Dangerous Fire Weather In Gorge Next 18 Hours

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


44 Responses to Dangerous Fire Weather In Gorge Next 18 Hours

  1. JJ78259 says:

    I can still remember seeing remements of the 1933 Tillimook burn in the early 60s as we drove to the coast! It took a while to recover!

  2. It’s a nasty, smoky day up this way, too, mostly from fires near Crystal Mt. and Cle Elum. Some light ash fall. Smoke seems to be stratified with the worst about 500-700 feet up. Was camped at 950′ elevation last night and this morning was VERY smoky; got less so as I lost elevation, but the sun went from a red disc to not visible at all.

    Seasonal outlooks are for near-normal precipitation this fall, so let’s hope the rains start soon.

  3. Jason Hougak says:

    Just as the lower Clackamas River Gorge was torched by individuals during the Pit 36 fire so will Eagle Creek Canyon and the Gorge by other careless individuals. The smoke and ash isn’t as bad as when we had the Pit 36 fire but it’s still bad to work in.

  4. lurkyloo says:

    Why won’t they get Evergreen Aviation’s supertanker? Supposedly, it’s the biggest water-dropping plane ever, and is the equivalent of 7 regular water-tankers. I think it’s right over in McMinnville? WTH?

    • JERAT416 says:

      I’ve been asking the same thing.

    • Jeff Maher says:

      It’s not based in McMinnville, but in Colorado Springs. It just got deployed this weekend to Sacramento to help on a California fire. It could have been called up here and this would have been just a mop up operation. We’re fighting a voracious monster with buckets (helicopter drops).

    • Gresham gal says:

      They just said on the news that the visibility is too poor to use any aircraft at this time. Visibility needs to be three miles, it is currently less than one mile. So they need to use traditional methods to fight the fire until that improves.

  5. Wendy - Silverlake, WA says:

    Question for someone. We’ve been stuck in smoke for two days (worse than what it was a month ago) and now have a very large amount of ash falling (for the first time this summer as well). I washed vehicles this morning to get the ash off of them, and they are covered again. I can’t imagine we are getting anything from the gorge here and I haven’t been able to find any new fires that have popped up this direction, so can anyone help me figure out what is going on up this way. Very much appreciated.

  6. umpire says:

    Mark, saw your forecast last night as you were leaving. Hope you and your family are safe, and you and your neighbors return to undamaged homes.

  7. Nahtalkin says:

    It’s smoky unless you are talking about “Smokey the Bear”

  8. Jason Hougak says:

    Feels like the end of the world
    Huge fires
    Huge flooding
    Monster Nuclear bombs

    • Nahtalkin says:

      “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)”

      That’s great! It starts with an earthquake,
      Birds and snakes, an aeroplane;
      Lenny Bruce is not afraid.

      Eye of a hurricane, listen to yourself churn.
      World serves its own needs, don’t mis-serve your own needs.
      Speed it up a notch, speed, grunt, no strength.
      The ladder starts to clatter with fear of fight, down height.
      Wire in a fire, represent the seven games
      In a government for hire and a combat site.
      Left her, wasn’t coming in a hurry
      With the furies breathing down your neck.

      Team by team reporters baffled, trump, tethered crop.
      Look at that low plane! Fine, then.
      Uh oh, overflow, population, common group,
      But it’ll do. Save yourself, serve yourself.
      World serves its own needs, listen to your heart bleed.
      Tell me with the rapture and the rev-‘rent in the right, right.
      You vitriolic, patriotic, slam, fight, bright light;
      Feeling pretty psyched.

      It’s the end of the world as we know it.
      It’s the end of the world as we know it.
      It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.

      Six o’clock. TV hour.
      Don’t get caught in foreign tower.
      Slash and burn, return,
      Listen to yourself churn.
      Lock him in uniform and book burning, bloodletting.
      Ev’ry motive escalate. Automotive incinerate.
      Light a candle, light a motive.
      Step down, step down.
      Watch a heel crush, crush.
      Uh oh, this means no fear; cavalier.
      Renegade and steer clear!
      A tournament, a tournament,
      A tournament of lies.
      Offer me solutions, offer me alternatives
      And I decline.

      It’s the end of the world as we know it
      It’s the end of the world as we know it (It’s time I had some time alone)
      It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine (It’s time I had some time alone)
      I feel fine

      ~ R.E.M. ~

  9. Roland Derksen says:

    Well, I sure was wrong about overnight temperatures being cooler in September: My overnight low was 67.8 F, which made it the highest of the season. Of course, much of that was due to a layer of cloud and smoke moving in, As a result, we’re starting off today with grey skies, (and probably) cooler afternoon temperatures. Good thing, too: This heat is really getting to me!.

  10. Mike says:

    I don’t think there will be much left of the beautiful Gorge after this. Then watch for rock falls and mudslides. Where’s the governor in all this? Even this dummy knew it was bad enough to call out the water bombers the moment it started. Portland Airport and water so close!

    • W7ENK says:

      Well, apparently Mike has his ree-ree stick shoved so far up his @$$ he’s blind to all the news about Governor Brown, her declarations, and reallocation of resources over this past couple of days.

