May 2, 2013 in Washington Voices

Expect gusty winds through mid spring

Randy Mann
 

During the spring and fall, the Inland Northwest will often experience days with very strong winds. On Monday, wind gusts were reported as high as 41 mph at the Spokane International Airport. There were gusts near 50 mph in some areas.

The early to mid spring and fall are typically a time of transition between the cold air mass from the north and the warmer air masses that move from the south. The collisions between the two often generate strong winds across our area.

The highest wind gust reported at the airport was 77 mph on June 21, 2005. The second strongest gust was 67 mph on Jan. 9, 1972.

One of the worst wind storms to ever hit the Pacific Northwest occurred on Oct. 12, 1962. The National Weather Service lists the Columbus Day Storm as the top weather event for Washington in the 20th century.

Although, Spokane’s gusts on that date did not break records, it was a different story on the other side of the state. Speeds to an 150 mph were reported at Naselle. Bellingham and Vancouver hit 92 miles per hour with Renton observing a 100-mph gust. Mount Hebo Air Force Station in Oregon measured winds at 131 mph before equipment broke. Property damage from the storm was more than $235 million.

In terms of our local weather, it appears that a strong high-pressure ridge will rebuild over the Inland Northwest. Conditions should warm up again with below-normal precipitation over the next few weeks. This upcoming weekend looks like great weather. However, there will be a storm or two that will ride over the top of the ridge and bring us scattered showers and perhaps a thunderstorm, especially toward the middle of May.

The big high-pressure system in the West has provided extreme weather east of the Rockies as the jet stream rides over the top and drops into the central U.S. In the past week, temperatures have risen from hard freezes to 95 degrees in Lubbock, Texas, in a matter of days. Readings should drop into the 30s in this region over the next few mornings.

The big floods up north along the Red River and east of the Mississippi River will continue as moisture feeds into this area. Even if the rains were to stop, it would be two to four weeks before farmers can plant as there is too much water in the fields.

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