Wind, cold series on deck for the Valley, but (alas) no Orioles

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Your forecaster had a mixed bag of results last week, but his current hitting streak as far as the weather goes is approaching DiMaggio-like numbers.

Rain arrived in Walla Walla on Friday - after a three-month hiatus - just as predicted, though in more generous amounts than originally thought.

After a day off Saturday, a second shot of precipitation doused the area late Sunday into early Monday. By the time it ended, the city was the grateful beneficiary of nearly three-quarters of an inch of rain that washed away 12 weeks of accumulated dust and grime.

The newly wet regime resulted from a shift in upper air currents that chased our persistent cell of high pressure off to the east. It's been replaced with a considerably moister "zonal" west to east flow directly off the Pacific, which helped guide a series of fronts across the state.

Though the forecast was spot-on regarding the incoming rainfall, no amount of wishing, hoping, begging, praying, cajoling or cursing could bring the same sort of good fortune to my beloved Orioles, who came up just a bit short in the fifth and final game of their divisional series with the much-reviled Yankees.

Thus continues a long pattern of bitterly disappointing losses by various Baltimore squads to a variety of insufferable Big Apple teams going back decades. Raul Ibanez is the latest to inscribe his name indelibly in the New York wing of the Baltimore "Hall of Infamy" -- alongside "Broadway" Joe Namath (Super Bowl III, 1969), Tommie Agee (two supernatural outfield catches in the '69 World Series) and 12-year-old Jeffrey Maier (a blatant fan interference "non-call' of an Oriole home run in Yankee Stadium that almost certainly cost the Orioles the 1996 American League Championship). Baltimore sports fans remember these events as if they occurred yesterday, and these most recent playoff games will be no exception.

As for my beloved Walla Walla Valley wine grapes, local growers were moderately inconvenienced by the weekend rains.

Picking had to be postponed in many vineyards so that fruit could dry, lest surface water dilute sugar levels below acceptable levels. Though most red grapes have thicker, tougher and more resistant skins than many of their white counterparts, prolonged periods of wet weather with little - if any - appreciable drying will eventually take a toll as fruit begins to break down, making it more susceptible to molds and rot.

In the middle of October, daylight hours are significantly reduced compared to even just a month ago and this combined with the cooler fall temperatures make both drying and further ripening extremely problematic.

Our area was scheduled for one more decent round of rainfall late last night into the early morning today along with a slight chance for a thunderstorm or two as a sharp cold front slices through eastern Washington.

The real story with this frontal passage will be the very strong winds that will result from a cold air-induced downward mixing of the low level jet stream whistling overhead in our part of the state. As cold air aloft sinks earthward it can bring with it high winds blowing across the lower reaches of the atmosphere.

Gusts following this latest front today could approach 45 mph, making it feel much cooler than it really is. But, thanks to recent rains, blowing dust should not be an issue this time around.

The real weather story is taking shape for next week with a possible incursion of unseasonably cold air, about which the forecasting models are having an entertainingly animated difference of opinion. However, in this case, there is a minimum of eye-rolling and gales of somewhat inappropriate laughter with opposing positions taken by the global and the European models.

The former brings a front through the region this coming Sunday or Monday, behind which minimum Valley temperatures may fall into the mid-20s. The latter is less bullish on this scenario but does envision some modest cooling.

The global model then brings in a very large slug of rain -- and possibly a flake or two of you-know-what -- for the week of Oct. 22, featuring an impressive rainstorm on the 23rd and a weekly total approaching a whopping 2 inches.

Your forecaster, whose polling numbers are already at an all-time high, may decide to toss his very well-worn Oriole hat into the political ring if all this comes about as just described. No malarkey!

A lifelong fan of both the weather and the Baltimore Orioles, Jeff Popick is an instructor at the Enology and Viticulture Center at Walla Walla Community College and manages the school's teaching vineyard. Send your questions and comments to him at jeffrey.popick@wwcc.edu.

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