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A merciful winter aided contest winners

This year, the optimists finally prevailed in The Outlook's East Wind contest.

For three years now (though not in a row), The Outlook has asked readers to wager a guess on how many days the dreaded East Wind will blow between Thanksgiving and the end of February. During the previous two years of the contest, the people guessing high numbers - 40 or more - were in the thick of the hunt, while anyone hoping for 30 or fewer days was blown out of the competition early on.

This winter was different, however, as clouds from the west settled in for most of the winter and did a decent job of holding the East Wind at bay. East County did experience some brutally breezy days in late January, when gusts as high as 46 mph were recorded at Troutdale Airport. At the same time the temperature was hovering in the high 20s or low 30s, reminding us just how miserable life can sometimes be at the gateway to the gorge.

But those episodes were mercifully brief - this winter was more drip and less draft. And that formula meant victory for those who had dared to hope they could make it through December, January and February with the same recycling container, or without having to repair a wind-disfigured garden gate.

Among the optimists was Kelly Kyle, who, being a Troutdale resident, should have known better. Kyle guessed 23 days, which made him one of three runners-up to winner Dan Rogers of Gresham, who nailed the number of East Wind Days at 24.

Kyle admits there wasn't much science involved in his estimate. 'The number just popped into my head,' he says, adding that it is hard for him to tell which way the wind is blowing at his home on Jackson Park Road,

'We live at the crossroads of the Sandy River Gorge and the Columbia River Gorge, so we get it from both directions,' he says.

Kyle tied with William Drummond of Gresham and Bob Frostad of Damascus for second place - they all guessed 23 and will receive gift baskets from Troutdale General Store. In the meantime, we're trying to track down winner Dan Rogers, whose phone number wasn't working this week. If you see him, let him know it's safe to come back out into the open air - and that we've got a nifty weather station waiting for him to claim.

TRACKING THE WIND REQUIRES

UNSCIENTIFIC METHODS

While we're talking about the wind, Jennifer Munson, who lives in the Sweetbriar area of Troutdale, has a legitimate question. She e-mailed recently to ask how exactly we determine what is and what isn't an East Wind day.

When The Outlook started the contest four years ago, we set up a complicated system of trying to track the wind at the Troutdale Airport, the Portland International Airport, The Outlook's office in Gresham and at the Southwest Gresham home of weather expert George Miller. But over time, we have found that the simplest and probably most accurate determination can be made by watching the official wind speeds at the two airports.

Any day that the wind blows from the east and averages more than 10 mph at both airports usually constitutes an East Wind day. That may seem like a low standard, but when the wind averages 10 mph, that means gusts of 20 mph and up.

Even with that hard and fast rule, there are a handful of days each winter when we have to make a judgment call - days when the weather is shifting from west to east, for example. And that's when we fall back on our tried-and-true East Wind measuring tool: We open the car doors at the Wood Village Fred Meyer parking lot and see if they blow off.