A Brutal Day in the Weather Center

I have a brief break before I go on-air and apologize to the masses for the 2-5 hour commutes this evening.  I’ve been constantly busy since around 2:30pm.  This blog has seen about 34,000 hits today!

I’ll give my thoughts on today’s mess tomorrow when I get a chance.  For now it’s obvious we won’t have any dramatic warming overnight.  But we do gradually transition to mild onshore flow the next 12 hours at the surface and up above.  So unless we get some sudden clearing westside metro, the only spots to refreeze will be right near the Columbia River Gorge. 

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

106 Responses to A Brutal Day in the Weather Center

  1. Tyler in Hazel Dell says:

    Timelapse of the snow…

    Nothing to interesting to see after it gets dark…

    I was so sure we were done with snow/winter weather for this month, I had already entered “trace” for snowfall into my spreadsheet for the month…lol that will all have to be updated now!!!

  2. Dinger says:

    Ok guy’s. Heres a question I hope someone can help me out with. I have a personal weather station. Of course with the snow, and now the melt off, how does one calculate the amount of “rain” that the station is recording. As of right now, the station has reported .26″ of rain for the day since midnight. I’d like to correct the stations records so that it correctly reports the moisture amount correctly in all the charts and records.

    I’m doubting that the station with the melt off in the rain gauge is an accurate measurement. Any ideas on how to find the correct number so it may ben entered correctly as a correction?

  3. WEATHERDAN says:

    I don’t recall seeing any prediction of snow from any blogger out their either. Nobody saw the snow coming . So let’s just leave it at that.

    • Jethro (Canby ~187') says:

      There were a few who held on to a glimmer of hope and mentioned low dew points, etc; but I don’t think anyone on here expected the snowfall that ensued. I personally just thought we’d get freezing rain for a while and then have it all change over to regular old rain. I’m just glad I didn’t make a big prediction about it, but kept my thought to myself…

    • Adam in SE says:

      Watching the comments in this blog would be useless, because the lousy-weather-obsessed people here look for any excuse to predict snow.

    • we had some who called it on the weather email list! 🙂 like steve and rob. no one called the amounts tho. no one expected that much sticking snow

    • Mark Nelsen says:

      AND, I don’t want to sound negative here; but for each time we actually get snow someone (including regulars here) calls for snow maybe 2-3 other times. A lot of snow lovers out there. I don’t mean lovers doing their thing in the snow, I mean people that love snow of course…just want to be clear.

    • pgiorgio says:

      Thanks for that comment Adam. I guess you observing this blog makes you lousy and weather obsessed. Also, its “useless” to read these comments, yet you feel the need to comment

    • Michael Goss says:

      I did mention that I thought we’d be snow or freezing rain as early as 2AM 12/29, but I had also thought the previous two “busts” would be frozen precip, which they, of course, weren’t.

      However, I did recognize the differences between yesterday’s event and those other events. I think everyone (myself included) was quite gun-shy after the recent events. I think if this event had taken place in a box, many more agencies would have touted snow/zr as a real possibility.

    • Michael Goss says:

      Just to show people that I’m not totally lying 😛


      I underestimated it as well, clearly (I only said 3 to 6 hours), but I said it at 10:44 AM. And from Facebook the previous night…

      ” Michael A Goss Beginning to think tomorrow’s precip will be snow and/or freezing rain.
      Yesterday at 2:22am “

    • Rob "Wrath" S.E. Portland says:

      For what it’s worth….

      I was CLOSE
      Rob “Wrath” S.E. Portland Says:
      December 29, 2009 at 8:30 am | Reply

      12z WRF 12km sounding
      [4:00 PM]

      *Note the blue(dewpoint) and red(temp) line are straddling the 0c line. VERY close to a snow sounding here.


      Rob “Wrath” S.E. Portland Says:
      December 29, 2009 at 10:32 am

      The moisture is having a hard time advancing inland due to the drier air.
      (Yesterday’s radar link was included below this)

      Could be 2-4 PM……
      So by 8:30 AM Tuesday I had a good feeling and I had timing perfect! 😀 …..

  4. Mark says:

    Hello Everyone,

    Yesterday was the worst traffic snarl that I have ever seen.

    So, in the midst of this, there was a concert at Keller Auditorium. This concert was not canceled. These people took the general public’s money with NO regard for safety.

    I am appalled at the lack of concern. The Keller Auditorium is NOT answering their phones and are hiding from this issue.

    They should be refunding money to ticket holders.

    We drove for 2 hours and never got out of Tigard.

  5. SeaChange says:

    I think DavidMall205 and PaulB have great points down below. Forecasting the weather here is so challenging. Until our computer models are good enough to really resolve the gorge and the terrain of the Coast Range/Cascades there will always be surprises like this. I was watching this event for a couple days and thought maybe, just maybe with the cold/dry east flow we could stay cold enough for snow. But didn’t this look nearly as likely as the event that was forecast a couple weeks ago that didn’t happen.

    I guess, ironically, the unpredictability of the weather is what keeps forecasters in their jobs!!! It’s also what makes weather so interesting, at least to this forecaster. 🙂

    • Rob "Wrath" S.E. Portland says:

      Whenever we can establish a cold dome over the Columbia Basin and receive east winds 3+ days at 40+mph anything is possible even while going through an inversion. This was definitely the case this time around. The things these computer models don’t have are instincts, and every good meteorologist/analyst has them. Your instincts told you “just maybe with cold/dry east flow we could stay cold enough for snow” correct! Same thought process I had as well. The models also do poorly I feel when the Gorge influence is greater than they can understand, which is often. They will always try to move out a resident cold air mass too early whether it is from an arctic blast or cold pool dominant with persistent east wind.

  6. Interesting to see the warm air influence in such a small span as driving from Beaverton to Tigard this morning. A lot of snow still on the ground and about 35 degrees in my Beaverton ‘hood, and got into Tigard (near 72nd and Hwy 99) and it felt notably warmer and there’s only scattered patches of the snow.

    Cool event. I think everyone should A) follow this blog at least casually and B) have a basic understanding of radar. I mentioned it last night – between the observations posted on the blog and the giant blob of moisture heading our way on the radar yesterday afternoon, I was able to get out of the office early and work from home, apparently avoiding a multi-hour commute. Everyone might not be so lucky as to be able to leave early, but at least some might.

    As for some of the anger expressed by a few people here about the blown forecast … it should be readily apparent to everyone that weather changes faster than watching the news each night at 5pm will allow for. I will allow that it might be nice for on-air meteorologists to explain *potential* events that don’t have a high likelihood of happening, but they only have so much time in a broadcast. Mark does a great job on this blog. He has a post titled “close call for snow Tuesday” – I’d say that’s a red flag right there. It made me more aware and led to me checking observations, etc. Between that and a generous boss, I was able to change my schedule and avoid ill consequences. As has already been mentioned, if mets had even suggested the possibility of snow, and nothing happened, they would be disparaged for that too. It’s a lose-lose.

    • Jethro (Canby ~187') says:

      Very nicely stated, and I agree 100%.

    • James (SE Portland/Vancouver by day) says:

      Here Here!

      Thanks to this blog and radar, I not only made it home from Vancouver before the traffic issues, but I was able to convince a few colleagues to head home as well.

      Those few who didn’t heed my warnings are saying they will be more apt to listen the next time something like this comes up.

      The internet is so freaking awesome! (In moderation of course :-))

    • Rob "Wrath" S.E. Portland says:

      Great post, Keeg.

    • Rob "Wrath" S.E. Portland says:

      Also it’s hard to express anger over a blown forecast when it wasn’t really certain we’d see snow until Tuesday morning 8-11 AM after the 12z WRF 12km/4km soundings came out.

  7. Goodbye snow…up to 35.6°….hello rain…looks like it’s going to be a wet start to the new year..


  8. Jethro (Canby ~187') says:

    Currently 42 south of Canby, very light south wind.

    That next system out there in the Pacific is sure starting to look pretty. Bring on the wind and the rain and the warmer temps!

  9. JohnD says:

    Hey, I’ll take splitty-ridgy-east windy-followed by a “surprise” 3″ wet snowstorm anytime! May there be many more!

    Can anyone offer any insite as to what is upstream? Beyond the rain-rain of the next few days that is.

    Coming up on January now. This SHOULD be prime time!

