Those of you that live in the usual east wind spots have probably noticed…our old friend disappeared a couple of weeks early this year! I doubt anyone is complaining. The combination of a very windy period in December and January along with the coldest winter in 30+ years in the metro area made it especially difficult winter. Heating bills were HUGE in January which didn’t help our bank accounts.
We can track the wind season-by-season by counting the number of days where gusts (from the east) exceeded 25 mph at Troutdale. That location is just outside the west end of the Gorge and has a 24 hour a day reliable wind instrument. I would use Crown Point or Corbett, but then we lose readings due to power outages and during ice storms…missing the strongest wind days.
Check out the past few years:
A few notes:
- As mentioned, combining the large number of days with the extra cold temps = extra miserable. At least those other 3 big years saw afternoon temps rise into the 30s and 40s consistently, instead of 25-35 regularly this January.
- January 13th-18th was the coldest/windiest period we have seen since just before the February 1996 flood. Troutdale gusted 50+ for 4 days straight. Corbett gusted over 80 mph several times; that sensor hadn’t seen a gust over 78 mph in the same location in at least 10 years.
- During that period, high temperatures were in the 25-30 degree range at Troutdale and 20-25 range up around Crown Point and Corbett…brrr!
- The wind suddenly “stopped” President’s Day weekend and we haven’t seen it since that time. That’s because the past two weeks we’ve gone into a more “typical” La Nina winter pattern of cool showers and weather systems coming at us from the west or northwest. That kills high pressure east of the Cascades = less wind. Note the 3 previous La Nina winters (on the chart above) saw just 40-41-48 days instead of the 69 days this year. El Nino winters tend to give us more east wind due to more stagnant high pressure overhead. This was a very different La Nina winter than those years.
Now keep in mind that the wind doesn’t totally disappear for the next 8 months. Anytime we get strong high pressure overhead (unusually warm weather) April through October we get at least some wind, but generally gusts stay under 50 mph. And personally I love those rare 20-30 mph breezes in June/July/August that blow all night long. During heat waves that can keep temperatures out in the western Gorge in the 60s/70s at night; it feels like tropical breezes at that point.
Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen