May 15, 2016

Heavy Rain and Potential Flooding (And a Warning about Parking)

I knew it was dangerous to do a blog on arid conditions on Friday the 13th.

Yesterday, a low pressure center to our southeast rotated moist, easterly flow into our region with substantial upslope precipitation leading to National Weather Service flood watches along the eastern slopes of the southern WA Cascades and over the Blue Mountains of NW Oregon (see figure below).

Here are the 24 h precipitation totals for southern WA.  Some locations near the Cascade crest received more than an inch, with many locations along the eastern slopes wetted by a half-inch.

With the system centered to the south, Oregon got even more rain, with some locations in the coastal mountains getting more than an inch.

Eastern slope rivers are surging from the combination of rainfall and snowmelt.  The critical Yakima river reservoirs are near capacity and still rising (blue line below).  Yakima agriculture should have plenty of water this summer.

As noted earlier, the cause of this wet bounty on the Cascade eastern slopes and Oregon has been a  low center positioned ever southern Idaho.  The 850 hPa (5000 ft) map below shows this feature clearly (wind barbs and temperatures at the level are also shown).

The slow-moving low will continue precipitation over eastern WA and Oregon for the next 24-h, as shown by the latest WRF model forecast below.  Go north, if you want drier weather.

This week is going to be interesting.   First, a weak ridge will develop over us, providing temporary improvement.  But then  a HUGEridge develops over the Pacific and a very deep low forms over our region (see upper level map for Friday at 8 AM).  WOW.

This a cool, wet pattern for us.  To show this, here is the 72h precipitation total ending 5AM Saturday.   Even California gets a piece of this.   You can expect the wildfire danger to be greatly reduced and all current fires should be controlled.   

One negative about rain--it is not good for maturing cherry crops.  California's harvest was radically reduced by recent, unseasonable rain.  I hope the same doesn't happen with WA cherries, which I love.
Public Service Announcement: WARNING TO HIKERS ON CHUCKANUT DRIVE south of Bellingham.

If you are hiking near the trailhead of the wonderful Oyster Dome hike on Chuckanut Drive (SR 11), be VERY careful.  The State Patrol and their towing company buddies are towing lots of cars.  So be very careful if you park there.


  1. I hope you fight the citation. I realize, of course, that wasting a day to go to court up north is not cost effective. What a bummer, Cliff.

  2. The illegal tow might be worth talking to a traffic lawyer about. The pictures of how your car was parked was a great idea, and should make it easy to get any citation thrown out. Getting reimbursed for the illegal tow and any impound fee will probably be much harder. However, it was the state's actions that led to any fee you were stuck paying, not yours, so the state clearly owes you if you had to pay to get your car returned.

    If enough people do this, the state patrol will eventually realize they're no longer making a profit off of such behavior, and start obeying the law.

  3. Not a drop of rain so far in north Whatcom County, and virtually none on the radar. It's interesting to me how different our weather is than those of you just down the Sound a bit. We didn't have an unusually wet winter, for example. And we're already irrigating in mid-May, with no real sign of of the wet weather Cliff keeps mentioning.

  4. Cliff, I wrote about this experience on WTA in April. This is definitely a racket, and a dangerous one for hikers. Thanks for spreading the word. This is an unacceptable breach of trust and safety from a state agency.

  5. “It is disappointing to have the State Patrol do something illegal and then not tell the truth about it.” If you are just learning this about police now, you have led a very sheltered life and need to get out more.

  6. I wonder if towing your legally parked car falls under 'serving' or 'protecting'?

  7. We are hosting a wedding in north central Washington this weekend, any chance that our weather patterns have changed?

  8. Some amazing Weather Pics:


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