The decade went out with a roar on New Year’s Eve, as strong winds barreled across Washington state, canceling fireworks in Seattle, snapping tree limbs throughout the Inland Northwest and burying a highway in tumbleweeds near Richland.
A strong jet stream off the Pacific Ocean came ashore the morning of Dec. 31 and traveled west across much of the state. At the same time, a potent surface low pressure system passing over British Columbia generated more winds. This combination gave rise to brisk sustained winds punctuated by strong gusts deep into evening and overnight.
The state’s biggest wind-related event occurred northwest of Richland, where blowing tumbleweeds trapped vehicles and closed down State Route 240 for 10 hours. The Hanford Meteorological Service reported gusts near 50 mph in that vicinity.
Also that night, high winds forced the cancellation of the annual New Year’s firework display atop the Space Needle, where wind gusts reached 44 mph.
Spokane, Pullman and Moscow saw a blustery end to 2019 as well. Sustained winds of more than 20 mph with gusts of 30 mph blew holiday revelers’ coats and scarves and broke tree branches that fell onto sidewalks and city parks.
No wind-related injuries or power outages were reported during the biggest party night of the year, which is good news. So, too, is the fact that the mercury didn’t dip into the teens, as nightly lows often do this time of year. Instead, temperatures ran well above normal, reaching 54 degrees in the Tri-Cities, 53 in Seattle and 40 in Spokane.
Then, only a few days into 2020, a second system ushered more strong winds into the Inland Northwest. Under mostly clear skies on the morning of Jan. 4, a steady wind of 33 mph began blowing through Spokane, with gusts reaching 43 mph. Moscow-Pullman saw similar windy conditions.
Once again, temperatures ran above normal, reaching 46 degrees in Spokane (compared to the normal high of 33 for that date), 47 degrees in Moscow-Pullman and a balmy 60 in Walla Walla.
Here’s toasting to a New Year, along with Mother Nature and her ever changing ways.
Nic Loyd is a meteorologist in Washington state. Linda Weiford is a writer in Moscow, Idaho, who’s also a weather geek. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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