From record heat to record relief as temps drop over 40 degrees in hours

Seattle glows orange as the sun sets behind hazy skies hours after the city set its all-time temperature record of 108 degrees. (Photo: Sigma Sreedharan Photography)

The relief couldn't come fast enough after temperatures soared to ridiculous levels around Western Washington Monday, where triple-digits were common and several towns even reached 110

Mother Nature tried to oblige.

A marine push carrying significantly cooler ocean breezes came rolling up the coast Monday afternoon, finally making its way inland during the late evening and overnight hours. Meteorologically, it was a simple wind shift – no thunderstorms or big cold front required – but the results were dramatic, and may have been the most celebrated event in town since the Seahawks won the Super Bowl.

That wind shift cut off the blasting hot east winds from the interior and allowed the cooler air that had been parked over our 55 degree ocean to move in, sparking incredible temperature drops -- some to a magnitude not experienced in decades.

Hoquiam got the ball rolling late Monday morning with a sudden drop from 94 degrees to 72 degrees in two hours as the wind shifted and trailing fog moved up the coast. 

But with the delay in reaching the North Coast until late evening, it allowed Forks to bake to levels never before seen, much less fathomed by long time meteorologists. As the super-heated air mass hung overhead, courtesy of a record-breaking ridge of high pressure, strong easterly flow sank down the western side of the Olympic Mountains. 

Sinking air provides additional warming and the conditions combined to bring absurd temperatures that reached as high as 110 degrees at the Quillayute Airport near Forks, and a report of 118 degrees at the nearby Sol Duc River reporting station. The 118-degree reading, if confirmed, would tie the statewide record for highest temperature recorded. (That record will likely fall Tuesday with hotter temperatures forecast in Eastern Washington.)

But just as the thermometer reached 110 around 3 p.m., the southwesterly wind came to the rescue and began to push away that heat blaster, and the temperature began to fall…

…and fall.  And fall…

At 4 p.m. it was 81 degrees. By 6 p.m. it was 73. By 8 p.m. if you didn't have a sweatshirt on you were likely freezing as it was now down to 63 degrees with a 22 mph wind as mist hung in the foggy air.  For those scoring at home, that is a plunge from 110 to 63 degrees in 5 hours -- a record for Forks! Their previous record for, let's even say 6 hours, had been a 38-degree drop.

Forks, Wash. records for largest 6 hour temperature drop. (Chart courtesy: Iowa State Meteorology)

But Forks wasn't alone. The push made similar dramatic entries across the western half of the state. In Port Angeles, the temperature dropped from 97 to 72 in just under an hour at my parents' home:

Temperature shown in Port Angeles, Wash. on June 28, 2021. (Via: Rick Sistek)

Here you can see how the wind shifted (from east to west in this case) and made the rapid cool down:

Weather conditions shown in Port Angeles, Wash. on June 28, 2021. (Via: Rick Sistek)

You might say someone was happy:

Shelton too had quite the dramatic turn of weather events. They had peaked at 110 in the late afternoon, and were sitting at 106 at 7 p.m. when the marine air began shooting through the Chehalis Gap. An hour later it was down to 80. Next hour it was down to 69.

By 10 p.m. -- just three hours later! -- it was 64 degrees with southwest wind gusting to 35 mph and *light rain*?!?!?  With the wind, it felt like it was in the 50s. 

Their entire 46-degree 6-hour temp drop of 109-63 is also a record.

The push waited until later to reach Seattle, but still managed to slice 46 degrees off their record-smashing day, knocking the city from 108 in the late evening to 62 by the pre-dawn hours. The 40-degree drop over 6 hours and 46-degree drop over 12 hours are both the most on record at Sea-Tac.

Let's hope all these records we've set the past 24 hours stand the test of time -- we could use a break!


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