Wacky weather downs trees, follows with dense smoke
September was quite the month for weather in Inner Southeast Portland.
The steamy-hot start, with 95° temperatures on September 3, gave way to a tree-toppling and extremely rare strong early September windstorm on the 7th, which in turn fanned the flames of unprecedented wildfires, leading to days of choking smoke by September 9 – which hung around, bringing life to a crawl, for a week.
The correspondents of THE BEE ventured out to document what took place during and after the windstorm, here in Inner Southeast Portland: They found much east-wind damage – trees uprooted and splintered, power lines downed, roofs damaged, trees blocked, and later a lot of smoke.
National Weather Service Meteorologist Will Ahue talked about how the "astounding" early September weather came together in such a destructive way, in a conversation with THE BEE.
"September started out warm until an anomalous strong east wind event on September 7, more like what we'd expect to see during the winter months, caused by a very unusual frontal system that pushed down through the Rocky Mountains bringing summer snow, and changing the pressure gradients in Eastern Oregon, into the metro area," Ahue began.
"The high pressure gradient west of us, with warm temperatures over us, combined with a much cooler frontal system coming down east of the Rockies, and drove the strong [50 mph] east wind event here, and along much of the West Coast," he explained.
In addition to damaging and even blowing over trees, and damaging roofs, electrical power went out in several areas – including for 1,389 customers south of S.E. Reedway Street near 20th Avenue in Westmoreland and 426 more customers near S.E. Ramona Street and 62nd Avenue.
Smoke blows in – and staysBefore the big wind event, several wildfires had already been burning, and they were fanned by the east winds sweeping over Oregon and the West Coast. "The strong winds in Oregon spread the smoke toward Willamette Valley; but then, at least at first, the east winds pushed a great deal of the smoke hundreds of miles of shore, out to sea," said Ahue.
As the east winds died down, all that smoke came rushing back onshore, over the Pacific Coast Ridge, and back into the Portland area. "Since then, there's been an inversion, and there hasn't been much wind – and we're also getting some smoke up from the California wildfires, as well," he pointed out. "However, the dense smoke did reduce temperatures considerably here, and ended the summertime heat wave in our area.
"The first rain system we expected on September 14 and 15 got backed up in a northerly flow, clipped Oregon's waters offshore, and ended up coming onshore in far Northwest Washington; so we missed most of it," Ahue said.
Early on Friday, September 18, a 70-minute thunderstorm rolled into the area in the 3 a.m. hour, dumping as much as a half inch of rain in Inner Southeast Portland, and dropping the Air Quality Index from the "hazardous" mid-400s, down to as low as 125 ("unhealthy for sensitive groups) later that day. By the end of the following day, Saturday, air quality had dropped all the way down to the 30's – in the "good" range – and breathing became fun again.
Summer ended in cooler temperatures and sunshine the following Tuesday morning, September 22.
So much for summer. Now what will autumn bring us…?
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