Eagle Creek Fire Weather Update: No Strong East Wind Expected

8pm Saturday…

I’ve been receiving a few emails and text messages from friends and viewers the past 24 hours.  Most of them (for good reason) want to know “when the dry and gusty east wind is coming back”.  There is good news again this evening; I DON’T EXPECT A RETURN OF A STRONG & DRY EASTERLY WIND, LIKE WE SAW THIS PAST MONDAY, FOR AT LEAST THE NEXT WEEK.  There is going to be some wind early in the week, but nothing like what almost became a firestorm Monday night.

Here’s where things stand as of Saturday evening:

  1. The fire has only grown on the southern and eastern end the past few days because we’ve been under a westerly wind pattern (as expected).
  2. Luckily this pattern has been quite cool (compared to the past 5 weeks) and mainly cloudy.  At 1,800′ there is a weather station at a home on the west side of Larch Mountain.  After days and days of temps in the 80s, the past 3 have all stayed at/below 70 degrees with relative humidity often up in the 60-100% range; that’ll bring fire activity way down.
  3. The western end of the fire is just smoldering and creeping with very little smoke seen west of Angel’s Rest.
  4. There is concern that a renewed hot/dry easterly wind could allow the fire to take off again and head to the west.  As a result firefighters plan to hold the fire east of Palmer Mill Road which I’m also told happens to be the fire line where the 1991 Falls fire was stopped.  They have been working there fixing the road and cutting lots of brush/trees.  Interesting that it was the same weather pattern 26 years later; and the same place the fire petered out last time.

Here’s a map of the eastern half of the fire, click for a larger view:

and the western end, closer to the metro area:

The red is the fire perimeter, which pretty much hasn’t changed at the west end since Tuesday when the east wind died.  I’ve added the blue line, which is Palmer Mill Road.  Now let’s talk weather.  The yellow area is the “east wind zone” on the Oregon side during just about all east wind events; winter AND summer.  Easterly wind, which is actually northeast wind due to orientation of the river, sticks quite close to the Columbia River until it gets around Rooster Rock State Park; always less than a mile or so from the river.  At that point the Columbia is about to enter the Willamette Valley and the hills become much lower (less than 2,000′).  The wind spreads much farther from the river, maybe 3 miles south of the river once it gets to Troutdale.  The homes/properties south of the yellow hatched area rarely get east wind (and didn’t last Monday).  These are great places to live if you don’t like that cold winter wind and also quite a bit safer since a fire wouldn’t come roaring in on wind.

So the big question is…“will we get a bunch of strong wind in the next few days?”  I think that’s unlikely.  Models all bring upper-level ridging (hot high pressure) overhead later Sunday through Tuesday, then that’s followed by more cool upper-level troughing toward the middle of next week.  Folks it appears fall weather is arriving.  That means brief warm periods followed by cooler weather as we’ve seen the past few days.   On Monday and Tuesday we’ll get well into the 80s, even a 90 is possible, so summer wants to have one last gasp.  Yet the pattern is not conducive to a gusty easterly wind coming down the Gorge due to it being a “flat” upper-level ridge.  Take a look at the cross-section over Troutdale for the next 3 days.

Time goes from RIGHT TO LEFT; right side was 5am this morning, 10/12=Sunday AM, 11/12=Monday AM, 12/12=Tuesday AM.  Wind flags show the wind direction.  Colors are relative humidity.  The “850” horizontal line partway up is around 5,000′ elevation and you can see the surface (where we live) below.  Note the high humidity through Sunday morning then we dry out quickly (afternoon sunshine!).  But wind flow is still westerly (onshore flow).  Monday morning through early Tuesday we go into an east wind pattern.  Yet the wind flow is not very strong.  This would give gusts maybe 20-30 mph around the ridges at the west end of the Gorge, but not the big 40-50 mph gusts we were seeing up there last Monday.  Still 20-30 mph is enough to keep a fire moving along the ridges.  I’m not a trained fire weather forecaster, but I would assume unburned areas of trees could ignite again under these conditions.  But there’s no reason to think with a weaker wind in the exact same location, that the fire would spread farther than last Monday.  It’ll still “run out” of that dry east wind in the same spots.  Hopefully that makes a bit of sense.

To summarize, I think we’ll get through Monday and Tuesday without a major increase in fire acreage.  But, for good reason, I’m guessing emergency managers will prefer the Level 3 people remain out of the area until after this east wind period passes by Tuesday evening.  We’ll find out the next 2 days at their press conferences.

As for rain, we’re getting some showers for the 2nd time this week this evening.  It’s just a few light showers, but it’ll wet the dust again.  Any rain is good.  At this point the next chance for a soaking appears to be about a week from now.  The ECMWF ensembles show some rain late next Sunday or Monday, kicking off a cooler/wetter period.  It’s possible that Tuesday will really be the last of our summer weather.  Enjoy the sun Monday and Tuesday!


Here is some more good news…great pics from Tessie Adams with Corbett Fire (Multco District #14) taken Friday:

Multnomah Falls area looks pretty good!  A lot of the fire must have run beneath the tree canopy in some spots and then torched from one crown to another in others.

