High winds to whoosh through area, across plateau
Monday, May 3, 2010
WENATCHEE — Batten your hatches. High winds are on the way.
A spring storm sweeping over the North Cascades into Eastern Washington today could bring snow to mountain passes, rain to lower elevations and high winds through the Wenatchee Valley and across the region to Spokane.
Wind gusts up to 60 mph could surge through area valleys this afternoon and hammer the Waterville Plateau and upper Columbia Basin through this evening, the National Weather Service in Spokane reported this morning. Sustained winds between 30 and 40 mph are forecast through 9 p.m. today for most of North Central Washington.
“Yes,” said NWS forecaster Steve Bodnar, “it’s going to blow.”
At 9 a.m today, up to 600 customers in the Manson area were without power as high winds blew down tree limbs that short-circuited power lines into the community, said Chelan PUD spokesman Steve Lachowicz. The full extent of the power outage wasn’t known at press time, but early linemen on the scene predicted power would be restored by noon, Lachowicz said.
Brief outages also were reported this morning in the Union Valley area near Chelan and in the Stevens Pass corridor. A wind-related pole fire was also reported in the Malaga area around 9:30 a.m.
In addition, airborne dust and resulting limited visibility are forecast for wide areas of the Columbia Basin where fields have been freshly plowed.
The high winds are the result of a strong Pacific storm system tracking beneath a rushing jet stream — 170 mph at 20,000 feet — that usually veers around the Northwest in spring, said Bodnar. Also contributing to the high-wind pattern is air rushing from the storm’s high-pressure core to a new low-pressure area forming in Alberta, Canada.
That strong, coursing air at high levels affects surface winds to some extent, said Bodnar, and can contribute to their sustained strength and gust intensity.
Winds in the Wenatchee Valley were expected to peak at around 2 to 3 p.m., said the forecaster, but strong, sustained breezes should be expected through the evening up to around 9 p.m.
Strong winds also could blow rain or snow clouds over the mountains into the Wenatchee Valley, said Bodnar. A 30 to 40 percent chance of precipitation for the area is predicted for this afternoon through tonight. This weather pattern, known as the Puget Sound convergence, is usually restricted to a narrow band that reaches across the Cascades, he said.
However, the pattern can result in rain or light snow in areas as far east as Pangborn Memorial Airport in East Wenatchee, he said.
The storm pattern will likely keep temperatures unseasonably low, said Bodnar. Highs in the upper 50s are forecast through Wednesday, well below the average normal high of 68 degrees.
This morning in Western Washington, the storm had already brought power outages to Kitsap County and the Rainier Beach neighborhood of Seattle, the Associated Press reported.
Forecasters predict unsettled conditions to continue this week.
Mike Irwin: 665-1179
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