winter storms

Are You Prepared?

/////

January is nearly over and so far we haven’t had much weather that would tell you it is winter. You can be sure that we will be getting some of that freezing rain, sleet, and even some snow. The question that needs to be answered is: Are You Prepared For Winter Weather? What are some of the problems winter weather drops on us?

Black Ice | Image by weather.gov

Ice storms can cause even more trouble than a snow storm because the roads can be covered in Black Ice and you can’t see it until you are slipping and sliding all over the road. As we all know the bridges and overpasses along with steep hills usually freeze first and can make driving on them feel more like the bumper car ride at a carnival.

Ice Storm Preparations | Image by weather.gov

I’s not only the roads that ice can adhere to, but buildings, trees, and power lines. What will save a lot of concern is preparation before the storm hits. You should pay attention to the weather forecast and be aware of the intrusion of colder air that it takes to produce an Ice Storm.

What To Do When The Power Failure Strikes | Image by weather.gov

When an ice storm hits it can also produce enough ice to take out major power lines covering a large area and smaller neighborhood power supplies. Under normal circumstances we often take for granted the electrical appliances, the furnace, computers and even simple light bulbs that function without any effort on our part. When the power does fail we suddenly realize how much we depend on them. We all need to be able to keep ourselves safe and warm until the power is restored.

Let’s go back in time to 2016 when we had a big storm hit the Eugene-Springfeld area. The following is part of the column I wrote then to explain what happened to me and all of the people in our area.

The beginning of the storm produced rain and as the temperatures fell the ground and other surfaces were cooled to freezing (32 degrees F) or below and produced what is called freezing rain. The rain was not frozen, but it froze when it fell on the colder surface.

Ice On Trees
Ice On Trees 12.15.16 #4 | Photo by Tim Chuey

It didn’t take long for branches and even whole trees to start falling down. From my house we could hear explosions which were power transformers blowing out. One of the booms sounded much closer and our power went out, then it came back up for a few seconds when we hear the second boom and the lights go about again.  I was told by EWEB employees years ago during a more minor more localized neighborhood blackout that the system tries to reroute the line and that’s when our power came back on. If it doesn’t take it will try a second time. Back then I was told that after three tries at the most if the good line can’t be established the power shuts down automatically until the line is physically repaired. At least that is my recollection of what I was told.

It was about 6:50 PM on Wednesday 12.15.16 when our power went out as we were getting ready to watch Jeopardy. I got out the flashlights and put an oil lamp on the coffee table. It was already getting pretty dark so it didn’t take long for the temperature in the house to fall to what would be called chilly and that was closely followed by “it’s getting too cold in here.” We have a decorative fireplace in the living room that won’t heat the house, but it does help keep the temperature at a more livable level while still quite chilly.

Our Fireplace
Our Fireplace And Only Source Of Heat | Photo by Suzanne Chuey

My first step was to get one of those starter logs going because they start burning quickly. It seemed to at least slow down the cooling process in the living room. We waited for a while to see if the power would come back before I started a “real” fire. I then went to the woodpile outside and started collecting split firewood I have stacked there.  It didn’t take very long to have a roaring fire, but as I said it didn’t generate enough heat so we started putting on more layers of clothing topping it off with the heaviest winter jackets we have, gloves and all.

If you have ever been in a situation like this where the only connection you have with the outside world is your cell phone that has a battery that will only last so long without being recharged. That also means that your sense of time gets out of whack.

Tree Down In My Yard
Fallen Tree In My Side Yard Facing Neighbor’s House | Photo by Tim Chuey

Suddenly we heard a loud thud or bang. I looked out of all of our windows and couldn’t see much. The streetlights were out so that meant it was starting to get pretty dark out there. I saw something, but I couldn’t make out what it was. I opened the front door and stepped out onto our front brick steps.

Street View Of Downed Tree
Downed Tree From Street View Of My Front Yard | Photo by Tim Chuey

Then I saw it. A tree had come down between my house and my neighbor next door’s house and it was sticking out past the middle of the street. At first I thought it was one of his trees or from the neighbor’s yard behind me, but no the tree was in my side yard and took out part of the fence between our two yards.

