Latest Snow & Wind Outlook

December 16, 2010

I’ve looked at all the 00z models and two things grab my attention:

1.  SNOW: It’s too warm for snow tomorrow night in most of the Portland Metro area.  By “too warm”, I mean 5+ degrees too warm.  I’d be surprised if PDX drops below 37 degrees early Saturday morning and Hillsboro below 34.  All models agree on precipitation arriving sometime after 1am, more likely closer to daybreak.  A huge east wind event will be reaching it’s peak at that time (more on that with #2).   So the only place I see sticking snow possible would be up against the east slopes of the Coast Range.  That would be Forest Grove, Banks, and Vernonia.  Still seems a bit warm there.  Why?

a.  A raging east wind all night tomorrow night means no radiational cooling in the windy areas (anywhere west of I-5), so temps in the main part of the metro area remain near 40 all night.  Remember with last December’s surprise snow we were down in the 20s the morning of the event.  Take a look at forecast soundings too…about 3-5 degrees warmer than the soundings last December.

b. Atmosphere coming through the Gorge isn’t that cold, no colder than the last few events where snow stayed east of Bonneville Dam.

c. Models just aren’t cold enough in general.  Our RPM in marginal situations at least TRIES to paint the snow/rain line over us…it is all rain this time around.

2. WIND:  Are we going to see a Clark County east windstorm tomorrow night?  I’ve never seen 55 kts on the cross section of the WRF-GFS at 2,000′ over Clark County.  Notice it’s a slightly southeast wind too?  That’s different.  Also notice it extends up over Kelso/Longview areas.  Our 12km RPM has the wind gusts 50+ mph at the surface up in Clark County.  Unfortunately our 4km. only goes out 27 hours.  We’ll see, but if you live in Battle Ground, Hockinson, and La Center I’d watch out.  We have so few of these events (none in the last 5 years?), they are tough to forecast.  I wouldn’t get too excited about any sort of damaging wind south of the Columbia River…just the usual gusty east wind.

Home Weather Stations

December 16, 2010

Every year I get a few emails wondering what kind of home weather station a person should get for someone for Christmas.  

I thought about this today as I was up on the roof of Corbett Grade School (finally) replacing the 8 year old Davis Vantage Pro station with a Vantage Pro2.  It went very well since it was the exact same clamps and setup.  Do you know how hard it is to get a dry day, WITH little or no wind this time of year in that location?  I’ve been waiting weeks for the chance.  You can see the gap in data here while it was getting replaced.  I’m pleasantly surprised at what good shape it is still in considering the extreme conditions (constant winter wind and frequent glazing by freezing rain).  Still fully functional.  The newer instrument has wireless range that should allow it to reach farther into the school.  Big plans to put a nice display in there for all the kids.

So here are a few thoughts on home weather stations…

1.  It’s a great hobby and nowadays most stations (some with an extra cost) can post the data to the internet via CWOP.  Weather Underground also takes home weather station info, but that doesn’t get into the vast data stream CWOP  is part of.

2.  The cheapest basic stations you can buy at Fred Meyer, Costco, or other large stores like that.  Some will only be in the $150 dollar range.  Be careful though, I’d say anything that’s less than $200 may die on you at some point.  I really do think you GENERALLY get what you pay for when it comes to weather equipment.

3.  If you have the money, once you get up in the $300 dollar range, you can get some really nice stuff.  In fact for the average person interested in weather, I see no reason to spend more than $500.  The new weather sensor at Corbett was about $500, which included the $120 or so for the Weatherlink data logger. is one place to see lots of different weather sensors.  There is a bewildering assortment of stations there.  I’ve used and only had good experience with price, shipping, and delivery. 

The only 3 brands I’ve had personal experience with are Maximum (first anemometer way back in 1985), Davis Instruments, and Peet Brothers. 

-Maximum has real high-quality stuff, but I’ve never used any of their digital equipment. 

-Peet Brothers hasn’t changed their line much in 10 years as far as I’m aware.  I have the Ultimeter 2100 at home; it’s NOT wireless, but has been very reliable.  With today’s technology I think wireless is the way to go, so that would cross them off the list unless they are moving up into the wireless world.  Jim Little and I originally used these sensors when we made a small little metro area weather network in the 1990s.  That was before anything other than airport observations were available.  How exciting it was to see Estacada, Forest Grove, Corbett, and Aloha show up on the map every hour!  Seems a bit mundane now, but remember we actually had spotters call their reports in each day!  That really seems old now.

-Davis Instruments had a bad reputation in my mind back in the 90s.  I don’t think they deserved it.  I worked for a weather forecasting company around 1991-1993.  We installed some of the Weather Monitor sensors for ODOT out on Cabbage Hills in Pendleton and throughout the Gorge since we were forecasting for windsurfers.  No real internet back then, so we dialed them up by modem.  What a pain!  The modems never seemed to work for more than a few weeks, then someone would have to go out and turn them off and back on.  I remember the farmer with the truly MASSIVE dog halfway up Emigrant Hill (the only house you can see winding up the long grade) telling me next time we had to disrupt his wheat harvest to reset a “G-D” modem that we could yank it out of there.  I never returned, fearing for my life.  The last 10 years though, as mentioned earlier, those Davis Vantage Pro and now VP2 instruments have done a stellar job.  So next time I get a new one at home it’ll be one of those.

If you have thoughts or experiences with weather stations (good or bad), please go ahead and comment, otherwise keep discussion of weather off this post please.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

Portland Snow?

December 16, 2010

I thought it would be a nice quiet day in the weather center…a calm day before a 9 days of vacation time.  Apparently not since the NWS has decided to forecast sticking snow IN THE METRO AREA tomorrow night and Saturday.  Ugh!  A media storm ahead!  Looks highly unlikely to me.  Gorge is a different story as I mentioned in the previous post.

I’ll post some detailed thoughts after the 00z models come in.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen