Monday, March 14, 2016

Sunday Windstorm Review

Pi Day 2016
4:55 pm

I apologize for not being in the blogosphere yesterday - I was up at Alpental introducing 5-year-olds to poles. I taught lessons up there this year on the weekends and had a spectacular time, and I'd highly recommend anybody who loves kids and skiing to consider teaching ski lessons up there. The kids are so fun, kind, and carefree, and they don't judge me for being a complete goofball weirdo around them. It seems like we let go of these qualities as we grow older, which is too bad because I think they make us special. I hope the kids learned from me, because I know I learned a lot from them.

Yesterday was stormy throughout Western Washington. There were blizzard conditions at times up on some of the ridgetops at Alpental, and I believe ~250,000 people lost power here in Western Washington. Many of the kids were crying because the fierce winds were very scary! I'd estimate that there were gusts 40-50 mph affecting us at times... it was intense. The NWAC site at Dodge Ridge at Summit West clocked multiple gusts to 68 mph yesterday afternoon, and they are significantly lower in elevation than where we were at Alpental.

Sunday's storm was not very well predicted. Early forecasts showed the potential for a major windstorm across the Puget Sound region, with sustained winds of 30-45 mph and gusts up to 70 mph. Storm warnings (sustained winds of 48-63 knots or 55-73 mph) were issued for Puget Sound, something that happens very rarely. Even late Saturday night/Sunday morning, these storm warnings were still up.

Credit: National Weather Service

However, Saturday night's model runs significantly cut back on the predicted strength of the windstorm, and by early Sunday morning, the National Weather Service had replaced the storm warnings in Puget Sound with lesser gale warnings. However, these models didn't have a good handle on the storm either, and neither did Sunday morning's runs, which were initialized approximately 6 hours before the storm was forecast to make landfall. UW's flagship WRF-GFS model had the low making landfall just to the north of the mouth of the Columbia River around 11 am as a rather elongated 984 mb cyclone.

Valid 11:00 am PDT, Sun 13 Mar 2016 - 6hr Fcst
Credit: University of Washington

Instead, the storm made landfall significantly further north on the northern Olympic Peninsula and deepened to ~978 mb. This caused forecasters to increase the forecast strength of the winds for the coast and North Interior, but tone down their forecasts for the Puget Sound area due to the low traveling further north. Although high wind warnings were still up at this time, some forecasts from various outlets were calling for gusts below 45 mph for most of Puget Sound.

Instead, winds ended up being stronger than forecast, even for the Seattle area. Sea-Tac hit 56, and West Point in Magnolia hit 66! Here are some peak gusts from around the region that I retrieved from the National Weather Service... I bolded gusts from major stations or ones that were particularly high.

 935 PM PDT SUN MAR 13 2016



 LOCATION                       SPEED     TIME/DATE       LAT/LON             

 MARROWSTONE POINT LIGHT      67 MPH    0406 PM 03/13   48.10N/122.69W      
 WHIDBEY ISLAND NAS           66 MPH    0359 PM 03/13   48.35N/122.67W      
 COUPEVILLE                   45 MPH    0410 PM 03/13   48.22N/122.69W      
 PORT TOWNSEND                45 MPH    0333 PM 03/13   48.11N/122.77W      
 2 W OAK HARBOR               44 MPH    0404 PM 03/13   48.29N/122.69W      
 2 W FREELAND                 40 MPH    0340 PM 03/13   48.01N/122.58W      

 1 S EASTGATE                 57 MPH    0246 PM 03/13   47.55N/122.13W      
 1 WNW KIRKLAND               46 MPH    0403 PM 03/13   47.69N/122.22W      
 1 NNW BOTHELL                44 MPH    0403 PM 03/13   47.78N/122.21W      
 KENMORE                      44 MPH    0310 PM 03/13   47.76N/122.25W      
 ISSAQUAH                     40 MPH    0340 PM 03/13   47.53N/122.03W      

 INDIANOLA                    51 MPH    0139 PM 03/13   47.74N/122.51W      
 BREMERTON AIRPORT            40 MPH    0155 PM 03/13   47.50N/122.75W      

