January 06, 2019

Windstorm Details

Well....my power did go out last night, as it did for roughly 300,000 power customers in western Washington.

Model forecasts were quite good, particularly in describing the substantial local variations in strong winds. As shown by max gust map below, winds got to 60 mph at Sea Tac, along the coast (e.g., Hoquiam) and in the central Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Strong enough, that even with the "pruning" of past windstorms, plenty of trees and branches were felled.  Winds were weaker over western Kitsap county, something the models predicted (see below).

One of the most interesting aspects of the event was the strong surge of westerly winds in the Strait that followed behind the trough of low pressure, something that was well forecast.  At the leading edge of the surge there was intense low-level convergence (air coming together), which forced air to rise and produce a line of intense thunderstorms.  You can see this on the radar image at 3:29 AM today (Sunday)--see below.  The red indicated pouring rain or small hail.

There was report of an amazing deluge and a hail-covered I-5 and adjacent areas (see example)

You think stormfest is over?   No way!    Look what is lurking off our coast on Wednesday at 4 AM---A HUGE DEEP LOW CENTER. 

Expect strong winds offshore and some good size waves.... NOAA's Wavewatch 3 model is predicting about 8-9 meters at that time (26+ ft).

So reset your clocks, clean up the debris, and keep tuned.


  1. You missed any reference to the severe thunderstorm warning and severe lightening warnings that were issued at around 3:42am this morning. Awakened by huge light flash and a sound like a bomb going off. I live in the Stanwood area. This sucker reminded me of growing up in Colorado. Amazing weather so far this winter.

  2. I'm curious about the lack of wind reporting all along the hwy 18 from Auburn to i90. We are up on the hill in that area and had amazingly strong winds, but am not seeing any numbers from covington, maple valley, etc.

  3. Seems that KHB60 is off the air, so not easy to stay tuned. Tried to alert NOAA via their webpage, but with the shutdown, I don't know if anyone is home. WWG24 at 162.425 is up, but KHB60 at 162.55 is not on the air.

  4. Thanks for the recap, but I don't think this part of your original forecast happened:

    "At 4AM, winds have decreased slightly over Puget Sound, but an extraordinarily strong westerly wind surge has pushed into the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca, northern Whidbey Island, and the southern San Juans. We are talking about 60 knot gusts."

    Notorious Smith Island, Point Wilson, and Race Rocks had 50+ mph maximum gusts (but not 60) and Whidbey and San Juans were spared as far as I can tell. The intensity was felt pretty much in the middle of the straits. To me, it looked like this small, but intense, storm had a more southerly course with most of the wind getting dumped through the Chehalis Gap into south to central Puget Sound. Most of the Oregon coast was spared until you get to about Astoria.

    Don't get me wrong. I think the forecast was generally pretty good. NWS adjusted its forecast and most of the TV news folks seemed to as well. One station regularly runs the UW wind forecast. I am not complaining that winds were not great here. But there is a big difference between 50 and 60 mph as wind load increases with the square of the speed. 60 is almost 50% more force than 50.

  5. Cliff, thanks for your Saturday afternoon alert. My family prepared ourselves and were activated to a coming possible/probable power outage. The neighborhood was ringing with the beautiful sound of gas-powered generators. Uhhhg!

  6. Believe it or not we were out sailing this weekend and stayed overnight on Jones Island near Orcas Island. The north cove is protected from all SE and SW winds, and we were woken up precisely at 1:05am by strong gusts coming over the trees. We were fine all night, but could it hear it gusting. The interesting thing, is my barometer dropped down to 988.5mb. By far the lowest I've ever seen on our boat. Usually, a good low gets down to 995 or so.

  7. My barometer bottomed out at 29.11" (985.7mb) in NW Bellingham just before 2AM. Lowest reading since January 2017 (29.10"/985.4mb). Max gust 30mph a little after 3AM.

  8. Grateful I kept power in spite of living in a rural area north of Monroe. But tonight, it's snowing... sticking mostly to grass and such so far, but it is 32 degrees outside. I'm at about 400' elevation. It was also switching to snow as I went over Clearview Hill, which is close to 600' but further West.

  9. The difference between 50 and 60 mph winds seems to be destructive as 5.0 and 6.0 on the Richter scale. Pray no 70 mph winds or 7.0 earthquake...

  10. Hi there- I am wondering if you could provide some insight as to what our "normal" windy season is. I have gone bavk and forth with a few friends on this- It seems like our strong wind events usually happen in october/november... not as much as in december/january. Is this true or am I justa not remembering correctly?! Can somone provide some stats on when our strong wind storms notmally occur (on average) and if these december/jan storms are out of the ordinary? Thanks so much!

  11. Rats! I missed all the lightning- it should have awakened me if there was any in my neighborhood.

  12. Here is one reason the NWS is not delivering decent "product." I can't understand why information is called product.


  13. I would sure be interested in having Dr. Mass talk a little more about this odd, intense little storm. When I look at the map and reporting stations, there was not much wind on the coast except where it came through on the southwest Washington coast. It looks like the more intense winds were in a narrow band about 50 miles wide that shot through the Chehalis gap on a beeline for a strip through Pierce and King counties. (It also seemed to have an appetite for trees near power lines outside of Seattle. Seattle outages were quite limited.) Outside of this band, winds dropped off quickly and it petered out by the time in Snohomish county. There was a more limited replay of this in a short stretch in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, but it really did not go anywhere. This was not a generalized storm with high winds over a very large area. The original posting by Dr. Mass predicted a quick event, but it seems odd that not only was it quick, it was confined to a relatively small area.

  14. blloydp commented about the lack of wind data along the SR-18 corridor. I live near where SR-18 crosses the Green River and the wind damage was just amazing. The Auburn Airport recorded peak gusts a little over 50 mph, but the wind up here, only three miles away was significantly stronger. I have never in my 30 years of living in this location seen this amount of debris. The Auburn-Black Diamond Road was a mess of downed trees and downed power lines.

  15. drgem said...

    "blloydp commented about the lack of wind data along the SR-18 corridor. I live near where SR-18 crosses the Green River and the wind damage was just amazing. The Auburn Airport recorded peak gusts a little over 50 mph, but the wind up here, only three miles away was significantly stronger. I have never in my 30 years of living in this location seen this amount of debris. The Auburn-Black Diamond Road was a mess of downed trees and downed power lines."

    Just look at the narrow but powerful path of this weird little windstorm. If you were in the bullseye, it was intense, but as soon as you moved outside very far outside of narrow corridor, it was not much and it did not go very far north either. Part of the downed trees may be attributable to a lot of vegetation growth without much natural pruning in recent years. We've ridden our tandem bicycle up that road on the way to Black Diamond many times and really liked it. I would have thought that would be somewhat sheltered, but I gather the strong winds funneled up the road. Were trees down starting at the fish hatchery and going up to the top?

  16. There was damage near the fish hatchery but the major damage was about 2 miles up the road to the east. Here multiple power poles were down and I saw at one house with a small fir tree on its roof. Those folks were without power for 4 days. We only lost ours for 3 days.

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