Lightning, thunder show dazzles Edmonds

By Brian Soergel | Sep 08, 2019
Courtesy of: Mike McMurray

Story updated Sept. 12:

It takes a freak of nature to turn away from the TV during the golden era of prestige TV – even more so during prime time.

But anecdotal evidence from Edmonds (OK, evidence gathered from an Edmonds living room) suggests that Saturday night’s explosive thunder and lightning show did just that. Remotes killed TV signals, blinds and curtains rose, and more than a few awestruck Edmondsites witnessed a storm that lit up the sky with craggy bolts of lightning and cracked a few explosive thunderclaps seemingly parked over our fair city.

There was some concrete evidence, as well.

“Turned off the TV and sat and watched the show,” said Cheri Neil, a local real estate agent. “Magnificent!”

Some took it in stride, but with an aside that echoed the thoughts of many.

From Lynn Lusson Magill, on the Beacon’s Facebook page: “Only our new dog from out of the country freaked out; the rest snored through it. But I will say I’ve never seen lightning and thunder like that in my entire lifetime that I’ve lived in this area.”

“Best storm since I moved to Washington 17 years ago,” John Hood wrote.

“I love these random storms that we get every once in awhile,” added Jeff Stark, who captured a lightning bolt in a picture he shared.

Beacon readers were on to something.

The National Weather Service recorded more than 2,200 lightning strikes in western Washington between 6 and 11 p.m. Saturday night. No surprise here: Snohomish County led the way with 449, followed by Pierce County with 447, Lewis County with 345, and Skagit County with 324.

King County recorded 224.

While Saturday’s show was for many a welcome rare dose of real weather, one strike did have consequences.

A bolt struck a private vessel at the Port of Edmonds’ dry storage racks at about 8:30 p.m. Both the Edmonds police and South County Fire responded.

“There were no injuries or visible fire, but the boat was damaged,” said Port Executive Director Bob McChesney. “It was a bad storm. But it could have been much worse.”

A rare storm

Indeed, Saturday night was different. A few thunderstorms may hit Edmonds and western Washington each year, but they quickly skedaddle.

This one lingered like a fussy relative.

Cliff Mass, the popular University of Washington meteorologist, explained on his blog:

“To get strong thunderstorms, the key requirements are an unstable atmosphere – one that will convect if air parcels are lifted – and something that will push the air parcels upwards until they can rise on their own.

“And for Saturday night's thunderstorms, we needed something else as well – winds aloft that would direct the thunderstorms away from their generation points in the Cascades and up Puget Sound.”

Mass also mentioned the so-called blob of warm water off the West Coast, which last made headlines in 2014-2015.

“The blob not only contributed to warmth at the surface but more water vapor – important fuel for instability,” Mass wrote.

He concluded: “So we had the trifecta for Puget Sound thunderstorms: Great instability, a sharp trough aloft given strong lift, and the perfect winds to drift the storms over the lowlands.”

Want more? Head to Mass’ blog at cliffmass.blogspot.com.

Want more thunderstorms? Enjoy Florida at about 4 p.m. just about every day during summer.


Original story:

Mike McMurrary of Edmonds captured this shot of lightning last night, Sept. 7, from Emerald Hills.

Get any good shots?

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At the Edmonds Marina, lightning struck a private vessel in dry storage racks, at about 8:30 p.m., said Port of Edmonds Executive Director Bob McChesney.

South County Fire and Edmonds police responded.

"No injuries, or visible fire, but the boat was damaged," McChesney said. "It was a bad storm, but could have been much worse. Looking forward."

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