 HOQUIAM BOWERMAN AP          63 MPH    0122 PM 03/13   46.97N/123.93W      
 1 WNW ABERDEEN               52 MPH    0146 PM 03/13   46.98N/123.84W      

 LAKE STEVENS                 45 MPH    0333 PM 03/13   48.03N/122.06W      
 2 W SNOQUALMIE               44 MPH    1044 AM 03/13   47.52N/121.88W      
 ENUMCLAW                     41 MPH    0252 PM 03/13   47.21N/122.00W      

 EDIZ HOOK CG                 45 MPH    1255 PM 03/13   48.14N/123.41W      

 PAINE FIELD AP               60 MPH    0316 PM 03/13   47.91N/122.28W      
 ARLINGTON AP                 52 MPH    0355 PM 03/13   48.16N/122.16W      
 HARBOUR POINTE               49 MPH    0300 PM 03/13   47.89N/122.32W      
 ALDERWOOD MANOR              41 MPH    0415 PM 03/13   47.82N/122.28W      

 1 WSW BRINNON                56 MPH    0312 PM 03/13   47.67N/122.93W      
 SHELTON AIRPORT              52 MPH    0305 PM 03/13   47.24N/123.14W      
 4 E PORT LUDLOW              47 MPH    0425 PM 03/13   47.92N/122.58W      

 MINOT PEAK                   43 MPH    1100 AM 03/13   46.89N/123.42W      

 QUILLAYUTE AIRPORT           47 MPH    0355 PM 03/13   47.94N/124.56W      
 LA PUSH NOS TIDE GAUGE       42 MPH    0336 PM 03/13   47.91N/124.64W      

 HUMPTULLIPS                  63 MPH    0308 PM 03/13   47.38N/123.76W      
 JEFFERSON CREEK              42 MPH    0536 PM 03/13   47.55N/123.22W      

 LOPEZ ISLAND                 66 MPH    0351 PM 03/13   48.53N/122.87W      
 4 SSW ROCHE HARBOR           58 MPH    0549 PM 03/13   48.55N/123.16W      
 NW DECATUR IS. BEACH         51 MPH    0403 PM 03/13   48.51N/122.83W      
 FRIDAY HARBOR AIRPORT        51 MPH    0315 PM 03/13   48.52N/123.02W      
 2 SE EASTSOUND               48 MPH    0445 PM 03/13   48.67N/122.87W      
 ORCAS ISLAND AP              45 MPH    0615 PM 03/13   48.71N/122.91W      

 SEATTLE TACOMA  ARPT         56 MPH    0138 PM 03/13   47.44N/122.31W       
 BOEING FIELD/KING COUNTY INT 54 MPH    0130 PM 03/13   47.53N/122.30W      
 POINT ROBINSON               53 MPH    0400 PM 03/13   47.39N/122.37W      
 NORMANDY PARK                52 MPH    0149 PM 03/13   47.44N/122.34W      
 3 NW WHITE CENTER            49 MPH    0213 PM 03/13   47.56N/122.39W      
 UNIV. OF WASHINGTON          49 MPH    0403 PM 03/13   47.65N/122.31W      
 3 SW SEATTLE                 48 MPH    0507 PM 03/13   47.58N/122.40W      
 RENTON MUNICIPAL AIRPORT     48 MPH    0220 PM 03/13   47.49N/122.21W      
 1 NNW FEDERAL WAY            45 MPH    0438 PM 03/13   47.34N/122.35W      
 2 NW WHITE CENTER            44 MPH    0415 PM 03/13   47.55N/122.38W      
 3 NW WHITE CENTER            43 MPH    0320 PM 03/13   47.56N/122.39W      
 4 NW SEATTLE                 43 MPH    0506 PM 03/13   47.67N/122.41W      
 1 SE SEATTLE                 42 MPH    0242 PM 03/13   47.59N/122.32W      
 3 WNW SEATTLE                42 MPH    0455 PM 03/13   47.65N/122.41W      
 1 NE SEATTLE                 42 MPH    0159 PM 03/13   47.62N/122.32W      
 1 NE SEATTLE                 41 MPH    0317 PM 03/13   47.64N/122.33W      
 2 W KIRKLAND                 41 MPH    0330 PM 03/13   47.69N/122.26W      

