Why is Northwest Washington getting hit so hard? +Defending Randy Dorn

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Its back..... No, not some ghostly apparition...the winds. Here in Seattle the trees are moving again and once in a while I can hear the roar of an approaching gust. (aside...gusts are associated with the downward movement of high speed air from aloft associated with turbulence in the lower atmosphere).

But what is happening here in Seattle is NOTHING compared to the strong winds hitting NW Washington, from Whidbey Island to Bellingham to the San Juans. The power was taken out over large portions of the San Juan's in last nights blow and another wind event is back tonight. Jim Forman from KING-5 TV appears to be camping out in Mt. Vernon, providing dramatic descriptions of the perils of the winds. Be scared, be very scared. Winds gusted to around 70 mph in exposed locations of the San Juan's last night and the rest of the area was close behind.

The wind observations from Smith Island...right off of Whidbey Is....tells the story. Winds gusting to 50 kts day after day! And the winds are coming back up now as we speak! (although it probably won't be quite as bad as last night). Look at a recent wind plot:Strong southeasterlies hitting the San Juans and N Whidbey, but nearly calm in Sequim and Port Angeles. Why this pattern night after night? Can't it give Jim Foreman a break?

The reason for all this is that we have had a sequence of lows or troughs moving across Northern Vancouver Island. This has done two things--created a strong pressure change along the axis of the Strait of Georgia AND sent strong southerlies against the Olympics. When strong southerlies approach that mountain barrier we get enhance high pressure on the windward (southern) side and a lee trough (low pressure) on the northern side near Sequim and Port Angeles. Between the two is an enhanced pressure difference. The superposition of both influences creates a large pressure difference that really accelerates the air moving in NW Washington.
You can see this effect in the forecast pressure and wind pattern for last night (see graphic)Comments on Randy Dorn's Statement

Today Randy Dorn made a courageous, but absolutely correct, announcement. The state will delay the math graduation requirements and will have a two tiered system--students who don't pass the end of course exams at "proficient" level will be able to graduate at a "basic" level if they take more coursework. The Seattle Times has gone after him...accusing him of "blinking" under pressure. But they are quite wrong.

No one wants a more rapid transition to better math instruction and student skills than I and others at the UW. We see firsthand the impact of poor math skills and preparation. But it is absolutely unfair to threaten and deny graduation to our high school seniors when we have provided them with an inferior math education.

The math standards have just recently been changed..they are improved but really not good enough. Many of our districts are using terrible textbooks--long on talk and short on real math. Seattle has extraordinarily poor "discovery" math books at all three levels, and major districts like Issaquah are determined to use books found to be unsound by state mathematicians. Many teachers, and particularly elementary school teachers, don't have sufficient math backgrounds. Fixing these problems and changing the attitudes in our problematic Ed schools will take time.

But some well-meaning, but confused, individuals, such as the editorial writer of the Seattle Times and some business types, believe that pushing a high-stakes exam will somehow fix all the problems. That is complete nonsense. We have lots of exams at the state universities and colleges...entrance exams that test real math needed for real world problems. And you know something? Many of our entering students..the creme of the crop..are failing (more than 50% in community colleges). We had the WASL for years and math capabilities sunk to amazing lows. Randy Dorn believes we need time to fix a failed system left to him by Terry Bergeson and others and he is right. Are we ready to deny graduation to 20, 30 or 40% of our seniors? I really doubt it. And it is not a good idea.
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