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Cliff Mass: Winter-like storm in June was ‘quite a doozy’ for Washington

Jun 4, 2024, 7:00 AM

Image: These two trees were spotted down along the tree lines of the Burke-Gilman trail on Monday, ...

These two trees were spotted down along the tree lines of the Burke-Gilman trail on Monday, June 3, 2024. The trail was interrupted by several major treefalls after the significant storm last weekend. (Photo courtesy of Prof. Cliff Mass, University of Washington)

(Photo courtesy of Prof. Cliff Mass, University of Washington)

Tens of thousands of people were affected by early-morning power outages across Western Washington Monday as an atmospheric river June storm flooded the region with rainfall and seared it with strong winds.

Puget Sound Energy (PSE) initially reported outages are impacting approximately 15,000 people from Redmond to Graham to Olympia. Seattle City Light also reported outages that impacted thousands of customers.

It all stemmed from a storm that led to heavy winds and a number of trees breaking and/or falling across the area.

Power outages stretch across Western Washington: Thousands affected, school start times forced to be delayed

During an appearance on “The Jason Rantz Show” on KTTH Monday afternoon, meteorologist and University of Washington (UW) atmospheric sciences Prof. Cliff Mass explained how strong the storm was.

“Well, we had essentially a strong winter storm during the summer time and this was really quite a doozy. Winds gusted to 35 to 45 mph, you know, all over Western Washington,” Mass said. “And with the trees all leafed out, you know that’s danger. And there was a massive number of trees that were down. I biked in on the Burke-Gilman Trail (Monday) morning and it was virtually impassable in sections with trees down.”

Rantz went on to ask Mass about what explains a storm like this at this time of year. Mass discussed the atmospheric river event and its international origins.

“We have this unusual atmospheric river that pulled moisture all the way from off of China or across the Pacific and to us,” Mass explained. “And then a low center went to the north of us and that drew this moisture right into us. And also there was a strong difference in pressure because it was low. And so the moisture was streaming in.”

Mass then told Rantz that Western Washington residents are in a “break” now but another, albeit less severe, system is coming in Monday night.

“You know the main system has moved through you know the winds are starting to die down, but then another system comes in, you know to (Monday night to Tuesday) and that will bring in some more rain,” Mass stated on “The Jason Rantz Show” on KTTH. “I don’t think it’ll be quite as heavy and the winds will be quite as strong but you know we could get another pulse of rain.”

A ‘Pacific Northwest heat wave’ is coming

After Tuesday’s weather event comes and goes, Mass expects the weather in the Puget Sound region to get drier and warmer.

“We’ll get into a drying period as we get into later in the week and the temperatures will move back up into the 60s, into the and and even into the 70s,” Mass said. “So, it’s gonna be really improving once we get through that Tuesday storm.

Later, when Rantz called the temperatures getting into the 70s, a “Pacific Northwest heat wave,” Mass agreed. It will definitely warm up and feel a lot warmer as well, but it won’t reach the levels of the June 2021 heat wave that blistered Seattle and much of the Pacific Northwest.

“So, we’re not talking (the) 90s here. We’re just going to feel like a heat wave, but we’re we’ll be getting above normal,” Mass said. “Normal right now is the upper 60s. So, we could get, potentially, 10 degrees above that, which will be actually quite welcome after what we went through.”

More from Cliff Mass: ‘I don’t think they can say’ 2023 was the hottest year on record

Summer after July 4th in the Pacific Northwest

Mass’ appearance on “The Jason Rantz Show” on KTTH also featured an exchange about summer in the Pacific Northwest and its traditional arrival in the first week or two in July.

“If you plot up how much precipitation falls on average each day, there’s a tremendous drop after the July 4th weekend, Mass said to Rantz. “And, particularly around the periods from the 5th to the 15th of July, the bottom drops out and we dry out rapidly.”

Mass also noted that once we get to that dry period in July, this area in the country will be one of the most arid places in the U.S.

“By the time we get into mid-July, we are probably close to the driest place in the whole country for the next month or so. That’s when it happens, Mass said. “So, the National Weather Service has a joke: Summer starts on July 13th and that’s not that wrong.”

To hear more from Cliff Mass, including his opinion about a recent story in The Seattle Times about a possible drought in Washington and what he thinks the UW campus in Seattle is like now that the pro-Palestinian encampment has broken up and has been cleared, head here to listen or click on the player below.

Steve Coogan is the lead editor of MyNorthwest. You can read more of his stories here. Follow Steve on X, or email him here.

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Cliff Mass: Winter-like storm in June was ‘quite a doozy’ for Washington