Friday, April 8, 2016


Approaching cyclone

 A few weeks ago when some workmen were visiting, they asked me about an area in our woods with new growth trees. I explained that 15 years ago we had a CYCLONE  that tore through 15 acres of that area- so we replanted.  They exclaimed they had never heard of cyclones in the PNW, so of course that led me to the ever- faithful Google search.

HURRICANE? CYCLONE? TYPHOON? They're all the same- officially tropical cyclones. But they just use distinctive terms for a storm in different parts of the world. Hurricane is used in the Atlantic, Caribbean Sea, central and northeast Pacific. They are typhoons  (well none of us have ever heard of a typhoon here) in the northwest Pacific. In the Bay of Bengal and the Arabia Sea, they are called cyclones. Tropical cyclone is used in the southwest India Ocean; in the southwestern Pacific and southeastern India Ocean they are severe tropical cyclones.

A storm gets a name and is considered a tropical storm at 39 mph . It becomes a hurricane, typhoon, tropical cyclone, or cyclone at 74 mph . There are five strength categories, depending on wind speed. The highest category is 5 and that's above 155 mph .

Our water is too cold for hurricanes but we do get damaging, destructive windstorms,  known as cyclones. These storms cause millions of dollars of damage and leave thousands without power. Some of the destructive, powerful windstorms that have struck the Pacific Northwest over the years:

The Big Blow of Columbus Day October 12th, 1962 was the most destructive windstorm in West Coast History and it remains the mother of all windstorms. This storm was originally a strong cold front; it merged with dying Pacific Typhoon Freda to become an intense mid-latitude cyclone, which slammed the California Region first and then slammed Washington and Oregon.  Along the Washington, Oregon, California and British Columbia Coasts south winds reached 119 mph, with gusts to 130 mph.

Millions were left without power as trees blew onto power lines and plunged millions of residents in each region into darkness along the West Coast. The storm blew down more than 100 board feet of timber in what remains to this day to be the most destructive windstorm in West Coast history. Damage cost was over 10 million and 46 deaths were reported.

 At the time my parents were staying in Longview (WA) and I was home from a college break.  After a few minutes of winds throwing trees around like matchsticks and the roof of a nearby house flying into our front window, we sought shelter for hours in a nearby basement, having grabbed flashlights, blankets and a radio.  Never had we  Californians experienced anything like this so while it was frightening it was also exciting!

The next morning, being a Sunday, we headed for Mass but had to walk the few miles due to so man fallen trees blocking the roads.

Another giant storm we experienced here was The Inauguration Day Storm of 1993.  This one brought ice and cold  and we had to have  (volunteer) firefighters from the mainland come to Shaw to cut us out. Winds were 120 mph, with gusts to 150 mph.  The Evergreen Point floating bridge in Seattle had $500,000 in damage.  750,000 people were left without power in Oregon and Washington  and power restoration took ten days in some areas.

 Destructive Cyclone of December 12th, 1995 was another "Cyclogenic Bomb". Along the Washington and Oregon coasts south winds reached 100 mph, with gusts over 140 mph.  It was my birthday and we had no electricity, so very cold.

The Major Windstorm of March 3rd, 1999 with gusts up to 120 mph. The 520 Bridge in Seattle was destroyed during the storm.

The Major Cyclone of February 4th, 2006 on Superbowl Sunday  along the Oregon and Washington Coasts with south winds of 100 mph  and gusts to 129 mph.

Obviously we are having more wild storms than in the past , but every time the high winds start up, and the tall Douglas firs start creeking and bending, we pray to our angels for protection!

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