What in the world could possibly blow down more than 100 trees in the middle of a national park when no other major weather event was recorded in the area?
That’s a good question, and one that could be explained either simply — it was a downdraft wind — or through a Sherlock Holmes-style breakdown of events, courtesy local weather guru Cliff Mass.
To wit: In the wee morning hours of Jan. 27, 2018, some kind of significant wind event managed to blow down 110 trees across a large swath of forest on the north shore of Lake Quinault, on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.
Such wind was not recorded at nearby weather stations, nor did radar records from the time show anything more than some high and low pressure systems meeting, according to Mass.
The explanation espoused by The Daily World was that the wind came from a “microburst,” a rare wind event that creates a downward wind in a localized area.
But a National Weather Service meteorologist told Mass it would’ve taken winds of 70 to 80 mph to snap trees off in the way it happened that night, so Mass dismissed that possibility.
National Park Service reports to Mass indicated that the wind event likely came from the north — a northerly wind — and records showed a seismic record of the event. In other words, it was such a force of trees falling that it looked like a small earthquake.
That’s some wind.
But surface wind records from around the time of the incident didn’t show any major winds, and those that were recorded were blowing in the wrong direction.
No convective system that would created a “microburst,” either, according to Mass.
The only thing that could, possibly, have created the wind to down the trees was this: “a frontal zone was approaching, with warm air and southerly flow surging in aloft, while cooler easterly flow dominated near the surface.”
Mass noted that the front was linked with a low pressure system that did produce some strong winds around Western Washington later that day, but still, at the time, no major winds recorded nearby.
So what caused 110 trees to blow down in the middle of a forest?
That mystery remains unsolved.