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East winds reached gale-force gusts of 89 mph at Crown Point in the Columbia River Gorge on Thursday afternoon. While the wind gusts decreased to 80 mph several hours later, the gusty winds will continue through Friday, reports KGW News.
The dry, windy storm on the gorge wreaked havoc early Thursday morning when a tug boat hauling four barges ran aground after being pushed by heavy winds. The tug, towing four barges — one empty and the others full of grain — got stuck in the sand off of McGuire Island, at about 3:20 a.m. PT, on the Oregon side of the river in the Portland suburb, Fairview, according to a press release from the marine shipping company, Tidewater, around noon.
In a separate nearby accident, Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office Marine Patrol Deputies and a Gresham Fire Department boat responded to a call reporting a small boat with people onboard had hit pilings. No one was hurt, and those aboard did not want assistance, so the deputies departed, according to KGW.
Gale-Force Wind Gusts Common in Columbia River Gorge
Extremely high winds are not uncommon in the Columbia River Gorge. Crown Point overlooks the river between Oregon and Washington. It is almost 700 feet above the river, and visitors are met with gale-force wind gusts in the fall and winter as high as 115 mph, such as those recorded on Jan. 20, 2014.
Gales are typically discussed using nautical terms: The U.S. National Weather Service defines a gale as 34-47 knots or 39-54 mph of sustained surface winds. Another type of strong gale-force wind on land is a tornado: Using an F-scale number the Fujita Scale, when the wind speed is 40-72 mph, it is designated as a gale tornado, 73-112 mph is considered a moderate tornado, and 113-157 is a significant tornado.
Based on the Fujita Scale, the gale-force wind gusts recorded in the Gorge and Crown Point fall under moderate and significant tornadoes. Although rare, tornados have touched down in Multnomah County. For example, in 1972, an F3 (156-206 mph), and in 1991 there was an F1 twister measuring sustained winds of 73-112 mph.
No tornadoes were reported in the past 24 hours, but the gale-force winds continue in the county whipping untethered things like trash cans, lawn furniture, and limbs torn from trees. The hidden blessing in the turbulent air is the stagnant air warning has dissipated, making breathing easier for those with chronic asthma and other bronchial illnesses.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
KGW 8 News: Clear and windy weather continues. Rain returns Sunday; by Matt Zaffino
KGW 8 News: Tidewater grain barge stuck in Columbia River; by Anthony Macuk and Pat Dooris
KGW 8 News: Willamette, Columbia river levels will stay lower longer this year due to drought; by Keely Chalmers
FOX 12 News: 115 mph in Gorge Today; Windiest in Oregon So Far This Winter; by Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelson
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Shannon Kringen’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Nicholas D.’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License