Washington state is the second most populous state on the west coast and an incredible place to live in by all standards. While this state is great in many respects, you should know the likelihood of natural disasters there. So, can Washington state get hurricanes?
No. It’s rare for the state to have hurricanes due to its location near the Pacific. For there to be a hurricane, the ocean must have a temperature of at least 80 degrees F, and higher altitude winds must be present. This rarely happens in the Pacific Ocean. However, the state has other disasters.
Common disasters in the state include flooding, wildfires, severe storms, landslides, and earthquakes. Here, we discuss whether Washington state gets hurricanes.
Hurricane Occurrence in Washington State
Hurricanes rarely happen in Washington state. This is because of the absence of conditions necessary for a hurricane to form in the state. Hurricanes are tropical cyclones with maximum persistent winds of 74 mph or higher. They happen mostly in the Atlantic, where the water is warmer. Since Washington State is near the Pacific Oceans, the conditions here aren’t favorable for a hurricane to form.
However, the state does experience windstorms that are strong enough to reach typhoon or hurricane level, but they’re not technically hurricanes or typhoons. Even the strong winds aren’t so common here. The state has storm-induced mid-latitude cyclones, which are hurricane-force winds, although they’re usually a bit wider than hurricanes. Washington state has had a hurricane before. A category 1 hurricane hit the state in 1975. It formed on August 31 and raged till September 5. It was at its peak on September 3.
Conditions Necessary for Hurricane Formation
Two major conditions must be present. These are:
1. Ocean Temperature
There are several factors responsible for the formation of a hurricane. But perhaps the most important is the ocean temperature. The ocean needs to be warm, with a temperature of at least 80 degrees. This often happens in the North Atlantic Ocean. The Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic Oceans, and Caribbean waters along the US east coast are usually warm in the hurricane peak season.
But things are different in the eastern Pacific oceans. On the West Coast, the waters are usually very cold. The Pacific Ocean is usually cool, with the temperature being in the low 80s at the deepest. The upper parts are in the 60s. The ocean water flows southward and keeps the warm waters south of the California and Mexico border. So, any hurricane in this part usually happens far away from the west coast and Washington state.
2. High Altitude Wind Flow
It takes warm waters for a hurricane to develop, but it needs high wind flow to move. Hurricanes usually move in the direction that the high-altitude winds push them. The trade winds have an east-to-west flow in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans tropical region. These winds will push the hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean towards the eastern US and the Caribbeans. The same winds in the Pacific Ocean push hurricanes away from the mainland into the open ocean.
There are some instances where the hurricane will break through the wind and head for the mainland, mostly California or Baja California. But it usually encounters cold waters that lessen any impact it might have.
Tropical Seasons in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans
The tropical season in the Atlantic is between June 1 and November 30. This is when most hurricanes are prone to develop over the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, or the northern Atlantic. There are usually 6 hurricanes on average per year, and at least one of them usually makes an impact on the
On the other hand, the Pacific Ocean has its tropical season, which runs from May 15 to November 30. There’s an average of 8 hurricanes annually. But the hurricanes rarely make it to the west coasts because the formation is usually on the South American coast at the equator. Due to the earth’s axis rotation, the formed hurricanes move away from the North American mainland. If it moves in this direction, the cold waters of the pacific will most likely kill it.
Common Natural Disasters In Washington State
The state might not experience hurricanes, but that doesn’t mean it’s free from several natural disasters. These include:
The state experiences earthquakes more frequently even though most aren’t so powerful. But earthquakes are one of the major natural disasters the place is prone to. It has about 1000 earthquakes, with most being too small to notice. Still, it’s second on the list of states which potentially cause massive destruction. Major earthquakes aren’t so common in the state. The most significant in recent times is the Nisqually Earthquake in 2001, which had a magnitude of 6.8.
The Seattle fault can produce a magnitude 7 earthquake, and the South Whidbey Island Fault can produce a magnitude 7.5 earthquake. In addition, the Cascadia subduction zone can produce a 9.0 magnitude earthquake, which means that the state is prone to a massive earthquake in the future.
The US Geological Survey reported that flooding is the major natural disaster in Washington. Severe floods happen here very often due to the high volume of precipitation. This can be due to rapid snowmelt from strong winds or high rainfall. Floods here usually come after intense rainfall that lasts for around the same period throughout the state.
The summer months are peak periods for wildfire in the state, which has over 1000 wildfires annually. By law, summer starts by mid-April and lasts till mid-October. The Okanogan Complex Fire in 2015 was made up of 5 different fires and was one of the most severe in the state in recent times.
4. Severe Storms
The state also faces heavy storms such as thunderstorms, hail, lightning, and wind. Strong wind gusts happen more often here, but severe thunderstorms are occasional. Most parts of the states experience heavy storms every 15 years,
The state is mountainous, making it prone to landslides. Hundreds occur yearly, and it’s important to avoid areas where they’re most likely. Most landslides here have little impact, but those can be quite severe.
Washington state isn’t prone to hurricanes. But it has other natural disasters that can be damaging or even worse. Thus, it’s important to be safe and pay attention to all weather warnings, and leave disaster-prone areas as soon as you get the alert.