Major Storm = A Major Bust. A Storm Recap

That didn’t work out so well last night, the major storm didn’t appear at all.  Instead we just had a typical relatively weak windstorm.  We definitely over forecast the wind speeds on this storm.  The peak gust at PDX was only 48 mph, and the 51 at Troutdale was the only official lowland spot in the metro area that peaked over 50 mph.  We didn’t even reach High Wind Warning criteria in the valley.  This is quite clear when looking at the PGE outage map; just 7 hours after the peak of the wind there are fewer than 10,000 out of power.  During the 2006 storm at this point there were probably still 10 to 20 times that many folks out of power.

The following might sound like I’m beating up on forecasters (including myself), but part of the reason I’m posting this is so that NEXT time I can look back and see what’s different.  All these blog postings are archived.

What went right?

1. Timing:  Everything seemed to work out as models said with timing, the first surge of wind (which turned out to be the strongest one on the Coast) in the late afternoon.  The low moved onshore about on time and about in the right place. 

2. Location and intensity of low pressure center:  It moved inland just north of Hoquiam.  Far enough north to give Seattle stronger wind than Portland, peak gust of 59 mph at Sea-Tac.  Central pressure was just under 980 millibars, as models had shown.  Maybe slightly weaker than expected depending on which model you had been gunning for.

3. Pressure Gradient:  Peaked out at 18.9 millibars EUG-OLM, and 9.9 millibars EUG-PDX.  The EUG-PDX value during the 2006 storm was 9.1 millibars, so we slightly exceeded that but with much lighter wind this time around.  As we’ve known, but last night makes clear, it’s not just about gradient.  In fact many major windstorms (gusts 60+ in metro area) have occurred with WEAKER pressure gradients.  Clearly last night we didn’t have upper-level support, wind was likely far too westerly and/or the pressure jump wasn’t as much as we need to get.  Wolf Read has an excellent paragraph on this subject in his Storm King summary of the Dec. 2006 storm.  Note the paragraph about pressure gradients part way through.

What went wrong?

1. Wind Speed Forecast:  Way too high in general.  I think I said 50-60 mph gusts, or did I even forecast 55-65 mph gusts?  Either way, widespread gusts 55-65 mph is far stronger than widespread 40-50 mph, as seen in the power outages.  The coast forecast was even worse…see #2.

2. Coastal Forecast:  Yikes, this one was really bad.  The central coast saw some gusts 65-80 mph with the warm front during the late afternoon, but the supposedly “poisonous tail of the bent back occlusion” did absolutely nothing more than the usual gusts 50-70 mph out there.  Astoria only hit 53?  Did anyone out there even notice?  Wow…

3.  Gorge Wind:  This is just a minor point, but I sometimes forget that the west/central Gorge (the part that is oriented SW to NE) often gets a SW wind surge with these types of systems.  There was a gust from the SW to 62 mph at Bonneville Dam!  Very impressive and unusual, but that has happened in past windstorms too when a low is moving by to the north.

So, with that under our belts, let’s move on…I see about 18″ snow has fallen at Mt. Hood so far and it’s still coming down.  Lots more snow coming up this week.  I’ll do a blog posting about that this afternoon.  Until then, here is a summary of Portland Metro area gusts with the storm last night:

BONNEVILLE DAM……………….62
NEWBERG (1350 FT),OR…………. 54
MCMINNVILLE, OR……………… 52
TROUTDALE, OR (BPA TOWER)…….. 52
ALBANY,OR…………………… 54
TROUTDALE (AIRPORT), OR……….51
PORTLAND (AIRPORT),OR…………48
DAMASCUS, OR…………………48
EUGENE (AIRPORT),OR…………..48
AURORA (AIRPORT),OR…………..47
OREGON CITY, OR……………..47
SALEM (AIRPORT),OR……………46 
TROUTDALE, OR………………..46
FOREST GROVE, OR…………..45
PORTLAND, OR (I205/DIVISION)…..44
CANBY,OR……………………42
CORVALLIS AIRPORT, OR…………43
RUSSELVILLE, OR………………42
CORBETT, OR……………..41
HILLSBORO, OR……………….37
EAGLE CREEK, OR………………36
VANCOUVER (AIRPORT), WA……….36
PORTLAND (I405 FREMONT BRIDGE)…35
KELSO,WA…………………….39
HAPPY VALLEY, OR……………..38
SCAPPOOSE, OR……………….32 

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

177 Responses to Major Storm = A Major Bust. A Storm Recap

  1. KPTV Tower Temps
    As of 5 PM
    Upper Sensor(1818′) 31.1
    Middle Sensor(1473′) 31.5
    Lower Sensor(1043′) 32.0

    02z Upper Air Analysis(Observed over PDX)
    925mb: -1.2c
    850mb: -6.3c
    700mb: -17.5c
    500mb: -37.5c

  2. Sandman, Aloha 300' says:

    As of 5:30 my deck is icing up. Typical in this Beaverton Creek lowland. Still a flurry would be great!

