Saturday West Coast Windstorm (LIVE Updates)

975 mb low forecasted to move inland over northern Vancouver Island this evening (00Z GFS)

975 mb low forecasted to move inland over northern Vancouver Island this evening (00Z GFS)

Note: Today on 50 Shades of Van, the blog style will be a little bit different and all the information on today's storm will be available here and updated as needed.

  • Contribute observations and other information below in the comment section

Overview: A significant wind warning has been issued by Environment Canada

  • Damaging winds up to 100 km/hr are expected for portions of the South Coast today and this evening (as well as Sunday)

Updates will include:

  • Model updates/discussion (as they take place)
  • Power outage information via BC Hydro & BC Ferry Cancellations
  • Changing weather conditions, and updated warnings, watches and statements from EC

Update 8:50 PM: Okay, last update. Thanks for following along tonight. Winds have switched to the SW and will remain strong in the lower mainland for the next couple of hours.

  • Over 12,000 BC Hydro customers without power currently around the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island

And yes...We get to do this all again tomorrow. I'll consider doing a live update type blog if there's enough interest. It's looking like Campbell River and Comox will see significant winds tomorrow afternoon. 

Thanks for the comments and emails everyone. 

-#50ShadesofVan

Round 2. LAM-WEST:

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UPDATE (7:10 PM): Well not the news I want to pass on, but approximately 5000 customers are without power on southern Vancouver Island as of 7pm. I'm sure a few other neighbourhoods will be off the grid when all is said and done...

Have you noticed any flickers yet?

Outage map, provided by BC Hydro

Outage map, provided by BC Hydro


UPDATE (6;40 PM) Where's the low? I've taken a glance at the current satellite imagery and have it pegged about where I've drawn it on the map. Strongest SE winds for Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland will be within the next few hours, before a switch to westerlies. Right now expect scattered power outages on Vancouver Island, but nothing widespread. Pretty typical winter wind event for us tonight, it's just we've had so few of these storms this winter. Sunday could feature a notch stronger winds.

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UPDATE: 5:36 PM: Snow in Campbell River? Why not? Moderate wet snow over the past hour... We'll see where this goes...

Anyone else from Campbell River reporting snow at this hour? I'd assume it's just chunky rain at sea level, but who knows. 



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UPDATE 5:00PM: Extrapolating out the radar data, it looks like the heaviest amount of precipitation will be in the YVR vicinity within about 30 minutes. And, look at that. A giant doughnut whole in the radar. No, it's not broken. This is a perfect example of the Olympic Rain Shadow. The saturated air blows over the Olympic mountains, condenses, and loses most of it's moisture. More information this specific rain shadow can be found here.

Now, when can we expect the strongest winds both for Comox and YVR. I like to use a time-height graph, because it gives such a great visualization tool for the atmosphere, every layer in the troposphere being represented. I'll be switching to more observations from here on out with some nowcasting. 

Comox time-height: Don't panic, it looks overwhelming at first. Time advances right to left. I've highlighted the period of heaviest winds (our two storm systems). One tonight, the other later on Sunday. Vancouver's GFS time-height looks similar, although there's more of a post-frontal SW push. 

Comox maximum estimated winds

  • Saturday night: 40 knots
  • Sunday night: ~ 50 knots
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NOAA's latest Surface Analysis issued about 45 minutes ago shows the strong cold front and trough approaching the coast of BC that will bring strong winds, heavy rains, and a mega-dump of mountain snows

NOAA's latest Surface Analysis issued about 45 minutes ago shows the strong cold front and trough approaching the coast of BC that will bring strong winds, heavy rains, and a mega-dump of mountain snows

UPDATE (3:15 P.M.): Winds are starting to pick up in the Strait of Georgia and Strait of Juan de Fuca, approaching gale criteria. Race Rocks on southern Vancouver Island is close to 50 km/hr sustained and will climb through the evening. 

Windy at your house yet?

Rain (RA) has started to pick up in Vancouver the past hour, as shown on the local radar. 

One observation of note: Lincoln City, Oregon has recorded a gust of 120 km/hr. Outstanding!

Lowest pressure is found in the upper level corner of this mesoscale surface analysis with radar reflectivity as well. Current low pressure = 982 mb approximately

Lowest pressure is found in the upper level corner of this mesoscale surface analysis with radar reflectivity as well. Current low pressure = 982 mb approximately


UPDATE 1:00 p.m.: Watching our low closely as it will begin to travel NW towards northern Vancouver Island. On the map below, I've circled the triple point, or where the warm, cold, and occluded fronts meet on the map with a low pressure centre forming somewhere to the left. 

 Current snapshot with current fronts mapped out at 18Z. I've circled the critical point to watch for low development, the triple point

 Current snapshot with current fronts mapped out at 18Z. I've circled the critical point to watch for low development, the triple point

Latest satellite imagery from GOES-WEST. No clear low pressure centre defined...yet. But notice the popcorn sky behind the front? Lots of instability in the atmosphere that may bring with it heavier showers tomorrow and the risk of wet snow down to sea level away from the water tomorrow morning for Campbell River and the north Island. 

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UPDATE: 10:45 a.m.: This update, I just want to post a couple high resolution models to give readers and the public a little bit of a better idea of what kind of wind speeds to expect in their specific neighbourhood/city. These are some of the better wind models that exist today.

Next update I'll post a couple satellite images to see the developing low offshore and the expected track(s)

LAM-West: Canadian High Resolution Model

Winds modelled for 8PM PST: 40 Knot winds for Campbell River and Comox, with a strong southerly push towards Richmond as well with 40 knot winds remaining offshore. 40 knots = 75 km/hr 

Winds modelled for 8PM PST: 40 Knot winds for Campbell River and Comox, with a strong southerly push towards Richmond as well with 40 knot winds remaining offshore. 40 knots = 75 km/hr 

But... the SW wind shift forecasted at 9PM after might cause a few more problems with SW wind speeds sustained on the west beaches between 50-60 km/hr with higher gusts

To convert to km/hr multiply the knots by 1.85 to get speed in km/hr

To convert to km/hr multiply the knots by 1.85 to get speed in km/hr


UPDATE: 9:30 a.m.: Fresh off the press: The Canadian regional weather regional model delivers very heavy rain to the Tofino area this evening (25 mm possible in 3 hours), along with a sub 975 low making landfall between Brooks Peninsula and Tofino.

The AFD for Portland also suggested that due to the strength of the cold front approaching the coast paired with favourable upper level tilt in the trough, along with an increase of low level lapse rates may be enough to destabilize the atmosphere just enough so those on the immediate coast, be prepared for...

The occasional BOOM. 

A possible squall of thunderstorms to develop this evening...

3- hour precip amounts. blues and oranges are moderate to heavy rain (RA, +RA)

3- hour precip amounts. blues and oranges are moderate to heavy rain (RA, +RA)


Update 8:55 a.m. Both mesoscale UW models are in... GFS comes in at 975 mb, while NAM is a little bit stronger at 971 mb. Canadian model, your move.

UW MM5-NAM model shows a potent low (971 mb) off the tip of Vancouver Island this evening (7 p,m PST). Strong southereasterlies will pick up during the day ahead of the low and associated frontal system. With NAM forecasting a deeper low, it also models wind gusts in Georgia Strait at over 55 knots (or 100 km/hr)

UW MM5-NAM model shows a potent low (971 mb) off the tip of Vancouver Island this evening (7 p,m PST). Strong southereasterlies will pick up during the day ahead of the low and associated frontal system. With NAM forecasting a deeper low, it also models wind gusts in Georgia Strait at over 55 knots (or 100 km/hr)

WRF-GFS map of maximum gusts this evening (in knots). Race Rocks, near Victoria could see gusts above 50 knots, as well as Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal

WRF-GFS map of maximum gusts this evening (in knots). Race Rocks, near Victoria could see gusts above 50 knots, as well as Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal


Update 8:30 a.m: As the NAM model is fashionably late this morning, I'll show a chart already hinting at significant pressure drops (>6 mb/3hrs) off Vancouver Island

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Latest SREF plume for a Gulf Island in Washington State (~120 km south of YVR)

To read: Time advances left to right, but it's in zulu. Subtract 8 hours to get PST. Two storm systems are clearly marked with peaks of between 25-30 mph (Gusts will be significantly higher)

To read: Time advances left to right, but it's in zulu. Subtract 8 hours to get PST. Two storm systems are clearly marked with peaks of between 25-30 mph (Gusts will be significantly higher)


Update 8:00 a.m.: While waiting for the latest mesoscale models from the UW this morning along with the 12Z runs of the GEM, GFS, and EURO, might as well look at the latest rapid refresh models and short range ensemble forecasting (SREF)

Valid for 8PM tonight showing sustained wind close to 30 knots around Tsawwassen. 

Valid for 8PM tonight showing sustained wind close to 30 knots around Tsawwassen.