Weather Blog

20 years ago, the infamous Inauguration Day Windstorm struck

20 years ago, the infamous Inauguration Day Windstorm struck
Surface chart of Inauguration Day Windstorm on Jan. 20, 1993. (Image courtesy: Wolf Read)

Inauguration Day is usually about the pomp and circumstance of a president about to begin his new four-year term, but 20 years ago as Bill Clinton was being sworn in to his first term, attention here in the "other" Washington was on more pressing local matters.

On January 20, 1993, one of the strongest windstorms to strike Western Washington in the 20th Century rolled ashore that morning, bringing winds of 60-75 mph with some isolated gusts that were even stronger, including an 88 mph gust at the University of Washington. (I was "lucky" enough to feel that -- it occurred during class change and I was on my way to a math class when the gust struck.)

A registered gust of 70 mph at Boeing Field was the second-strongest gust there recorded in the past 60 years, According to Wolf Read's Storm King windstorm research site.

Six people died and over 600,000 people lost power, according to Historylink.org. Among those killed were a 19-year-old Lynnwood man who died when a tree fell on his car, and a 3-year-old Port Orchard boy who was killed by a falling tree.

The storm was caused when a strong low pressure center, estimated at 976 milibars (28.82") came ashore near Hoquiam and then moved over the Northwest Interior, Read wrote.

Aside from hurricane-force wind gusts in the Puget Sound area, it brought a 72 mph wind gust to Astoria, Oregon and a 98 mph gust to Tillamook, Oregon.

The storm also at the time set a modern day record for greatest difference in pressure between Portland and Bellingham at 21.5 milibars, since topped by the Hanukah Eve storm of Dec. 14-15, 2006 (23.2).

You can find out plenty more information on the Inauguration Day storm, including all sorts of detailed weather data and observations, at Wolf Read's Storm King windstorm research site.