Merry Christmas! Snow Storm In the Gorge

Everything is working out just about right forecast-wise this morning.  East wind has been ramping up the past few hours, bringing cool air through the Columbia River Gorge while a lot of moisture is moving inland.  I see snow briefly mixed with the rain before sunrise out in Washington County, but now it’s all rain for most of us.  Snow has fallen up in northern Clark County and some snow briefly this morning from Sandy out through the Hoodland areas.   But, unfortunately for the kids, no White Christmas in just about the whole metro area, as forecast.

In the Gorge, temps are about 1-2 degrees warmer than I would have expected (32-33 at river level right now), so the freeway (at 9am) is mainly clear with just slush.  Plenty of snow sticking as soon as you get above the river level.  Here’s a pic from Ryan Yecny from the 500′ elevation at The Dalles.  Already 3″ snow on the ground there!  581400_4485918180794_634945367_n


Then take a look at the latest view from freeway level at Cascade Locks:CascadeLocksWB_pid620  That MAY change in the next hour if the snowfall rates become heavier.  Note the Cascade Locks observations the past few hours showing a temperature drop from 4-8am:  By the way, I like that observation because during heavier snowfalls it’s the only spot in the Gorge that shows snowfall accumulation.  With those 1-2 degree warmer temps, I’ve got extremely marginal freezing rain here, it’s slushy on the deck and roof (rain freezing there), but not anywhere else.

Some of you here on the blog were getting worked up around 3-5am about a forecast bust around the time the precipitation started; you have to wait a couple of hours at least in the Gorge for the temps to drop and heavier precipitation to cool the air mass.   “Reverse Wishcasting” will get you in trouble too.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

86 Responses to Merry Christmas! Snow Storm In the Gorge

  1. Ben T says:

    I really wish at least the skies could be clear and we could get some radiational cooling. Or what about the temperature being in the 20’s!

  2. ChrisR says:

    I have a question about daily temperature temps. I’ve noticed that for the past few days (at least), tower temps will continue to rise until 12-1 am, rather than rising only until sundown or a little after. Could someone explain why this happens. Thanks!

  3. Tyler Mode in Battle Ground says:

    My report from the gorge:

    Snow and rain falling east of Multnomah Falls.

    I hiked up to Triple Falls, and there was snow starting just a couple of hundred feet above the river. By the time I reached Triple Falls near 800′, there was 3-4″ of snow. Even at that elevation it was raining and snowing and snow was falling from the trees as it was melting.

  4. Ben T says:

    I have a weather pet peeve. Naming Winter Storms.

  5. paulbeugene says:

    Dec 26 1pm

    The fake cold pattern that was planned for the week before New Years now looks like more of a fake cool pattern….inversions on the east side of the Cascades won’t be all that strong but nonetheless they should stay relatively cool down near the surface. Over on the west side of the Cascades…850mb temps may creep up toward 6-8C at some point but odds are that it will be more like 4-6C…not the strongest inversion but still a setup for some fog/low clouds in the Willamette Valley…particularly south of Salem. What had been progged as low-mid 20s for lows now look like low to mid 30s…with highs in low 40s.

    This should be a good week for the ski areas…good visibility, improving driving conditions…..over 100 in snow at Santiam pass.

    Long range:

    Looks like January is going to start off with mid-upper 40s for highs in PDX with lows in upper 30s….not exactly cold.

    Canadian ensembles started making a little noise yesterday about ridging offshore of PacNW by days 11-15…the GFS ensembles in past few days have been showing no signs of arctic air in the region but look a bit better than they did a day or two ago (for arctic air in the PacNW that is).

    CFS weeklies have wavered a bit on cold for some part of January.

  6. WEATHERDAN says:

    This is in response to Mark Nelsens response about my recent blog entry, In that entry I maintained and still do that winter this year will not turn cold. Mark brought up the winter of 1989-1990 in rebuttal. In that winter we had quite dry conditions that fall with a lot of valley inversions in December.In January the weather turned wet but mild. We had a brief period of cold and snow in mid February that lasted about 10 days. Then we had an early spring followed by a very hot summer. In this winter however we have had an endless parade of rainy days since mid October. Snow has on occasion come down to about 2000 feet. Going into January I see more of the same. Any ridging we do receive will tend to be transient. While I do allow for a brief period of cold weather to occur this winter, however I just don’t see an extended period of cold weather that most of us would really like to see. Instead I see this winter more closely resembling that of 1966-1967. In that winter we had a mild winter with a lot of rain. In February of 1967 the pattern changed. We started to get a lot drier with a lot of frosty nights. A fairly normal spring turned into a very hot summer that year. This is what I think this is what is in our future. Now weather can change dramatically overnight. And that may still happen. I just don’t see that given that the way we have been the last two and a half months.

    • You may be sealing your fate. 😉

    • W7ENK says:

      Personally, I agree with him. Except for one point: Two and a half months? Try two and a half years. You seasons have practically been flipped upside down since June 2010. Things started to get out of whack right after (probably the trigger?) the massive snows in December 2008, followed by the massive heat wave July/August 2009. Since then, everything seems to have been progressively shifting back — to about 8 or 10 weeks delayed at this point. I find it oddly coincidental that our cold weather switch got flipped to “ON” on February 24th, both in 2011 and 2012. Both years led into cold and wet springs, extended by 4-6 weeks into a crappy summer to follow. And then (especially this last year) a late, half-ways decent summer held out a few (6-8) extra weeks, before the rains (and above normal temperatures) slammed back in, keeping the snow out of the lowlands for the duration of the following winter. It would not surprise me in the least to see that sudden switch to colder than normal temperatures somewhere around, oh… say, February 24th again this next year? Leading into yet another extended cold and crappy spring, delaying perhaps even farther into summer…

      The only thing that will fix what’s broken is some sort of a massive climactic reset, probably on a global scale. But what exactly does that mean? I have no idea. A sudden and unexpected massive heat wave that spans the entire Northern Hemisphere, coupled with an incredibly cold and brutal winter across the entirety of the Southern Hemisphere?? I’d prefer the opposite, personally. Though with our luck, the PNW will remain the only part of the planet unaffected.

      Pure fantasy, I know. But, you have to admit, there really seems to be something seriously out of whack, and I’m thinking Mother Nature will correct it at some point. And when she does, things are going to get weird!

    • Chris says:

      WEATHERDAN…This is not meant to offend but…who cares whether you think this Winter will turn out snowy or not. Even a professional meteorologist with 30 years of experience can’t tell anybody what a Winter will bring. The best anybody can do is spout statistics based on historical odds and perhaps some ENSO-related considerations. However…your analysis doesn’t even benefit from these things. As far as I can tell, you’re just angry that it hasn’t snowed for you.

    • Chris says:

      W7ENK…Everything averages out. Nothing is out-of-whack. It’s the weather. When we’re warmer or colder than normal someplace either is the opposite. There is no conspiracy. The atmosphere is dynamic that’s what makes watching the weather fun.

    • ocpaul says:

      2008 spoiled us, no doubt. In comparison, everything else doesn’t amount to much.
      I agree that past years have little to do with current climate, if you try to use that to predict the future. There are way too many variables involved.
      I think the NAO has redirected a lot of the polar cold into Northern Europe. (because of butterfly wings in Lima, Peru)
      I’m thinking we can expect a little cold and snow in March and April-too little and too late to really have a big impact on us.
      In the meantime…we get ‘crumbs’ while folks in Indiana get the
      ‘all you can shovel buffet’.

    • W7ENK says:

      I never said there was a conspiracy. There is no evil government machine, or secret OSU undersea volcano driving our weather patterns, simply set to piss off us lowland dwelling Pacific Northwesterners. If you want to talk about that kind of crap, just engage Kyle, I’m sure he’s be happy to tell you otherwise.

      No, I just implied that we’ve been experiencing a prolonged period of not-so normal weather here, which has been screwing with our usually expected seasonal norms and delaying things by a tangible and predictable factor. 4 years is a long time to go without a significant cold and snowy period for PDX. Our last truly significant (non-transitory) snowy period was December 2008. We’ve had little bouts with snow here and there, but none that gave us sub-freezing temperatures WITH packed snow on the city’s roadways for more than a few hours since then. I’ve lived here my entire life, and growing up — even up until 2008 — we’d get a solid 3+ inches that would last two or three days, if not longer, just about every year or two.

      One of these winters, that pattern will snap back and (as you agreed) our weather will “average out”. Maybe that will mean 4 or 5 really snowy winters in a row? maybe that will mean another serious dump on PDX next winter or the one following?? Or, maybe nothing will happen at all??? I don’t know, but I can theorize, can’t I?

      What’s wrong with you that you’ve gotta pounce on people for speaking their thoughts, huh? Why all the hate, man?? Just chill! Maybe propose your own theory, instead of p!$$!ng on the rest of us for coming up with ones that don’t jive with your sad little universe? Play the game instead of being a dunce, perhaps?

      Just a(nother) thought.

    • Chris says:

      W7ENK…Not pouncing. I promise. Although, reading my post and your post I did find it ironic that you told me to chill. 🙂

    • That was a lot to read, but I did appreciate the exemplary grammar.

    • W7ENK says:

      Meh, mine wasn’t perfect. That’s what happens when my brain runs faster than my fingers…

  7. About the only interesting thing I saw on any of the 12z models today or that offers weather excitement was the 12z GEM(Canadian)
    Look how strong they project the ridge to be over the Columbia Basin. 1038-1045mb. Coupled with warm 850mb temps aloft IF this pans out can you say damaging east wind storm(s)? Yeah.

  8. CFSv2 takes Nino3.4 SST down below -0.5 for JFMA 2013. That, along with -PDO, suggests to me cool /cold late January thru June, lots of mountain and foothill snow

  9. This should nauseate some people. Here are the 10 AM temperatures around Dallas/Fort Worth and across north-central Texas. Also, snow cover is shown too!

    We can’t even get a freeze at PDX and yet they have SNOW COVER in Texas at 10 AM! and temps still well below freezing. Global Warming!!!

    • alohabb says:

      We are being punished for that great September we had!

    • runrain says:

      Want worse news? I’m in Las Vegas and it was SNOWING here earlier too. Right on The Strip! Mostly graupel but it was enough to coat LV Blvd briefly. Strange sight! Partly vloudy and 45 deg here now. Heading to San Antonio for the OSU bowl game and barely 60 deg expected there. Oh well. Go Beavs!

    • JohnD says:

      Yes, for impassioned weather hobbiests, I have
      often said that we have incredibly hard winters
      here: cool but rarely cold, dark, grey and
      drizzly. And while we are pulling for that rare
      snow event (which may never come)seemingly every
      other location is getting one. All this very,
      very tough on the emotions. By mid-Feb. with
      nothing in sight–climbing the walls and just
      hoping to God for an early spring. And right
      now, not looking good at all. But as Mark
      pointed out, there are years when we have about
      had it by January, something finally does pop
      up in February.

  10. ==========================================
    7:59 AM Update

    12z MM5-NAM has reverted from last night and now shows this weak, dissipating low to drop southeast moving over PDX and remain southeast of us.

    1:00 AM Thursday

    1013mb dissipating low closed area of circulation

    4:00 AM Thursday

    7:00 AM Thursday

    Now it has lots all of its identity becoming an open weak wave before final degrading stage is complete.

    Again, I’m not highlighting anything exciting, or saying it’s going to snow, I am rather merely looking to see if we can keep any warm push out of the area and especially the Columbia Basin so we can get the cold pool building sooner rather than later.

  11. Thomyee says:

    6z lala 384 some eye candy. Not a 10, but an 8. Just needs some bigger you know what(westward movement of high just a tad and maybe better height rise in southern AK).

  12. ========================================
    2:06 AM Update

    Just carefully analyzed 00z WRF 4km 925mb/SLP model.
    Do you all realize how incredibly close it is to not only a possible wet snow flirtation tomorrow night, but even closer to reestablishing east wind and cold pool generation much sooner? It is amazingly close.

    Run the loop and check it twice!
    Weakening area of low pressure currently off the NW Washington Coast slowly sinks southeastward.

    10:00 AM Today

    Seen here at 1004mb due west of Astoria. Note the wind barbs from about Salem/Aurora north are very light easterly, more so an easterly drift through the Gorge as well with a weak PDX-DLS of about 2mb.
    *Note the widespread 0c to -3c low level cold pool over the Gorge, Columbia Basin, and eastern Washington.

    Fast forward to 4:00 PM Today

    Low continues to weaken at 1007mb crossing the north Coast Range. Again note the wind barbs are still weakly offshore.

    7:00 PM Today

    Dissipating 1009mb low moves inland just south of Portland. Weak offshore flow continues. 925mb cold pool east side remains in place. Beyond this time frame around 1:00 AM Thursday the gradient goes flat throughout the Gorge and eventually turns slightly onshore across the area as whatever is left of the low moves pretty much due east along the OR/WA border. Surface pattern remains light with until about midnight Thursday. Around 1 AM(roughly) Friday Morning easterly flow resumes as a colder air thickens up over the Columbia Basin.

    So all in all we’re only looking at about 24 hours without offshore flow. If 12z WRF today takes the low comes in just 25-50 miles further south and importantly its track remains south of the Gorge as it traverses across the state we will see offshore flow continue perhaps never losing it or only for a few hours. If it instead takes the low slightly further north over PDX or into Southwest Washington we develop light southerlies, remove any chance of wet snow/mix later tonight, and cold pool development is delayed.

    Hopefully the snow that has fallen east side into the Columbia Basin won’t all melt off. That would be key to setting up things down the road. One thing is for sure, we are into a pattern now and at that time of year where it doesn’t take much at all to put PDX into a possible overrunning snow/sleet/zr situation.

    • 00z MM5-NAM takes the low inland north of PDX. Just for the record.

    • Looking at IR loops carefully unfortunately it appears the MM5-NAM is handling things better than the WRF. It may even track further north into Washington.

    • pappoose in scappoose says:

      But there’s a chance! Hahaah!

    • W7ENK says:

      FWIW, unless there’s a mega-high somewhere in the neighborhood, a weakening/dissipating 1009mb low doesn’t even really constitute a low at all, that’s just random neutral air swirling about. Really, that’s anything over 1000mb, which is certainly nothing to write home about.

      I’ll take a look at things as soon as I get to a computer…

    • W7ENK says:

      HAHAHA! I just took a peek from my phone…

      Even if the “low” tracks 100 miles South of PDX, you’ve still got only 2mb NE-ly difference between Spokane and PDX, and 3mb S-ly difference between Eugene and PDX, with even more positive pressure stacked up behind it to the S and W all the way offshore and into California, off two edges of the frame… It’s obvious which is going to win.

    • Erik? I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make. WRF/MM5 both show it is a closed area of low pressure, weak or not. I also wanted to say I have seen many very healthy and dynamic lows in the 1000-1008mb range before. The entire point of my post was nothing more than to keep the flow neutral or offshore so we can build the cold pool in the Columbia Basin sooner.

    • W7ENK says:

      The only point I’m trying to make is that this shows a stronger S-ly flow than E-ly flow at PDX, and with such weak pressure differences between the mess of random “highs” (1011-1012) and “lows” (1009-1010) across the region, and the absence of any cold (dense) air in place here in the Northern Valley, the S-lys will overcome any flow coming out the Gorge. Eventually, the S-lys always win. I’m not disagreeing with anything you’ve said, this is just a very messy and boring, somewhat stagnant and disappointing pattern we’re in. Like you said, we’re so close, but the pieces just aren’t lining up quite right. If only!

      I was looking forward to going over to Madras for work tomorrow, getting to see some snow, but now my co-worker (who was going to drive) just canceled our trip — because of the snow. 😥

    • There might be very weak southerlies, but more than not we’re looking at light/flat gradients or offshore flow. I don’t see the southerlies winning or any warm push coming.

    • Close lol It was 34 here most of the day yesterday with over a half inch of rain.

  13. bgb41 says:

    12/25/2012 Oregon (All) Temperature Summary

    High:53 at BROOKINGS( 79 ft)
    Low: 47 at Port Orford(0 ft)

    High:19 at CRANE PRAIRIE(5500 ft)
    Low: -8 at CRANE PRAIRIE (5500 ft )

    Largest Diurnal Change: 35 degrees
    BALTZOR RANCH NE (30/-5 ) (4620 ft )

    Heaviest Rainfall:
    1.79″ at Mount Hood Meado(5249ft)
    1.61″ at RED MOUND(1753ft)

  14. 6 PM and PDX-EUG is now +1.0mb… Was anyone expecting northerly surface flow at this time? Not to mention it just increased a tad. I wasn’t. No model showed it. The east wind and offshore low proved to be King once again holding back the warm front and southerly push at the lowest levels. I love the Gorge….

  15. Ben T says:

    Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you all had/are having a wonderful and happy Christmas!

  16. 12z ECMWF
    I really like this. Splitty/ridge pattern breaks down fairly quickly replaced by strong zonal flow. Also, another reload of Siberian bitterly cold air is once again back on our side of the pole moving towards Alaska. Reset the pattern into January, turn AK/YK/BC/AB into an ice box again and see if we can get a true block to develop offshore.

  17. pappoose in scappoose says:

  18. kcteach Gresham 500' says:

    My wife and I got each other snowshoes for Christmas (maybe I got mine and she got hers, who knows?!) Looking for ideas for good spots to go within an hour of Gresham. Is there currently snow at the Larch Mountain gate, because there is that road off to the left. Any other advice? Merry Christmas!

  19. W7ENK says:

    A White Christmas at my family’s beach house in Olympia today.

    Photo from my best childhood friends’ house next door:

    I’m incredibly, insanely jealous!

  20. 2 PM and PDX-EUG is still showing +0.8mb weak northerly flow between Portland and Eugene. Meanwhile, the east wind just keeps going with PDX-DLS at -4.5mb. Peak thus far was -6.6mb @9 AM which was quite a bit weaker than modeled. Also, I noticed 925mb/850mb temps were a lot warmer than 00z indicated, not so much over PDX, but the Gorge mainly. 00z showed temps in the Dalles to be 26-28 F at the onset of precip, it was I think 32. That is a huge difference and why I kept proclaiming “bust” as in the previous forecast and Winter Storm Warning for the Gorge(at river/highway level) wouldn’t pan out.

    IF ONLY we had a cold pool to draw from today we would have seen a widespread 6-10+” snow storm throughout the northern Willamette Valley, PDX, Gorge, etc…

    • To be fair, Mark, you did forecast a much bigger event. AND no, trust me this is not me being disrespectful.

      “It will be ALL SNOW east of Multnomah Falls in the Columbia River Gorge…8-14″ possible from 6am to 6pm!” was just warmer than modeled.

    • To be even more fair the NWS busted the worse even re-issuing the same exact Warnings and Advisories at 3:11 AM when it was clearly obvious the atmosphere was not as cold as modeled or as they expected. Their 9 PM AFD mentioned it, but for whatever reason they still went with the status quo.

  21. Karl Bonner says:

    I just measured 2.4″ of snow on the table outside, but given how wet and melty the snow now is, I’m confident we got at least 3″ near river level in The Dalles.

  22. pappoose in scappoose says:

    I really like the view from the gorge!

  23. pmbalmforth says:

    Guilty as charged!

  24. paulbeugene says:

    Not looking like it is going to be a very merry Christmas in southern Alabama this afternoon/evening…

    Still looking on the cool side for the last week of the year…although inversions are not going to be all that strong..perhaps we can avoid a dreaded persistent fog regime…maybe we can get some clear nights and finally some solid frosts/freezes here in S valley.

    Merry Christmas….

    • dothgrin says:

      Yeah, I’ll take the cold rain any day compared to the outbreak Alabama and Louisiana is beginning to have. It is going to be a long day out there.
      That said, Merry Christmas all!

  25. Brad says:

    “Everything is working out just about right forecast-wise this morning.”

    Er, no. Tough winter so far for Mark.

  26. You know the Grinch stole (weather) christmas when………….. Since the rain moved in temps dropped from 39 down to a steady 34 for over three hours and get 0.38 still raining.

  27. JJ97222 says:

    The under the dome is reporting no snow just cold rain, 85 wood stove heated degrees in the family room staying warm, maybe later I will check for snow on top of the dome. The moss loves this weather it is starting to grow everywhere. Another brush with snow down the drain so close but again PDX has nothing head for the hills for a White Christmas. Heading to my brother’s condo at Collins Lake Resort for dinner. 4 wheel chains maybe!

  28. cgavic says:

    I found some old photos in one of our albums dating 1968, with 1 foot of snow on the ground. Then, at an ele. of 600 ft.

    Growing up my brother and I could not understand when they forecasted snow levels in the gorge at 500 feet, we got so excited, because that was supposed to mean for us, (we thought) definite snow for our farm at 600 ft in Estacada.

    But, back then, in the ’60’s, we didn’t realize northwest Oregon had five climatic zones, to include the infamous Columbia river gorge affect, that did not include us.

    • David B. says:

      You don’t even have to go that far back. When I was living in Portland in 2008, there was 13″ of snow on the ground at my place in NW (under 100′ elevation) and more like 16 to 18″ on the ground in the St. Johns neighborhood, and 1″ of new fell that day.

  29. KE7AQD says:

    Greetings from ~260′ in The Dalles. I currently (11:50) have a light mostly rain and snow mix and 32.4º, with not quite an inch of snow on the ground. I’ve seen some spotter reports nearby of up to an estimated 4″.

  30. cgavic says:

    Merry Christmas! 33 degs……and …raining at 1,100 ft in sandy. East wind. Cold.

    That Just show the climatic differences between the Columbia river gorge and just over larch mountain into sandy.

    Central Oregon just got away barely with a white Christmas.

  31. Here’s to all of us reverse-wishcasters! Merry Christmas and may all of your past and future Christmases be white!

  32. bilko says:

    1 inch on Kool road at 1200 feet,

  33. David B. says:

    Snowing in Bremerton (near sea level) now, per highway cameras. NWS reports indicate snow has changed to rain in Olympia. Still looks like 100% rain at the Mt. Walker highway camera, which I believe is around 1000 feet elevation.

  34. Alternating wet snowflakes, chunky rain, rain. Bummer it’s not 3-4 degrees colder…. Not very wintry, but I guess typical of Christmas in the northwest.

    • What’s the phrase, stick a fork in it, this winters d….?!

    • David B. says:

      I pretty much gave up on the idea that flakes would materialize in the central Puget Sound area when I went to bed at 11pm and Sea-Tac was still reporting a temperature of 41 and there were no stars visible outside. If it had been clear an 36 then, I’d have woken up very disappointed if it was just raining.

    • David B. says:

      Winter’s hardly done. It’s less than a week old! January is historically the month that has the most arctic blasts and widespread lowland snow events.

    • I figure all that’s left to do is to taunt winter, like poking a sleeping lion with a stick, maybe that will goad winter into action.

    • David B. says:

      I see your point. Yeah, this pathetic winter is a real disappointment. 🙂

  35. Cap - HR says:

    4 to 5 inches have fallen up in the HR Heights (550 ft). Still coming down quite steady. Temp is right at or just above freezing.

  36. Dave in SW PDX (235') says:

    Merry Christmas to Mark and to all my fellow Fox12 Weather Blog members! Maybe Santa will give us something nice to look at in the long range today.

  37. Danny in Troutdale says:


  38. W7ENK says:

    Merry Christmas Mark, and everyone!

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