What can I do now? That was the question that exploded in my head. My physical condition makes it impossible for me to cut up the tree myself and I can’t afford to pay someone to do it for me. That is a serious problem. There was nothing that could be done Wednesday night so It would have to wait until Thursday. We didn’t sleep very well because the house was still quite cold and my wife and I both need CPAP machines for Sleep Apnea. Without the pressure of the air pumped through the machine I kept waking up with the feeling of choking and that is what was really happening to me. After a restless night and not being able to get a good night’s rest  getting through Thursday was going to be quite a chore. The day did seem to last forever.

For me it takes a hot shower in the morning to shake off the cobwebs of sleep. No such luck. There was probably some hot water in the hot water tank, but I doubt enough for a shower in the dark with only flashlights for illumination. I started to wonder, but not out loud what else can happen?

We were trying all of this time to listen to local radio stations, mainly KKNX AM/FM for whom I forecast the weather Monday through Friday. They were off the air due to power problems at their tower. They were streaming live on the web, but with no power I had no chance to listen on my computer. The power failure also meant that I could not post my forecasts on my website timchueyweather4u.com, eugenedailynews.com, or send my audio forecasts to KKNX Radio FM105.1/ AM 840 HD. (Now KEED AM & FM also.)

KKNX Radio Logo
KKNX Radio Logo | Image by radio84.com

My power was restored at 4:30 PM Thursday and my wife and I immediately plugged in our cell phones to get them charged and I started working on my weather forecasts since was so far behind in getting them posted. After having all of this happen and remembering all of the other emergencies and disasters we have been through there is an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for the simplest thing like walking into another room and flipping the light switch and having the room actually light up. It’s a matter of being grateful for what you have.

Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at: [email protected].

All Of The Indications Say It’s Coming.

////

If you have been paying any attention to our recent weather you already know about it. We have seriously entered the Autumn start of our rainy season as is evidenced by the 10.19 inches of rain measured near Eugene’s Mahlon Sweet Airport for the month of October which is the second wettest October for the period from 1892 until this year 2016. The all-time rainfall record for the month of October for the Eugene Airport is 12.66 inches set in 1950. The 10.19 inches of rain for this October is 6.94 inches above what is considered to be normal for the month. The leaves are changing rather rapidly into the beautiful seasonal color pallet. What does all of this indicate? That’s simple. Winter is on the way. The official beginning of Winter is the Winter Solstice which this year occurs on December 21st at precisely 2:44 AM PST.

It is the time of the year when those of us who toil in the weather business like to remind everyone of the dangers of a Pacific Northwest Winter and how to be prepared well before the potential danger is upon us. The National Weather Service has deemed this to be Winter Weather Awareness Week. According to the Weather Service “Each year, dozens of Americans die due prolonged exposure to the cold. Major storms can last several days, and be accompanied by strong winds, freezing rain or sleet, heavy snowfall, cold temperatures, and various forms of flooding.”

You can follow the daily information on the current day of the week or click on any day you wish. Just click on the link and choose the day you want. The links start with Monday October 31st and continue through Saturday November 5th, but you can watch them all at once right now if you choose to do so, or you can click on each link and pick the day of the week you want to see, starting with the Introduction to Winter Weather Awareness.

Monday’s link Winter Weather Safety and Terminology discusses the various types of serious Winter weather and what you you need to do to stay safe and warm.

The link for Tuesday is called Watch, Warning, or Advisory? What do they mean? points out the various watches, warnings, and advisories that can be issued during the Winter months.

Winter Snowstorm
Winter Snowstorm In Eugene | photo by Tim Chuey

Wednesday’s link is called The Many Faces of Winter Storms which matches up the watch, warning, and advisory categories to the kind of weather conditions and hazards you can expect when each one is issued.

Flooding
Willamette River Flooding | Photo by www.christonium.com

The link for Thursday lists all you need to know about Floods and Flash Floods and some weather history.

Tree Blown Down
My Neighbor’s Tree Blown Down 3/28/12| Photo by Tim Chuey

Friday’s topic is Windstorms. As you already know we do see some of them each year. Check out the windy link for the details.

