The Most Intense Summer Storm on Record

Monday, August 31, 2015

1:14 pm
I’ll just cut to the chase here… Saturday’s storm destroyed my weather station at our house on Whidbey Island. Before the storm, there were three cups on the anemometer. Now, there are two, and the station is not reporting. It was never very reliable anyway, but now it is completely shot. 
The remnants of my anemometer.

I know the picture isn’t very good (the zoom feature on my camera is broken), but I’m not lying. If you enlarge the picture by clicking on it, you’ll notice that there aren’t as many cups as there should be.

Saturday’s storm was the strongest summer windstorm on record for the Pacific Northwest. Nothing else even comes close. Whidbey Island NAS (Naval Air Station) hit 70 mph, Hoquiam hit 63, Paine Field in Everett hit 61 (and had several other gusts that approached 60), Tacoma hit 54, Sea-Tac hit 46, and a boat in Rosario Strait clocked a gust of 81! Even more incredible, Destruction Island on the coast recorded a 79 mph sustained wind with gusts to 87. That’s hurricane force.

05:00 am PDT, Sat 29 Aug 2015: Retrieved from UW Satellite Archived Images

How do I know this is the strongest summer storm on record?

Well, there’s a little website called The Storm King, and it is the premier site for all things Pacific Northwest windstorm-related. It is the brainchild of Wolf Read, who recently just got his Ph.D up at the University of British Columbia. If you are interested, I highly recommend you read his dissertation, “The climatology and meteorology of windstorms that affect southwest British Columbia, Canada, and associated tree-related damage to the power distribution grid.” But looking at Dr. Read’s website, you can see that there are no significant windstorms from May to September. But in case that wasn’t definitive enough, here’s some more proof.

Retrieved from NOAA’s National Data Buoy Center

These are the peak wind gusts at Destruction Island from 1984 to 2008 in knots. Saturdays gust was 87 mph, or approximately 76 knots. This would likely put it at the 2nd highest gust of the entire period for Destruction Island. It completely obliterated the old August record of 58 knots. It wasn’t just Destruction Island that got high winds of course… but Destruction Island got particularly high winds compared to a lot of other places. And looking at this graph above, you can see that Destruction Island got higher winds from this storm than the Hanukkah Eve Storm of 2006, the massive December 12, 1995 storm, the Inauguration Day Storm of 1993, and many others. Very impressive.

For southern Whidbey (where we live), this storm was not as strong as the storm last December that not only downed trees in our neighborhood but blew down fences, ripped roofing off of our dilapidated “crab shack,” and blew our aluminum canoe into a small canal behind our house (it’s a miracle we found it!). But that storm was in December. We had never seen a storm this powerful in the summer, and likely will not see another one like it for a very long time.

High winds are very patriotic! Taken at Cultus Bay (Whidbey Island, WA)

Here are some pictures from Puget Sound Energy’s Flickr page of damage around the region. At the height of the storm, 500,000 people were without power.

Storm damage in Olympia, WA

Storm damage near Washington Blvd SW & Vernon Ave SW, Lakewood, WA

Storm damage near Miller Bay Rd NE & Indianola Rd NE, Kitsap Co.

Crew members from Northwest Utility Services working near Lake Chalet in Edgewood.

Storm damage in Swamp Creek Park, Kenmore 
One more treat… here is a 13-minute long video that I took of waves hitting the shore. My dad had to miss a haircut appointment for this (I had his car keys and forgot to give them back to him), so check it out, for his sake.
Credit to Cliff Mass and Scott Sistek for giving me inspiration to write this blog.
As always, thanks for reading!
Charlie
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