October 24, 2021

A Record Storm and the Power Outages Begin

This morning, the offshore storm rapidly intensified and achieved record status, with the central pressure dropping to at least 943 hPa (the previous record for our region was 950 hPa).

And there is a very good chance it is even deeper right now.  

Here is the latest visible satellite image of the storm (around 10 AM).  

Stunningly beautiful creature, with the frontal clouds swirling towards the low center.  And you can see very unstable air with lots of convection (e.g., thunderstorms) over the southwest portions (the popcorn-looking clouds).  Some of that activity will reach us later today.


The official National Weather Service analysis indicated 943 hPa at 8AM (see sea level pressure map below)


The low center is now passing nearly directly over NOAA buoy 46005 (see map), about 300 nautical miles off the coast.


Below is the plot of sea level pressure at the buoy as of 11 AM.  Wow.  The pressure is down to 942.5 hPa and still dropping rapidly.  The winds are nearly calm there, as expected near the center of the low. 


As I mentioned, the central pressure of this storm is a record for our neck of the woods.  

To show this, here is a wonderful figure created by Dr. Ryan Maue, the shows the lowest pressure observed over the northeastern Pacific over the past 70 years using the ERA reanalysis dataset.  The star shows where our 943 hPa low is right now.    Notice there are green colors in the region of the star--indicating lowest pressures of 954 hPa and higher...not even close!  

To get similar record storms to our visitor today, one must go northwestward into the Gulf of Alaska and the Aleutian area.

We are all experiencing history..

This morning the region is experiencing stage 1 of this event, with a very strong east-west pressure difference driven by the approaching storm (see sea level pressure forecast for 11 AM below).  Mama Mia, there are a LOT of isobars.


Driven by this pressure gradient, powerful easterly winds have occurred over the eastern slopes of the Cascades and some pushed into south Seattle.  As a result, there are lots of power outages with tens of thousands of people out of power.



Strong easterly winds are blowing in the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca  and off the coast now (up to around 60 mph)

In the next stage of the event, the low will move closer, bringing powerful winds to the coastal area (yes, some will lose power).  The plot below shows the forecast for 5 PM today.   And yes, there should be some big waves reaching the coast by then as well.
And tomorrow morning, as the weakened low goes north of us, the north-south pressure difference will increase, bringing stronger (southerly) winds to Puget Sound...and particularly northwest WA waters.

Before this is over, I suspect a few hundred thousand folks will lose power, with the situation worsened by the unusual direction of some of the strong winds (easterly in the interior) and the fact this is the first major blow of the season for many.
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31 comments:

  1. It's just after 1pm and the rains and wind are picking up in Tacoma where I live. It was raining earlier but not heavy but steady and calm, then it stopped raining for a time, but stayed calm and cloudy. now it's blustery and wet out. Rain is fine but steady and coming in from the SW as my south facing and west facing windows are getting wet.

    Earlier this morning, the lights did bling twice, once early this morning and later around 7-8am. So far, so good here as far as power and all goes. BTW, the lights blinked at least once yesterday afternoon/evening.

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    1. I live in Westgate, the Point Defiance area of Tacoma, and within an hour of your post we experienced hard driving wind driven rain. We had some very powerful sustained gusts of wind...lights blinked; and now all is calm again. Weird.

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    2. I live in Central and now it's sunny but see some clouds to the south and west of me though. For a time it did feel like a Pineapple express storm was a brewin'.

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    3. I live a few miles NE of Enumclaw. By noon, the E and SE winds had become more breezy than windy. Not ten minutes after I was talking to my SO about forecasters only talking about easterlies and wondering when we could expect southerly winds, at about 2:25, a SSW wind roared in, bending a neighbor's tall cottonwoods and small branches started hitting my roof. I lost power for a few minutes at 2:32 and heavy rain began.

      Looking at PSE's outage map, one can see the track of the blow, starting with outages about 2:20 near Graham and quickly working its way NNE causing more outages along its way. After it ended, conditions here returned to breezy or calm for the rest of the afternoon.

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  2. South Snohomish County: The calm before the storm. I'm showing 979 hPA and 12°C now, and the wind around 11A is totally gone. Somewhat eerie, knowing what is coming. Rain just started again at 1:40P.

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  3. It felt like a non event here in north bend. We are right on the south fork and are used to strong gap winds. This didn’t feel any stronger than our usual winter storms. The lights flickered a few times this morning before 9am but unlike some of the area around us, we kept power.

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  4. If the low did not pass right over buoy 46005 (did it?), what other methods do we have of knowing the surface pressure in the enter of this storm? I assume ships and planes would avoid it. Is there a remote sensing way to measure surface barometric pressure over the open ocean?

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  5. 2:15pm in Mount Vernon. The winds have started gusting, blowing rain is at 35-45 degrees. We only see this sideways windy rain when storms line up with Strait of Juan de Fuca. Windy shows the effect right now. https://www.windy.com/?48.311,-122.632,5

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  6. Awoke from a nap to rather windy conditions and it raining heavily and I think I saw multiple flashes of lightning, but no thunder at about 2:10pm or so. There is a somewhat tall tree tossing back and forth in the wind down the street from me and the wind has just picked up even more for a moment.

    This is more like a Pineapple express type of storm.

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  7. Maple Falls - 25 miles due East of Bellingham. Wind and rain started hitting around 3:00PM Lots of leaves still on the trees so a couple down, one big one across the road but some locals are harvesting it for next years firewood. Wind is steady out of the South.

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  8. This isn't a real storm until we chalk up theories of how global warming caused this. What's wrong with you people?