  3. Due to the possible low-elevation slush I felt it was necessary to post this.
    http://www.divshare.com/download/21431750-6c9
    CLICK ‘ PLAY l> ‘
    After listening make sure you take precautions to survive the newly issued Special Weather Statement. Be safe!

  4. SnowedIn - North Plains says:

    35 degrees… Will it hit 32 tonight? A bit skeptical… But definitely not out of the question! Elev. 200 here but we tend to be closer to the 500 ft forecast. North Plains seems to be in a cooler microclimate. Hoping to atleast see some flakes! I’ll be up most of the night staring out the window at the streetlight and/or back patio light. WHO’S WITH ME??

    • Ben T says:

      I’m with you! Unfortunately, the light my family usually looks from the deck while we are in the house got blown last night when I tried to turn it on.

    • Dave in Sherwood says:

      LOL. I will be up all night patiently awaiting any flakes. I sold my jeep, so I can’t go to the mountain anymore, and will have to settle for valley slop-flakes!

    • pappoose in scappoose says:

      I’m in!

  5. KPTV Tower Temps
    As of 4 PM
    Upper Sensor(1818′) 30.4
    Middle Sensor(1473′) 31.6
    Lower Sensor(1043′) 33.4

    01z Upper Air Analysis(Observed over PDX)
    925mb: -0.8c
    850mb: -6.2c
    700mb: -17.4c
    500mb: -37.3c

  6. Andrew (Beaverton...Murray Bldv....250 feet) says:

    Already down to 34 out here in Beaverton.

  7. W7ENK says:

    Was down to 34.5F, now back up to 37.0F as clouds move in. It’s gonna be this game all night, isn’t it…?

    Enjoy the accumulating snow outside the dome. :(

  8. Nate in NE Portland says:

    Hey all just got a smarter phone and was wondering if any of you had a good weather app suggestion. Just for basics mainly (ie- radar, satellite, local readings, etc).

  9. dothgrin says:

    Dew point 32, temp. 36 in Aloha right now. There are enough bursts coming off the Pacific and getting over the Coast Range that there could be at least a coating by morning. This is one of those that has potential chaos written all over it, simply because it is spotty.

  10. kcteach Gresham 500' says:

    Love ya Rob. Keep up the posts. 35.6 here as the skies cleared at dusk. Seems like we either get the cold or the precip. Might be cold enough tonight but limited precipitation. The joys of living in the Pac NW. Hope to at least see a few flakes tonight.

    • kcteach Gresham 500' says:

      BTW, heard a cracking sound about 3:15 and got up to see that a 50 foot tall, 1 foot diameter alder had dropped toward the north, away from my house. Distinctive sound that makes.

  11. Marc (East Vancouver) says:

    It looks like the forecast says we will see snowflakes in the air tonight but no accumulation in the valley. That looks like that’s a sure bet. Is there anyone predicting more than a spotty dusting on floor?

    I know people like to rip Rod Hill when he’s wrong so it’s only fair we give him the credit when he’s right. His forecast for the wind storm was spot on for the most part. Most of the local meteorologists did fine. This was the rare exception that Mark didn’t nail a winter event. That just means he will get the next one.

  12. Brad says:

    Mark has a shot at redemption. Are we biting on the WWA issued by the NWS? Shall we play with fire yet again?

  13. IR Loop doesn’t look so great. That vort offshore and what looks like a possible organized band of showers isn’t consolidating very much.
    http://www.atmos.washington.edu/~ovens/wxloop.cgi?ir4km_enhanced+12

    • pappoose in scappoose says:

      Ya, with all the cold feeding into it, I’m hoping for a heavy duty squall line to develop and slam into us causing widespread chaos and multiple opportunities for funny loss of vehicle control videos! Hahaah!

    • Ryan says:

      Best chance looks like tomorrow night(early wed am). KOIN shows snow starting after midnight and lasting for a few hours until switchover.

  14. EY (Oak Grove) says:

    It’s hard for me to call this one a total bust…

    I stayed up last night (as per usual) and had to check outside numerous times. There’s some damage on my property, mainly things being thrown around by the wind. Our trash can has never been knocked over, but it was last night and it was full (thankfully it didn’t spill anything out.) I have chairs in my fenced in backyard that were thrown about.

    Behind me, a neighbor lost their fence completely and I saw many tree branches coming down. I saw a couple neighborhood cats struggling in the wind (and chasing leaves on the ground) and my power bumped a couple times. These were the strongest winds I’ve heard in a very long time (not at Crown Point) and my house shook (I live on the second floor of a town home) for the first time ever.

    The forecast may have over-sold it, but it didn’t seem like it was such a bust that people want to call it. Yeah, it wasn’t quite as strong as it was forecasted and I, for one, am insanely happy about that. Any stronger and I would have lost power… I was glad I didn’t lose it.

    A true bust would have been the coast getting wind and us getting nothing. This was an oversold forecast, but that’s all it really us. There was a storm and it did deliver, just not nearly as much as people wanted it to.

    Be happy we had exciting weather that didn’t cause widespread damage… Don’t focus too much on what could have been and focus on what we got and what we got to look forward too.

    This wasn’t a bust.

    • Kyle says:

      So is it an *st* where it’s half a bust?