As in this pic taken alongside the old Scenic Highway, note the mainly green trees above and burned brush below

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen


22 Responses to Eagle Creek Fire Weather Update: No Strong East Wind Expected

  1. Paul D says:

    I see 60’s on the 7-day forecast!!! WOOHOO!!! Bring it on!!

  2. WEATHERDAN says:

    Enjoyed looking back at some comments made on this blog last Spring. Theme seemed to be how cold and wet it was going to be this Summer because of last Winter. One person even wrote that it might not get above 80 until August. Instead we will have had the second or third hottest Summer ever. Slightly cooler than 2015 and comparable to 2014. This is our 6th straight hot Summer. As for this Winter I expect a normal one. 4-6 inches of snow and 40-45 inches of rain between October and the end of April. Not a repeat of last Winter. Sorry to see the Summer weather go, but i understand we need the rain. Looking forward to another hot Summer in 2018. Peace.

  3. cgavic says:

    Sandy Oregon is smoked in this morning. The east winds kicked in Sunday around 4 p.m. The smell of it reminds me of my fire fighting days.

  4. Joshua Downtown PDX says:

    Early next week is looking glorious. A taste of fall. We should get a real nice soaking and some crisp temps. No heat in sight after today. Maybe tomorrow will be the last 80 of 2017. I doubt it, but hope so.

  5. Had a leisurely morning of urban exploration. I walked through several neighborhoods (Albina, Concordia, Alameda, etc.), enjoying the pleasant weather and clean air. The coming of autumn is bittersweet to say the least: I enjoy the cooler weather and showers, but now I feel rushed to do everything I had planned for the summer and also the fear that we’re in for another endless winter.

    On a non-weather note, I also dropped by the Hollywood Theatre to see 2001: A Space Odyssey this afternoon. I didn’t think much of it when I saw it on DVD, but wow, what a difference it is to see it in a theatre. I think it’s the first movie with an intermission that I’ve seen in a theatre (speaking of such, all new movies over 2.5 hours desperately need intermissions,)

  6. Anonymous says:

    I have a mild ear wind here in Aumsville, Oregon

  7. Roland Derksen says:

    0.24 inches of rain here yesterday. That’s not much. 10 more days left to this summer, and there’s a really good chance it will be my driest summer ever recorded.

  8. Jim C says:

    Did anyone see that odd radar signature down by Woodburn right along the Willamette River this morning? It looked like a donut expanding out radially from a central point. I’ve seen the same thing in that area in the past. Any idea what it is?

    • Mark Nelsen says:

      It is birds roosting overnight that all takeoff at once. Maybe swallows? I think it’s a certain island in the Willamette River. I remember seeing it in past autumns.

    • JohnD says:

      Swifts? After some years of diminishing migration, it seems at a glance that there may be more this year. We’ll see what the Audobon folks are saying soon at Chapman School!

  9. Nahtalkin says:

    I drove the Magruder corridor road over in Idaho from Elk City to Sula Montana, most of the 111 miles looked like this and smoky all the time. This fire must have been 10 years back.

    • Nahtalkin says:

      These pictures were taken in August 2017.

    • Jason Hougak says:

      I floated the Selway River in 1999 and went from Darby, Montana and over the Bitteroots into Idaho. The forest then was beautiful and our float only went through one small burned area. In 2013 I floated the Middle Fork of the Salmon in Idaho. The forest was badly burned at the put in and in countless areas down the entire 105 mile float. There was very little areas that had not been burned. In fact we floated a 5 mile section where there was a wildfire burning. Luckily the forest service allowed us to float through but the trees were burning with quite a few fallen in the river. WAS ON OF THE MOST MEMORABLE EXPERIENCES!

  10. Paul D says:

    I sure hope Tuesday is the last of above normal temperatures. I’ll be enjoying the weather AFTER Tuesday!

  11. Anonymous says:

    Cursed hurricane. First it hits some of the poorest islands in the Caribbean directly. Then it skirts almost the entire Northern coast of Cuba, and now? It looks like the entire East coast of Florida. I hate this Summer!

  12. Jason Hougak says:

    Rain showers falling again here. Great fall like day, and could work hard without really breaking a sweat. I for one am ready for wetter summers, one can only dream. The air is seems so fresh compared to the last month. July was a nice month and had a lot of fun in the woods. I’m really curious how the Eagle Creek Canyon faired from the fire? I really pray it jumped around and burned a lot of undergrowth more that destroying the old growth timber. Only time will tell. The Pit 36 fire killed a lot of old growth but some trees are coming back after. Each year a few that barely made it get greener. It’s going to take time to recover.

    • Boydo3 N. Albany says:

      If you haven’t already done it, take a drive over Santiam pass to see how really bad some fires can be. Many, many years after the fire you can still see the remains of the once great forest that covered the mountains there.

  13. Mark thanks for the info. I am curious about winter forecast this year. Will be have snow in the lower areas of Vancouver?

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