Some Cold Weather Stats

The bulk of our cold spell has passed, in fact we climbed above freezing for the first time in 5 days today.  Lots of 34-37 degree temps.  Tomorrow should be a little warmer with an east wind and afternoon sunshine.  Good time to check out some stats.

So how did our cold spell rank?


Definitely the coldest in the metro area since at least 2009.  I noticed Hillsboro, Portland, Aurora, and McMinnville were the same or colder in December 2009.  Troutdale hasn’t been this cold since the 2004 ice storm.  It appears the 14 degree reading in Downtown Portland was the coldest since 1990.

Once you head out to the coast or down the valley, it became a more historic cold spell.  Tillamook was colder in 2009, but Newport hasn’t been down to 18 since 1998, and Astoria hit 13, the coldest since December 1990. Salem’s 8 degree reading was the coldest since 1990 too.  Eugene’s amazing -10 was the coldest since 1972.

If you’ve been in our area a long time you might think it was a big cold spell, but not THAT bad.  I think I know why.

1.  We had very little of that strong east wind we often see in these cold spells.  Only Friday was windy, then it went calm.

2.  Daytime highs were all very reasonable…28 or higher in Portland each day.


Compare this cold spell with 1989, 1990, or 1983.  Those are featured a raging east wind and bitter wind chills.  In February 1989, we had a day in the TEENS with an east wind gusting 40-60 mph across the metro area!  Wow…

We had 0.5″ snow Friday, and 0.2″  today, for a GRAND TOTAL of 0.7″ so far this winter.

It’s very likely this was the coldest weather we will see this winter; to get another cold spell like this would be historic.


Models this afternoon/evening are hinting that another shot of cold air may try to drop into the western USA right around the beginning of Christmas Break (NEXT Friday) about 10 days from now.  Here is the 00z GFS ensemble chart showing quite a dip late next week:


The 00z ECMWF is also pushing arctic air south again at day 10 now:


The air mass is about as cold as what we just went through on the model run!  In 1990 we did have two arctic blasts in a two-week period, so it’s possible, but we’ll see.


Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen



89 Responses to Some Cold Weather Stats

  1. WEATHERDAN says:

    2 arctic blasts in one Winter would indeed be unusual but not historic. It happened in the Winter of 49-50 and also in the Winter of 61-62 and then again in 68-69. So if it happens it would indeed be rare but not the first time. Now getting back to the Winter of 1968-1969 which has gotten so much attention this year, here is how it played out. Our first snowfall was a scant 1 inch on November 30. Then we had a 2 inch snowfall on December 4th although it made it up to 36 by late afternoon. By the way we had to go to school that day. Then it warmed up until about the 18th to mainly 40,s to very low 50,s. Then we had a small cold spell with a snowstorm on the 22nd. That Sunday before Christmas we had a quick 4 inches before it warmed above freezing in the afternoon. Then with southerly winds up to 45 MPH the temperature shot up to 50 degrees around midnight. Christmas was rainy and in the 40,s. Then an Arctic blast hit on Saturday the 28th. By the 30th Salem had a foot of snow on the ground. Our low and high that day was 8/11. But the next day warmed us up to 32 by nightfall. Just after New Years day in 1969 we had a mini warm spell with highs of 58, 57, 56 on three consecutive days. It was the last time it would hit 50 for a month. We then had two weeks in a North/Northwest flow. It either snowed or rain and snowed for the next two weeks straight. Highs ranged from 32-42 and that was the warm part of January. At elevations of 1000 feet or higher the snow piled up by the feet. Then about the 18th we had another Arctic blast that was truly historic. After nearly a week of declining temperatures under sunny skies it started to snow on Saturday January 25th. The maximum snow depth at Eugene was reported to be 44 inches. Salem reached almost two feet. It was still snowing in early February when it finally hit 35 degree. We used up our week of snow days that Winter. And so by early February we had to go to school even though there was a foot of snow on the ground. Fortunately school was just 4 blocks away. There was spots of snow on the ground even into mid February. Then it started and we had a very warm spring and a nice warm summer. It was the best Winter of my life. But then I was only 15 years old and didn’t have to drive or pay the heating bills. A side-note to this. We got 5 snow-days each Winter. If we didn’t miss more than 5 days during the Winter we didn’t have to go to school longer in the Spring. Now it looks like we may have another cold spell coming up about the 19th of December. Hmmm sounds familiar to me. Oh it’s still just 28 degrees in Salem at Noon with some fog. Our low was 18 last night. NWS had called for 25. Quite often when meteorologist miss forecasts it is in the Winter. Much harder to forecast than the Summer. Give Mark a lot of credit, he is usually spot on with his forecasts. Merry Christmas everyone, Peace.

