55mph in Portland; A Strange Windstorm Last Night

The peak gust at PDX of 55 mph was the strongest southerly wind gust (our storm wind direction) in 14 years!  Yet only 15,000 or so power outages in the metro area and Clark county?  How is that possible?  There’s more to this story.  Take a look at the peak gusts from last night’s system:

PLOT_Wind_Metro_PeakGusts

The center of town sure sticks out doesn’t it?   Except for a swath from Milwaukie to the Columbia River, peak gusts were all well below 50 mph.  For most of our area the gusts were no more than we’ve seen a few times this winter already.  We had very strong wind a few thousand feet up in the atmosphere overhead and some of that must have “mixed down” to the lowest elevations in the middle of town.

That  gust to 55 mph was the strongest at PDX since a windstorm in January 2000.

windgust

So was it stronger than the December 2006 storm which had a gust to 53 mph?  No.   That’s because the wind measuring equipment at NWS recording sites changed around 2007 from a 5-second peak gust to a 3-second peak gust.  There was about a 10 year period where Portland’s observation equipment used the longer duration gust requirement; basically the wind would have to peak for a bit longer to get that high value registered.  So the 55 today would probably be equivalent to a 46-48 mph peak gust during (the 5-second era) based on Wolf Read’s exhaustive comparison of past/present windstorm readings here:  http://www.climate.washington.edu/stormking/StormRanksASOSadjusted.html.   For comparison, the Davis line of instruments that many of us have at home, use a 2 second gust.  Those would tend to read a little higher than the 3 second gust.  Without all those numbers, the outage numbers probably tell an even better story.  During the December 2006 storm in which we saw widespread gusts 50-60 mph, almost 300,000 people in Western Oregon lost power!   Compare that with the 15,000 today.

Also note the 55 mph gust a few years ago in March was with a squall line from the west, and the 56 in 2007 was a downslope east wind type of event.

Tomorrow’s wind will be much more reasonable, with 35-40 mph gusts most likely peaking around midday with another bout of rain.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

69 Responses to 55mph in Portland; A Strange Windstorm Last Night

  1. EY (Oak Grove) says:

    Wonder if anyone can find out what the wettest February was between 1997 and 2013. Percentage wise would be nice, but even just overall numbers would be good. I doubt we’re close now, but I have a feeling that we may end up close to the wettest February since 1996 this year.

    …WHY AM I SO EXCITED?!

    • I’m not sure about official reporting stations, but at my station (records since Dec. 1995)

      1996: 10.10
      1997: 1.91
      1998: 4.88
      1999: 8.14
      2000: 5.05
      2001: 1.39
      2002: 2.89
      2003: 2.25
      2004: 3.57
      2005: 1.31
      2006: 2.82
      2007: 4.11
      2008: 2.12
      2009: 1.03
      2010: 3.29
      2011: 4.24
      2012: 3.14
      3013: 1.89

      So, 1999 is the big winner. I’m surprised at how many February’s produced very little precip. My station typically runs on the drier side of PDX.

  2. pappoose in scappoose says:

    The fella who’s been climbing the tower, musta decided to take the sensors with when he left after the last visit!
    http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/pqr/tower_temps/tower_temps.php?&units=F

  3. Eugene Dave says:

    It got pretty breezy down here in Eugene. I was able to brave the elements and capture some footage of the damage:

  4. Sun out here in BG. I like these type of storms. Heavy rain, but also fast moving and some sun. Better than endless clouds and rain.

  5. Sifton says:

    Got pretty breezy downtown Couve around 1:00ish, other than that & a couple hrs of heavy rain = bust today imo…….

  6. Jeff Raetz says:

    Max gusts today

    Parents place in Happy Valley – 35mph
    THE DOME – 30mph

  7. W7ENK says:

    Wind Advisory just canceled. Was there wind? Max couldn’t have been much more than 20 mph in Downtown, the trees barely moved all day!

    Pretty lame…

  8. 29.72″ and rising. Not much of a storm with a peak of just 23 mph.

    0.64″ of rain and still falling though not as heavily.

    My back yard is as wet as I’ve seen it since I’ve lived here (3 years).

  9. High Desert Mat (Model Rider) Redmond Or says:

    Well by the looks of gfs it looks like this dry/warm spell coming up will be short-lived. Looks like the storminess will be coming back shortly thereafter. Which is good considering it means more snow in mts. I don’t see a 60 degree day in by end of month.

    • David B. says:

      Fine by me. Persistent r-dg-s belong in the summer. The past few weeks have been a nice change of pace from what had been a most boring and disappointing winter overall.

  10. W7ENK says:

    SKY FLOODING ADVISORY
    NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE PORTLAND OR
    111 PM PST TUE FEB 18 2014

    http://inws.wrh.noaa.gov/weather/alertinfo/14773983

  11. Lurkyloo says:

    Very heavy, steady rain here for the past hour or so. If this is going on in the form of snow on the mountain, the ski resorts must be having a heck of a party.

  12. High Desert Mat (Model Rider) Redmond Or says:

    Really blowing over here. Max gust so far of 43 @ 12:25pm but its constant. Seems way worse than it was over last few days.

  13. Longview - 400 ft says:

    Well, if I have this right, the front is too the west of me, according to the orange on the radar. UW – radar.

    Lets see how the winds unfold here when the front moves through.

  14. W7ENK says:

    Winds downtown (at street/river level) have been fairly calm all morning Starting to pick up a bit now, but certainly nothing noteworthy… yet.

  15. 29.80″ and still falling. Roughly 1 mb/hour

    48.8 for the temp with a peak gust of just 18 mph so far.

  16. pappoose in scappoose says:

    NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE PORTLAND OR
    851 AM PST TUE FEB 18 2014

    NAM INDICATES ABOUT A 6 MB KEUG-KPDX GRADIENT AROUND MID-AFTERNOON…WHICH IS USUALLY ENOUGH TO
    PRODUCE 40-50 MPH WIND GUSTS TO THE VALLEY. MODEL SOUNDING FOR KPDX STILL SHOWING 50-55 KT WIND SPEEDS ABOUT 2500 FT MSL AT MIDDAY. GOOD POTENTIAL FOR MOMENTUM TRANSFER TO THE SURFACE WITH GOOD MIXING. THE WIND WILL QUICKLY DROP OFF BEHIND THE FRONT LATE TODAY

    • pappoose in scappoose says:

      NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE PORTLAND OR
      207 PM PST TUE FEB 18 2014

      THE WIND HAS UNDER-PERFORMED…OR THE MODELS…SPECIFICALLY THE NAM…WAS OVERDONE. AS OF 21Z THE HIGHEST COASTAL GUSTS HAVE BEEN
      60-65 MPH AT LINCOLN CITY AND 55-60 MPH ALONG THE N OREGON COAST. FRONT HAS YET TO CLEAR THE OREGON COAST RANGE AND WILLAMETTE VALLEY BUT AM FEELING MORE CONFIDENT THE HIGH WIND WARNING AND WIND ADVISORY WILL NOT VERIFY. BASED ON 22Z OBS WILL DROP ALL WIND HIGHLIGHTS WITH THE AFTERNOON FORECAST.

  17. Pressure now dropping rapidly. It’s tanked from 29.93 to 29.89 in the last 30 minutes. 2 mb/hour is a pretty rapid drop!

  18. Jason Hougak says:

    Divided nation, check the CPC 8-14 outlook.
    http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/predictions/814day/index.php
    If above temp and precip, I’m fearing a pineapple express may develop. The Midwest and East Coast continue in their wild weather, polar vortex style. In Jan. 1950 was the PNW influenced by this weather phenomenon for the entire month? When are we due??? Never mind that… some of us are gearing up for spring, let’s tackle that next fall.