 OLYMPIA AIRPORT              46 MPH    0239 PM 03/13   46.97N/122.90W      
 YELM                         43 MPH    1250 PM 03/13   46.94N/122.61W      
 1 WNW NISQUALLY              41 MPH    0210 PM 03/13   47.07N/122.72W      
 5 S LACEY                    40 MPH    0202 PM 03/13   46.96N/122.80W      

 JBLM-FT LEWIS                58 MPH    1258 PM 03/13   47.08N/122.58W      
 JBLM-MCCHORD                 55 MPH    0119 PM 03/13   47.13N/122.48W      
 3 NNE FREDERICKSON           46 MPH    0330 PM 03/13   47.13N/122.34W      
 TACOMA NARROWS AIRPORT       44 MPH    0255 PM 03/13   47.27N/122.58W      
 1 NW FIRCREST                43 MPH    0150 PM 03/13   47.25N/122.53W      
 RUSTON                       41 MPH    0225 PM 03/13   47.30N/122.52W      
 2 NW ARTONDALE               40 MPH    0327 PM 03/13   47.34N/122.67W      
 2 SW FEDERAL WAY             40 MPH    0143 PM 03/13   47.29N/122.38W      
 SOUTH HILL                   40 MPH    0302 PM 03/13   47.14N/122.27W      

 DESTRUCTION ISLAND           79 MPH    0300 PM 03/13   47.68N/124.49W      
 1 SW KBLI                    68 MPH    0510 PM 03/13   48.78N/122.56W      
 WESTPORT TIDE GAUGE          68 MPH    0200 PM 03/13   46.90N/124.11W      
 CHERRY POINT                 66 MPH    0436 PM 03/13   48.86N/122.76W      
 WEST POINT                   66 MPH    0400 PM 03/13   47.66N/122.44W      
 SMITH ISLAND                 60 MPH    0300 PM 03/13   48.32N/122.84W      
 POSSESSION SOUND             59 MPH    0413 PM 03/13   48.02N/122.27W      
 CAPE ELIZABETH BUOY          58 MPH    0250 PM 03/13   47.30N/124.70W      
 S. LOPEZ ISLAND              56 MPH    0304 PM 03/13   48.40N/122.90W      
 HOOD CANAL BRIDGE            56 MPH    0420 PM 03/13   47.86N/122.62W      
 PORT TOWNSEND NOS TIDE GAUGE 55 MPH    0336 PM 03/13   48.12N/122.75W      
 RICHMOND BEACH               55 MPH    0405 PM 03/13   47.77N/122.39W      
 BLANCHARD                    54 MPH    0350 PM 03/13   48.59N/122.43W      
 SEATTLE                      52 MPH    0306 PM 03/13   47.60N/122.34W      
 HEIN BANK BUOY               49 MPH    0550 PM 03/13   48.30N/123.20W      
 GOLDEN GARDENS SEATTLE       48 MPH    0305 PM 03/13   47.69N/122.40W      
 HENDERSON BAY                48 MPH    0330 PM 03/13   47.38N/122.63W      
 WINSLOW FERRY DOCK           44 MPH    0310 PM 03/13   47.62N/122.51W      
 POINT WELLS                  43 MPH    0410 PM 03/13   47.80N/122.40W      
 KEYSTONE FERRY DOCK          43 MPH    0415 PM 03/13   48.16N/122.67W      
 PORT OF TACOMA #1            42 MPH    0230 PM 03/13   47.28N/122.42W      
 4 ESE PORT LUDLOW            40 MPH    0327 PM 03/13   47.90N/122.60W      

 KIDNEY CREEK                 41 MPH    0128 PM 03/13   48.92N/121.94W      
 SUMAS-RAWS                   40 MPH    0509 PM 03/13   48.91N/122.22W      

