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Sustainability is about ecology, economy and equity.- Ralph Bicknese

What Do You Call Dangerous Precipitation?


A rain of terror!

That was some very bad Washington weather humor. But with the weaker-than-forecast weather systems that blew through the area last weekend, I couldn’t resist a bit of comic relief.

Worrisome Windstorms

The National Weather Service (NWS) and other meteorologists forecast a couple of systems that were supposed to bring historic rain and wind storms Thursday through the weekend. The second of the storms (a spin-off of typhoon Songda) was forecast to be the larger, more dangerous of the one-two punch systems. Below is the NWS Seattle’s forecast and advisory warning given Thursday before the storm.

Heavy rain did come. A week after the storm, the SEA-TAC airport climate summary recorded total rainfall over 6 inches for the month, about 2 times the average recorded last year for the month of October (3.27). While some of that came from systems that moved through the area after the one-two punch systems, the majority of that precipitation was dropped by the “Stormageddon.”

Coming off of our moderately dry spring and summer, this was one of the first major storms to kick off the rainy season and replenish our watersheds — but not without consequence.

In terms of wind, Western Washington was urged to prepare for potential flooding and winds of up to 60-70 MPH on the coast and 40-60 MPH for some areas of Seattle metro. In reality, the coast received winds between 30-70 MPH and inland areas recorded 30-40 MPH winds with a few 50 MPH gusts. Although the windstorms weren’t as serious for us in Seattle, a couple of rare tornadoes were created in Oregon Friday morning.

Some flooding and landslides were reported in the area and thousands of residents experienced power outages, as trees depleted by summer heat were more vulnerable to snapping under the pressure of their rain-soaked leaves. Luckily, the storm did not develop and veered about 50 miles off the track that models predicted, even as late as Saturday morning. Thus, the magnitude of damage was significantly less than what meteorologists and the media predicted.

Both NWS Seattle and Portland were transparent about faulty forecasting on Facebook and Twitter. Here’s a meteorologist from UW’s take on the aftermath of the storms.

I kept up with the weather systems all weekend on social media and was both intrigued and perplexed by some posts. Here’s a pretty funny meme that was floating around the interwebs after the storm rolled through:

Still, I was surprised to see how upset some were that the storm didn’t impact them more. It seems to me that this weakened storm was a good test of the area’s emergency procedures, coordination, and infrastructure. It also prepared thousands of residents for future disasters.

Emergency Preparedness

So what can you do to ensure safe weathering of the next storm? Here are a few tips:

  • Emergency Kits: these are essential to have at home and in your car in the case of any disaster. Plan for three days of food and water supplies as well as first-aid items, phone chargers, copies of important documents, and personal hygiene items. Here’s a checklist to ensure you’re all stocked up.
  • Make a plan: gather your emergency preparedness supplies and come up with a strategy in the event of power outages, downed trees, or evacuation. Discuss your plan and stay connected with family, friends, neighbors, and community members before, during, and after the event. Be sure to identify an out-of-area contact as well. Here’s an infographic with helpful tips if you find yourself driving in severe weather:

  • Stay informed: keep up to date with the storm’s progression as well as the status of the city’s roads, power lines, and water supply. Here’s a great preparedness website with a list of important windweatherrain/floods, and transit sites.

For students, keep alternative light sources handy (SPU does not allow open-flame candles, however, the jug light idea is pretty cool!).

Although the storms greatly replenished our watersheds, this dangerous precipitation did produce a rain of terror for some trees in our area and especially in Tiffany Loop. For next time, be aware of emergency procedures in on-campus housing or within your neighborhood if you’re off-campus and stay in communication with the people in your life.

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