The low center is in the middle of the swirl off of Oregon.

There will be a major blow tonight over western Washington that will certainly cause power outages for some of you.  This event should bring the strongest winds we have seen during the last year, but damage will be mitigated by our leafless trees and the fact that earlier windstorms have done considerable pruning of new growth and weak limbs.

Let me show you the latest sustained wind (not gusts) forecast every 3 hours of surface (10-m) winds and sea level pressure from the UW WRF run starting at 1 PM (2100 UTC).  The Oregon coast gets hit hard...something we have been saying for while.  The storm slowly weakens during the day, but there is plenty of punch left in it as it crosses the NE tip of the Olympic Peninsula

1 PM
4 PM
7 PM
10 PM

At Point Oxford (near Pt. Blanco) on the southern Oregon coast the winds are increasing rapidly, gusting to 60 knots (69 mph)--see below.  Pressure is rising, suggesting that the storm is moving away--which agrees with the models.

Now, let's turn to the UW Super-Hi resolution forecasts...1.33 km grid spacing--some of the best model resolution of any numerical weather prediction in the country (sponsored by the NW modeling consortium by the way).  Let me show you the gusts (in knots, remember 1 knot=1.15 mph).  Click on images to expand

At 4 PM, very strong winds along the Washington coast (gusting to 60-75 mph).  Long Beach Peninsula is hit hard.  Gust to 30-40 knots over Seattle.

 By 7 PM, coastal winds back off a bit as the low weakens and is about the cross Tatoosh Is.  Strengthening winds over Puget Sound and real bad from Whidbey to Victoria. 
 At 10 PM, a bit stronger over the north Coast and bad news north of the San Juans.  Very strong winds over northern Puget Sound as air surges northward  towards the retreating low.

Bottom Line:  Nearly everyone will experience gusts to 40-50 mph tonight and some more (coast, near the Sound, NW Washington)

I would not plan any ferry trips tonight and if you need to cross the Sound do it before dinner.  I suspect a few hundred thousand folks will lose power in our region, so be ready.

San Francisco Weather Wimpology

The "terrible" and "huge" storm has passed through San Francisco.  Here are the max winds during the past 24 h after the worst has occurred.  Away from the water their gusts hit 13 to 28 mph.  In the forties (mph) near the water and exposed peaks.  We had a lot worse around here yesterday, without a big storm!

 A very strong front went through San Francisco bringing heavy rain for a few hours, with a few tenths to a few inches depending on location.  Northwesteners would yawn at such amounts.

Some San Franciscans have gotten defensive about their weather wimpology:  check out their newspaper coverage.


  1. Cliff, on the blog a few days ago, you noted hurricanes and tornadoes were one of the few things missing from the long list of NW warnings, watches and advisories. Well, now you got your hurricane--of sorts: Hurricane force wind warning off the coast.

  2. Hi Cliff,
    I have followed your wonderful blog for years. I recently moved to Vancouver, WA (Greater Portand, OR area), and I was curious if you or any of your readers could recommend a blog/website/etc that is great resource for the weather here? Thanks in advanced!!


  3. Honestly Cliff, I think busting San Francisco for being wimps in this storm is like busting Seattle for being wimpy in the snow. Our hills are bad for snow and ice; their drainages are bad for six inches of rain in one day. This is some serious flooding -- heck, the intersection of I-280 and I-101 flooded, which has never happened before that I can recall.

  4. The SFgate was hilarious. The kickback in the commentary about Pugetopolis being snow wimps was on the money, I must say. Forks, 117+ inches of precip, Twilight vampires and werewolves, Sasquatch, Mick Dodge and our mid-latitude cyclonic transient. They all are welcome to join our circus of mayhem.

  5. I feel sorry for the folks in San Fran... they have been without serious rain for a long time. They are not used to it, their trees are not deep-rooted, their soils are a mess from raging wildfires and being so dry for so long... it was a big deal for them and it feels a little unsporting to make fun of them. Sure, we would sneer about such a storm here, but as one person there pointed out, we do sort of live in a swimming pool, relatively speaking.