 SNOQUALMIE PASS              68 MPH    0500 PM 03/13   47.42N/121.43W      

 PARADISE                     45 MPH    0400 PM 03/13   46.78N/121.74W      

 SEDRO WOOLLEY-RAWS           47 MPH    0642 PM 03/13   48.52N/122.22W      
 BURLINGTON/MOUNT VERNON      46 MPH    0355 PM 03/13   48.47N/122.42W      

 SANDY PT. SHORES             68 MPH    0354 PM 03/13   48.80N/122.71W      
 BELLINGHAM INTL AP           64 MPH    0510 PM 03/13   48.79N/122.54W      
 LYNDEN                       52 MPH    0535 PM 03/13   48.96N/122.41W      
 3 N FERNDALE                 50 MPH    0532 PM 03/13   48.90N/122.58W      
 LUMMI ISLAND                 47 MPH    0435 PM 03/13   48.73N/122.70W      
 3 W FERNDALE                 47 MPH    0427 PM 03/13   48.85N/122.67W      
 4 SSW LYNDEN                 47 MPH    0505 PM 03/13   48.89N/122.49W      
 BLAINE                       46 MPH    0515 PM 03/13   49.00N/122.74W       
 4 ENE FERNDALE               44 MPH    0534 PM 03/13   48.88N/122.51W      
 3 WSW SUDDEN VALLEY          44 MPH    0415 PM 03/13   48.69N/122.40W      
 BLAINE                       42 MPH    0523 PM 03/13   49.00N/122.75W      
 BELLINGHAM                   41 MPH    0504 PM 03/13   48.74N/122.45W      
 1 WNW LYNDEN                 41 MPH    0505 PM 03/13   48.96N/122.48W

These gusts are strong, but they aren't anything we've ever seen before. Still, it's pretty impressive to have a 66 mph gust at West Point in mid-March! The Seattle NWS office dubbed this storm the "Pre-St. Patty's Day Punch," which is pretty awesome. When it comes to naming notable weather events, alliteration counts.

Retrieved from Cliff Mass Weather Blog

Here's a picture I took from Cliff Mass' blog of max gusts recorded during the windstorm. As you can see, higher winds were located over the coast and North Interior. There are quite a few low gusts (10s and 20s), and these are from stations that are not well-exposed to the wind. Over water, gusts were in the 45-60 mph range across the region, and coastal headlands (like Destruction Island) accelerated these winds. Camp Muir at 10,110 feet on Mt. Rainier was the wind winner with a gust to 95 mph.

The most amazing thing about this storm, however, was simply how it appeared on radar and satellite. This was a compact storm, and had a very distinctive bent-back occlusion (the swirl of clouds that spirals counterclockwise to the center of the low). Take a look!

09:15 am PDT, Sun 13 Mar 2016
Credit: University of Washington

As this visible satellite image shows, the storm was off the mouth of the Columbia around 9:15 am, and was heading to the NNE. You can see the tight circulation around the low and the intense cold front along the Oregon Coast. Strong winds are occurring along the coast and mountain ridgetops at this time, but winds in the lowlands are relatively low.

I've seen some cool shots from our coastal radar, but this may very well be the coolest one yet. Take a look at the low! It almost looks like a hurricane. You can really see the movement of the storm with the animated gif below. Moreover, you can see how the reflectivity in the vicinity of the radar increases as time (and wind speed) goes on, and this is due to "sea clutter," or the radar beam reflecting off the top of wave crests. More wind, bigger waves, and thus more sea clutter.

Created with NOAA Weather and Climate Toolkit

Here's the view at 12:10 pm. Compare it to the image from the NASA TERRA polar-orbiting satellite below, which was also taken around 12:10 pm.

Image taken ~12:10 pm by NASA's TERRA satellite
Credit: NASA

There were strong winds over 520, and the bridge was closed for a while. I can't remember the last time that happened, but it has been a long time!

Credit: National Weather Service

But, of course, the day finished on a beautiful note. Take a look at this incredible photo out at Alki Point from Tim Durkan. That has to be one of the most brilliant double rainbows I've ever seen.

Credit: Tim Durkan

Thanks for reading! Things look much calmer this week, especially after Wednesday. Inclement weather returns for the weekend, but it won't be anything like what we saw this past week.

Thank you!

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