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Recent Windstorm A Powerful One, But No Hurricane

Ted S. Warren
AP Photo
A tree that fell Sunday and damaged two cars lies across a street in Tacoma, Wash., Monday, March 14, 2016, after a strong windstorm battered much of western Washington, knocking out power to tens of thousands and toppling trees.

The windstorm that hit the region March 13 was a powerful one, to be sure. We were seeing wind gusts as fast as 70 miles per hour in some spots along the coast, with gusts up to 40 miles per hour inland. The National Weather Service was quoted recently comparing it with a hurricane, but KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass says "not so fast."

"The structure of the storm looked completely different than a hurricane. The winds were different, and the whole energy source is different. Mid-latitude storms like ours depend on temperature gradients for their energy. Tropical storms depend on warm water and the latent heat from the condensation of water vapor," Mass said. "So it's an absolutely different animal."

Mass said another big difference between the massive windstorm that wreaked havoc on the region and an actual hurricane is the fact that the winds  in this most recent storm were not sustained.

"To be a hurricane, you have to have sustained winds. And I don't mean gusts. I mean sustained winds of over 74 miles per hour. There was nothing like that," he said.

Mass explains we'll be leaving much of that destructive weather behind us for the time being. The next few days, we'll see a mix of light showers and sun in the lowlands with cool temperatures. He says fresh snow has been piling up in the mountains.

"They've gotten about 10 inches at Stevens, almost that much at Snoqualmie. So that's good news for the skiers," he said.

But Mass says starting Monday and Tuesday an area of high pressure, a "huge ridge," will move into the area.

"And you're not going to believe this, but temperatures are going to get up into the mid-60s, maybe even the upper-60s by the time we get into Wednesday and Thursday," he said.

Mass is calling the change an "extraordinary turn."

"It'll be the warmest weather that we've had in a long time. You'll think it's almost like summer," he said.

Ariel first entered a public radio newsroom in 2004 while in school at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. It was love at first sight. After graduating from Bradley, she went on to earn a Master's degree in Public Affairs Reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield. Ariel has lived in Indiana, Ohio and Alaska reporting on everything from salmon spawning to policy issues concerning education. She's been a host, a manager and now rides shotgun with Kirsten Kendrick as the Morning Edition producer at KNKX.
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