Weather Blog

Oregon's Crown Point hits 100+ mph gusts amid blazing sun

Oregon's Crown Point hits 100+ mph gusts amid blazing sun

There's a reason the Columbia Gorge has some of the best wind surfing around but even the most brave wind surfers might have had a challenge this weekend.

The Crown Point observatory near Corbett, Oregon -- noted for its extreme winds -- really outdid itself with some unofficial peak gusts of over 100 mph Monday. The official wind gauge hit 87 mph but those with hand-held wind gauges recorded gusts of 103 mph with another person -- Steve Pierce with the Oregon Chapter of the American Meteorological Society -- registering an unofficial gust of 115!


Photo courtesy: Steve Pierce

It was all part of 34 consecutive hours of winds gusting at 58 mph or greater there -- the minimum speed required for a High Wind Warning. The wind hit 61 mph at 10:36 p.m. Sunday and didn't drop below 58 until 9:07 a.m. Tuesday, although the gusts have occasionally gone back over 58 since.

But this was no hurricane or windstorm moving in -- the weather was clear!

Instead, the winds were caused by a massive pool of cold air in Eastern Washington and Oregon -- temperatures in the bowl were stuck in the upper 20s to low 30s amid a dense fog.



(Read more about how that forms in Cliff Mass' weather blog)

With warm air aloft creating a big inversion, cold air gets trapped at the surface and can remain there for days, leaving areas along the eastern Gorge in a days-long fog.

But cold air is denser than warm air, and thus it creates its own area of intense high pressure. Think of that area as a big, inflated balloon and the Columbia River Gorge provides the channel at the bottom of the balloon for the air to rush out to relatively lower pressure over the Willamette Valley -- at the peak Monday, the difference in pressure between Portland and The Dalles was nearly 10 milibars (or in inches of mercury: 30.54" in The Dalles and 30.27" in Portland.)

And with the topography of the gorge concentrating that air over a small area, the wind accelerates even more. The results: A natural wind tunnel the likes that would make Boeing jealous.

This weather pattern is fairly common in the winter and hurricane-force winds are not unheard of at Crown Point, but not sure I've seen reports over 100 mph before. Or at least, it's been a while.

Here are some others having fun(?) in the wind:





This last one is KATU-TV photographer Mike Warner trying to explain the winds out there. You thought hearing yourself at a Seahawks game was a challenge!