Strongest Gorge Wind Since January 2009

November 28, 2012

It’s been a crazy 24 hours at the western end of the Columbia River Gorge and far eastern suburbs of the Portland Metro area.  Take a look at the peak wind gusts:

Troutdale Airport: 44
SE Troutdale (near MHCC): 59 (highest since Jan 2009)
Washougal: 56
Corbett School: 75 (highest since Jan 2009)
Corbett:  85 (private anemometer very exposed)
Vista House: 89 (higher than last winter)
Biddle Butte: 69 (higher than last winter if memory is correct)

The anemometer on the Corbett school has been there for over 12 years, and only one other time has gone above 74 mph.  That was during the big east wind storm in early January 2009.  No, not the “Keely Chalmers Incident” in January 2010, that one was a bit weaker with only a gust around 65 mph in Corbett.  The big 2009 event saw gusts 50-60 mph spread well into Gresham, Orient, and east Portland.  Definitely not as strong this time around in those areas, but the strongest we’ve seen in several years.

I don’t think it gusted above 82 mph last winter on the Vista House sensor (correct me if I’m wrong!).  Due to it being such a historic and photographed structure, the anemometer only sticks out about 1 foot from the building, thus the lower than expected windspeeds.  From last winter, we know 75-80 mph on that sensor is about 100 mph on the steps, so I bet we were up in the 110-115 category up there late last night and this morning.  That area remains off-limits until construction ends in about a month.

Speaking of construction, I drove down there to get the sensor working this morning, and look what showed up in the 10 minutes between the drive down and back!  Luckily the construction guys pushed it out of the way with a backhoe.

As I mentioned on Facebook, when your time is up, it’s up.  Apparently it wasn’t quite time for me.  But I don’t think my little car would’ve handled a 2 foot diameter maple tree very well.  The large deer was bad enough.

Anyway, models have handled this east wind episode very badly, consistently showing the easterly gradient dropping way off YESTERDAY and very little wind today.  It will slowly drop off the next few days, but not fast enough for those of you already tired of the wind!

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

Brief Freezing Rain In Spots Eastside & Western Gorge

November 28, 2012


Our midday band of rain is moving in, and it’s cold enough in the Upper Hood River Valley, and above 2,000′ in north Central Oregon for spots of freezing rain.  It would be freezing rain instead of snow because of the warm air above; the 4am freezing level at Salem was 9,000 ft!  So watch out in Parkdale, Pine Grove, Madras, higher parts of the Warm Springs Reservation, Condon, and possibly down to Tygh Valley.  It won’t be much, and the temperature needs to be down around 29-30 to get ice on roads during the daytime, but there may be a few slick spots.  In the western Gorge there could be a spot or two on the trees; between 1,500′ & 2,000′ the next couple of hours.  I have 35 and steady rain here at 1,000′.

Models have been a total failure on handling the cold pool east of the Cascades; I had a feeling that would happen when I blogged Monday night.  This is a similar pattern to the big ice/snow storm in 2004 when lows approach from the SW with high pressure east of the mountains.  When those surface lows move towards the coast and then veer farther offshore (as it will today), it prolongs the strong east wind in the Gorge and keeps the pressure gradient high.  Two days ago models (including all the mesoscale ones) showed just a few millibars by late Tuesday and this morning.  In fact last night was the strongest so far with a gust of 59 mph near MHCC in Troutdale and the gradient INCREASED yesterday afternoon and evening to around 10-11 mb. between The Dalles and Troutdale.  

I’ll be hopefully fixing the Vista House sensor before noon (if it didn’t get damaged by water) and same with Corbett; we’ll see what the peak gusts were (maybe).  Biddle Butte at 1,400′ gusted to 69 mph early this morning; I think that was stronger than any gust there last winter.  It’s quite safe to say it gusted over 100 mph at Vista House on the “Keely Chalmers Memorial Railing” more than once in the past 24 hours.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen