Thursday, September 21, 2017

dry and hot and dry and - oh wait

After a dreadfully dry and decently warm summer, autumn arrived early. We received just under four inches of rain in 3½ days up on the hill-top! Thankfully the home was pretty well prepared: roof was cleaned, gutters emptied and spout-directors reattached before the deluge began. Three straight days of 1+ inches is rather rare around here, most especially in mid-September! A few dry days with morning fog are up next, then we'll see what comes after.

The Eagle Creek fire that has hit many Portland-area residents so hard was weakened considerably by the rainfall, though it's still less than 2/3 contained at this time. Somewhat calm and residual moisture should help to keep it mellow as fire crews get into the hot spots and finish this off. I believe Interstate 84 is still closed for east-bound travel as the danger of slides and large rockfalls will take some serious study to control!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

autumn awaits

We dropped below 50° last night, first of many as we shift to cooler weather. Nights have been clear as well as cool; the Milky Way is back after several bouts of smoke in recent weeks.

The most painful of the smoke sources came from the Eagle Creek fire, which east winds swept rapidly down-river. The Willamette valley was smokey for days, and even here we received a dusting of ash and the smell of smoke. The worst day of the bunch was in early September - 95 degrees, smoke and ash, and a funeral to attend.

captured from OregonLive website
The fire did not entirely wipe out the area marked in red, but much of the area suffered damage. Right along the creeks are likely rather lush in many spots, and the Multnomah Falls lodge was saved (as of today - the fire is still burning!). Sparks send the fire west during the strong east winds in early September, then the wind shifted and more recently the eastern edge has pushed eastward. Areas from Shepperds Dell to Herman Creek have been affected - and even a spot fire in Washington caught fire from the hard-blown embers! The Oregon side is too rugged to be a fair fight against fires, as the wind and near-vertical terrain does not allow for reasonable fire lines or any sense of control below the 4000-foot ridgetops. Interstate 84 has been closed for about a week, and the eastbound lanes won't be safe without checking a lot of charred slopes for imminent failure.

looking south from Longview as the east wind blows smoke out of the Gorge

This weekend we expect an inch or so of rain, which will help a great deal if winds don't swirl and lightning doesn't appear to restart the chaos. Hopefully the moisture will be pervasive and persistent, and nature can begin the healing process. Landslides will be the next worry once the fire is out, as the underbrush and roots will no longer hold back any strong runoff. Difficult times.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

a surreal 2017 continues

It's been an exceptional year in many ways. Not always good, but definitely riding the tails of the distribution curve!

  • Winter was amazing for its stretches of cold and snow, topped off by the 13 inches on Superbowl Sunday.
  • Spring was absurdly grey and damp - from 1Jul 2016 to 30Jun 2017 we had over 98 inches of rain!
  • Summer had its heat spells, no surprise there. What was decidedly uncommon was the amount of smoke west of the Cascades. A month or more ago it was fires from Canada whose smoke came south, then the past week smoke from southern Oregon came north. 
  • The past three days have seen the Gorge go up in flames, whipped to a frenzy by powerful east winds from Cascade Locks to Corbett. Portland (and even Longview) received a dusting of ash from the fires to our east. So many good memories of Gorge hikes are still intact, but they definitely won't look the same next time.
  • The sun disappeared for about 2 minutes.. but we knew that was coming at least!
  • In-laws in law John and Theo were taken from us in a brief heart-beat; their funeral was today as the ash drifted slowly to earth. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
The late afternoon at our home brought the first sign of several hoped-for change in the weather: the west wind arrived and knocked temperatures down 8 degrees in a half-hour, and before sunset temperatures fell into the 60s. Hooray! Next up, a chance of showers - though lightning could accompany them from the remnants of Lidia, which would be very bad. If the wind reverses in the Gorge the fire should fall back to already-charred areas and hopefully become more manageable. As with everything in life: we shall see.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

fire and shadow

Yes, a nest of Balrogs has taken over the Pacific NW region.
No? Guess it's another 'heat snap' then. 
Add heat, season with wildfire smoke and simmer. Live with it until you snap.
fires in north-central BC + NNW winds = yuk (yellow tint mine)

This heat was well advertised and anticipated. Models were forecasting 110°, which has never happened this side of a Medford-TheDalles line! The PDX weather folk explained how the 850hPa temperatures occasionally go wild in the models despite other pressure levels appearing typical for a midsummer blast. In this case the 28° Celsius at 850 hasn't happened (yet?) but the arrival of smoke from British Columbia has likely capped the intensity of the insolation.

Salem did measure 25°C (5am reading, yellow highlight) so we are capable of record-setting temperatures, and the Portland airport has set two new daily records. If the smoke clears a bit perhaps the elusive 108° could be achieved.. but forecasts are trending down as the smoke settles in for a few days.

Here on the hill-top we have hit the mid-90s the past two days, not comfortable but not 103 either! The smoky blanket could make tonight pretty miserable though. Portland's thermal blanket kept summertime lows in the mid-upper 60s at times, and we have not missed those nights in the least. However, last night dropped only to 68.7° - warmer than KPDX! - and we may see worse tonight. By late Friday the marine push should arrive, but it is expected to be a weak one that knocks us to the lower 80s by Monday. No rain or serious clouds expected, though an outside chance of thunder as the heat breaks over the weekend.
We shall see..

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

3Aug: PDX stopped at 105° as of 7PM. We again bottomed out around 67°, warmer than Portland - I guess we are closer to 850MB than they are! According to this site, not much though - and another site suggests we're at 985hPa. Fun facts!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

another heat snap

Two days of 100° in Portland, we did slightly better in that regard. However, Saturday's high of 97 happened after 7pm! That was a very warm night, and we chose it to cook hotdogs over a small pit-fire. We went to bed after 1AM, my third straight night of poor sleep-times. Sunday got just past 90 before the west winds won out, and by nightfall it was below sixty degrees - amazing how well that works once it kicks in!

Now we're expecting a week of AM clouds and highs in the 70s. That's ideal for yard tasks like finishing the garden area, checking our roof for issues after that long winter, and other outdoor chores. Or just sitting on the deck, listening to the thrush and watching the Monarchs flutter by..

Sunday, May 28, 2017

not so hot

Our first heat waves are in the books, and they were pleasantly brief and ended with strong west winds that kept the house cool. As noted before the first one ended with thunder and a lot of rain; nothing so dramatic this time.

Today was an excellent day: we awoke to morning clouds that burned away just before 10AM. Most of the day from noon to 6PM was low 70s but a quick half-hour pushed the high to 79°. A couple of hours later the west wind came in a rush, and at 7:45 we are in the mid-50s!

An excellent day to get work done, relax, and work a little more. A few well-placed fans and the house cools quickly. The next several days will be in the 60s so that was just enough fun for now.

I've pressure-washed our deck - again - so if tomorrow is the last Warm Day we can get it stained. I washed it thoroughly last fall but timing was off for a staining, so it endured the harshest winter I'd ever seen!

The day was also excellent thanks to my encounter with three deer in our yard. They were distracted by a neighbor's chain saw so I got to the edge of the deck just before they romped over to the edge of our yard nearest to the deck, about 20 feet away. I clucked softly and they looked me over, but preferred my sound to the ones next door. I took a 1-minute video and here's a snip from it. The one on the right is still watching for the chain-saw!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Thrush Day '17

We have not heard the call of a Swainson's Thrush yet, but one has been seen a few times today as it visited our holly-tree. The talented little bird hovers briefly as it snatches berries from the branch before darting in for a perch.


Last year the thrush was first heard on 5/18, so it's right on time this year! Given the cold and wet seasons we've had, the thrush's timely arrival is very impressive; I had expected a delay. So much for that!

Update, 5.17
Sitting outside at 8pm, listening to the b'wit? and whi-burrr thrush chants. No spiraling song at this point, but warmer weather is coming; perhaps sunshine will do the trick.

May 18th is yet again our date for the first full thrush-call! Curiously enough, that's the only time I've heard the spiral call (as of 6 June)..

Final update - for the past two weeks the spiraling call has dominated our air-waves. Well, other than that turkey now caged at the top of our hill..