  10. David Mall205 says:

    I think what we saw here was the “perfect” storm….even if the mets had hit the nail on the head folks would not have listened, remember 2 weeks ago the “little” snafu by the weather service and some of the mets in PDX well that put people in a foul mood as they whent out and got prepared and then nothing happened, so even if it had been reported most folks would say snow shmo and the weatherman is allways wrong hence they would be stuck on said freeways anyways. So it begs the question did the mets know or have a good feeling that it was going to happen but did not let the cat out of the bag due to not wanting another flogging from the news directors who are still angry over having reporters standing on dry overpasses 2 weeks ago, In the end it all is the fault of every driver who is not prepared, we live in the NW people all kinds of weather or other events can happen any time carry some basic things with you and it will go alot smoother…I do not look forward to the day of a true disaster such as a earthquake when most folks cant even make it through 3 in of snow without the world comming to a end.

  11. It’s still white here on the trees and all, but they’re starting to get drippy. Temp is 33.0 – up from 32 this morning.

  12. PaulB/Eugene says:

    A major screw up forecast…at least the folks in Eugene can say they got it right..I would rather be wrong with four inches of snow than right with .27 inches of rain. That even the 4km resolution models did not see the snow coming is proof that computers are not ready to take the jobs away from people like Mark who are among the best in the business.

  13. 36.9F and 0.37″ of rain since midnight. Never saw any snow down here.

  14. weather meeting bet
    winner enjoys six fine brews
    loser enjoys snow

  15. Jethro (Canby ~187') says:

    Well wasn’t that a fun little surprise! Just glad my 8 minute commute out in the country wasn’t affected by the snow & sleet.

    Things have warmed quite a bit since last night down this way — up to 40 degrees now with a south wind at 3-5 mph.

  16. Tricia says:

    So, when did this storm become a prediction? Last I saw it was expected to be in the 40’s and raining and then it was snowing and we heard “Just as expected.” I watch KPTV almost exclusively and NEVER saw anything about snow…just wondering.

    Oh, Columbia City saw 3.5″ and was still snowing at 12:36am on 12/30, I thought it was over at 8pm last night?

    • Sarah (E. Gresham) says:

      I can’t remember which station(s) mentioned it, but around noon or so, there was talk of snow….but just a few flurries before it changed over to rain.

    • Rob "Wrath" S.E. Portland says:


      As of Monday night it was still very much up in the air whether or not we’d see rain, a mix, or snow.

      These are the reasons why

      Monday night we had clear skies and achieved maximum radiational cooling. Then the clouds started spreading inland around/shortly after day break on Tuesday morning. That served to cap day time temps and keep the cold air in place. Temp/Dewpoint spread was still favorable as moisture arrived. Precip fell through this drier air causing evaporative cooling which lowered temperatures.

      As of Monday night’s 00z (8-9PM) Models/Soundings things weren’t all that favorable. A possibility? yes sure. As of Tuesday’s 12z (8-9 AM) Models/Soundings things were MUCH more favorable for the reasons I mentioned above. Unfortunately all of the morning TV meteorologists did not have this newer information or they simply do not know how to interpret model data or more important sounding data.

      So that’s why it was a surprise and never a prediction or forecast because the ingredients literally came together I’d say around 2-4 AM Tuesday morning.

  17. Punxsutawney (aka HIO Phil at work by Sunset High) ~280' says:

    Just talked to a co-worker. She left OHSU last night at 1:00am and didn’t make it to Hillsboro until 3:30am because of the snow/traffic last night. That’s insane for the middle of the night.

  18. Punxsutawney (aka HIO Phil at work by Sunset High) ~280' says:

    It’s a sloppy mess on the Westside. Major roads are mainly wet, but there are still patches of ice and snow. Back Roads are covered in snow or slush.

    My temp between 11:00pm and 6:00am varied by .2 degrees from 31.8 to 32.0.

  19. sds says:


    Like others said before–YOU ARE A TEACHER–with 34,000 hits on your blog yesterday–a lot of people were looking for and sharing information on the weather. A piece of humble pie now and then is good for the soul–how many of us on this blog are always right??

    33 and drippy out here in Woodland w/2″ still on the ground.

  20. k5mitch says:

    big blob of orange headed our way…

  21. Rob "Wrath" S.E. Portland says:

    Mix of light rain/sleet here….

