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Mild Weekend Ahead After Stormy Week With ‘Wall Of Wind’ And Record Temps

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Puget Sound Energy
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Damage on Whidbey Island.

Winds that toppled trees and caused about 150,000 power outages around the Puget Sound region have subsided, but they made for some exciting weather Thursday night, says KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass. 

“The storm really hit like a wall of wind. It was a very, very sudden turn on,” Mass said. “Almost everybody had gusts getting up to 40 to 50 miles per hour virtually anywhere you were in western Washington.”

And there were stronger winds in places such as Everett, in the northwest part of the state and near the water, with gusts up to 60 and 70 miles per hour or even a bit higher in a few places.

“So this was a respectable windstorm,” Mass said, though he said it “wasn’t  one of the greats” such as the Hannukkah Eve storm of 2006 or the inauguration day storm of 1993, when wind gusts topped 80 mph.

Small Storm Hit 'Sweet Spot' 

Thursday night’s winds were associated with a storm that developed rapidly off the coast of California, came up the coast and hit Washington as it crossed over Tatoosh Island near the northwest tip of the Olympic peninsula.

“That’s the sweet spot,” Mass said. “If you want to get strong winds in western Washington, that is the exact location where you want that low to cross.”

But it was a relatively small system.

Week's Big Story: Record Warmth Wednesday

An even bigger story this week was the warmth that blew in Wednesday with a weaker storm from the same direction. Mass says the atmospheric river known locally as the pineapple express combined with some low-level easterly flow and delivered the warmest December temperature ever observed at Sea-Tac, 66 degrees. The mercury reached 68 degrees at Boeing Field.

“That means it has never been warmer in the hundred-year record at Seattle, for instance. That is an amazing record. When you break an all-time record for a month, you have to take note,” Mass said.

Ahead: Cooler But Sun Breaks Possible, Too

But Mass says all the excitement is likely over for the next few weeks. “The models are pretty clear about that,” he said, predicting a mild weekend ahead.

“Cooler than we’ve had,” he said, with temperatures getting up into the lower 50s, “considerable cloudiness” and some residual showers moving through behind the storm system on Friday.

Saturday will remain cloudy, but the precipitation will back off, Mass predicts. “We could even see some sun breaks sometime Saturday afternoon and temperatures getting up to around 50 or maybe the upper 40s, something like that,” he said.

“Sunday looks like the best day,” Mass said, as an upper-level ridge of high pressure moves in off the Pacific. “That should bring the temperatures up a few degrees, kill the precipitation and I’m hopeful we’ll at least get some sun.”

Next week, he says a few weak disturbances will come through, keeping things slightly warmer than normal and bringing in some light rain. “But there’s no major system, no major storm, no major heat wave, no nothing.”

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The weekly KPLU feature "Weather with Cliff Mass" airs every Friday at 9 a.m. immediately following BirdNote, and twice on Friday afternoons during All Things Considered. The feature is hosted by KPLU Environment Reporter Bellamy Pailthorp. Cliff Mass is a University of Washington Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, a renowned Seattle weather prognosticator, and a popular weather blogger. You can also subscribe to a podcast of “Weather with Cliff Mass” shows.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment beat for KNKX, where she has worked since 1999. From 2000-2012, she covered the business and labor beat. Bellamy has a deep interest in Indigenous affairs and the Salish Sea. She has a masters in journalism from Columbia University.
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