    It's been interesting to watch this storm come together and I appreciate all the details you've shared. I hope nobody gets hurt and the biggest issue is the power outages all over the place.

  6. Parts of California have gotten 10" of rain from the latest Pineapple Express... that would be too much for us, too. CNN coverage of California storm I hope it slows down but continues, because it might actually start to ease their epic drought if it keeps up.

  7. Very informative post, as usual. Thanks a lot...

  8. I have gone outside and looked up with a monocular and adjusted focus to see leaves and plastic bags aloft several hundred feet.

    The day has been warm with showers, mud soon dries to dust. A death in Umaatilla County in recent year was Valley Fever. Read recent New Yorker article. Does the weather service monitor disease presence? Is it expanding in current conditions? Is this the work of another agency or department?

  9. Cliff, I'm wondering if you would start a NOWCAST thread for us. I'm in Clearview, on the ridge just south of Snohomish, and an hour ago was looking at blue skies and sunshine, with a few fluffy clouds, thinking "ah, maybe it is blowing by us..." Then I got to Hiway 9 where there is a good view to the south. There is a WALL coming our way, moving at the speed of the Empire's ship in Star Wars' The Empire Strikes Back, slowly slowly, but very persistently moving over us. Still calm here, but the clouds are still persistently moving northward. When I got home I checked for batteries and candles...

  10. Zooming in on San Francisco itself does not give an accurate portrayal of the remarkable rainfall in the last 24 hours over the SF Bay Area region. 4+ inch single day totals are common in the coastal hills and north bay cities with up to 9 inches in northern Sonoma County. SFO itself is over 2 inches for the day with rain continuing. That's a lot of rain in a short amount of time, even by Puget Sound standards.

  11. Nice job generalizing your lowball reports. Here on the SF peninsula, we recorded gusts over 80 mph this morning and will easily get 6 inches of rain today as it is still raining between 0.25" and 0.5" per hour and looks on track to continue for at least a few more hours if not until midnight. Drove my kids to school around rockfall and mudslides during frontal passage this morning just after 8AM and then drove to Stanford on roads in the Santa Cruz Mountains that most Bay Area residents consider scary on a sunny Sunday. We are not all the same.

    In any case, having grown up in tornado country (Google Xenia OH 1974) and lived on a hilltop in central NY through winters with 180"+ snow and -30F temps, I can safely say you are weather wimps just like everyone else out here on the left coast!

    Now... shall I continue by slamming meteorology as a wimpy science since I'm a particle physicist, or is that enough? ;-)

  12. Great forecasts, Cliff. Congratulations to you and your cohorts.

    I am always impressed...especially compared with the forecasts by "Uncle Jimmy" on KIMA TV in Yakima in the 1950s. Yes, he had way less info to work with, and, yes, he was great with us kids...

    But come on, Cliff. Please don't trash San least they kept their cable cars, streetcars, and built rapid transit, years ago...

    San Francisco is by far the cooler city....if you lived in a foreign country, what city would you choose to visit? San Francisco or Seattle...

    I rest my case.


    PS: I never lived in California...but wow, you have to recognize a gorgeous state...not trash it...

  13. Thanks Cliff for the humorous commentary today. Go Hawks!

    Here's a timelapse from 5th and Marion, looking south west over west seattle.

    Really pretty. The building windows are creaking now.

  14. Eh, we're all "weather wimps" about some element of weather. Let's stick to the fun of analyzing weather and avoid the compulsion to play holier-than-thou.

  15. Let's look at the whole picture here. Winds in the Bay Area were forecast to be in the 60-70 MPH range over large areas. Much of the rainfall was supposed to be heavily concentrated during a small portion of the day, with real potential for flash flooding in vulnerable areas.

    As it turned out, the forecast high winds were a bust over large areas, but people didn't know that in advance. Some areas got higher winds and wind damage; a falling tree hit two children at a school, trapping and injuring one.

