The first of two storms expected to pummel the Olympic Peninsula is forecast to hit Thursday night, only two days before what forecasters are saying could be one of the strongest storms in Pacific Northwest history.
Officials say to prepare for power outages and heavy rain with the first storm, especially on the west and east ends of the Olympic Peninsula.
The coast could see 30 to 35 mph sustained winds with gusts upward of 55 mph in the first storm, Andy Haner, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said Wednesday.
On the northeast of the Peninsula near Port Townsend, residents could see winds near 30 mph with 45 to 50 mph gusts, Haner said.
He said Port Angeles is in a fortunate location — north of the Olympic Mountains — and should be shadowed from the worst of the storm.
In anticipation of the storms, Sequim is activating its emergency operations center at about 3 p.m. Thursday, and city crews will be on call throughout the weekend to respond as necessary, according to a news release.
“Even the [storm] coming in [Thursday] by most measures would be a respectable storm,” Haner said.
Then there’s the storm expected Saturday, remnants of Super Typhoon Songda racing east across the Pacific Ocean.
“Saturday, it’s a powerful storm and we know it’s coming, where it’s coming from,” he said. “What we still have yet to learn is where it will track. That will make a huge difference in how bad the impacts for the area are.”
Regardless of how the storm tracks, the coast can expect to be hit hard, he said. The coast, La Push and Forks areas could see 40 to 55 mph sustained winds with gusts up to 75 mph, Haner said.
Whether the Saturday storm heads north toward Vancouver Island or plows into the Puget Sound will determine how bad it is on the east side of the Olympic Peninsula.
The Port Townsend area Saturday could get everything from 30 mph winds with 50 mph gusts to 45 mph winds with 65 mph gusts, Haner said.
“The worst-case scenario with this would a historic, memorable and destructive windstorm for a large portion of Western Washington,” he said. “The best case would be a less remarkably windy day.”
He estimated a 1-in-3 chance for the worst-case scenario.
The Weather Service’s forecast for the remainder of the week was echoed by meteorologist Cliff Mass, who wrote in his blog “we will enter a period of extraordinarily active weather with the potential for heavy rain, flooding and a highly dangerous windstorm with the potential to be an historic event.”
Models show the storm heading north through Vancouver Island. But if those models are wrong, the Puget Sound could be hit with massive power outages and damage, according to Mass.
Not only is the storm Saturday expected to be nearly as intense as the 1962 Columbus Day storm, but it also started similarly as a typhoon over the western Pacific, he wrote.
Mass calls it “a true monster storm,” saying it has the potential to be as strong as the 1962 Columbus Day Storm, the most powerful storm in Northwest history.
“Folks should get prepared now for a storm like that,” Haner said. That includes getting batteries and fuel, charging personal electronics and stocking up on food.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.