above storm is a very potent form of extratropical (or midlatitude) cyclone, also known as ETCs. Many have
struck the West Coast within the relatively short period of
meteorological record. These systems can match a Category 3 hurricane
in both minimum central pressures and sustained wind speeds. Such
storms have a reach far beyond that of a typical hurricane:
they can throw a cold rain into the Alaska Panhandle while at the same
time pummel the San Francisco Bay Area with a warm, saturated gale.
These tempests can threaten human life, and can cause damage into the hundreds of
millions, even billions.
In part, this
website was put in place to dispel the
idea that severe weather somehow does not strike the Pacific Northwest, which appears to largely be a misconception among some weather interests east of the Rockies.
For example, the
March 12-13, 1993 "Storm of the Century" has been touted as the
strongest extratropical storm to strike the United States in the 20th
century. This appears wrong on a number of counts. The Storm Data publication of the National Climatic Data Center for the March 1993 event is particularly revealing in this regard.
strong argument could be made that the great Columbus Day Storm of 1962
holds the "Storm of the Century" title, and for good reason. Sure, the
1993 storm produced more lowland snow; the Columbus Day Storm was a
relatively warm early-Autumn system and snow just did not happen, save
perhaps at the highest elevations. However, wind speeds are a different
matter. Wind generally causes more damage than snow. Sure, when snow
gets deep enough, it can become a problem for traffic flow and, perhaps
more importantly, tree and roof integrity. However, for much of the region that
saw snow during the 1993 event, accumulation just did not reach epic
proportions, with 6-10" common.
storms on record, only eastern hurricanes, possibly some wake low
events, and some thundergusts match the strength of winds reported
during the Columbus Day Storm (tornadoes notwithstanding). The supposed "Storm of the Century" just
does not come close to the peak gusts officially recorded during the
Columbus Day Storm. Generally, for March 1993 the peaks were in the
range of 50 to 70 mph, with scattered readings around 75 to 85 mph.
Most of the latter readings happened at coastal stations. For the
Columbus Day Storm, official wind gusts reached 127 mph in the
Willamette Valley. Many stations had gusts between 75 and 100 mph, and
this includes quite a few locations that were inland (including
Corvallis). So much for the storm of 1993!
One of the main foci of the case studies below is to demonstrate severe weather events in the Pacific Northwest. In addition, this research is intended to develop a comprehensive climatology of windstorms that affect the Cascadia region. Much attention is given to
extratropical cyclones, since severe weather is typically associated with these weather systems. Given that the atmosphere is capable of varied
and diverse phenomena, other types of events are also examined.