WeatherWatcher: Windstorm aftermath

Wednesday, January 13, 2021


Fallen tree in Shoreline on January 13, 2021
Photo by Patricia Hale

With short notice Tuesday night a wind advisory was issued at about 8:15pm by the National Weather Service in Seattle

On satellite imagery Tuesday evening the National Weather Service observed that a subtle and small center of low pressure off the west coast was intensifying and tracking in such a way to produce significant winds for the Puget Sound region. This storm was almost completely missed for strength and path in the forecast models prior with only hints that we'd have a breezy night.

Soon after the wind advisory was issued, winds started gusting to 30 mph at the Richmond Beach weather station. The power outages soon followed, with many fallen trees and tree limbs throughout the area. 

At the height of the storm, wind gusts in Edmonds and Richmond Beach peaked at 38 mph. Seattle saw between 45 and 58 mph. The airports where official records are kept, at Paine Field in south Everett and at Seatac, both reported a peak wind gust of 48mph.

In the video below from the Shoreline Fire Department, a tree had come into contact with some high voltage power lines. The high voltage then flowed through the tree to the ground. The electricity started boiling all the moisture inside the tree and causing the steam to whistle out through a crack or hole in the trunk, much like a tea kettle on a hot stove.

Winds overall were not super impressive; this is what I would call a moderate windstorm. Saturated soils and saturated trees made for weak tree limbs, trunks, and roots. It was a classic Pacific Northwest winter pattern, a series of storms lining up with first heavy rains for several days, and then moderate winds to cause the most tree damage.

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