Saturday’s link has more information you need to know including contact details for the various Weather Service offices in the Pacific Northwest and their social media addresses.

Please take a good look at these links and make sure you abide by the rules they explain. The preparedness information will help keep you safe during our often unpredictable Winter weather in the Pacific Northwest.

Leaves And Gutter
Leaves In The Street With Water In Gutter | photo by Tim Chuey

A special note: The Leaf Collection Schedule is set for the City of Eugene so go to Leaf Collection Schedule map to see when the pickup takes place in your neighborhood. For those who live in Springfield here is the link to the Springfield Leaf Pickup Schedule so you will know when to have them ready and exactly what to do. Remember to keep checking the schedule. Collection could be behind or ahead of schedule so you need to monitor any changes so you don’t get caught unaware.

Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at: [email protected].

Are You Ready For Winter?

/////

Many years ago local author Bob Welch brought up an interesting subject. He was discussing how people living in the Willamette Valley will just hop into their car when it is a nice mild day, say in Eugene, wearing a tank-top, shorts and flip-flops and head out to SunRiver or some other spot to the east of the mountains expecting to have similar weather at their destination. For some reason they don’t even consider that they could have car trouble or some other problem that would force them to be stranded in mountains or elsewhere totally unprepared for the potentially dangerous weather there. That is an extreme case, but how many times do we act in a similar way, no matter where we are going, ignoring the possibility of being out in the elements wherever we may be because it seems fine at the start of our journey?

You Need To Be Prepared | Image by followgreenliving.com
You Need To Be Prepared | Image by followgreenliving.com

Institutions like schools, hospitals, businesses, etc. have plans for what to do and what not to do in emergencies, but what about you and your family? You need to have plans already made so that your whole family knows what to do. A good example might be if a tree falls onto your roof. Your family needs to evacuate the house, but where should they go and what should be done next? The same also is true when a fire or earthquake occurs. If you have a plan your chances of survival increase incrementally. Home fire drills and earthquake drills are also on the list of “must do” items to be practiced.

The reason I bring this up is that we are in the midst of Autumn with Winter just a stone’s throw away and we need to be reminded how we should be prepared. This week is Pacific Northwest (including Oregon, Washington and Idaho) Winter Awareness Week. The National Weather Service Forecast Office in Portland (WSFO) has important informational links for each day this week to give us the heads-up on how to keep safe in our Winter weather.

Snow Falling 1 PM 2/6/14 Elevation 600 ft. | Photo by Tim Chuey
Snow Falling 1 PM 2/6/14 Elevation 600 ft. | Photo by Tim Chuey

According to the Weather Service “Each year, dozens of Americans die due prolonged exposure to the cold. Major storms can last several days, and be accompanied by strong winds, freezing rain or sleet, heavy snowfall, cold temperatures, and various forms of flooding.”

The links start with Sunday November 9th, but you can watch them all at once right now if you choose to do so, or you can click on each link and pick the day of the week you want to see, starting with the Introduction to Winter Weather Awareness.

Monday’s link Winter Weather Safety and Terminology discusses the various types of serious Winter weather and what you you need to do to stay safe and warm.

The link for Tuesday (which is Veterans Day) is called Watch, Warning, or Advisory? What do they mean? points out the various watches, warnings, and advisories that can be issued during the Winter months.

Wednesday’s link is called The many Faces of Winter Storms which matches up the watch, warning, and advisory categories to the kind of weather conditions and hazards you can expect when each one is issued.

The link for Thursday lists all you need to know about Floods and Flash Floods and some weather history.

Downed Tree
My Neighbor’s Tree Blown Down By Wind  3/28/12 | photo by Tim Chuey

Friday’s link discusses Wind Storms and the final link for Saturday has more Information and things you need to know including contact information for the various Weather Service offices in the Pacific Northwest.

Please take a good look at these links and make sure you abide by them. The preparedness information will help keep you safe during our often unpredictable Winter weather in the Pacific Northwest.

Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at: [email protected].