    • Brad says:

      Or a bu?

    • umpire says:

      Having just spent several hours cleaning up downed tree branches, with several more hours of work left, and seeing a tree down at 67th and Sandy Blvd, I’m not sure I would call this a bust either. Don’t need 65 mph gusts when the ground is this saturated, and everything I picked up today was soaking wet.

    • lurkyloo says:

      I had my recycling strewn across the backyard this am. And a few extra pine needles. Didn’t lose power but I’m glad I was prepared anyway. Less exciting than was expected, but still some action.

      Maybe we can call it a “stub” — not quite a bust, but close to it?

  15. W7ENK says:

    Just walked in the door, 36.3F and dropping, a bit of clearing overhead. Showers moving in soon… Right on the edge!

  16. I enjoy all the input from this blog. I know there are some really good points made, and I really like how some of the weather geeks in here describe what they think is going to happen. I don’t hold anyone to their word, but appreciate all the input that occurs in here. I am hoping for a bit of snow tonite in the lowland valleys down south here, but if it doesn’t happen I know there will be a couple more shots before it is all said and done. We always have some flirts of snow or actual snow every year. Might not be major accumulations like we got in 2008, but it is fun to wish cast!

  17. KPTV Tower Temps
    As of 3 PM
    Upper Sensor(1818′) 32.0
    Middle Sensor(1473′) 32.9
    Lower Sensor(1043′) 34.0

    00z Upper Air Analysis(Observed over PDX)
    925mb: -0.8c
    850mb: -6.1c
    700mb: -17.2c
    500mb: -37.3c

  18. Longview - 400 ft says:

    Currently 34.5

    Down from 36.7 as of 3pm. My yard is a little white from some snow but mostly hail/sleet.

  19. lilfoot123 says:

    Anyone get a headache around 12:30p! I sudden got a pain in my head & sinus like being squeezed in a vise! Still have it! My thought was that was when the barometric pressure started to rise after the low went through! I’ve felt this before! But this sharp & intense! Wow! The whole body too! Arthritis retched up too Damn! I want my snow to enjoy before Jan.15th! Bring it on!

  20. THE PUGET SOUND CONVERGENCE ZONE IS ACTIVE BUT NOT WELL DEFINED THIS
    AFTERNOON. MODELS GENERALLY AGREE THAT A BETTER ORGANIZED
    CONVERGENCE BAND WILL DEVELOP OVERNIGHT AND TUESDAY AS SHORT WAVES
    EMBEDDED IN THE UPSTREAM FLOW MOVE THROUGH THE AREA. EACH OF THESE
    WAVES WILL ENHANCE THE CONFLUENT FLOW AROUND THE OLYMPICS AND ALSO
    BE ASSOCIATED WITH A REINFORCING SHOT OF COLD AIR. SNOW LEVELS WILL
    FALL TO 500 FEET THIS EVENING…THEN DOWN TO NEAR THE SURFACE LATER
    TONIGHT AND TUESDAY MORNING. THE LOCATION…TIMING…AND DURATION OF
    THE CONVERGENCE ZONE IS RATHER UNCERTAIN. BUT THE NAM/GFS BOTH SHOW
    ONE DEVELOPING TONIGHT WITH ENOUGH SLY FLOW SO THAT IT REMAINS N OF
    SEATTLE. DECIDED TO GO OUT ON A LIMB AND ISSUE A SNOW ADVISORY FOR
    THE FAVORED CONVERGENCE ZONE CORRIDOR TO THE N OF SEATTLE AND ALSO
    INCLUDE THE E PUGET SOUND LOWLANDS TO CATCH THE FOOTHILLS. SOME
    SPOTS COULD SEE A COUPLE 2-3 INCHES OF SNOW IF THE CONVERGENCE ZONE
    BECOMES PERSISTENT. HEAVIER SHOWERS COULD ALSO PRODUCE A DUSTING OF
    SNOW OUTSIDE THE ADVISORY AREA TUESDAY MORNING. Looks like we will have a little snow by more finally.

  21. Irv says:

    Called it a bust last night…. and Rob the “expert” said it wouldnt be…

  22. paulbeugene says:

    Precip totals in Willamette Valley for next 12 hours looks like less than tenth of inch liquid…spotty showery pattern is more miss than hit…only organized comma clouds give mentionable accumulations in showery cold air mass.
    Most places will see flakes in air…not ground

  23. alohabb says:

    Oh dear lord…Les Schwab is gonna be a mess!

    LOL

  24. Gabriel says:

    Winter weather advisory just get issue for the willamette valley.

  25. Trina says:

    My gutters were torn off last night so I wouldn’t say the wind storm was a bust…… Actually it was a major bust to my wallet!

  26. KPTV Tower Temps
    As of 2 PM
    Upper Sensor(1818′) 32.7
    Middle Sensor(1473′) 33.4
    Lower Sensor(1043′) 34.7

    23z Upper Air Analysis(Observed over PDX)
    925mb: -1.0c
    850mb: -6.0c
    700mb: -16.7c
    500mb: -37.3c

  27. Ben T says:

    Any models showing significant accumulation tonight?

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