When Northwest weather guru Cliff Mass warns of “extraordinarily active weather with the potential ... to be an historic event,” it’s time to check the flashlights, get some water and non-perishable food and prepare to hunker down for a couple of days.
Wind is forecast to begin earnest late Thursday, according to the National Weather Service Office in Seattle. A high-wind warning has been issued for Thurston County from late Thursday through 7 a.m. Friday, with gusts peaking near midnight.
“We’re expecting rain to be moving into the Olympia area (Wednesday) tonight, but as far as the onset of more noticeable winds, that’s going to wait until Thursday evening, maybe during or shortly after the evening commute,” said Andy Haner, meteorologist with the National Weather Service Office in Seattle. He said to expect sustained winds of 20-35 mph and gusts of 45-50 mph.
“Friday is going to be more typically nasty, not going to be remarkable,” he said.
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Then comes Saturday.
“Saturday has great potential for a historic windstorm. It’s not a slam dunk by any stretch, but the worst case would be a historical windstorm with widespread power outages and damage,” Haner said.
However, Haner said, the more likely scenario for Olympia would be the brunt of the storm passing farther north. Forecast models are not yet in agreement on the track.
Mass blogs: “A true monster storm, potentially as strong as the most powerful storm in NW history (the Columbus Day Storm of 1962) will be approaching our area on Saturday.”
The Columbus Day Storm was the most destructive windstorm to strike the Pacific Northwest in recorded history. It caused roughly $250 million damage, which is close to $1.8 billion in today’s dollars. It claimed some 46 lives, uprooted 11 billion to 15 billion board feet of trees — more than three times the tree damage from the eruption of Mount St. Helens — clocked wind gusts the equivalent of a Category 4 hurricane and damaged more homes and buildings than it spared in the Willamette Valley in Oregon, according to Olympian archives.
The Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. named the Columbus Day Storm the nation’s worst natural disaster of 1962.
As with the coming storm Saturday, the Columbus Day Storm started as a typhoon. The remnant of Typhoon Freda was energized by a high pressure system from the Gulf of Alaska.
Saturday’s storm is the remnant of Typhoon Songda.
From late Wednesday through early Friday, 3 or more inches of rain are possible in South Sound.
The Skokomish River will probably flood Thursday afternoon or Thursday night, according to the weather service.
“There is a 1 in 3 chance of the low center directly crossing some part of Western Washington,” according to a special weather statement by the National Weather Service. “This would be a worst-case scenario leading to a historical windstorm for nearly all of Western Washington that would be long remembered.”
And, just in time for opening weekend for razor clam digging, the storm could generate large waves that could reach 30 feet or higher along the coast.
Puget Sound Energy suggests customers be prepared for power outages. Customers can go to pse.com to download a mobile app or to report outages or trees over power lines.
People are urged to limit calls to 911 for emergencies with danger to life or property, said TCOMM executive director Keith Flewelling.
Flewelling said the dispatch center is prepared to add staff if the situation merits it.
“We’re going to wait for the official weather notice,” he said.