Windstorms & High Wind Warnings

February 11, 2010

Nice picture for today…warm and windy coming up later, might be hard to find a palm tree this large in Oregon though.  Probably no windstorm, but the best south wind we’ve seen in a few weeks coming up this evening.  Nice wave developing on the cold front offshore sweeps by this evening, turning our easterly gradient now to southerly (screwed up high temp forecast yesterday!).  This should happen in the 5-9pm period.  Very similar to the surge of wind we saw back in mid January.  In fact I think it happened twice.  Not much southerly pressure gradient up the Valley, but nice mixing with a very warm airmass overhead later today should push some southerly wind gusts to 40-45 mph in spots.  It won’t last long either.  It’ll be done by 10pm.  I see the NWS has put out a Wind Advisory for the Metro Area.  Remember that’s for wind gusts in the 40-58mph range, which is perfectly reasonable this evening. 

Of course there is a high wind warning on the Coast, this one seems very reasonable as well with some gusts to 70 mph possible.  So I’ve got a few thoughts on that subject…

I could swear a high wind warning gets issued for every front approaching the Coast from October to March.  Okay, too dramatic, maybe more than half though.  We’ve discussed this in the weather center many times here at FOX12 over the years!  I believe the criteria is too low out there.  Currently if one or several spots gust to 58 mph that verifies a high wind warning.  Do you know how easy it is to get a gust 55-60 mph on the Oregon Coast in the winter?  The newspeople always ask us “is this going to be a big storm? there’s a high wind warning for the Coast!”.  70% of the time we have to say no and sure enough we hear of no damage/power outages at the beaches later.  I’ve  suggested several times over the years that the high wind warning criteria should be raised to 65-70 mph out there.  I’ve been told that emergency managers out at the coastal counties prefer that it stays the way it is because it helps them plan for outages etc…

I believe warnings should either be issued based on damage (50-65 mph gusts don’t cause any/much damage on the Oregon Coast), or be standardized for all areas.  Years ago the NWS made a wise choice to raise the high wind warning criteria for the western Columbia River Gorge to 75 mph (in a spot where people live).  It’s rare for the wind to get much above that in the Gorge.  In fact it only happens once every couple years or so.  There have been none this winter, and sure enough, there has been no damaging east wind this winter either.  And it only happened once last winter (that January windstorm).  The same thing should be done at the Oregon Coast.  I suppose a better question might be; are the forecasts for the people that live there or a traveling through the area?  Big difference.  A semi-truck driver probably wants to know if the wind is gusting to 60 mph when he’s driving down highway 101 or I-84.  But a local resident doesn’t need a warning for that speed in either area.

Just my thoughts…now discuss and enjoy the wind this evening.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen