Our farm name was inspired by the cold eastern winds that blast down the beautiful and scenic Columbia River Gorge into the Portland-Vancouver area every winter.
The Columbia River Gorge, the largest gap through the Cascades, is not only known for its spectacular beauty, but its persistent, sometimes damaging, cold easterly winter winds. Winds are channeled through this narrow gap and concentrated into fierce onslaughts that blast the Portland-Vancouver areas with chilly, high speed winds several times each winter. These winds sometimes reach speeds of 80 miles-per-hour, causing structural damage and blowing trucks off Interstate-84. The combination of this Arctic air and warm, moist air associated with Pacific Storms can lead to paralyzing snow and ice storms. One of the most memorable such snowstorms hit Bonneville Dam on January 9, 1980 and dropped the greatest 24-hour snowfall ever recorded in Oregon and SW Washington of 39 inches!
Meanwhile, during the summer, the winds in the Gorge blow predominantly from the west. This is because the heated land surface over eastern Washington and Oregon induces lower pressure, known as a "heat low," while over the cold ocean waters of the Pacific, higher pressure resides. The wind blows from high pressure off the coast to low pressure inland. The winds in the summer are typically weaker, they are more consistent and blow at speeds of 10 to 20 miles-per-hour, however, if a strong "heat low" exists winds can kick up to 50 miles-per-hour and cause blowing dust.
The easterly "Coho" winds are not only stronger but also more common, therefore there are an abundance of flagged trees (trees whose branches only grow on one side, away from the wind) in the Gorge. The wind blows at an average 13.0 miles-per-hour a year at Hood River, Oregon. This compares the notoriously windy Great Plains of Texas and Kansas where the average annual wind speed is 15 miles-per-hour.
Until about ten years ago, these winds did not have an official name. The Oregonian newspaper teamed with the Oregon chapter of the American meteorological Society (AMS) to name the strong Gorge winds through a contest. The name "Coho" was judged to be the best name, since it is easy to pronounce, it's an indigenous name to the Pacific Northwest, Coho salmon are wild fast swimmers analogous to the wind, and it relates to the widely known westerly Chinook winds that are also a name of a salmon.