Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Pineapple Express

Last week, it seemed as though winter had come early. Temperatures were well below seasonal averages, with Portland seeing highs in the low 40's and large parts of the Intermountain West staying well below freezing. Last week I woke up in Kalispell to 5 degree F temps. That was a cold preflight, but visions of powder-filled slopes kept my spirits high. Bring on the cold, the rain, the wind: ski season is nigh!

And then again, maybe not. Today the Pacific Northwest got walloped by a warm, moist airmass known as the Pineapple Express, bringing howling winds, torrential rains, and - unfortunately - freezing levels above 10,000 feet. Western Washington took the brunt of it, with lots of METARs like this one:
KSEA 061703Z 20016G25KT 2SM +RA BR BKN005 BKN011 OVC017 16/15 A2979 RMK AO2 SFC VIS 2 1/2 P0004
Naturally, this royally screwed up our operation. A good many of our flights pass through Seattle, so when SEA gets bad weather, the effects reverberate throughout the system. Seattle had significant flow delays, as did Vancouver and Portland at times, and weather was pretty scuzzy at a lot of outstations too. Therefore we ended up with a ton of delayed flights and a lot of cancellations, too. At least passengers are fairly understanding about weather delays. It's a lot more tangible than maintenance problems for most people. With maintenance, a common complaint is "You people should've known it was broke earlier and fixed it then!" Yes, it is uncomfortable when they crush you in the grip of reason.

Our first leg to Seattle was delayed several hours and our subsequent roundtrip to Sun Valley was cancelled, which made the day a lot easier. We had a break of over four hours, which I spent hanging out in the crew room, catching up with a buddy I hadn't seen in a while, eating some Ivar's clam chowder (w/ Tabasco! Yum!), listening to gossip and spreading rumors, and watching the Seahawks wallop the Raiders 16-0 in the rain. And then it was off to Missoula and Kalispell, where we arrived at 2am. Today is a new day; with only two legs scheduled, one would think it couldn't get too screwed up. We'll see.

It is 16 degrees C above ISA at FL250. You normally see that in the summer. I'm afraid I'll have to endure some more wind and rain without pretty snow-covered mountaintops to encourage me.