December 10, 2014

Northwesteners Take Major Storm in Stride while San Francisco Panics

Will Update at noon (Thursday).  Big blow is on for tonight

Heavy rain, winds, flooding:  hardy Pacific Northwest residents take it in stride.

In San Francisco, they panic.

A strong storm is now bearing down on the Northwest, which I will describe in a second.  San Francisco will NOT be hit by this strong low center but will get a bit of a trailing front.  These poor golden-state folks will experience a few inches of rain tomorrow and some gusty winds, reaching perhaps 40-50 mph in the city.  And they are in panic mode, closing down the city's schools, shuttering churches and synagogues.  Canceling meetings and gathering of all types.

In contrast, we have had winds gusting to 70 mph on the coast and 40-60 mph around western Washington today (see graphic).  Our rivers are flooding and heavy rain is striking our region.  We take it in stride.  No problem.  I don't like to call anyone a weather wimp, but....

Today was an extraordinary day, the warmest December day in the history of our region at MANY locations.   You will tell your grandchildren about it one day.  The 24h maximum temps are shown below. Mid to upper 60s in many locations of western Oregon and Washington and 70F in Walla Walla.

And yes, there is thesmall matter of the upcoming storm.

This system is finally starting to develop.  Here are the latest infrared and water vapor images, with my yellow marker indicating the storm.  Not very impressive yet.  One of the signs of a developing storm is a darkening in the water vapor imagery (associated with sinking behind the storm).  I have indicated the darkening with an arrow.

Here is the latest UW WRF runs driven by the GFS model.  In general, the low is slightly weaker than last night and a bit further offshore.   The result will be more modest winds over Puget Sound.  At 1 PM the low is off the central Oregon coast with strong winds (sustained at 50 kts) reaching the coast. Gust could reach 70-80 mph in some exposed locations.

By 10 PM, the low has reached Tatoosh Island, with strong winds along the coast, and winds starting to rev in Puget Sound (perhaps gusts to 30-50 mph).  The low will be weakening rapidly tomorrow night.

Here is a close-up view of the sustained winds over western Washington at this time.  Lots of sustained 30-40 mph over the water.  Half that over the land.  Gusts would be 30-50 mph over Seattle, 40-70 mph on the coast.  A few higher gusts are possible.

A significant event but not the equal of one of our great windstorms (like the Chanukah Eve Storm in 2006).   There will surely be some power outages.

The European Center model is now on the same page as the U.S. GFS.  With both giving essentially the same forecast, our confidence in the prediction is much higher.

 If this thing approached San Francisco, they would probably abandon the city.  But we are made of sterner stuff.


  1. we are holding a windstorm tomorrow to get the city ready for the 49ers arrival!

  2. What's that gust of 159 in Marysville? Anomaly, I assume...

  3. I have taken to calling all low bombs that come our way, Nor'westers. I think having a trendy name with an apostrophe in the middle will go a long way to getting us PNW residents the weather credit we deserve.

    Simple Marketing 101.

  4. Cliff, I always tell people you're my favorite weather guy! Thanks for keeping us updated during this event. Love your blog!

  5. Happy to stroke your ego, Cliff. But c'mon, you're smarter than that. It's all relative. A drought ridden region with poor root systems that has little exposure to heavy winds or rainfall is more prone to downed trees, power outages, flash floods, and mudslides than the swimming pool you call your home.
    - SF Bay area "storm wimp" and proud of it!

  6. Looks like Dr. Mass ruffled some feathers down in the City by the Bay:

  7. Time for a key update. A High Wind Warning is now in effect for the Puget Sound. Looks like the track is still largely on target, but the low is going to fill in slower, which gives the Seattle area an increased shot at 60 mph gusts.

  8. What are the SF folks going to be saying when we have our next major earthquake?

  9. for those of you not in drought areas, here is a short primer. Trees get very dry and disease prone during a drought. Internal damage can occur making the tree weak. When a major rainstorm comes, the trees sometimes soak up the rain so quickly that they topple over due to weight of all the extra water. This happened at my son's school last year after a very minor day or two of rain. It was a tree in his playground and had a rope swing attached to it. Out drought here is unprecedented, and so when a storm like this shows up, we have no idea what the results might be. I am happy that we are being a little bit cautious. If we have a relatively normal year of rain, schools will not close for a storm like this.

  10. I have to take issue with the idea that Northwesterners are made of such strong stuff. The news cycle has been nothing but panic about high winds for 2 days now. Having lived in Wellington NZ where gale-force winds are a routine occurrence (and where we never had one power outage in 2 years), I can't believe all this talk of closing schools here and the giant freakouts. People, get used to it. And then maybe our utilities will get used to it too. Wellington does not have all (or even mostly) undergrounded power lines. They just have developed the capability of the infrastructure to deal with the wind. It's like earthquakes. They are better at that too. The more you are faced with something, the more prepared you get. Because I would guess that the probability of high winds and stronger storms is only going to increase with our global climate change . . .

  11. People are being hurt and property is being damaged and you are literally adding insult to injury. What is it that you hope to accomplish by calling people wimps?

  12. Yeah, as an SF resident, this "sky is falling" hype is a little embarrasing. C'mon folks it's a rain storm, not frogs and locusts.

    I'm just happy that I no longer work in a TV newsroom, those people really get nutty when the clouds roll in.

  13. I lived in the Monterey Bay area in the 1960s when my dad was in Vietnam and later stationed in Ft. Ord.

    I remember as a kid riding in the back seat of the car seeing flooded roads with sand bags at the doors of businesses to keep the water out. I also remember the many power outages while living in Pacific Grove because trees fell on power lines.

    It seems their infrastructure is not designed to handle a certain level of water. It also does not help that water does not soak in quickly on dry soil, but floods. Which is why rain storms in places like Arizona and Texas cause flash floods.

  14. My parents and I moved from Denver to the Bay Area in January of 1976. Less than two weeks later, it snowed about half an inch. Everything basically shut down, including my school. I remember being highly bemused at the time, because there'd been over a foot of snow on the ground the day we left Denver and life went on as usual (including the movers loading the truck with our possessions).

    Now, I do realize that snow is an extremely rare phenomenon in that part of California, but I'm not in the least surprised when Californians act like weather wimps. It's because they are weather wimps!

    Oh, and I've been through my share of earthquakes -- so they can't say I'm an earthquake wimp, either. You haven't lived until you've experienced an earthquake while inside a glass greenhouse. Trust me.

  15. 24-hour rainfall totals in the most populated areas of the Bay Area (San Jose, Redwood City, SFO) all the way up and down the Peninsula: 3.5-4.5 inches. 9+ inches in Napa, and 8+ inches in the coastal range.

    72-hour rainfall totals at Sea-Tac and Boeing Field: 1.01 and 1.03 inches.

    'nuff said.

  16. Cliff's preaching from his UW high perch is at it again. As a former firefighter in California I have seen my fair share of weather disasters. Stick with your Northwest knowledge and know that California Emergency Planners know what they are doing when they see red skies in the morning. Now if you want to belittle the Niners go for it :)


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

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