We’ve Already Had Winter Weather, So What’s Next?

///

The South Willamette Valley doesn’t often see the kind of winter weather that much of the rest of the country experiences. This most recent storm reminds us that it can and does happen every so often. Winter officially begins at 9:11 AM on Saturday December 21st with the Winter Solstice. The months of January and February have the highest probability for experiencing big winter storms due to the availability of Arctic air that can stream down through Canada and roll into the Pacific Northwest. One particular year stands out in my mind and that is the Winter of 1996. That was the year we were hit by a double-punch of weather. Late January sliding into February proved to be very wet. January set a record with 15.36 inches of rain at the Eugene Airport and then February set a new record of 16.89 inches. There was serious flooding on the Mohawk River. So much that it caused what was called a “30-year flood’ which is the worst flooding possible in a 30-year period.There was also extensive flooding on the Siuslaw River particularly near Mapleton. The heavy rain saturated the ground so much that the roots of even the larger trees were loosened. That set up a very dangerous situation. All that was needed to topple these trees would be a strong windstorm or a heavy wet snowfall. Snow it was. The rainfall total from February 16-25 at the Eugene Airport was 6.94 inches. During that same time period my rain gauge total was 4.55 inches. Needless to say that was a lot of rain for such a short span of time, especially for the Eugene/Springfield area. As I said that much rain loosened the tree roots and as luck, or lack of same, would have it heavy snow fell on February 27 th and 28 th. My snowfall total was 4.5 inches for the 27th and 3.25 inches on the 28th for a total of 7.75 inches of snow.

1996 Neighbor's Tree Crashed My Fence | Photo By Tim Chuey
1996 Neighbor’s Tree Crashed My Fence | Photo By Tim Chuey

I have personal experience with just how heavy that snow was. A tree belonging to my neighbor behind me and up the hill behind my house was about 100 feet tall and fell the evening of th 27th. I was home for my dinner break after the early newscast then we heard a loud thud outside. The tree crashed through my back yard cedar fence and continued on to flatten the fence between my house and the neighbor next door. It ended up stretching across my street into the driveway of a neighbor across the street from me. Three weeks prior to that night we had our roof replaced and that tree missed hitting our new roof by only 5 feet. A week or so later when the neighbor behind me had someone come to remove the fallen tree from his property. The “tree expert” said the contractor that built their house apparently tried to save the tree and just cut out the roots on the high side of the hill where the foundation was laid. That was an accident waiting to happen. I came home after the late newscast and by the time I got ready for bed I had about an hour and a half or so to sleep before I had to get up so I could go back to work for the early AM news.

1996 Our Tree Down From Snow | Photo By Tim Chuey
1996 Our Tree Down From Snow | Photo By Tim Chuey

When I awoke I went to look out the window to see how much more snow fell when I saw something strange. There was a tree in front of my house near the roofline that had the roots come up and it fell across my yard ending up in the middle of the street. I was really shocked that it fell right by my mailbox and didn’t knock it down. I still have a healthy stack of wood I split from those two trees. The neighbor behind me told me to keep the wood from his tree that ended up on my property. Insurance didn’t cover my fence so I repaired it myself. It cost about $15.00 to patch it up. I’m not saying we will get another storm like that, but it is something we should be prepared for. Heavy rain followed by heavy winds or heavy snow always has the potential of being very bad.

12/16/13 Snowfall 8.5 inches My Driveway | Photo By Tim Chuey
12/16/13 Snowfall 8.5 inches My Driveway | Photo By Tim Chuey

The snowstorm we just experienced left ice and snow on the streets for a full week and caused school closures and even many business closures. I recorded a total of 8.5 inches of snow in my driveway at 600 ft. elevation.

My first Winter in Eugene started in January 1992 and that was a Winter that wasn’t. Before I got here there was a quick snow shower for Thanksgiving 1991 and then no snow at all for the Eugene/Springfield area for the entire Winter season.

Windstorms can be and have been very damaging in Western Oregon, On February 7, 2002 strong winds struck Coos Bay at 3:30 PM wind gusts measured to 95 mph. The storm hit Eugene around 4:15 PM with wind gusts up to 70 mph. Even Yoncalla recorded a 62 mph gust.

