Windstorm Wrap Up

Now TODAY was a fun weather day for the meteorologists!  But it’ll be nice to relax after work now that the storm has moved on to the north.

First, a bit of a buried headline is the “heat”.  You just enjoyed the warmest December day since…the 1995 windstorm day!


Notice Vancouver was just as warm.

On to the wind gusts.  Here are the numbers:

PLOT_Wind_Metro_PeakGusts_MANUAL2 PLOT_Wind_Metro_PeakGusts_MANUAL

Hillsboro, Aurora, & McMinnville reported those numbers and then went offline due to a power outage.  So it’s possible the numbers were higher.

Let’s talk about what went right and what didn’t turn out as well:


TIMING:  Wow, models were right on!  Peak wind gusts were right about the time we expected.  The winds picked up and dropped off quickly as expected.

DEPTH OF LOW:  Looks like low pressure center bottomed out somewhere near 973 millibars according to NWS.  That’s close enough to model forecasts, quite similar to WRF-GFS for sure.

TRACK:  It took until 24 hours ahead of time for models to pull it together, but they all showed a reasonably accurate path. The low just scraped by the NW tip of Washington and is running into Vancouver Island right now.

MODEL FORECAST WIND:  The WRF-GFS did really well, showing the higher speeds on this morning’s run.


MODELS:  GFS was the first to latch onto the correct track…there, I said it.  The ECMWF played catch-up until about 48 hours ahead of time.  The NAM was terrible until the last 12 hours…reminder to ignore it in the future.  GEM kept shoving the storm inland and didn’t correct itself even 24 hours ahead of time.

COAST FORECAST:  A total miss here.  It was nothing more than an average winter storm at the beaches, and definitely not a major storm as was advertised.  Peak gusts were almost all below 70 mph.  I saw a 79 at Newport Jetty and 89 at Sea Lion Caves, but that 2nd one was even out of our viewing area.  Astoria only hit 56!  Anyone on the coastline north of Lincoln City is thinking “that was it???”

INLAND WIND FORECAST:  I first said 45-60 mph, then yesterday said 45-55 mph for metro area airport locations (official sites).  Then this morning leaned more to 50-55 mph on my 10am posting.  For much of the area that forecast was fine, but obviously we had some gusts around 60 mph.  PDX airport seems to be a bit of an outlier at 67 mph, similar to that extra strong 55 mph gust last February when everyone else was much lower.    The NWS first had gusts 55-65 mph yesterday (a good call!) then lowered it to around 50 (local gusts to 60) for the metro area in this morning’s forecast and tweets.  Close enough.

SOCIAL MEDIA:  It’s a scary medium!  One where a bad fact can spread across the globe in minutes.  One bit of info that went out said PDX’s peak gust was the strongest since 1971.  Within minutes that was all over Twitter, and I saw a Weather Channel tweet about it!  The 1981 storm had a stronger gust.

How did this windstorm rank?

For the Portland metro area ON AVERAGE I would say it was similar to the December 2006 storm when you compare damage and power outages.  Looks like in some locations (PDX) it was stronger, but in 2006 we had far more power outages.  I noticed today that Multnomah county had far fewer outages than Washington county.  For whatever reason there was more impact central/westside than eastside and Clackamas county.  Clark county was hit hard too.  January 2000 was a similar storm to what we saw this afternoon.

The December 1995 was far stronger in our area.  Several reports of 70-80 mph gusts in parts of the West Hills.  Here’s a chart showing peak gusts at PDX compared to PGE outages.  You can see how much more widespread the 2006 & 1995 events were:


It’s tough to compare these windstorms speed-wise because three different instruments have been used at PDX since the 1980s.  Up until 1994, the sensor at PDX was an instantaneous gust measurement, but when ASOS units were installed in 1995, the gust had to register for 5 seconds!  So recorded wind speeds went down for 11 years.  Basically it was harder to get high wind speeds.  All three storms on that chart above used the 5 second gust.  Then right after the 2006 storm new sonic anemometers replaced those units and now it’s a 3 second gust.  See how comparing the speeds is a bit of apples vs. oranges?  Wolf Read has an excellent piece of work about this issue on his webpage.

During the December 1995 storm, BOTH units were operating at PDX.  The new “official” gust was the 62 mph you see above.  But the old unit read 74 mph with instantaneous gust.  You can see the difference!

What are YOUR thoughts about the storm?

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

153 Responses to Windstorm Wrap Up

  1. High Desert Mat says:

    I second that motion. Yes Mark, please give us your thoughts on the extended.

  2. MountainMan says:

    Looking at the maps today, it would be very cool if Mark did one of his long range posts tonight with the neat maps we (most of us) don’t have access too and a few spaghetti charts. The last week of December looks interesting indeed. Please Mark?

  3. dharmabum says:

    Quack, quack, quack

  4. pappoose in scappoose says:

    “The lack of radar coverage off of the Oregon coast is something that Portland TV meteorologist Mark Nelsen has been blogging about repeatedly. He knows.”

    • David B. says:

      He also mentions the reason the OR congressional delegation basically brushed him off was that he lives in WA, and thus it’s basically the job of OR residents to lobby their congresscritters for such a thing. (Or to lobby against it in the case of “right wing Boring Oregon” 🙂 ).

  5. MasterNate says:

    Apparently this will become a fee based site on January 15, 2015.

    Read in red at the top.

  6. Happy to see ECMWF not backing off whatsoever. In fact, after that next shortwave in the Gulf of Alaska slides southeast down the backside of the ridge the block will probably will pop up behind it even more favorably, very amplified too. With Ensemble support looking very good, the end of December into January looks real cold, maybe bitterly so.

    • Sapo says:

      Yup, weather looking pretty interesting long term. ECMWF and GFS both looking interesting. GFS seems to have delayed the onset of cold air further compared to its previous runs.

    • David B. says:

      We shall see. Would be nice to have a blanket of lowland snow over the holidays. Heck, it would even be nice to to have a good blanket of snow in the foothills/mountains. We don’t even really have the latter, presently.

  7. schmit44 says:

    12/14/2014 Oregon (All) Temperature Summary

    High:60 at Gold Beach (US 1( 60 ft) & Port Orford(0 ft)
    Low: 47 at Port Orford(0 ft)

    High:23 at Rim(7050 ft)
    Low: -2 at CROW FLAT (5172 ft )

    Largest Diurnal Change: 34 degrees
    ALLISON (37/3 ) (5320 ft )

    Heaviest Rainfall:
    0.36″ at J RIDGE(5180ft)
    0.32″ at ALLISON(5320ft)

  8. No Snow says:

    What’s your station ID? Pics or it didn’t happen. 🙂

  9. Marc (East Vancouver) says:

    Anyone ever hear from Kyle from Silverton? Does he post here anymore?

  10. My lights flickerd… Thanks Mark.

    • David B. says:

      It’s not Mark, it’s the Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy. We know who you are and where you live. Muahahahahaha!

  11. We had a good burst 3 hour ago, then it just returned to gusty-very gusty, but that burst was real good 50mph and came out of nowhere.

  12. Jason Hougak says:

    I’m usually sheltered from east wind too but is quite windy. They did just log behind our house which most likely sheltered us before but it’s windy all over up here more than normal.

  13. 00z GEM/GFS operational are both garbage tonight
    Onto the 00z ECMWF, Ensembles, Analog composites….

  14. Downslope east wind storm/event in progress
    Clark County – Power Outages
    Vancouver 0
    Cascade Park/Orchards 0
    Camas/Washougal 0
    Hazel Dell/Salmon Creek 4
    Battle Ground/Hockinson 43,012
    Amboy/Yacolt 260
    La Center/Ridgefield 0
    Total 43,276

    • Dottie says:

      East winds continue to ramp up on SW Canyon Drive, near Sylvan bridge. Is there a hand-held anemometer worth purchasing?

  15. Marc (East Vancouver) says:

    Gusts up to 35 mph in Clark County.

    • JERAT416 says:

      What the heck? I thought the storm was gone and things were calm now for a week or so? I’m hearing from friends up in warr-shing-tunn that they are without power in the wind. Bust?

    • Mark Nelsen says:

      East wind…the usual. Looks like a little more downsloping off the Cascades today/this evening. Models had shown a gusty east wind today, that’s why I went with lots of low clouds/fog Saturday but mostly sunny Sunday

    • Marc (East Vancouver) says:

      This may be the strongest east winds of the year for us up here.

    • Marc (East Vancouver) says:

      Normally pretty sheltered from the east winds in my location too.

    • CorbettTez says:

      What’s the long term or short term outlook on this round of East wind in the gorge area? Getting a few gusts up around 60mph this morning. Just curious when it might back off and or die off? Thanks!

  16. WEATHERDAN says:

    Tomorrow the PDX NWS starts to put lives at risk. The NWS is not broadcasting weather forecasts more than 24 hours out on it’s weather radio so they can shave a minute or two off each broadcast cycle. This was done because a few malcontents complained about the cycle being too long. The reason the weather radio program was started in 1980 was so people could have better access to all the latest forecasts. Yes I know what with the internet you have other ways to get this info. But taking away easily accessible information is no solution at all. So call the NWS and tell them what a rotten idea this is. Hey Tyler don’t you work for the NWS? Could you explain this for us.

  17. Prairiedog says:

    To anyone good at peeking into the long range a little bit, I need a little insight. My wife and I usually go to a lodge (Mountain Home Lodge) about 1,000ft above Leavenworth Wa for our Anniversary. We go from Dec. 28th through New Years. Last year we had to roll our reservations over to this year because of the lack of snow at that time last year. We love to snowshoe and cross country ski but last year stunk so we rolled our reservations it over to this year. Same story. For those familiar with the North Cascades and reading models, is there any hint of moisture for that time frame that might make it worth the gamble that any of you see? I need to cancel reservations for us and another couple celebrating in the next two days if it looks like it does now and that is virtually no snow. I know models are gently picking up on the hint of colder weather around that time. May happen, may not happen but it’s the precip that is crucial as it generally is snow there. The pattern looks generally dry but I only need one good snow up there, maybe 6-10 inches which is nothing for them. A couple models appear to be hinting at a trough around then that could bring in some moisture there. Do any of you see that? Thanks for your insight.

    • Joshua says:

      I will be in Leavenworth from the 26th – 29th. I was there at the same time last year, and it sucked (the weather). 40 degree drizzle at least one day. No cold. No snow. Hoping for more winter-like weather this year too. A bit early to have any kind of certainty as to what will transpire. Fingers crossed.

    • Boomer in Vancouver says:

      Post Christmas must be the time to go to Leavenworth. I will be there the 28th – 31st. Hoping that things look more winter like up there soon. The webcam on there site makes it look kind of dreary right now…

    • The week before X-Mas is starting to show some snow promise in that area.

  18. Sapo says:

    6z and 12z GFS hinting at possibly a bit colder long-range. It’s 240+ hours out, but with the boring weather it’s something to keep an eye on. Maybe not freezing snowy cold, but a little chillier than the warm days we’ve been having at least. We’ll see…00z ECMWF didn’t show much, maybe the 12z will improve. Something to keep an eye on.

  19. Dramatic weather fan says:

    Some interesting weather after Christmas:)

  20. Jason Hougak says:

    ” Hey look… frost”

  21. schmit44 says:

    12/13/2014 Oregon (All) Temperature Summary

    High:59 at EW3638 Yachats( 33 ft) & KB7QWZ Garibaldi(10 ft)
    Low: 47 at OCNSID Oceanside(22 ft) & ROCKWY Rockaway(450 ft)

    High:22 at HOWARD Mt Howard(8150 ft)
    Low: 8 at CRAZYMAN FLAT (6100 ft )

    Largest Diurnal Change: 29 degrees
    KB7CPC Grass Val (55/26 ) (2398 ft )

  22. Meteor shower is cool. There are cayotes howling, owls making noise, and enough meteors too keep it entertaining.

  23. dharmabum says:

    For you juvenile boring constant complainers, the weather is what it is. If you can’t find joy and happiness, look within, then if you don’t like what you see, look somewhere else.

  24. Tyler Mode says:

    Testing a single photo post:

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