It’s January. A bit of wind is blowing by, naturally. Depending on where you are on the island it’s an opportunity for storm chasers, an excuse to stay indoors with a good book and a bottle of wine, or it’s necessary to chase down garbage cans. Sailors and kite surfers may go play in and with it, dressed appropriately, of course.
Compared to many places, Whidbey is only moderately windy. Check the Global Wind Atlas. Washington State’s busiest places are in the mountains and on the east side of the Cascade Range, over by Ellensburg. There, you can see windmill farms mixed in with orchards and fields. There’s less of that on the island, but compared to the rest of the Puget Sound, parts of Whidbey Island are windswept enough to warrant road signs warning about crosswinds. Other parts sit in weather shadows. Take your pick.
Be impressed with the Navy fliers on the north end of the island. Their airfields line up nicely with the Straits of Juan de Fuca. North and south of there, storms coming in from the Pacific spend their energy in those mountains, the Olympics and Canada’s Vancouver Island. Oak Harbor is dealt the honor of witnessing winds that funnel down the Strait. Great practice for pilots who fly from carriers that pass through those storms at sea.
The island’s mid-latitude feels those same winds closer to shore. That just happens to be at Fort Casey, a park and landmark made famous in Office and a Gentleman. It’s also a fine place for storm watching. What better place to watch the weather than in a fort? The parade grounds there, and at neighboring Camp Casey are great for kite festivals. Walk along Ebey’s Landing and meet trees that grow despite the challenge. The ferry to Port Townsend, however, looks forward to the quieter days. The terminal sits beside the fort and can get bounced about a bit. Want to see how windy things are in nearly real-time? The Washington State Ferries measure the wind as they travel their routes. They even have a web site for it, in case you are curious.
It may be hard to see, but look at a few dots down by the southern tip of the island. I live there. Storms may be blocked by the Olympics, but they also can come up from the south. The Sound funnels them just as the Straits do. Lined up just right with nothing but water and the southern tip get grunt as it bears the brunt of storms. A short video from a few years ago shows why it’s good to postpone playing on the beach until calmer weather. Surf plus wind plus driftwood plus high tide creates a rather dynamic environment. One person’s worry is another person’s play, though, as the kite surfers prove.
For most of the island, enjoy the quiet. Sure, wind doesn’t stop at the shore; but it doesn’t take much of a setback to find calmer places, places that are quiet compared to most of the country. Places that welcome flags, wind chimes, and straighter trees – and neighborhoods that don’t have to be so careful with garbage cans.