Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Something windy this way comes...

(Not the actual cottonwood - just a historical
re-enactment of the event as portrayed by a tree in Oregon)

We had our first power outage of the season. An old cottonwood couldn't stand against the rain-saturated soil, and fell onto a power pole, about a 1/4 mile down the road. We only lost power for 4 hours, but it was a good reminder that the weather can send our best laid plans spinning, and it's time to do winter emergency prepping.

Here's a look at past weather hijinks in Whatcom county. I'm sure most anyone in the PNW experienced these events in their own special way...

(From the Bellingham Herald)

• Record snowfall of '98-'99
The winter of 1998-99 will live in the memory of local skiers and snowboarders - that's when 1,140 inches of snow fell at Mount Baker Ski Area, the most ever recorded in the United States.
Once Baker opened that season on Nov. 22, 1998, more than 100 inches of snow fell over the next seven days. By February, Baker had to close down for two days so workers could clear paths for the chairs to move up and down the slopes
• Winter, 1996-1997: Up to three feet of snow dropped by a holiday storm blocked city streets for days because Bellingham lacked plows to clear drifts up to 10 feet high. Chastened city leaders later decided to buy some plow blades.
When the snow melted, floods caused millions in damage and broke through a Lummi Reservation dike, pouring up to 20 inches of water onto Haxton Way and cutting off access to much of the reservation.
• Winter, 1990-1991: Six major storms - two floods, two Arctic windstorms and two heavy snowstorms, along with bouts of freezing rain and a silver thaw - battered the county over two months. Upward of 100,000 residents lost power. Ferry service to Lummi Island was cut off. Damage reached $30 million, and that didn't include private property damage and economic losses.
• November 1989: Five days of record rain produced flooding that knocked out an 80-foot section of the Nooksack River bridge at Nugents Corner. Damage was pegged at $5.3 million.
• February 1989: A savage storm packed a wind-chill factor estimated at 50 to 70 degrees below zero and wind gusts up to 104 mph. The storm knocked out power to 16,000 customers, closed schools, damaged crops, and froze milk in pumping equipment at local dairies.
• January 1969: A storm froze stretches of the Nooksack River. Snow blocked portions of Guide Meridian, with one snowdrift on Pangborn Road measuring 25 feet high and 100 yards long.
• Oct. 12, 1962: The famous Columbus Day storm packed winds up to 98 mph. It took six days before everyone got their electricity back.
• March 1951: A freak spring storm dumped 23 inches of snow over four days. Temperatures plunged to 10 to 15 degrees.
• January 1950: Repeated snowstorms wracked the county for more than a month, beginning New Year's Day. Temperatures dropped to zero; winds hit 75 mph. It was so cold that it didn't rain until Feb. 5. Whatcom Waterway and the Nooksack River at Ferndale froze over. Winds destroyed five planes and damaged 29 others at Bellingham International Airport.
• February 1916: Seventeen inches of snow fell in Bellingham the first week of the month; 42 inches fell over a two-week stretch. Snowdrifts rose 30 feet high. Lynden was cut off from the world for four days.
• February 1893: A fierce blizzard packed winds up to 80 mph as temperatures reportedly fell to minus 13. One settler said the wind "drove frozen hail-pellets with fierce intensity."

Here's a link to more info about the Columbus Day storm, but from an Oregon point of view - The "Big Blow" of Columbus Day 1962

A bigger overview of PNW extreme weather from the same guy - The Storm King
Some Historical Weather Events in the Pacific Northwest

Kind of scary how much we take decent (at least non-lethal) weather for granted, when there has been so much extreme weather in our area's past. Hopefully everyone will spare a little time & trouble to do some basic preparations for events like these. Here is some info to get started -
Only where they say to have 3 days of preps on hand, you should shoot for 2 weeks if possible. Even if your power comes back on sooner, you may have snow-closed roads to deal with, or be sick, or just not want to leave the house yet. Having enough on hand to keep you warm, dry & fed for as long as you need, is a great feeling!

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