    Good night all.

    • Rob "Wrath" S.E. Portland says:

      It has been an enjoyable time tracking everything, posting my own info, and reading all of yours.

      Until the next time….

      Good night.

  22. Ben Randall Tillamook city says:

    Here is a radar I like much better than any other radar


  23. Rob "Wrath" S.E. Portland says:

    KPTV Tower Temps
    As of 11 PM|Current|Hourly Change
    T1(1,043′) +0.2c | 0.2c Warmer
    T2(1,400′) -0.9c | 0.4c Warmer
    T3(1,800′) +0.5c | 0.3c Warmer

  24. pgiorgio says:

    This event is why I love our area. As a kid I disliked the predictability of weather. It’s good to know that some events are still uncertain even 1 day out.

    • pgiorgio says:

      Also, nobody would come close to filling your shoes Mark. I hope you stay a meteorologist and keep up this great blog for the real enthusiasts.

    • Rob "Wrath" S.E. Portland says:

      I concur with that. Where would we be without this blog? Many of us have met several times and that wouldn’t have happened. The wealth of information and knowledge I’ve learned likely would not have happened either.

    • pgiorgio says:

      The amount of information i’ve seen you contribute here Rob is substantial. I believe I comment for everyone when I say its greatly appreciated.

    • Rob "Wrath" S.E. Portland says:

      I’m a Fox12 Blog junkie 🙂 lol Nah all joking aside thanks for the comment I appreciate it. There’s always so much more to learn.

  25. Austin-felida says:

    man look at the radar near vernonia looks like a thunder cell cool huh anyways looks light snow right now

  26. Christiana in Forest Grove says:

    Mark–You have nothing to apologize for. The fact that you did is one of the many reasons you rock.

    My hubby had the five hour commute this evening. He started at 5pm and got home at 11:10pm. I hope that the morning commute is better.

  27. Rob "Wrath" S.E. Portland says:

    Surface Gradients
    As of 12 AM|Current|Hourly Change
    PDX-DLS: -2.9mb | 0.5mb Decrease
    TTD-DLS: -3.2mb | 0.2mb Decrease

    [Willamette Valley]
    PDX-EUG: -0.5mb | 0.2mb Decrease

  28. Battle Ground Brian says:

    33.8 Moderate Snow at 12 midnight

    Was a rain / snow mix past hour here

    Maybe a half-inch out here on the ground and thats all

    Lack of outflow up here gives us that one extra degree of warming and its not really sticking.

  29. Rob "Wrath" S.E. Portland says:

    Hmmmmm with the fun of our surprise snow I haven’t paid much attention to anything else, specifically tonight’s 00z WRF run.

    Possible south wind event (30-40mph) Friday evening?

    Nice looking 987mb low ejects eastwards out of the eastern Pacific trough.

    It shows the low moves ENE and weakens to about 996mb upon landfall.

    This wouldn’t be anything too significant, but I think it bares watching to see what future runs do with this low. Does it weaken as it moves onshore? or will it hold its strength maybe even deepen?

  30. Matthew says:

    3″ at my house. Final. Now melting slowly.

  31. Tom says:

    What happend to 8:00 that Mark said the snow would stop. You really blow that one. Its 11:45pm and snowing pretty heavy. So I’ll just take it that you will be way off in the morning too. Sorry to be so harsh but you have been off a lot latly. You say you tell it so we can under stand it but out of every one at news 12 you are the most confusing. I’m sorry again but I’m not the only one that feels this way. Stop being so sher of your self and tell it like it is, that you really don’t know what’s going to happen day to day. Have a good new year.

  32. Stevengibson says:

    Well snows over for the Central Valley an Portland have fun with whats left. This was fun maybe in weeks to come another snow event will happen the S winds picked up an temps are well above freezing along with dew points so everyone have a great end to there 2009 an look to the skies.
    Salem (320′)
    Liberty RD S & Vine st S
    38.7 °F
    Light Rain
    Wind chill:39 °F
    Dew Point:37 °F
    Wind:3.0 mph from the SE
    Wind Gust:5.4mph
    Pressure:29.82 in (Rising)
    Visibility:8.0 miles

