Wind in the Columbia River Gorge could gust to as high as 100 mph today, the National Weather Service says, as highly pressurized, frigid air on the east side of the Cascades seeks outlets to the west.
Whether the wind breaks the century mark may remain a mystery, though, because the sensor at Crown Point appears to have been damaged, the NWS adds. The last reading, at 12:45 pm, showed a gust of 78 mph.
The Columbia Gorge, as any windsurfer knows, is a wind tunnel. It serves as a regular conduit for air moving from one side of the Cascades to the other. Because the pressure difference is often high between the two sides, the winds are strong. The winds tend to peak at Crown Point, where the Gorge narrows, forcing the air into a narrower gap and increasing speeds.
“The lowest of the Cascade passes has an elevation of over 900 meters, in contrast to the near-sea-level elevation of the Columbia Gorge,” University of Washington meteorologists Justin Sharp and Clifford Mass wrote in a 2004 paper. “Therefore, the gorge is the only conduit through which the low potential temperature air close to the surface in the Columbia Basin can be transported to the west of the Cascade Range.”
The NWS doesn’t keep records for windspeed at Crown Point, meteorologist Miles Higa says, but today’s winds will be among the strongest.
“I would think this will be in the top 5 or 10 percent,” Higa said.
In January 2014, a wind gust of 115 mph was recorded on a hand-held device at Crown Point, The Oregonian reported at the time, but the official gauge showed a gust of just 85 mph. The highest reading today, before the gauge went down, was 86 mph.
Braving the elements here out here at the Vista House. Highest gust I’ve measured so far is 93mph. Temperature is around 12°F with wind chills near -14°F. #orwx pic.twitter.com/jho2tRV5OR— Garret Hartung (@HartungWx) December 22, 2022
Northeast Portland sits at the western end of the Gorge wind tunnel, and the gusts often wreak havoc there. Portland General Electric’s outage map showed more than 9,000 customers without power in its service area, with a large concentration in Northeast. Pacific Power says 355 of its customers were without power in the Portland area.
Trees fell around Portland today, including a massive conifer at Northeast 19th Avenue and Siskiyou Street that dropped to a 45-degree angle and rested atop power lines. A smaller tree crushed a car at Northeast 22nd Avenue and Weidler Street.