The best way to be prepared for any of these Winter weather events is to pay attention to what’s happening with the weather. If you know a storm is coming you can be appropriately prepared.

Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at: [email protected].

 

 

Whose Fault Is It? Could It Be El Nino, La Nina, or even La Nada?

///

Is it El Nino, La Nina, or maybe even La Nada? You have heard those terms bandied about by meteorologists and news anchors alike, but what do they really mean and why should you care. The three terms describe the sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean which have a significant effect on the weather patterns around the world and particularly over the Pacific Northwest.

I’ll start off with the definitions of the terms so we can then use them to explain how they specifically control our weather patterns, particularly during Winter.

Latest Sea Surface Temperatures Pacific Ocean | Image NOAA
Latest Sea Surface Temperatures Pacific Ocean | Image NOAA

El Nino is defined as a warm water current (shown in red/orange) that appears annually, around Christmastime, along the coasts of Ecuador and Peru. The name El Nino means the boy child and refers to the “Christ Child” who’s birthday is celebrated in December when the warm water pool extends itself closer to the South American coast. It was first discovered or noted by the fisherman who found warmer water where they usually would catch fish.

La Nina is defined as a cold water current (shown in blue) that appears annually, around Christmastime along the coasts of Ecuador and Peru. The name La Nina means the girl child and is the opposite of El Nino and is the cool water pool that extends itself closer to the South America in December.

It seems obvious that El Nino and La Nina can’t occupy the same area along the South American coast at the same time. That is where another term comes into play. The ENSO or El Nino-Southern Oscillation. El Nino is often called the warm phase of ENSO while La Nina can be called the cold phase of ENSO. Often the sea surface temperatures waver between the two in the same season.

Just when you thought I was finished giving you definitions I have one more. What would you call it when neither El Nino nor La Nina come to visit the West Coast of South America? I guess you could call it the “nothing” and that is just what they decided to call it. In Spanish it is La Nada.

The Jet Stream | Image ww2010atmos.uiuc.edu
The Jet Stream | Image ww2010atmos.uiuc.edu

Now that you have the key definitions we need to find out how they can make our lives more pleasant or more difficult. What these currents do is deflect the Jet Stream in such a way to either bring the colder air and the Winter storms our way or to act as a barrier to protect us from the stronger WInter storms and keep us warmer.

El Nino’s warm water pool actually deflects the Jet Stream in the Winter in such a way as to set up a high pressure ridge over the Pacific Northwest. (See Picture to left)  That ridge keeps the cold air and the Winter storm track to our North or South and tends keep us warmer and drier. During an El Nino year there is less tropical storm activity in the tropical Atlantic due to increased vertical wind shear over the area.

Vertical Wind Shear Diagram | Image AMOL/NOAA
Vertical Wind Shear Diagram | Image AMOL/NOAA

Vertical wind shear is the change of wind direction with height. In order to build the storm clouds it takes to produce a hurricane there must be steadily rising columns of air and the change of wind direction as the air is rising tends to stop the development of the storm clouds.

La Nina’s cold water pool has the opposite effect and deflects the Jet Stream so as to send the Winter storms right at us. I know what you are expecting me to say next. Which one is controlling our weather now and what kind of Winter can we expect? The experts say we are in the La Nada now. It is a bit early in the season to make a solid prediction for Winter. The best time is mid-November when the sea surface temperatures are set up for the Winter months. That prediction would be for the actual Winter months of December, January, and February. As of now the sea surface temperatures indicate neither El Nino or La Nina so that leaves us with La Nada continuing and neither the cold water nor the warm water dominating. That makes for a difficult forecast. My best guess is that this Winter will be very similar to last winter. That means no major snowfall down on the Valley floor. Remember that this is only an educated guess at best and should be updated when the new winter prediction computer model from the National Weather Service produces the national forecast for October, November, and December. That should be ready soon. It takes a very small change in data for an unexpected storm to appear. That is what makes weather forecasting such a challenge.

Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can email me at: [email protected].