  33. Tom (NE Portland) says:

    Snowing moderately now. Temp down a little to 31.5 now. 😀

  34. Rob "Wrath" S.E. Portland says:

    Surface Gradients
    As of 11 PM|Current|Hourly Change
    PDX-DLS: -3.4mb | No Change
    TTD-DLS: -3.4mb | 0.2mb Decrease

    [Willamette Valley]
    PDX-EUG: -0.7mb | No Change
    KPTV Tower Temps
    As of 10 PM|Current|Hourly Change
    T1(1,043′) +0.0c | 0.3c Warmer
    T2(1,400′) -1.3c | 0.2c Warmer
    T3(1,800′) +0.2c| 0.4c Warmer

  35. Looks like a good band is coming through Downtown Portland currently. 🙂

  36. JenInGresham says:

    ummm…sure yeah other reasons…to better kids blah blah blah…SNOW DAYS!!!…lol sorry will always be a kid at heart. AH come on Mark I’m sure it was a little exciting to be wrong, and get to see the beautiful snow falling today.

  37. Mark, you are human…There is not one person, meteorologist, or whatever, that hasn’t been wrong on a forecast….I didn’t see anyone, including the NWS, that “accurately” forecasted this ahead of time. You are right the other 99% of the time. 🙂

    Hearing some dripping from the gutters…33.1°

    Rain mixed with snow currently

  38. Rob "Wrath" S.E. Portland says:


    What if this occluded system and weak low pressure area never moves onshore rather meanders and dissipates… With widespread 2-4″ snow cover from NW Oregon through the Gorge and I think the Columbia Basin could that serve to halt any real moderation? Also keep light east winds going.. Then as the much stronger system offshore approaches kick up east winds again…. maybe ZR at the onset especially in the Gorge? Just something I’ve been thinking about.

  39. Battle Ground Brian says:

    Predicting frozen precipitation has always been extremely difficult in the PDX Metro area.
    I think once again this winter we have seen how difficult it can really be. The orientation of the Willamette Valley and the Columbia Gorge make it very challenging to say the least. Then you throw a strong el Nino into the mix and model output has an even harder time sorting out the details. I don’t think that human nor computer will ever be able to predict these situations with 100% accuracy.

  40. stilllearning says:

    Still snowing here – in Yreka. It is beautiful! We have close to 4 inches and it looks as though part of the freeway is shut again. Glad we have a (very) warm hotel room so we can watch everything. Tomorrow may be a different story.

    • Andrew Johnson says:

      Still snowing here too…In Oklahoma! Snow in both my homes Oregon and Oklahoma in the same day! Both places that don’t usaully get much frozen precip…a good day indeed!

  41. JenInGresham says:

    Thats why I am becoming a teacher…I Don’t have to go to work in the snow…and if it starts snowing we get sent home early!! I love it.

    • goducks09 (Oatfield, OR) says:

      Well, I hope you becoming a teacher for more than just that reason, LOL. 😉

    • Mark Nelsen says:

      Maybe that’s what I should do instead.

    • JenInGresham says:

      ummm…sure yeah other reasons…to better kids blah blah blah…SNOW DAYS!!!…lol sorry will always be a kid at heart. AH come on Mark I’m sure it was a little exciting to be wrong, and get to see the beautiful snow falling today.

      **Sorry for the re-post ment for it to go down here…just got so excited that Mark talked to me..lol

    • Mark, the very existence of this blog has taught many things to a lot of us!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • JenInGresham says:

      That is very true…Even if my family gets sick of me telling them every day what Mark said…what it meant and why I THINK it is going to snow every day….It is amazing how reading this blog for the past 2 years has really taught me allot. I have even used it in my weather and science units in classes that I have taught. Last year we tracked lows and highs and graphed them. I love teaching the kids about how and why it snows. This blog might be my guilty pleasure, but I love it!

  42. KORPORTL22 says:

    amazing day! I really didn’t mind the 2 hours it took me to get from Emanuel Hospital to NE 44th and Burnside because it was so pretty. I was surprised at how slick even the main roads were, I guess due to compacted snow. Anyway, looks like it’s starting to fade. I enjoyed it while it lasted.

  43. Andrew (NE PDX) says:

    Mark don’t worry about it, we all make mistakes. It happens. We live in one of the hardest areas to forecast, given the ocean, mountain ranges, and wind patters.

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