Coastal Radar is Coming!

December 18, 2009

3 Years from now a new NWS radar will be scanning the skies over the Washington and N. Oregon Coastline.

Great news on Cliff Mass’s blog this morning.  Apparently the much-needed coastal radar is included in the final bill signed by President Obama recently.  So everything is on track for a new radar to be installed somewhere on the South or Central Washington Coastline in less than 3 years from now.  Most likely within 40 miles of Aberdeen/Hoquiam.  This will finally get rid of the big hole in coverage to our northwest.  I call our part the “Astoria Hole”.  It’s much worse on the S.W. side of the Olympics…almost no coverage there. 

The current placement of the Portland radar is the best that could be expected back in 1995 with one radar in N.W. Oregon.  It was put up at about 1800′ on Dixie Mtn. to the southwest of Scappoose.  Great coverage of summertime thunderstorms and wintertime rain/snow in the Cascades and Valleys, but the compromise was horrible coastal coverage.  Keep in mind that we can’t see much of anything along the coastline below maybe 8,000-10,000 feet.  Sure we get the big picture, but no low-level details.  IF a radar had been installed at the Coast instead of the Valleys, our coverage here in the Valleys and Cascades would have been terrible, so the NWS did the best they could here in the mountainous West!

You can read more about it here at Cliff’s Blog.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

Christmas Vacation Time

December 16, 2009

Okay, it’s that time.  I really like to take time off leading up to Christmas.  Having young kids I think it’s really important to let them experience all the magic, fun, food, and anticipation of what was always my favorite holiday.  Not that it’s about me, but you get the idea.  I can already taste the 3 different kinds of fudge, cookies etc…  Plus some evenings watching the entire Season 5 of Lost too.   I will be back on the air Christmas Evening, or next Friday.

So if you think I will be out of town (which means a wind, snow, or ice storm), forget it.  I can come in if the weather makes a sudden turn next week.  But as of now it looks very quiet.  Either ridging, split flow, or warm/wet weather systems.

I may blog at some point as well, otherwise everyone behave!

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

Weather Hype, Storm Thoughts, Blog Stats

December 16, 2009

Some chatter the last 24 hours on Oregon Media Central (a media insiders gossip and info site) about the lack of a storm last weekend plus how newsrooms interact with the meteorologists.  I was interviewed by Mitch Nolan, who hosts the site.  Obviously this might be of some interest to you, the weather aficionados.  Apparent Mitch plans to talk to other meteorologists in town as well.  Now he specifically asked me today if there are ever situations where I am uncomfortable with the hype or felt the newsroom was pushing a storm out of control.  I bet some of you wonder the same thing?  Here’s the reply I sent to him today:

“Of course there have been times where the news people get a little bit ahead of the weather people on storm coverage.  There’s good reason for that…ratings shoot through the roof anytime we have (even minor) windstorms, flooding, snow/ice, or an evening thunderstorm.

But I’ve been here at KPTV for 7 years and have to say the communication between newsies and the weather people works very well.   If we say that we need to pull back, they will.  It’s a pretty respectful and healthy two-way relationship.  They are even kind enough to ask if the cold opens and weather scripts look okay…how about that?  There is some give and take of course, but really, that’s part of the fun of this business and weather forecasting.  I couldn’t ask for anything more here…they respect us and we help them out looking for promotable weather events on the way. 

It was not that way at KOIN in the 1990s when I was there.  Of course that was different management and people than now, but back then it was like this:  If it looked like a storm was on the way for the 9am news meeting, then IT WAS COMING, regardless of what the afternoon meteorologist would say.  We would really have to beat them back or at least contradict on-air which looks really stupid”.

So what about the weather itself last Friday night and Saturday?  What a mess!  All the TV people and the NWS missed the forecast (including me of course).  I think it was always an iffy situation precip-wise, so unlike last year’s obvious big snowstorm that we saw coming several days ahead of time.  I think the NWS issuing the Winter Storm Warning was probably the nail in the coffin this time around though.    It was real nice (as referenced above) that between the 8pm and 10pm show we were able to change the forecast and the newspeople here were happy to back off on wording of the storm.  Anyone watching our 10/11pm shows that day had the impression that whatever was going to happen, it wasn’t going to be a big deal.