    The peak of intense rain along the front was weaker than forecast, but the rain has lasted longer than expected and a lot of places in northern California are getting 4-7 inches of rain so far in just one day with more coming.

    No, it's not an rainpocalypse by any means, and yes, news media hype (Storm of the Century!) may have caused a few to overreact, but it's not an insignificant storm either. However, nobody I talked to beforehand was particularly worried except for the possibility of being caught in exasperating commute delays, some of which actually did happen.

    Personally, I was disappointed in the storm at my house as I expected something more exciting. Still, 4 inches in 18 hours ain't bad.

  16. The SF trash talk seems unnecessary. Yes, the media overhyped the storm, but it's not like Seattle media doesn't do the same as well. It was still a thoroughly crappy day in the Bay Area, with big wind, heavy rain, and widespread flooding and power outages. After several storm-free years, it was a big deal locally. And I write this as a 40+ year Seattle resident who recently moved to SF.

  17. Our winds up above North Bend began this morning. We lost a 50 foot Cedar Snag that had been there for at least 50 years, and we were sad. The Woodpeckers will also wonder where it went.
    At 10:08 pm it is gusting still but power is still on.

  18. Everybody taking Cliff's comments seriously should check out the links he provides to comments from the other side. I'd say he has a friend down there who also loves to tease!

  19. I'm from the Northwest (Aberdeen and Seattle) and now live in Oakland. We had 4.2 inches of rain yesterday (24 hours); and most of the streets in my neighborhood were under a foot of water. We had entire freeways underwater. I've never seen that in Seattle. You're completely right about the wind though -- this didn't qualify down here

  20. I'm from the Northwest (Aberdeen and Seattle) and now live in Oakland. We had 4.2 inches of rain yesterday (24 hours); and most of the streets in my neighborhood were under a foot of water. We had entire freeways underwater. I've never seen that in Seattle. You're completely right about the wind though -- this didn't qualify down here

  21. I grew up in the Seattle area and now live in the Bay Area. Although I definitely agree that people around here *seem* like wimps when it comes to these "big" storms, people outside the Bay Area don't realize how susceptible the infrastructure is around here to rain and wind. Flooding and power outages occur with even this sort of storm because drainage systems and power lines are outdated and, for lack of a better word, sort of weak.

    Also, to echo Rob, it's not like people in Western Washington don't freak out over just a couple of inches of snow. I've spent time in the parts of the Midwest that get Lake Effect snow, where it can snow a couple of feet in a few hours, and the people there handle that like it's nothing.

  22. We got 5.5 inches of rain in a 24hr period in foothills above Palo Alto. I believe this eclipses the record 24-hour rainfall total for Seattle. Apology accepted.

  23. Sure... the Bay Area didn't get the wind storms that I remember from Seattle -- but I never remember getting 4.2 inches of rain in one day in downtown Seattle, as we did yesterday in downtown Oakland. My neighborhood had 12 inches of standing water on the streets, and some intersections had water wheel-well high on pickup trucks. Good grief -- entire freeways were underwater down here. (I'm an Aberdeen native and lived in Seattle until 2007, so I know western Washington storms). My windshield wipers were on high -- and I still couldn't see out the window. (which is when I turned around and went back home)

  24. The appearance of the Californian Catty Squad proves the blog's point. No apologies. ;)

    Anne, you obviously don't remember the 1996 Snow and Flooding event if you need to remember flooded freeways. We had 5+ inches of rain in 2003, but perhaps you forgot that too? We've gotten 5+ inches of rain in a day. Hey, you're weather wimps whenever you get things thrown at you that you're not used to. You'll never go toe-to-toe with the NW when it comes to wind and rain and how to deal with it (see your sucky drainage systems).

    Take it in stride and avoid making yourself look foolish. It makes about as much sense for a Seattlelite to tell someone from Green Bay that they don't know as much about cold after we have a cold snap. ;)

  25. Hi Cliff,

    I down loaded two barometer apps for my iPad 2, December 13. Lets see how how they work though this test drive.

    Have you looked at these yet and started to analyze the performance?



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