Possible Windstorm Friday Night

January 19, 2012

A disturbing (or exciting) convergence of mesoscale models suddenly occurred this evening; they all show the potential for a signficant windstorm on the coast and possibly a windstorm in the western Valleys late tomorrow night.

The WRF-GFS and our RPM both show almost exactly the same thing.  A deep low tracking to about Astoria and then moving inland over SW Washington.  Timing is the same too, with strongest wind here in the Northern Willamette Valley sometime between Midnight-3am.  How strong could the wind be based on these models?  The WRF-GFS shows 17 millibars from Olympia to Eugene!  A common calculation for a possible peak gust at PDX is about 3.15×17 in this case.  That would be between 50-60 mph, maybe similar to the Hannukah Eve storm in December 2006 (for Portland).  Our RPM is slightly farther south with the low, showing 16 millibars from just Kelso to Eugene!  That’s real impressive. 

Now the MM5-NAM is a bit different, more of an open wave (not a closed area of low pressure), but it’s farther south.  I’d put the strong winds somewhere down in the Valley, more like Salem and Eugene.  It shows 11 millibars just from Portland to Eugene with a strong surge from the southwest behind the wave.  It’s just slightly later too, closer to 3-4am.

So the possibility of a significant windstorm is definitely there; I’ll get more excited about it if the 12z runs all come in similar or stronger.

Other than that, today has been consumed by flood coverage.  It has been the biggest flood since 1996 in the central valley.  In some areas worse than 1996.  Here are the 3 day rain totals:

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

Flood Update: La Nina Making Up for Lost Time?

January 19, 2012

What a mess this morning, not here in the metro area, but down in the Willamette Valley, here are the highlights:

  1. Heavy rain is ending west of the Cascades, now it’s light showers through tomorrow afternoon
  2. It doesn’t matter, the damage has already been done rain-wise
  3. A few rivers have major flooding, most have minor
  4. The smaller creeks and streams and localized flooding are a much larger issue today

Check out the 3-day rain totals:

Portland: 2.61″
Salem: 6.71″
Corvallis: 5.93″
Eugene: 5.00″

Now you can see why almost all the flooding issues are down in the valley!

Here are the rivers with MAJOR flood warnings from the Northwest River Forecast Center:

MARYS RIVER (Record Flooding)

Rivers with MINOR flood warnings


Something that sticks out here, all the rivers draining the Cascades either have no flooding or minor flooding.  Minor flooding means just a foot or so above flood stage by the way.  There’s a good reason for that.  The flood control reservoirs (Detroit, Green Peter, Cougar etc…) are all less than one quarter of capacity!  Some have very little in them.  Check out the reservoir “teacup” diagram:

So no major flooding expected on the Willamette River itself.  I see Detroit Dam and Fern Ridge are holding back about 90% of their river’s flow…pretty impressive!  So where is all the water coming from?  It’s from the Coast Range (no dams there) and the water falling in the foothills and valley itself.  6″ of rain falling over the wide, flat expanse of the Willamette Valley plus the foothills (dams don’t capture that water) is enough to cause the widespread flooding down there.  So yes, it’s possible to have 1996 style flooding in Willamette Valley towns but not have major river flooding at the same time.

Up here in the Portland Metro Area, other than ares of water from this morning’s downpour, I don’t foresee any signficant flooding issues showing up in the next 24-36 hours.  But we are still under a Flood Watch.

Meteorologically interesting this morning as a surface low has moved onshore a bit north of the forecast.  It’s moving right into the Portland Metro right now and will just die overhead!  Strong south wind to the south of it over Salem  just compounding the flooding.  To the east, a very thin layer of that cold arctic air is bringing mainly freezing rain to the central and eastern Gorge.  That will come to an end only with the precipitation tapering off.  The cold air isn’t going anywhere this evening; no west wind to scour it out.

Two more things to talk about:

1. Possible strong south wind tomorrow night.  A deep low tracks towards SE Alaska tomorrow evening, but models are definitely hinting at a secondary low or at least “triple point” moving by just to our north.  Interesting to note that both MM5-NAM, WRF-GFS, and our RPM show the tightest southerly gradient right around midnight-2am tomorrow night.   The WRF-GFS would suggest gusts 40-50 mph since it shows 60 mph wind just a thousand feet or two above the surface.

2. Long range:  Possible heavy rain on snow event next Tuesday-Thursday, timing and amount of rain uncertain.  Not good of course.

3. Longer range: Models have definitely been trending towards colder flow/troughing over the West Coast about one week from now onwards:  Check out the last two ensemble 850mb charts from GFS and ECMWF. 

The signal is there, especially on the GFS.  But they both have us back in the “close to arctic blast, low elevation snow possible” pattern.  We’ll keep an eye on it.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen