Multiple Fires Ignited, Major Dust Storm Develops, Tens of Thousands Out of Power, and I-90/US 2 Closed By Winds in Eastern Washington

Reposted from The Cliff Mass Weather Blog

Monday, September 7, 2020

This is rapidly becoming a major event.   Strong winds, gusting to 50-70 mph, has caused a dust storm that has closed major roads in eastern Washington (e.g., I-90 and US-2).   Here is a recent satellite image, with the oval centered on the dust storm area (dust is apparent by the brown colors).  The winds have initiated several fires–I put orange arrows to indicate a few.

Visibility has dropped to under 50 feet in some locations due to the blowing dust (see image).  You can see why the State Patrol has closed down several roads.

We can view the multiple fires on the latest short-wave infrared imagery–with fires indicated by black (warm) dots (below). Wow…. I count 5-10 new fires compared to this morning (the big area in the northwest section started overnight and was talked about in an earlier blog).

Tens of thousands are without power in eastern Washington, with trees falling on power lines.  Falling powerlines probably started some of the fires (Spokane outages shown below).

This is all the “warm up” to be big event tonight…..over NW Oregon.

34 thoughts on “Multiple Fires Ignited, Major Dust Storm Develops, Tens of Thousands Out of Power, and I-90/US 2 Closed By Winds in Eastern Washington

  1. Hmm…..tricky to blame this on CO2…… I know!

    CO2 is a dense gas, and an increased concentration in the air will make the atmosphere more buoyant. This will tend to support particulate matter in the air for longer, potentially causing the same type of global dust-storms as we see existing on Mars (which itself has a mainly CO2 atmosphere). It’s worse than we thought – send more money…..

    • I live on the east side of metro Seattle. I started smelling wood smoke about 9 PM local time. By midnight, the smoke smell was more potent than I have ever experienced. It is 3:30 AM now, and the smoke seems to be subsiding.

      Before I saw this post, I had no idea we had wind and fire storms in eastern Washington. Seattle is scheduled to catch part of the California heat wave for the next several days. I assumed I was breathing California smoke.

      Just since I started writing this, I am catching whiffs of “dirt” smells, like when you turn over a spade full of earth in your garden. Has the dust arrived, too!

        • I’m up on Whidbey and there is a strong wood fire smell as well as the brownish haze. I think some of it is coming from California too.

    • You are welcome.
      If you click on the red areas a marker will pop up which you can move around to read the local fire intensity (heat radiance), which is calibrated in watts per square meter.
      It appears that the max radiance for these Washington fires is about 20 W/m2. But down in California, near Yosemite, there is a bigger fire with max intensity around 40 W/m2.

      • Actually, that Yosemite fire is peaking around 60 W/m2. But there is an even bigger fire north of Denver with almost 90 W/m2 (but Colorado is somewhat higher, with less optical absorption, so more radiance can escape to space).

        So the Western U.S.A. is relatively ‘on fire’ compared to Eastern, where the biggest fire is near Huntsville, AL. With a measly 1 W/m2

  2. What volume of these smoke and dust particles will figure in autumn and winter precipitation volumes locally and to the east of Washington state?

    Just askin’ because hail sometimes needs a magnet to cling to as an anchor if it’s going to become hail, and rain and snow will form around droplets clinging to a microscopic dust particle.

    Oh, yeah – this is important, too: how much will get tossed up much higher – stratosphere level – and go galloping eastward into Europe/Central Asia?

    It’s raining right now (Thank you, Uranus, you sweet old goat) and we have badly needed it. My lawn looks like something chewed on it, and I gave up on my potted herbal plants – my cooking flavors – weeks ago. My cat doesn’t even get to keep her catnip. 🙁 And the forecast is for rain all week, into next Saturday. So with the Great Lakes quite full, how much will future precipitation add to that volume? The weather systems on this planet fascinate me. Always have.

  3. From WPC:
    Early Season Snow For Central Rockies And Fire Weather Concerns Out West

    A powerful cold front will plunge into the south-central Plains and produce a number of hazards, including an early season snow storm for the Central Rockies. Expect significant accumulations with gusty winds in the higher elevations of Wyoming and Colorado. Meanwhile, widespread critical fire weather conditions are likely across the West, from the Northwest through California into the Southwest.

    • A spokesperson for the Marxist-Green-Dem party stated:
      “The science is settled! This extreme cooling is is caused by global warming!” 🙂

      HIGH WINDS IN UTAH KNOCK OUT POWER TO TENS OF THOUSANDS; SNOW SOCKS COLORADO, WYOMING HIGHWAYS
      https://weather.com/news/news/2020-09-08-utah-wind-colorado-wyoming-snow
      01:06
      One of Earliest Snowstorms on Record to Blanket Front Range of Rockies
      An unusually early September snowstorm will continue through Wednesday.
      At a Glance
      • More than 179,600 customers lost power in Utah.
      • High winds toppled semis on Utah highways.
      • Heavy snow was making travel difficult in Colorado and Wyoming.

      A weather system that has dropped temperatures as much as 60 degrees in 24 hours is bringing powerful winds to Utah and heavy snow to parts of Colorado, Montana and Wyoming.
      Heavy winds have knocked out power to nearly 180,000 homes and businesses across Utah, according to poweroutage.us. Another 36,000 customers had no electricity in Idaho, Wyoming and Colorado.
      The high winds also forced the closure of Utah schools and the state Capitol building Tuesday morning.

  4. These Eastern Washington high wind events are not new. During the Manhattan Project, they were known as “termination winds” at the Hanford Project. This was because when they happened, a lot of people would quit.

    The fires are not new either. Fires are often started by lightning – the conditions are very dry in a region where rain is often 15 cm per year in the rain shadow of the Cascade mountain range.

    If you google “haboob”, some of the images you will see will be from a haboob dust storm in this area.

    You can Google “termination wind” and find many websites and YouTube videos that discuss it.

    • Old NOAA Certified Weather Observer here. Plus flight instructor in Eastern Washington and Oregon. It is nothing new the Palouse Prairie i sknow for years for it’s dust storms it’s fine lowess soil is a wind blown feature . One storm like this one blew through E.Washington in 1977 Wrapped up several aircraft at th elocal Tri-cities Airports, and left a mess. this isn’t even unusual just infrequent….

  5. Add this to the growing list of existential threats not on the Washington State government list that is dominated by climate change. This is your state wake up call number two, after landslides in known landslide areas.

  6. another climate related event… derecho, wildfires, dust storms, cat 4 hurricane – nothing to see here move along?

    an ostrich would have pulled its head out by now.

    • Your belief that weather events are evidence of climate change is among the stupidest of human foibles.

    • it’s the Gods
      no, it’s the stars … they are the Gods
      No it’s the planets …
      no, it’s the planets & the stars …
      no, it’s the comets, planets, & the stars.
      No, NO, you are all wrong … it’s the witches.
      … witches? really?


      Hey … CO2 … temperature caused by CO2.
      no, not temperature … extreme climate by CO2 …

      No, it’s climate enhanced events … ya, that’s it. Not witches, planets, comets, temperature, or extreme weather. It’s events … enhanced by CO2. Stop the CO2.

    • Send me your money griff. I’ll fix those bad things. Promise. $20,000 should be enough for me to get started.

    • Some things never change. We have pivoted from UFO sightings and news reports and local gatherings at sites where images of the Virgin Mary were spotted in knotholes of trees and reflections off cars. Church Lady is now an environmentalist in the new religion.

    • Let’s see your single chart, griff, showing that the total of “derecho, wildfires, dust storms, cat 4 hurricane” events have increased over the long term patterns by a statistically significant amount.

      You read WUWT a lot so you’ve already seen plenty of evidence that such events have not significantly increased over the last 50 or 100 years. Why do you keep trying to say otherwise? Could it be that you are the one with the head in the sand?

  7. We are on acreage outside Port Townsend WA. Was awakened at 3am by smoke smell coming through open bedroom window. No wind. Red sunrise & haze at 7am. Still smoke smell & haze at 11am. Not sure if this is from small local fires or eastern WA. Please advise: how could smoke have made it across the Cascades?

    • Have had to consider those 2 options for previous life experiences, inspite of science education. Thanks for reminder.

  8. I’m in Clark county and it was crazy yesterday. The dust and wind were so bad, it might as well have been rain. I went to the hardware store and on the way back a branch fell covering both lanes. The streets were littered with debris.

  9. A spokesperson for the Marxist-Green-Dem party stated:
    “The science is settled! This extreme cooling is is caused by global warming!” 🙂

    HIGH WINDS IN UTAH KNOCK OUT POWER TO TENS OF THOUSANDS; SNOW SOCKS COLORADO, WYOMING HIGHWAYS
    https://weather.com/news/news/2020-09-08-utah-wind-colorado-wyoming-snow
    01:06
    One of Earliest Snowstorms on Record to Blanket Front Range of Rockies
    An unusually early September snowstorm will continue through Wednesday.
    At a Glance
    • More than 179,600 customers lost power in Utah.
    • High winds toppled semis on Utah highways.
    • Heavy snow was making travel difficult in Colorado and Wyoming.

    A weather system that has dropped temperatures as much as 60 degrees in 24 hours is bringing powerful winds to Utah and heavy snow to parts of Colorado, Montana and Wyoming.
    Heavy winds have knocked out power to nearly 180,000 homes and businesses across Utah, according to poweroutage.us. Another 36,000 customers had no electricity in Idaho, Wyoming and Colorado.
    The high winds also forced the closure of Utah schools and the state Capitol building Tuesday morning.

  10. For all you armchair semi-academic experts on wildfire who think fire suppression is mistake and should be eliminated, this is what happens when you Let It Burn.

    Strong east winds Monday and Tuesday caused many already burning wildfires in the Pacific Northwest to expand rapidly — aka “blow up”. Among those is the Beachie Creek Fire.

    The BCF was a 500 acre fire in the Opal Creek Wilderness east of Salem, Oregon, ignited by lightning on 8/16 that was allowed to burn unchecked. It has now blown up to a reported 132,500 acres (an underestimate). Three towns have been destroyed: Mill City, Lyons, and Gates. Hundreds of homes have burned, fatalities are as yet unknown. The fire front is within a mile of Stayton and Scotts Mills.

    The Lionshead Fire was another Let It Burn fire ignited 8/16 by lightning on the east side of Mt. Jefferson. It was ~17,000 acres on Sunday. It is now a reported 92,000 acres and has joined with the Beachie Creek Fire. The area within the combined fire perimeter is over 225,000 acres. The Lionshead Fire is burning in the footprint of the 2003 B&B Fire, an arson-caused fire that was also allowed to burn until 90,000 acres were destroyed. Note that 17 years is enough time for brush to regrow to major inflammatory conditions

    Both the Opal Creek and Mt. Jefferson Wilderness areas are now completely incinerated along with thousands of acres of adjoining forestlands, public and private, as well as entire towns.

    No Touch, Let It Burn, Watch It Rot is the most asinine forest policy ever dreamed up. And horrendously destructive. Perhaps forest management should be the purview and responsibility of the nearby residents and not gargantuan agencies and ignorant sycophants who live far far away.

  11. “In April 1931 pillars of dust reaching 5,000 feet into the sky swept down the Columbia Basin and out to the Pacific Ocean. One huge cloud enveloped a Hawaii-bound ocean liner 600 miles from Seattle.”
    https://www.historylink.org/File/7264
    Be glad we have irrigation over here in Eastern Washington. Without the dams, far more dust would visit the Seattle area.

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