  19. schmit44 says:

    2/17/2014 Oregon (All) Temperature Summary

    Warmest:
    High:61 at Hermiston Munici( 636 ft)
    Low: 51 at Gold Beach (US 1(60 ft)

    Coldest:
    High:25 at Timberline Lodge(7001 ft) & Mount Hood Meado(6601 ft)
    Low: 17 at HOWARD Mt Howard (8150 ft )

    Largest Diurnal Change: 30 degrees
    PROVOLT SEED ORC (60/30 ) (1180 ft )
    LAKE OWHEE AND O (60/30) (2400 ft)

    Heaviest Rainfall:
    3.09″ at EW1135 Yachats1(32ft)
    2.56″ at TILLAMOOK(11ft)
    2.50″ at SADDLE MOUNTAIN(3250ft)
    2.39″ at DW0237 Lees Camp(699ft)
    2.05″ at HEBOWX Mt. Hebo(3160ft)
    1.98″ at CEDAR(2220ft)
    1.96″ at SOUTH FORK(2257ft)
    1.91″ at Detroit Lake(1675ft)

  20. The Bad Forecaster says:

    Mark I am a bit confused here and usually am not, but anyway…

    The NWS F6 data sheets lists the maximum wind speed as being a 2 minute gust. On the latest NCDC data sheets from places like KSEA it lists the high gusts as 5 minute readings. You mentioned the reading were in seconds. Is there something I am missing when I am reading all these charts? I thought I had it down pretty well.

    My Davis Vantage Vue readout on the computer here has 1 minute, 2 minute, 5 minute, and 10 minute readouts.

    I hope I am not missing something here.

  21. Jason Hougak says:

    My big problem with warmth and sun…

    CRABGRASS!!!!!

    • Jake-(Gresham) says:

      That’s why I like summer more then spring. No allergies because stuff like that doesn’t grow anymore lol!

  22. Jesse-Stevenson says:

    2000 was 14 years ago.

  23. Jason Hougak says:

    Should have been a blizzard warning on Mt. Hood at 6,000 feet. The wife and I went riding at Meadows for my 34th bday. What an awesome weather day, with heavy snow and wind early, to the sky breaking midday for an hour with gusty wind, then snow and wind to finish. She braved the elements like a storm trooper. Below Mt. Hood express a whiteout hit and I lost her 10 feet behind me. Then we were reunited 🙂 thanks for an awesome birthday dear, rated my 2nd favorite. 1st was my 25th overnighter at Tamarack Mtn. Lookout above the John Day River. There was about a foot of old hard snow. That second night a storm developed and dumped 8″ of pure powdery bliss. We cooked by campfire in the snow! Most awesome birthday surprise.

    • dharmabum says:

      Happy birthday Jason! You two sound like you have a lot of fun out there together, as an outdoorsman myself it is nice to hear stories like this on the blog, which makes weather much more colorful and rich. Welcome back! (;{)

  24. dharmabum says:

    Went for walk with the dogs down to the Clackamas this afternoon, surprised that the river had receded from a couple of days ago. Looks like flooding should be minimal this time around. I don’t know about the rest of you but I am really looking forward to the later part of the week with warmer temps and mucho sol!!!!!!

  25. karlbonner1982 says:

    Mark did you notice what ends up suddenly happening across Western Canada at hour 240 of the 12z ECMWF?

    Keep in mind this is only two days before March 1, so if any kind of cold event were to materialize it would be in the first few days of March, not February. Would be very interesting if something like that actually happened!

    • Dave in SW PDX (235') says:

      March 2014: In like a lion?

    • Timmy_Supercell (Klamath Falls @ 4200') says:

      Gee so much talk about cold, cold, and further cold on top of the cold!!!! Brrrr….

      What about the Upper Level Lows and warm-air convectives?

      ^_^

  26. Timmy_Supercell (Klamath Falls @ 4200') says:

    Duration does matter a lot. I’ve noticed on days when we get only a brief wind lasting a few minutes, nothing would happen. Maybe a few leaves on the ground at most, but if 50-55 occurred over several HOURS, constantly coming back, it will put “stress” on everything. Trees will fall, power will probably go out too, and all Hell will descend from Heaven itself 😉

    Well.. sorta exaggerated that description there, but the comparison makes enough sense!! By the way, we are way too overdue for a wind at or above severe criteria.

  27. Austin-East Vancouver says:

    What wind direction was the Columbus day storm?

  28. The Bad Forecaster says:

    Mark

    Okay, I know this is not Portland up here but here is some interesting stuff from this area on wind. When I lived in the Spanaway area of Tacoma there seemed to be more wind issues in my area than there were surely around the rest of the city. If I got word that winds were gusting over 40 mph out at Lake Lawrence I started to think there always might be an issue with the power. Most of the time there was but not always.

    I lived at the time from 1999 to 2009 right alongside the Northeast Fort Lewis Boundary but was not far from McChord Field either. If the winds were forecast to be advisory level as we know it today by the NWS, I kept my eyes closely then on what was happening at Gray Army Airfield and McChord Airfield. In every instance when the gusts hit 40 mph at least the power went down every single time. It was the worst when it happened in the early evening because basically every time it went down then, it was then out for the rest of the night.

    During the Hanukkah Eve storm the winds gusted at least in the area to 59 mph out at Brookdale Golf Course out in Parkland before the power went out. That is the highest known wind I have ever experienced here in this area in the later point of my life. I think I am a bit sheltered here in the current location and have experienced a high wind of 37 mph on a LaCrosse station I used to have. The latest storms have shown a 34 mph wind on my Davis Vantage Vue system I have had set up since July of last year.

    In case anyone might be wondering out there, the highest all time wind gust registered out at McChord was 88 mph in October of 1962. Right after the day I was born.

    • David B. says:

      This is my first winter on Bainbridge Island, and one of the first things that struck me (actually it happened last spring during one of the last wind/rain storms of the previous rainy season) was how much windier the wind storms tend to be if you’re on an island.

    • The Bad Forecaster says:

      David

      Always be ready for windier conditions over the open waters and even on the islands themselves. Even if the wind doesn’t find it’s way through the island it will always find a way around it. The more trees and hills you have on them the more likely you can find ways to get it. There are islands in the San Juans though up north that have next to no trees at all and are very susceptible to wind especially when it comes off of the Strait of Juan De Fuca. Often when a windstorm is close by you will hear about the NWS hoisting up a small craft or gale warning over the waters even if the winds over the land surfaces are expected to get no higher than 20 mph. I know for a fact that the main channel between Bainbridge Island and the Seatac side is very windy because I have been out on a boat out there. One should always expect higher winds out there because quite simply there is nothing out there to slow it down across the open water.

  29. W7ENK says:

    It was certainly an interesting night! Strongest winds I’ve seen in quite some time here in Milwaukie.

    • dharmabum says:

      Here too in Barton, wind buffeting the house, things going bump in the night. It always drives me crazy when these storms hit at night and you can’t even go out and check on things….just try and ride it out.

    • Timmy_Supercell (Klamath Falls @ 4200') says:

      It’s odd that more than 90% of our windstorms are during night time and not the day.

    • MamaReen says:

      I’ve lived here since 1996 and I thought/felt like last night was pretty significant. Sounds like lots of folks lost sleep.

    • The Bad Forecaster says:

      The Inauguration Day storm in January of 1993 up here came in during the morning around 8 AM. I was coming home from a graveyard shift up north and when I made it to the top of South Hill on Highway 512 I had a very hard time steering my car. I watched a whole row of trees get uprooted in the backyard. My eyes must have been as big as watermelons when I saw that happen. It was the first time I have seen a windstorm around here uproot trees.

  30. Benjamin (West Salem) says:

    1st

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