      Friendly point of advice, Mike:
      Pull your head out.

    • John Fairplay says:

      Weird that there’s no a single story on OregonLive about all these actions Governor Brown’s been taking. Or on any of the local TV webpages. Strange to have the media completely ignore it when the Governor is being so pro-active.

    • W7ENK says:

      What’s even weirder is that you seem to have completely missed her highly anticipated and widely announced press conference three days ago…

      Not sure if that’s due to willful ignorance, or perhaps you were just too busy to notice? Either way, I see mics from KOIN, KGW, I personally watched it live on Fox 12 Oregon via their Facebook live stream, saw excerpts from it on KATU and the ABC National News, and I know of at least 2 Portland Area radio stations that broadcast the audio live (KXL and KOPB). I’m sure there were many more on all fronts.

      I don’t know what else to tell ya, John. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

  11. deep freeze or oven
    benign becomes malignant
    east wind attitude

  12. Alohabb says:

    Even the coast range is filled with smoke. Tillamook looks real smokey just no ash.

  13. tbanders says:

    All because of 1 stupid decision by an ignorant person. I truly hope that everyone can get out safely. When I heard about the fire + typical gorge winds, I knew it wasn’t good. I hope Mark (& family), and all other families homes are spared. What a major shame for the act of 1 person to cause such destruction to those who have worked so hard.

    It started “snowing” ash on Monday afternoon in Battle Ground. The air quality is horrible. I can’t believe that I actually want it to rain, a real soaking rain.

  14. JJ78259 says:

    So the same humans that caused Irma and Harvey are just like human that lit that blaze with the fire cracker interesting thought from a global warming perspective!

  15. Paul Hansen says:

    So now I just read the fire has crossed the Columbia River. Does anyone have any details on this latest development?

    • Shane in Vancouver says:

      there is a small fire +/- 10 acres, in Skamania County on the south side of Archer Mt.

    • sds says:

      Hwy 14 on the Wash. side shut down to commercial traffic and Archer Mt. fire above Pringle is over 20 ac. and growing rapidly as of 6AM. Will have to be fought with air tankers because of steep terrain. 0% contained.

  16. JERAT416 says:

    Plenty of ash in Parkrose this morning. I’ve seen it smokey but never like this. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted rain so badly.

  17. sds says:

    The foolish guy that lit off the fire cracker one mile up Eagle Creek trail was heard laughing after it went off–I’ll bet he’s not laughing now! Hope you and yours are safe, Mark.

    • You gotta love this quote from Willamette Week:

      “Police continue to ask Oregonians to not ruin the state’s most beautiful places by lighting bottle rockets and flares in the woods like a bunch of a**holes.”

      Considering the popularity and beauty of the area he incinerated, that teenage fool certainly won’t be popular with local hikers.

    • J. Patrick Moore says:

      Comedian Ron White famously observed, “You can’t fix stupid.”

  18. W7ENK says:

    Mark, they just issued a Level 3 (GO NOW) evacuation order for East Corbett, all areas East of Larch Mountain Road. That’s a little too close to home (literally) for you, I’d imagine. Please keep us updated!! 😖

  19. I spent last night at Cape Lookout State Park. The temperature was climbing well into the 90s in the metro area when I left at about 11:30 on Sunday and was 98 (according to the car thermometer) at Tillamook Forest Center, where the (low) Wilson River was full of people escaping the heat. Entering Tillamook at 2, the temperature dropped off to the low 80s and was only in the mid 60s at Cape Lookout SP. Had a pleasant hike on the Netarts Spit and enjoyed the sunset on the beach under smokeless skies and cool air.

    Then Monday morning, the air above Cape Lookout had the faint haze of smoke and only worsened (in addition to the increasing heat) during the drive north to Astoria. The air is absolutely toxic right now and the record-breaking heat only compounds the misery (but at least the smoke-filtered sun looked pretty cool.)

  20. Boydo3 N. Albany says:

    30 mph E winds central cascades at Hoodoo. Not good for the fires in that area.

  21. Anonymous says:

    We live in Sandy,ash is falling and the smell of the fire is strong…we are getting nervous, when that East wind starts we could be packing up to leave the area.

  22. Angie says:

    Mark. Prayers going your way that your family and your home is safe from this fire

  23. Brian Schmit says:

    East Battle Ground reporting 90 degrees this evening at 9:30pm after being in the 80s all day

  24. Joshua Downtown PDX says:

    Stay safe, Mark and family.

  25. lurkyloo says:

    Ugh. Scary. Looks like it’s lightly snowing outside, but it’s ash. My car is coated with it. Wow. Never seen this before. Bring on the end of the East wind!

    • lurkyloo says:

      And I’m keeping all the folks out there in my thoughts and prayers. Hope your family doesn’t have to evacuate, Mark.

  26. oregonalex (Rock Creek, 240 ft) says:

    All that comes to mind is a quote from Aldous Huxley:

    “Maybe this world is another planet’s hell.”

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