fire

It’s been a wild evening for some of us, very similar to the very strange ending to Labor Day Weekend 2017. That’s the night the Eagle Creek Fire sent ash into Portland and flames 15 miles through the Gorge.

This afternoon’s wind arrived exactly when models said it would (4-6pm) in the metro area and Cascade foothills. Here are the peak gusts so far; notice when we get a “downslope” wind event, the central part of the metro area around PDX tends to be windier than most other spots, including areas near the Gorge. The official peak gust at PDX so far is 52 mph! That was one of the highest gusts in the metro area. The other two (so far) are 60 mph on I-205 Glen Jackson Bridge and 59 mph at Corbett. Most other airport locations were in the 35-45 mph range. On the edge of “windstorm” strength for sure. It’s rare to see an easterly wind gust above 50 mph at PDX, the highest I’ve ever seen was a 60 with the February 1989 cold blast.

I’m hearing of lots of damage in the foothills. I had a gust to 49 mph at my home east of Corbett. I don’t live in an area that gets the usual strong Gorge wind. I’ve never seen a downslope east wind event like this produce a gust over 43 mph…in the past 16 years! In fact the highest gust I’ve ever seen anytime time of the year was a southerly gust to 60 mph during the December 2006 storm. This IS a historic wind event for the Cascade foothills. I see Multnomah County Sheriff had to get about a dozen vehicles down from the Larch Mountain area; they were trapped by trees across the roads. PGE did end up cutting off power to about 5,000 customers from Sandy to Government camp this evening and right now almost 100,000 are out of power in their entire service territory! That’s a lot for September, partly due to fully leafed trees and the unusual easterly direction

On the fire front things aren’t looking good. So far I haven’t seen a major fire flare up in the metro area or nearby foothills/mountains. But lots of smaller blazes. Here’s the latest fire detection from GOES-17. Note the Beachie Fire north of Detroit is on the move westward and must really be blowing up this evening. It appears to have moved a few miles. Then just east of there near Mt. Jefferson is the other big blob. That’s the Lionshead Fire. But notice a couple more spots, one each in both Clackamas and Lane counties. Click for a better view

There are evacuations along the McKenzie River right now east of Springfield. Apparently a large chunk of the town of Mansfield, WA burned in one of those fires up north today too. You can watch these fire detection loops (hit PLAY of course) here: https://col.st/LtOMo

So we’ll see how things go tonight and tomorrow. Many of us won’t be sleeping well knowing a fire could suddenly start up. The wind probably won’t get stronger, but it’ll continue off/on through the afternoon. At my home it’s died down quite a bit in the last hour. Daylight will reveal how many trees we’ve got down across the region, otherwise it’s unsafe to be driving around forested areas right now.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

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