Christmas Morning Surprise (Wind)

I should have paid closer attention…2 of gifts from my wife last night included:  a storm survival kit for the house and a nightlight/emergency flashlight combo for power outages.  Hmm….funny that I wake up at 4am to electricity buzzing off/on/halfway on etc…also flashes in the sky and then it was pretty obvious.  A very warm wind blowing from the southwest means some sort of surprise windstorm.

The low pressure center that travelled just offshore last night ended up stronger than expected, and when the cold front moved through early this morning, strong winds above mixed down to here on the ground.  I’ve scanned all sorts of observations, including Forest Service sensors in the mountains and ODOT sensors.  I can’t find a single gust above 50 mph anywhere below 4,000′ here in Northwest Oregon.  Hard to believe that peak southwest wind gusts from 45-50 mph dropped dozens of trees and put 30,000 PGE customers out of power for Christmas Morning.  That’s the largest outage since the ice storm 2 years ago!  Just about all damage was confined to an area east of I-205/99E and west of the Cascades, and between I-84 on the north and Marion County on the south.  Clackamas and E. Multnomah County seemed to get the brunt of the outages.

Pressure gradients (actually observed, not forecast by models) seemed to barely even support winds that strong.  And even more interesting is that 50-60 mph easterly winds in some spots such as Gresham last week downed fewer trees than 40-50 mph southerly winds today.  I suppose it could be related to the fact that it’s been 6 years since PDX has seen a southerly wind gust over 50 mph.  Our trees have had it easy lately.  Maybe many of those would have gone down over the last few winters.   

The weather pattern stays very active through the first few days of 2006, so we’ll be watching closely for any strong areas of low pressure approaching the coastline.  There should be 5 good "waves" or chunks of energy moving through between Sunday evening (now) and Saturday Evening (New Year’s Eve).

By the way…the high of 63 degrees is the warmest Christmas Day since the 1980.  If you were here then, you may remember lots of flooding.  That’s the event where part of Mt. Hood washed down and washed out a good chunk of Highway 35 and several bridges in Hood River county.

6 Responses to Christmas Morning Surprise (Wind)

  1. Paul says:

    Living in NW Gresham, I can attest to wind speeds that appeared to be closer to speeds stated in Richard’s post and after going on a jog yesterday, seeing branches, some approximately four inches in diameter, on the ground, wind gusts could not have been only in the 40-50 mph range. Either the NWS understated the wind speeds because it was another missed forecast for them or as Mark stated, the brunt of this storm was east of I-205. What was also spectacular was the lightning (or power transformers?). There were a few flashes that were colored green and red (Christmas light show?). Again these could have been transformers but none-the-less, spectacular displays of flashes in the sky.

  2. Travis says:

    I slept through the whole thing. But when I woke up the power was out. There was lots of branches on the ground. It was pitch black. I could tell there had been high winds during the night…

  3. Richard says:

    One reason that strong southerly winds, of equal velocity to the easterly winds, often cause more damage in the East County area, is that they happen infrequently, especially when compared with the onslaught of moderate and strong gorge winds that can and do blow unendingly for days and weeks. This whittles down the branches and spreads out the power outages, on an ongoing, little-bit-at-a-time basis, instead of all at once, when a short, but powerful big blow from the Pacific comes calling.

  4. Derek says:

    I already said something earlier, but in addition to that I was talking to my Dad who lived through the Columbus Day storm and he said it looked pretty bad so that’s saying something. It must have hit just PERFECT at my house because there were many gusts in the 50’s for a short period of time. As well as this there was the monster wind gust, definitely the strongest in quite a few years, well into the 60mph range. And as I said in the other one, it may have hit 70mph. There were the biggest branches I have ever seen knocked down at my house this morning. Our house semi-blocks the trees so it was really amazing. I can’t and won’t believe it only gusted to 46mph, haha, tell that to all of the humongous branches on the ground!!!

  5. Roseisarose says:

    At 3:40 am this morning a wind gust toppled a 60 foot tree in my yard, crushing our fence. The tree was double trunked at snapped into two.
    This was in the Woodstock neighborhood. I have never seen anything like that wind.

  6. Andrew says:

    I woke up this morning in portlands west hills to 45 mph wind gusts and our outside chairs on the other side of the lawn.

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