BLOG STATS:  Friday, the 11th was our biggest day so far on this blog…39,617 visits!

Of course this site is extremely weather sensitive with respect to those visits…check out these numbers as the weather ramped up and then slowed down starting last Wednesday (already pretty high due to arctic air in place).

24700-Wed, 25700-Thu, 39600-Fri, 25100-Sat, 13500-Sun, 8300-Mon, 7800-Tue



Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

Icy Gorge

December 15, 2009

A few shots from last night and this morning’s freezing rain in the Corbett area.  There was no freezing rain during the winter of 2008-2009 (all snow) and very little the year before.  Looks like 3/4″ to 1″ accumulation by late morning when I took these pictures.  There was no ice below about 700′ elevation and none above about 1300′!  Quite a narrow range with the layer of cold air pouring through the Gorge.

A Close Call Tonight!

December 14, 2009

The title refers to the cold and dry air pouring through the Gorge tonight.  Models had forecast this pretty well.  Remember about 5 days ago when the GFS showed a massive surge of arctic air through the Gorge tonight? (Pic is in an earlier post).  Well, it’s a nice blast of cold/dry air tonight, but imagine what we WOULD have seen!  For now I see gusts heading near 40 mph at Troutdale and 45-50 mph at Rooster Rock.  Snow is falliing heavily in the Gorge and Corbett is down to 33.  Just about all of the Metro area is down into the upper 30s as well.  It’s a cold rain!  We should have just about bottomed out on the falling temps.  Maybe another 2-3 degrees maximum before the east wind backs off maybe 6 hours from now.  That does allow freezing rain to develop into the hills of Gresham, Corbett, and above Camas/Washougal the next few hours.  Hope my pathetic little Prius (good mileage but useless in snow/ice) can take me home before the road ices up.  Usually the 4Runner is the snow vehicle, but, well, I thought it would be slightly warmer this evening.  Nice forecast wasn’t it?

Not much else to talk about in the forecast because it’s just very mild and wet the next 3 days.  A ton of very wet snow on the mountain tonight and tomorrow, but quite a bit of that may get washed away Wednesday-Friday as temps rise.  Enjoy the fresh stuff tomorrow because I think snow conditions will go downhill as we head towards teh “schools out” week next week. 

There is some disagreement about how much the rain shuts off this weekend and early next week.  The ECMWF is quite a bit drier than the GFS.  I’m leaning a bit more toward the ECWMF for now.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

Storm Wrap Up

December 12, 2009

Actually I don’t have much to say…it’s 11pm on Saturday night and it’s time to drive home.  Apparently it’ll be a very icy dry home through the backroads of east Multnomah County.  Enjoy the dry weather on Sunday!

Sunday Update:

What an icy mess this morning…I sure didn’t expect sudden clearing and a hard freeze in all areas.  I put a video in the comments.


Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

Moisture Fizzling Out

December 11, 2009

Sure, we will probably wake up to SOMETHING on the ground in the morning, but it may only be a trace of snow or light glaze of ice.  Models have most definitely backed off on moisture through the next 24-30 hours.  Our RPM model has been showing that since 18z.  Now other models have hopped on board…at least the reliable ones.  Considering what I see on radar, that seems very reasonable.  This also fits the “El Nino” pattern perfectly too.  Look!  Moisture is coming up out of California!  We’re going to get soaked!  Oh, it never got here…  Remember those times in the past? 

I’m really glad that we never forecast a significant snow event to start with…at 5pm Steph went with a Trace to 2″ of snow before some freezing rain.  Now I’m just going to say a Trace to 1″ at best. 

So I’m doing some serious forecast surgery on about 12 graphics in the next 45 minutes.  That plus reigning in all the newspeople takes lots of time. 

Light precipitation tomorrow also means a chance for temps to warm above freezing…what a pain to change everything but good times otherwise this evening don’t you think?

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen