Peak Gusts Last Night: A “Non-Event” In Valleys

4pm Thursday…

Well, I should have stuck with 30-40 mph gust forecast from Tuesday night.  We ended up forecasting gusts 35-45 mph in the metro area.  Instead it was more like 25-35 mph.  Just a breezy night as the cold front went through around midnight to 1am.  PDX and Troutdale were two of the higher windspeeds recorded in the lowest elevations:


Of course on the North Coast the wind was huge; strongest of the winter at Astoria!


Unfortunately one person was killed in that part of Hwy 26  where we see trees fall during the big storms; those first 10 miles east of Hwy 101.  So again, the biggest storm of the season out there.

Why was the wind weaker than expected in the valleys?  For one, as mentioned in a previous posting, you want isobars (lines of equal pressure on a surface pressure map) lined up east/west.  Then the southerly wind is forced to ride straight “down the gradient” through the north/south aligned Willamette/Puget lowlands.  Yesterday’s event was a terrible one for that; only 8-9 millbars pressure gradient from Eugene to Olympia.  With a typical (average) wind field higher up in the atmosphere, one would expect about these speeds.  But yesterday there was a much stronger than normal south/southeast wind overhead.  A good 70-80 mph at 5,000′!  The assumption (by all of the human forecasters including me) was that more of that would surface around the cold frontal passage time.  Not much of that did and as a result models did better than humans this time.  They generally had not shown a significant event.  On the other hand, around 9:30pm I did notice the 00z WRF-GFS forecast a spot of 45+ kt wind gusts over the north Willamette Valley around 1am…one of the reasons I didn’t call off the whole thing just before the 10pm newscast.


But, with almost nothing happening at 10/11pm here in the valleys, my “forecast-mood” went downhill quickly in both those newscasts.  Anyone watching got the impression that I wasn’t very excited about any strong wind on the way…especially at 11pm.  Ahh, the good times doing TV!  Note I had tweaked the wording to POSSIBLE in this graphic I used both hours…


On to the next weather event…a cool and rainy weekend…great.

Actually it does look like tons of snow on the way to the Cascades Sunday through Tuesday…good news for spring break skiers!

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen


15 Responses to Peak Gusts Last Night: A “Non-Event” In Valleys

  1. It’s good to see that the current wet weather trend may finally be changing around the middle of next week. Last night I counted up my precipitation total for the month: 4.14 inches.That’s almost as much as an average amount of ppt. for the whole month! If it were to keep up at that pace til the 31st, I’d be seeing about 12.8 inches in amount. No wonder everyone lawn is turning to moss!

  2. Jason Hougak says:

    Roar March roar… I think February has become a gentle lamb, it was not winter like at all. The Timberline snow forecast looks epic!!!
    I plan on riding tomorrow and Monday👍🏼👍🏼
    Speaking of wind we had very strong winds last night in the cascade foothills. I saw flashes outside when I awoke to limbs hitting the roof. I thought it was lightning but realized it was power transformers blowing. Gave an erie look to the stormy night. I turned off my main 200 amp breaker in the service panel to prevent any power surges til morning.

  3. GTS1K' says:


    • GTS1K' says:

      aaand, that belongs under W7’s ode to winter below.

      Differently abled I am this evening, apparently.

  4. Joshua Downtown PDX says:

    For such a “wet” start to March, we are only running 1″ above normal for precipitation. Every day has at least a trace so far. The upcoming relatively low elevation snow in apparently copious amounts is more important in the long run. My prediction (hope) for summer- first 90 degree day… never.

  5. Tyler Mode in Battle Ground says:

    Thunder in Vancouver!

  6. Tyler Mode in Battle Ground says:

    Here is my first gallery from the northern lights in Alaska!

    I apologize for the large watermark, but I want to protect my photos while sharing them at the same time!

    These photos were taken between 8:33 PM and 3:33 AM…an amazing night for the aurora.

    Ironically, this night was less colorful than Saturday night, but there is still some red, and even a little blue visible in some.

    A couple other photos of note, look how busy some of them are for air traffic (planes, satellites).

    One photo also caught an iridium flare from a satellite. This flare was bright enough to briefly light up the snow.


  7. Highway 26 can be treacherous in windstorms. I remember seeing big branches hit that road 1/10 a mile ahead of me and wondering if I should have chosen not to drive that evening. I don’t think it was within 10 miles of 101 but it was on the west side of the summit.

  8. W7ENK says:

    Is anyone really surprised? I mean, really??

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