SEATTLE -- For all the talk last weekend about how cold it was where the NFL playoff games were held, this weekend the story is going to be the rain and the wind...
At least, in Seattle (and Boston, but who cares about the AFC yet?)
A potent storm system is forecast to bring heavy rains and strong winds to the region -- the rainiest period will be Friday night into Saturday morning although some rain will be around for game time in the afternoon.
But the windiest period is looking like it'll be during the game Saturday afternoon. Yet is Mother Nature giving us a hidden message in the forecast models that perhaps it'll help us out?
Here is the forecast chart for 1pm Saturday -- the start of the game:
It shows a moderately deep low pressure center heading into Vancouver Island with a whole lot of black isobars (denoting pressure) over Washington. The more isobars there are, the stronger the expected winds, as winds are caused by differences in atmospheric pressure.
One of the tricks local meteorologists use to give us a gauge of how strong the winds could be is to count the number of isobars over set distances. One of the most popular is to count the number of isobars between Portland and Bellingham.
Ooooh! Guess how many there are?
That's right: 12. A forecasted Bellingham to Portland pressure gradient of 12 milibars. Maybe it's a sign?
If that verifies, a 12mb gradient isn't too extreme -- that's about on par with our "routine" wind storms that we typically get in the fall and winter that bring steady winds of 20-30 mph and gusts to perhaps 40-45 mph in the central Puget Sound area, and maybe some gusts to 50 along the coast and wind-exposed ares of the North Interior.
So as far as the region is concerned, the wind at this point is not expected to cause many issues (although admittedly, some earlier models had this gradient a little stronger so we'll be watching!) But if you're trying to, say, throw a 40 yard pass or kick a field goal beyond extra point distance, it might be a bit more of a challenge than usual.
I'll be interested to see if perhaps the wind changes the strategy of the game and maybe whoever wins the coin toss will elect to choose the direction of play instead of taking possession to make sure you have a tail wind in the all important 4th quarter.
There have been windy Seahawks home games before -- most notably a game against the 49ers in the hours before the great Hanukah Eve wind storm of December 2006. Winds gusted as high as 44 mph at nearby Boeing Field during the game. There was only one field goal kicked -- a 39-yarder -- so it's possible to do. (Just don't ask how the game turned out). The second windiest game was also against the 49ers in 2003 with a gust to 33 mph. That game featured 6 made field goals.
As for rain, while the heaviest rains look to be relegated to the hours before the game starts (beware, tailgaters!) it still looks like it'll be raining during the game itself, just not quite as heavily.
The map below shows expected rain accumulation between 1-4 p.m. Saturday, so forecast models predict about 0.10-0.15 inches of rain around the stadium during the game (legend is on the right -- take those numbers and divide by 100 to get expected rain).
That's slightly less rain that fell during the San Francisco (0.17") and Jacksonville (0.19") games earlier this year. But overall, models predict between 1.00-2.50 inches of rain in the greater Puget Sound area for the 24 hour period from 4pm Friday through 4pm Saturday so keep in mind your seats will be wet, and there will be lots of standing water around the stadium.
But even with the expected rain and wind, I certainly don't expect the 12th Man's spirits to be dampened. And we've got Mother Nature on our side, right?
P.S. Another New Sign!
Mother Nature brought another new signal Friday that maybe she'll help the Seahawks out. Check out this actual satellite image from midday Friday -- looks like the storm has the shape of a Seahawk! (in the upper left corner of the storm there?)