Unusually Strong East Wind Ahead

6pm Wednesday…

March & April are the months where we see the seasonal shift of wind in the Columbia River Gorge.

Easterly wind dominates in the cool season (November-early March) because the land is colder than the ocean.  Colder land, longer nights, and weak sun angle mean colder air can more easily pool over the land.  That means high pressure.  Air moves from high pressure to low pressure, so we get easterly wind far more often in that cool season.

Westerly wind dominates in the warm season (April through early October) because the land turns warmer than the ocean.  High pressure develops more often over the eastern Pacific and intense heating of the lower elevations east of the Cascades often causes an area of surface low pressure to form (mainly in the hottest 3 months) out there in the Columbia Basin.

The transition time is mid-March to mid-April.  At this time we can get strong wind from either direction, but we don’t get long periods with the wind stuck in one direction or the other.

But tomorrow and Friday we’ll see an unusually strong east wind develop at the west end of the Gorge due to strong high pressure dropping down over the Rockies.


This “event” is somewhat similar to the Veteran’s Day windstorm we saw 16 months ago.  Pressure gradients are not as strong though so it shouldn’t get quite that wild.  Still, the WRF-GFS has 50-60 kt wind just a couple thousand feet over our heads tomorrow night and Friday morning


Note the similarities to that event in November 2014 except 10+ degrees warmer:


That same model also shows 15-18 millibars gradient from Spokane to North Bend early Friday.  In the storm last year it was up around 21 mb.  But, we also saw 10s of thousands of power outages, some trees down, and a few gusts over 50 mph!  I don’t think it’ll get quite that crazy, but the WRF-GFS is painting gusts of 40-50 mph across the metro area during the overnight and morning hours Friday.  Very strong for March!  Our RPM is also showing spots of 50-60 mph gusts along the favored east wind spots east of Hockinson and Battle Ground.  I think that is way overdone.  The screaming message here is that along with our sunshine we’re going to see a very strong east wind event for about 24 hours starting Thursday afternoon.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

37 Responses to Unusually Strong East Wind Ahead

  1. Jason Hougak says:

    More winter headed for the Cascades after Sunday thru next week. The March lion continues to roar, he ate that February lamb!

  2. Jason Hougak says:

    If you can’t stand the east wind maybe Corbett isn’t the best place to live… just my opinion. I thought of living there once but I noticed all the limbs gone on the east side of all the trees… also it’s Multnomah county😝

    • Jack says:

      If you want to live on the Columbia, either on it or at elevation, and still want to be close to Portland, how far west do you have to go to avoid being in the Gorge wind tunnel? Troutdale? Downtown?

  3. A lovely day up this way. A high of 63 after a low of 32. Dry air and clear skies mean big temperature swings. Given that it’s clouded up it should be much milder tonight.

  4. CorbettTez says:

    There’s nothing exciting about the wind! It’s just a pain in the a**! Bring on the beautiful, calm, 72 degree days anytime now thanks!!! More than ready for spring to finally arrive and be done with the East wind…it’s been a LONG winter!

  5. CorbettTez says:

    So the winds didn’t really kick up at all last night. Was expecting them to hit around sunset, but it was quite calm until around 6:00am this morning. Was this just late in arriving and will now last thru tonight? Or is this still expected to die off this afternoon?

  6. Offshore flow is affecting Seattle but not the west side of the Sound this morning, making for large temperature differences. 33 with patches of frost in a surface inversion here while at the same time SeaTac is reporting 49 with easterly breezes.

  7. Washougal 1100ft says:

    Wow it’s windy!!! I will take it over rain any day! Seems the winds are just as strong as anything this winter. Enjoy it’s Friday!!

  8. schmit44 says:

    3/17/2016 Oregon (All) Temperature Summary

    High:78 at AGNESS2( 247 ft)
    Low: 53 at RED MOUND(1753 ft) & BROOKINGS(79 ft) & DW1265 Newport(164 ft)

    High:20 at HOWARD Mt Howard(8150 ft)
    Low: 11 at ANEROID LAKE #2 (7400 ft )

    Largest Diurnal Change: 43 degrees
    CRAZYMAN FLAT (55/12 ) (6180 ft )

  9. Jason Hougak says:

    Farmer Ted the weather conditions allow for alpenglow to occur, so get back outside to the farm and enjoy the awesome evening. About as good as it gets here in the PNW. Blue skies, perfect temperature, light wind, and of course snow capped peaks. I’d rate it a 10

    • Boring Oregon says:

      Wow. It’s crazy how Ted thinks he’s so smart that he had to correct you. He needs to get off his high horse.

    • No question about it- I had a great day here as well. We had a light outflow wind from the NNE and whenever that happens this time of year the air gets so clear you can almost see individual tree outlines on the mountains. Looking forward to tomorrow- it will be warmer, maybe the warmest day of the year so far. 66F?

  10. Jack says:

    Saw some wind in Camas, WA, but mostly breezes. Not bad at all right now, in fact it’s a beautiful day here. Is the wind going to get worse later? Or is it mostly over?

  11. W7ENK says:

    143 PM PDT THU MAR 17 2016



  12. Tyler Mode says:

    27.5 at my house this morning.

    • Paul D says:

      Looking a little like winter this morning! But it’s sooo sunny now! No complaints.

  13. Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Nice to see a sunny sky this morning, and we got down to a minimum of exactly 32.0F, so that should be my one and only freezing temperature for the month. Looks like the rain is back by Sunday, and it’s likely I’ll end up once again with a March that will be wetter than the February before it.

  14. Wait. What? Did someone say STRONG east wind? 😀 🙂

    Thanks, Mark.

    • BlazerFan32 says:

      I think you can put the hurricane warning flag away until next winter Rob. Spring is finally here in the astronomical and meteorological sense. 😉

  15. “The transition time is mid-March to mid-April” Ummm…don’t you mean late February to early April? Last time I checked, the 2nd half of February in The Dalles normally has tangibly more west wind than late Nov-early Feb does.

  16. Boydo3 N. Albany says:

    South coast tropical event?

  17. CorbettTez says:

    Thank you very much for the comprehensive update and the heads up in the wind!! Glad it’s not going to last too long! 😀

  18. I’m coming into Portland Friday evening, will the wind still be worth swinging by Crown Point at 6pm?

  19. Dave in SW PDX (235') says:

    Thanks for the update, Mark. This east wind event should help dry things out for a few days – my yard has been a bit squishy underfoot lately.

  20. Jason Hougak says:

    Weather wise, there isn’t very much that tops seeing an alpenglow sunset on a mountain that’s been bombarded by snow.

    • Farmer Ted says:

      Alpenglow (from German: Alpenglühen) is an optical phenomenon in which a horizontal red glowing band is observed on the horizon opposite to the sun. It’s not weather and it’s capitalized!

    • Up this way, the Olympics really look plastered this morning. A much nicer look than the creepy almost-bare-of-snow one last year at this time.

    • W7ENK says:

      You forgot to include the “…on the summits of mountains.” part.

      That’s according to Merriam-Webster.


      And as an acommon (improper) noun, it is only capitalized if it comes as the first word in a sentence.

      Stick to farming, Ted.

    • BlazerFan32 says:

      Hmm, I always thought it was when simply moonlight reflects off of high elevation snow that can usually be seen high in the Cascades on a night with a particularly bright or full moon. I have seen this phenomena many times while living up on Mount Rainier’s south slopes.

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