Friday, August 28, 2015

Erika Struggles, So Does Pacific Northwest With Wind, Fires, Smoke

Rain forecast for the Pacific Northwest will tamp down
some wildfires, but strong winds inland this weekend
could make things worse.  
All weather eyes have been on what Tropical Storm Erika is up to as it relates to Florida, but the real weather trouble in the nation currently is in the Pacific Northwest.

Things will get dicier and weirder there over the next couple days, but first let's do a quick update on Erika. 


Tropical Storm Erika was still struggling in the Caribbean this morning, battling strong upper level winds and interactions with land.

As suggested yesterday, the track of the storm is a little south and west of earlier predictions. That's making the already badly disorganized Erika struggle to maintain its identity as a tropical storm.

There's even a chance it could dissipate today.

If it survives, Erika is still expected to emerge over warm waters and lighter upper level winds south of Florida.

The predicted track of the storm seems to be much further west, and weaker than originally thought.

Instead of being near the Florida east coast, it now is forecast to head up toward western Florida. Maybe even more west than that. Current projections take it northward up the Florida pennisula as a tropical storm.

Which may actually be good news for South Florida, which is in a drought and needs the rain. If the track verifies, it's less likely Erika will become a full-fledged hurricane, because of interactions with land.

Forecasts for this storm keep shifting, so it's worth it to keep an eye out for Erika. I've outlined the current forecast thinking from the National Hurricane Center, but I still think there will be further changes to the forecast:


It's good news/bad news in terms of the ongoing fires in the Pacific Northwest, but since the weather there is about to turn more extreme, all in all I think it's mostly bad news, unfortunately.

A strong storm is expected to come ashore in that region over the next few days. It's unusually powerful for so early in the season. Usually you get stronger storms like this later in the fall and winter.

The good news is, it's going to rain up that way. Especially in the Cascades, where even the rain forests caught fire this summer it's been so dry. The National Weather Service in Portland, Oregon says this will be the region's biggest rainstorm since March.

This won't completely solve the fire problem in the Cascades, but a good one to four inches of rain isn't going to hurt.  The fires in the western halves of Washington and Oregon there will be tamped down because of this for at least a week or two, if not more.

The problem is many of the fires are inland, in central and eastern Washington, Oregon, and on into Idaho and Montana.

There won't be much rain with this storm there. But the storm is going to carry powerful winds. True, the humidity and clouds will be up, but the wind will make the fires awfully erratic.

Plus, we're talking VERY strong winds. High wind watches are flying for Saturday for gusts to 60 mph. Maybe even 70 to 80 mph in mountain passes. Talk about spreading fires!

In parts of drier Idaho and Montana, fire weather watches are up Saturday because of the gusty winds.

The western wildfire nightmare of 2015 is far from over, that's clear.

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