December 07, 2015

Very High Winds Around Bellingham

Last night, winds gusting to 70-80 mph hit around Bellingham, resulting in substantial power outages.  Here are the max winds for the past 24 hr (ending 8 AM Monday).  One gust to 81 mph north of Bellingham and lots of locations getting more than 50 mph in the area.   In contrast, winds were modest around Seattle.

The cause of the brief surge of strong winds was a relatively deep low center that crossed northern Vancouver Island (see forecast below for 7 PM Sunday).  The result was a very strong difference of pressure over NW Washington.

The pressure gradient over northern Puget Sound was enhanced by the impacts of the Olympic Mountains, which forced local high pressure upstream of the barrier and low pressure to its lee (see map).  Look closely and you will see a lot of lines (isobars) over Whidbey Is. and the San Juans.  That means a big pressure gradient, which drives the winds.

Here is the model forecasts of gusts at 7 PM  Sunday.   It predicted 55 knots (63 mph) over the water.  Not a perfect forecast by a good heads up that strong winds could be expected.

Another good example of the weather contrasts we enjoy in our region.


  1. I don't know what happened, but last night in Auburn after about 9pm we had a huge wind storm that lasted about 3 hours. It came out of nowhere, howling wind, knocking stuff over and around in the backyards. It was nuts. It blew stuff off my deck, knocked over my christmas tree that is sitting outside bungie tied in place to a structure and the wind still knocked it over...twice. The wind was so loud it actually startled my dog, which never happens!

    Then just before midnight it was silent calm, no wind.

    I don't mind the weather though, I like wind and rain storms. Last night's wind storm just caught me completely by surprise.

  2. The forecast discussion seemed to place this in the "areas that are susceptible to SE winds" category.

    Olympia / Lacey got hit hard by this storm (30+ mph sustained, 45+ gusts from the SSE primarily). Olympia is not one of those "SE susceptible" areas (typically, I've observed 15 - 20 with little gusting in those types of events).

    Plus no advisory was issued, and the computer forecast was typical (it said 16 - 20 mph with no gusting).

    Is there any particular scenario with this storm that drove winds this strong over the Olympia / Lacey area?

    1. We usually get hit hard with the southeast winds but never get advisories either. We're in Eatonville.

  3. I happened to be checking a "Wundermap" station in Edgemore (on Bellingham Bay) and saw a gust measured at 87.5 mph. Don't know how well calibrated those private stations are, but that is still pretty breezy.

  4. Yah - it was CRAZY up here!! Seems like it has been windy for a long time. Hope we're building up some calm-weather karma!

  5. 50 mph gusts in Eatonville. We always seem to get pretty gusty when there's advisories or warnings for the northwest interior....not quite as strong as they get but usually pretty close. The media never seems to mention us though. Guess if you're not part of the immediate Puget sound area or near the big cities then you're not important enough to mention. We never really know what to expect because the forecasts are only for Olympia north....very frustrating!

  6. About the time as others have noted, there was a lightning strike somewhere near Brinnon on Hood Canal. Not that that was unusual, but the thunder reverberated for almost a minute. It wouldn't stop! I've never heard anything like that from one strike.

  7. My tree service guy just stopped by to check with me. He told me he was working on six houses with trees on them between Lacey and Dupont. My trees in Lacey are fine but I have them serviced about every five years.

  8. Not much rain at Stevens Pass today. More tomorrow?

  9. The winds & gusts were in the NWS warnings, but the Port Angeles forecast graph showed only little cheesy breezes. Pretty sure we had gusts 40+.

  10. Whidbey Naval Base reported sustained winds of 40 with a peak gust of 59 mph at 6:56 pm. Nothing close to that before or after. We had a similar burst of wind that lasted about 15 minutes around that time. It was fierce but very short lived. Quite odd.

  11. Very high winds up here in Bham & environs, but really nothing exceptional. This sort of weather is the seasonal Whatcom County norm. High winds & warm temps with southerly winds, or high winds and frigid temps with Fraser Valley outflow.

  12. The excessively high readings from Edgemoor and Ferndale are almost certainly in error. The highest reliable reading is probably 71mph at Locust Beach on the north side of Bellingham Bay or 62 mph at Sandy Point near the northwest extremity of the Lummi Reservation. Measurements from these locations are taken with reliably accurate equipment and are particularly prone to southerly and southeasterly winds.

  13. While on this sort of subject, could you please comment on the mini-windstorm that moved through the Puget Sound region early this morning, knocking out power to 78,000 customers. It appears to have moved as a band from west to east, stretching from Puyallup up to Everett. Here in Maple Valley, we're used to high winds in winter, but never like this -- from calm to gale-force back to calm over the course of about ten minutes. An amazing amount of damage here from winds of such short duration -- and I don't even have the numbers for the local area, as they would have come from Weather Underground stations, which of course were knocked off line when the power went out. It was really one of the strangest wind phenomena I have encountered.


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