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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Another windy day

We were all set for a MAJOR blow here in Newport yesterday.  NWS (National Weather Service) was predicting gusts to 60 knots while some of the folks on the docks were saying they'd heard we were going to get gusts up to 90 miles per hour.  All day I kept tuning in to the NWS weather station to hear if things had been updated but 60 knot gusts are as high as they ever predicted.  Just before I went to bed last night, I found out where they were getting their 90 mph predictions: off the stupid local radio stations.  Now I've been aware for quite awhile that the so-called "news" on radio and TV tends to be somewhat overblown, but come on!  If they aren't using information from NWS to make their predictions, what are they doing, just making up whatever sounds spectacular?  Trouble is, after listening to these sources over the years, I've gotten a skewed idea of what various conditions should feel like.  25-30 knot winds should just seem like a fresh breeze if you base things on what the TV/Radio weathermen tell you.

Awhile ago, we bought a Kestrel wind monitor so we could start getting a feel for what various wind speeds feel like.  Putting names to faces, so to speak.  I was so disappointed the first couple of times I used it because, even though it seemed to me like it was blowing pretty darn hard (what I would have estimated as 20-25 knots), I couldn't get the wind gauge to read much over 12-13 knots except during the gusts when it might almost reach 20.

Yesterday we were predicted to get 30-35 knot winds with gusts to 50 (later amended to 60) knots.  I checked the NWS site today. They have weather stations along the coast and one is about a mile from where we're moored.  It's sitting on a sandy knoll above South Beach where the south jetty starts.  So the weather there is going to be very similar to here although the weather station's wind speeds will probably be a bit higher.  The weather station readings are recorded hourly and posted to the internet.  So here's how yesterday shaped up:


11177:00 am  SW1518

11176:00 am  S1823

11175:00 am  S1921

11174:00 am  SW1922

11173:00 am  SSW2330

11172:00 am  SSW2124

11171:00 am  SW2325

111712:00 am  WSW2125

111611:00 pm  SSW4048

111610:00 pm  S2734

11169:00 pm  S3241

11168:00 pm  S4252

11167:00 pm  S3136

11166:00 pm  S3850

11165:00 pm  S3139

11164:00 pm  S3337

11163:00 pm  S2935

11162:00 pm  S3341

11161:00 pm  S3540

111612:00 pm  S3241

111611:00 am  S2933

111610:00 am  S2935

11169:00 am  S3038

11168:00 am  S2934

What does it all mean?  Well, it flat blew yesterday.  Just before I went to bed, a gust came through and heeled the boat 10 degrees to port. And held her there for a few seconds.  Probably would have heeled further but the mooring lines on the starboard side held her.  This is in a protected (well, sort of) harbor.  At times, as I was walking up the dock or across the parking lot, I had to stop and plant myself with both feet to keep from losing my footing.  The boats in the marina were all dancing in their slips.  Tarps were blown off.  Canvas covers were unsnapped by the wind.  I mean it blew!  But look at the recorded wind speeds.  Mostly in the mid-30s (as predicted).  A few excursions over 40 knots but the highest gusts recorded were 50 and 52 knots.  Since 1 knot = 1.15 mph, that's recorded gusts of 57.5 to 60 mph.  A far cry from 90 mph.

So, big deal, what's my point?  My point is, take your TV and Radio weather predictions with several grains of salt.  They seem to cater to the portion of our brain that wants to be able to say we suffered.  Think about it.  When you're talking about the weather with your co-workers, don't you usually relate the report you heard that had the most dire prediction?  When it's cold and 2 weathermen say it's going to get down to 20 and one says it's going to get down to 15, which one do you repeat?  Same thing when it's hot.  We're suffering from weather inflation and as a consequence, when I'm reading my sailing magazines and the writer talks about sailing in 15-20 knots of wind, I have the idea that this is just a gentle breeze.  It's not.  15-20 knots is a fairly stout wind if my Kestrel is to be believed. 


Anonymous said...

I used Weatherunderground.com for my weather while on Satori. They have a marine section thats got lots of real time info. Back when I was flying the NWS had stations all over with real weathermen (and women). They usually remained in their area for their careers so they got a good "feel" for the local weather. Now its all computers and they have lost a lot of the "feel". We also had a front come through. Slept right through it and never felt a gust. I miss that. Have a good week! Ken

Shelly and Randy said...

Found the posting ironic. Seems like I've worried about the weather in my work since about 1978; what to wear the next day, will the damn generator kick on over the weekend, are the sediment basins going to hold, how much stormwater will we have to deal with... Do you think when I retire, I will still watch the weather every day? S.