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Gusty enough to knock down ... branches? a restaurant?

Commemorating the windstorm of 2003, this mural by Chris Hopkins is at Ivar's rebuilt restaurant in Mukilteo.
Commemorating the windstorm of 2003, this mural by Chris Hopkins is at Ivar's rebuilt restaurant in Mukilteo.

The type of wind and rainstorm blowing into western Washington has done some amazing damage in the past. Weather expert Cliff Mass is not forecasting anything so huge this weekend, but we will get a "westerly wind surge," gusty enough to expect some power outages on Whidbey Island. 

Winds could gust to 50 or 60 miles per hour in some parts of the Strait of Juan de Fuca -- as a front from the north accelerates down the strait and barrels into Whidbey and the Everett area.

Two examples that Mass recalls vividly:

  • In December 1990, a surge came as the ferry Elwha was being repaired in Everett, and the waves slammed against the dock, half destroying the ferry.
  • In October 2003, a wind surge destroyed Ivar's Mukilteo restaurant (which has since been rebuilt), as winds pushed waves under the restaurant. 

"About every five years, we get one of these big ones," says Mass. "This is not going to be one of the top ones, this is the kind we get every year or so."
The rest of western Washington is still getting blustery winds, just not as strong. And the storm will bring heavy rain, along with snow in the mountains, including a few inches in Snoqualmie and Stevens Passes.

And that's just Friday. Mass expects another, albeit weaker, storm on Saturday. That's just the beginning, as November brings its wet and windy ways.

"We are locked into this pattern, of very, very strong northwesterly winds," bringing cold air from the northern Pacific, says Mass. 

"The last week of November is by any measure, the stormiest week of the whole year."

The weekly KPLU feature "Weather with Cliff Mass" airs every Friday at 9 a.m. immediately following BirdNote, and repeats twice on Friday afternoons during All Things Considered. The feature is hosted by KPLU’s Health and Science reporter Keith Seinfeld. Cliff Mass is a University of Washington Professor of Atmospheric Sciences and renowned Seattle weather prognosticator. Check out the podcast of the show. You can also listen to a podcast of this and previous "Weather with Cliff Mass" shows.

Keith Seinfeld is a former KNKX/KPLU reporter who covered health, science and the environment over his 17 years with the station. He also served as assistant news director. Prior to KLPU, he was a staff reporter at The Seattle Times and The News Tribune in Tacoma and a freelance writer-producer. His work has been honored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the Knight Science Journalism Fellowships at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.