Icy and Snowy in Western & Central Gorge

January 3, 2013

10:30pm Update…

It’s the first widespread ice event of winter in the Gorge…It’s well frozen out there and we have heard of many accidents in the west end on I-84.  Very icy in the hills around Washougal and Corbett too for the first time this winter.  Stay away from the west end of the Gorge through late tomorrow morning if you don’t need to be there.

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Anemometers are winding down to zero quickly at Biddle Butte and Corbett as ice accumulates, slows down, and then eventually stops the moving cups .  You can see the sudden drop in wind speed on the graph above at Corbett.  It’ll be calm within the hour there.  Vista House is still blowing hard, maybe because it’s on the south side of the building and misses more of the blowing rain. 

Temperatures have cooled down to 32 degrees in Troutdale so definitely some ice on objects and trees there.  After MANY years of watching freezing rain events, I’ve noticed it needs to be down around 30-31 before roads ice up, even a a bit lower during the day.  So I doubt any roads will ice up in Troutdale and Gresham since temperatures have bottomed out.  You can see that on the graph above as well (the red part).

This is really just a bunch of showers in westerly flow bunching up against the Cascades.  Because of that, Hood River has seen nothing more than flurries, The Dalles totally dry.  And looking at the radar, I don’t have high hopes for seeing much else.

Okay, that’s it for the night.  If you want to head east on I-84, I’d wait until the 2nd half of day, giving ODOT crews a chance to get the road surface in good shape.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen


Freezing Rain Developing In Gorge

January 3, 2013

6:45pm Update…

Rain has been VERY light so far, with steadier precipitation up north near Longview.  We’re seeing scattered showers right now mainly developing on the east side of the metro area.  I see several moving right over the Western Gorge with temps at 31 in Corbett, 29 at Vista House, and 28 at Cape Horn.  Anything that falls out there will freeze on contact; drive carefully the rest of the night!  Showers will pick up the next few hours too adding to a general glaze coating on all objects.  We’ll see if it goes to snow from Cascade Locks eastward the next few hours when the showers arrive.

Once again, it’ll be too warm in the metro area for freezing rain.

Did you see the TV tower temp jump the past few hours?  At 1,800′ it went from 30.5 degrees at 2:30pm to 41 degrees at 5pm!  That assures the only precip type we’ll see west of the Cascades (and in the western Gorge).

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen


Snow & Freezing Rain In Gorge This Evening

January 3, 2013

10am Thursday…

As we say in the business, it looks like a “wintry mix” in the Columbia River Gorge this evening and overnight tonight.  But it’ll be a bit too warm for freezing rain here in the metro area and other areas west of the Cascades.

Here are the highlights:

  • A dry day today, even filtered sunshine through mid-afternoon.  Cold east wind continues pouring out of the Gorge.  Highs near 40.
  • Light rain should arrive during the evening commute, the big question is how light?  It might only be sprinkles, but more likely actual steady light rain.
  • Temperatures remain 35-38 degrees in the metro area while it’s raining, so no freezing rain for most of us here.  It might drop to just around 32 on the hills in Troutdale or Gresham, so you might get ice on trees and objects, but slightly too warm for roads.  It’ll be very close temp-wise in those areas.  We’re talking only a degree or two from freezing.  Above freezing higher up, so no snow either.
  • It’ll be cold enough just east of Troutdale (Corbett, eastern Washougal hills, Bridal Veil, Mult. Falls) for this to fall as freezing rain.  That’s glaze ice; liquid rain freezes on contact.  Could even be ice pellets mixed in east of Bridal Veil.  Watch your driving!
  • Whatever does fall, light or not, will be snow from Bonneville Dam eastward in the Gorge.  Possibly 1-3″ in that area. Drier east of Hood River for just a trace to 1″ at The Dalles.  To avoid confusion, I mean all the way down to freeway level too.
  • The east wind will back off dramatically (just gusts 20-40 mph)  in the Gorge by late evening.
  • Mainly or all dry after midnight or so.

I just checked all the soundings, maps, models, observations etc…

East wind didn’t pick up much overnight, on that list of peak gusts from yesterday I notice only Vista House exceeded yesterday’s gusts.

A very deep and cold air mass is banked up against the Cascades, notice Meadows and Timberline even have the cold air “sloshing” up against the east side of the Cascades?  Timberline is 16 at 9am, it was 33 at the same time yesterday!  And in the Gorge is plenty cold up to around 4,000′, so between that and model soundings, it’s obvious it’ll be snow this evening in the central/eastern Gorge.  The air mass flowing through the Gorge won’t change today as a result, so it’s somewhat simple to figure out how far west the freezing rain could go.  Troutdale is running almost exactly the same temp/dewpoint as yesterday at this time.  Yesterday it was 35/21 during the evening commute.  Add precipitation to that and it’s a real borderline freezing rain event for them, more likely anywhere up in elevation or just to the east.  Once you get to Corbett or Mt. Zion areas, it’s an easy call.  Temps remain at or below freezing all day so any precipitation that falls will be freezing rain.  I’ll be driving the 4Runner to work this afternoon.

One big issues is moisture availability.  Our RPM (not always a stellar performer) is very dry with just a few hundredths of precipitation this evening. 

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If that’s the case, hardly anything interesting happens tonight.  The other models are a little wetter and I’ve based the forecast above on them.  We’ll see how that turns out; satellite imagery is definitely not very impressive.

Updates later in the day…

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen


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