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  9. Was *crickets* here in Capitol Hill... the blinds moved around a little bit hanging in front of the balcony doors.

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  10. Lost power briefly in Edmonds and pretty sure I saw a transformer blow around 3:30pm

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  11. The usual non-event for Kitsap.

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  12. Didn't seem that bad. Windy for sure but power just flickered a bit.

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  13. Pretty much a non-event thus far in Tacoma. It rained a bit heavily and there were some wind gusts , but I’d say less than a typical winter storm.

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  14. What characteristic are needed for a powerful storm with high sustained winds in the Seattle area?

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    Replies
    1. The low pressure center has to track over or just to north of the Olympic Peninsula.

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  15. So far so good here in Lynnwood. Power still one. Is the worst of it gone?

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  16. There was only moderate wind all the way up the waters of Puget Sound. No white caps: even the Coupeville Port Townsend ferry kept running all day.
    Why was this wind storm so weak along the center of the Puget Sound basin?

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    Replies
    1. Because it was overrated. Even KGW in Portland said it last week

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    2. No, this storm was not over rated. It was massive, powerful and slow moving. That atmospheric river it channeled was very destructive in CA. If it had tracked parallel to Washington's coast and hit land at La Push, or Neah Bay...the customers without power would be in the millions and the directly attributable deaths in the US would be more than 2. The thing with this blog is we do not hear from Canadians in the PNW, even through its the same region. Weather does not recognize political boundaries and for all we know this storm in Canada was a total 1-2 punch as they got the 3rd most powerful storm a few days ago with this one hot on its heels.

      Posted earlier that it was a non-event in Kitsap. Well, this seems to be a 48-72 hour event. Kitsap got its ass kicked today since this was the first blow of the season. Dr. Mass nailed the sequence of events, but perhaps some of us did not understand the timeline.

      This wasn't a bullet dodge. We dodged Tsar Bomba.

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  17. Given the immense power of the center of this storm, the entire PNW really dodged a bullet. The pressure was a number of magnitude greater than the infamous Columbus Day storm back in the 60's, and that was a truly devastating event for many. If the center had come much closer, or if the track had come up directly from the south as that earlier storm did, woah.

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  18. We traveled to the northern Oregon coast for a planned family vacation, arriving in the afternoon of the 24th. Lots of rain and some wind as we reached the coast, evidence of the strong thunderstorms recently passed were evident. Overnight the waves were massive, blowing mist off the tops of cresting waves was an incredible sight. We stayed off the beach for all the reasons one would think of. Overnight the wind howled, a couple bursts of thunder, lots of heavy rain. We had power all except for one hour this morning (25th). Clearing up now in midday with small bursts of rain or gusts of wind. We were excited in reading your blog to experience this once in a lifetime event in person. Thanks for all your good detail!

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  19. Went down to Madrona Beach on the W side of Lk Washington around 1400. A solid half hour of one of the more interesting weather events I have experienced. Powerful winds from the S / SSW roared up the lake -- I estimated 40-50 mph sustained, gusts to 60+. Several trees along the shore collapsed into the lake, many others lost major branches. Garbage cans and other loose items blew long distances, some going briefly airborne. Torrential rain, with zero viz and whitecaps on the open water. Some audible thunder and a brief but noticable burst of small hail. (Still stung a bit in that wind!)


    I ventured beiwfly onto a fishing pier but had to retreat -- the wind was pushIng me across the rain- slick wood towards an involuntary swim!

    Definitely had to walk mindfully -- giving large trees a wide berth. surprised how many sightseers parked right under huge trees . . . We're lucky what happened in Issaquah didn't happen here, too

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  20. I look at the Windy.com site, and noticed a strange pattern at about 825pm Monday. There was a circular pattern of 'purple' (almost calm winds) in the water area just north of Port Angeles and Sequim. Winds were flowing around it. But the 'purple' area was unusual to this weather novice.

    I took a screenshot, and is available here on Google drive. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1G4lbxhG2ezuiCm40hzchHplPfYdBXgZ7zQ36UJV6T5Y/edit?usp=sharing

    Just found it interesting...

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  21. Hey Cliff, you always are a good source for facts, and I would like a post on this storm being related to climate change, from what I know, it didn't affect the storm or it affected it very little.
    Here's a news headlines linking it to climate change, I'm expecting more soon sadly.

    https://news.yahoo.com/record-breaking-california-bomb-cyclone-linked-to-climate-change-183607985.html?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZmFjZWJvb2suY29tLw&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAADOKKPt9Y75WkNKRaX6BKSCSlDHjufIF_hEBq1fOWkPGIveg09Y3DVgFp0siO97tyO6mRvFovxMTUekiSfG3bLmFCMZRt-yRBQdK8hfiWofCKylSGu-sJKnDcm4GtyZJipliChESNZnFF2E5YgxJRGbYux_feS-O7bA5PU8BPLQB

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  22. It was just another average rainstorm with a few minor gusts here in the Rogue Valley. In the gauge: 0.80".

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  23. Looking forward to an aftermath update. It seemed like it was much more of a coastal phenomenon and or north of the Puget Sound. Not much to report?

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  24. Bottom Line: The 62 storm's eye hugged the coastline, about 40 miles offshore...raking Oregon and Washington with winds up to 145mph measured!...this storm was even more potentially dangerous, but the eye stayed way out to sea, maybe 200 miles or so, and only teased us with it's obscene power...we were lucky!

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  25. So uh... what happened? Seemed like a pretty benign event on the shores of the North Puget Sound.

    ReplyDelete

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