Dangerous Fire Weather In Gorge Next 18 Hours

September 4, 2017

9pm Labor Day…

For the first time in my career (26 years) we have an out-of-control fire burning through the heavily wooded west end of the Gorge tonight.  Here’s the current situation with an 8:55pm pic from Stevenson.  Wow…

  • I-84 is closed through the central Gorge due to spot fires, smoke, stopped vehicles etc…
  • Parts of Cascade Locks, & Dodson/Warrendale areas are in Level 3 evacuation (leave).  The rest of Cascade Locks is in Level 2 (get set to go)
  • Level 1 notice just went out for Bridal Veil and Latourell areas.  The Corbett area as well.
  • Level 2 notice just went out for areas above those towns (East Corbett…home!)
  • As of late afternoon the Eagle Creek Fire was around 5,500 acres

  • During the day it jumped at least 3 ridges west of Eagle Creek.  As of late afternoon flames were seen above Warrendale.
  • At that spot it’s just 5 miles from Multnomah Falls & 8 miles from Bridal Veil.
  • Ash has been falling in many areas from the central Gorge out into all of the Portland Metro Area
  • This may be the first time we’ve seen widespread ash (although far less) in the metro area since a Mt. St. Helens eruption in 1980

The weather forecast is terrible for tonight through tomorrow afternoon, then it’s far better Wednesday and beyond:

As mentioned in yesterday’s blog post, the most dangerous time for fire in the Gorge is now through tomorrow afternoon since a dry east wind will be picking up through the night.  Right now wind is gusting around 30 mph at Vista House and across the river at Cape Horn/Biddle Butte.  Up at 4,400′ above the south end of the fire an automated fire weather sensor is seeing wind gusts to 50 mph.    The pressure gradient (difference in pressure from east of the Cascades to west…through the Gorge) continues to increase and is over 3 millibars.  This will be enough to keep those 30-50 mph gusts going through late morning tomorrow.  After 3 months of almost no rain the woods are primed for burning.  Bad time for a fire in a windy place.

The wind will carry the fire westward with spotting likely, that’s when embers fall ahead of the fire and start new fires.  There’s no reason the fire couldn’t reach Multnomah Falls or even farther by sunrise.  The good news is that ALL modeling (and past history) tells us this east wind event WILL END LATE TOMORROW.  In fact by Wednesday morning a westerly wind will begin blowing through the Gorge and that should halt any rapid progress of the fire westward.

I’m not real confident on how far the fire could spread tonight and early tomorrow.  I’m not an expert on fire movement.  I’m VERY CONFIDENT about the end of the east wind later tomorrow.  When that does happen, the fire will turn back on itself which will help.  That said, if no homes are threatened high up on ridges in the Gorge and in the backcountry later this week, I would assume this will be a relatively low-priority fire compared to some others in the region.  This fire may burn in the backcountry of the Gorge until fall rains arrive.

I’ll have the latest at 10pm tonight on KPTV!

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen