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Jason Holliston
Tuesday, July 15, 2003  
Tropical Cyclones

I love how the national media writes about weather. You look around the Internet news sources today, and you see great headlines like this:

Hurricane Claudette Roars Ashore in Texas
Hurricane Claudette Hits Texas Coast, Moves Inland
Hurricane Claudette slams Texas coast
Hurricane Grinds Ashore in Texas; No Casualties Reported
Hurricane Claudette Lashes Texas Coast

Let's see here. Roars, hits, slams, grinds, and lashes. Wonderful!

So, living here in Portland, Oregon, we don't really have a "hurricane" season like those lucky folk in the South and East. Following the story of Hurricane Claudette and seeing the pictures of the trees thrashing, roofs flying, and cars drowning has had me doing a little research about what makes a hurricane and if we ever get them on the Western Seaboard. Found out that we pretty much don't.

Eastern Pacific hurricanes stay away from the U.S. West Coast for two main reasons:

The general east-to-west flow of winds in the tropics carry the storms into the open Pacific Ocean.
The water off the California coast is very cold. This tends to kill the few storms that do turn back toward the east.

Interesting. But what about the Columbus Day Storm in 1962? The winds did reach 119 miles per hour that day, an the Pacific Northwest and northern California were hit pretty hard. Doesn't that qualify as a hurricane? Guess not.

From time to time winds above 75 mph hit the Pacific Coast, especially the Northwest Coast. While these are "hurricane force" winds, they are not from hurricanes, but from strong extratropical storms.

That's enough meterology learnin' for today, I think.

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