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Windstorm leaves many wondering where forecast went wrong

Saturday's storm certainly left a mess, but it also left a lot of us wondering if we were part of a joke. (King County Road Services)

It was being called one of the decade’s strongest storms and was even compared to the Hanukkah 2006 storm, but most of the Puget Sound area was spared from what we all feared.

By 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, power outages totaled well below 30,000, the number of downed trees was minimal, and many people were wondering if maybe someone mixed up Saturdays.

Related: Windstorm spares most of Puget Sound

So what actually happened? KIRO 7 Meteorologist Morgan Palmer explained:

“From a meteorological point of view – and in hindsight of a few hours – we see what happened. The low pressure that ran up the Oregon and Washington coast intensified quickly from next to nothing Friday to a formidable storm Saturday.”

“But it intensified far less than almost ALL of the computer forecast models and data – the best science – predicted it would.”

“By the time the early evening rolled around, analysis showed a storm with a central barometric pressure of 974 millibars (28.76 inches on your home barometer) OK, but not exactly an overachiever. (The higher the barometric pressure in a low pressure system, generally the weaker the wind speeds.)”

“Meteorologists believed that we would still get some good 50+ mph gusts in some areas and that did happen. However, widespread winds were thankfully avoided.”

“Exactly why so much of the computer modeling failed us will be something meteorologists will study to determine what went wrong in the multi-million dollar supercomputers. That will take some time.”

Related: History of big windstorms

The National Weather Service in Seattle offered up this explanation via Twitter:

That all said, there were outages and damage was done, but not to the extent of the Hanukkah Eve storm 10 years ago. That storm left one woman dead (flooding) and another 14 died due to carbon monoxide poisoning while trying to keep warm in the aftermath, reports historian Feliks Banel. Over one million people were without power across the state for days.

This time, it seemed merely a test of our emergency protocol. We were told all week the double whammy was coming and to be prepared for Saturday. So here we are left with a stockpile of candles, gas in the tank, and bags of useless ice. But thousands, or rather a million of us, prefer it that way.

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