    • Spring 1969 draws my attention as one of the most abrupt, un-PNW-like springs we’ve ever had. It didn’t start in February and continue well into June as is the norm.

      January-February 1969 was very cold for The Dalles. Fifteen nights below 20 degrees in January, and not a single 50-degree day that year until February 17. We didn’t hit 55 until March 12 either – but the 2nd half of March was quite toasty with lots of days in the 60s and low 70s. So winter lagged on quite a while but then we had an abrupt shift to spring in mid-March.

      Then, May and June 1969 were extremely warm – summer really started May 5-6 that year! So late March and April was about all we had for in-between temps that year. Imagine how sudden the flowering and leaf-out must have been that year!!!

  2. JohnD says:

    The mid-south Valley is staying socked in with fog
    and 20’s all day today–with those conditions likely
    to persist. They have been in a big time winter
    weather regime there for nearly a full week now–that
    we simply did not get. In any event I simply cannot
    believe that they don’t have the potential for a
    significant transitional ice storm down there before
    it is all said and done! Way more so than here.

  3. Ryan says:

    The 1000 foot tower temps are almost exactly where they were at this time yesterday. The 1800 temps are warmer, which makes sense. And they finally have the 1500 foot temps working. Those are staying below freezing too! What gradual warmup??

  4. Seahawks Fan - NE Vancouver says:

    Roads were very bad this morning in Clark County. So many accidents on the side streets.

  5. Andrew (Beaverton, OR) says:

    Only up to 30 at PDX at this hour, don’t think we will be near 40 today at this point. Its amazing how long this cold air is hanging on. Makes me think tomorrows freezing rain event could be the real deal.

    • Ryan says:

      Yea we have about 3 more hours to warmup 10 degrees. Doubtful with no mixing of the air. Maybe 35-36? And remember with tomorrow, the rain can create evaporative cooling, similar to the Dec 29th 2009 event(although that was all snow) which can drop temps a degree or 2. Still a similar situation in my opinion, since it was only a matter of 1-2 degrees that day. I bet Mark hedges this possibility with his latest post. I don’t think he can afford another December 29th, 2009. That was a VERY rough day in history for the local meteorologists.

    • Seahawks Fan - NE Vancouver says:

      Mark still very adamant that it will be just rain and everything will go on as normal. I trust him so I’m planning to go about my day like it will do just that. With it less than 24 hours away, he would mention the chance of ZR if he felt his forecast could bust.

    • David B. says:

      With a dew point near 30, there’s not going to be much evaporative cooling.

    • Model Rider says:

      South winds will rush in before the precip starts hence the plain old rain for tomorrow

      • Ryan says:

        Not according to the NWS special weather statement….no south wind until evening. At least north of wilsonville and maybe the whole valley.

  6. Ryan says:

    Mark, you sure we’re gonna hit 40 today? It’s almost noon and everywhere except troutdale is 30 or below. And even Troutdale is only 33. If the rain comes in at this time tomorrow(which it’s forecasted to do) we could have a nightmare on our hands! A fun one at that.

  7. Model Rider says:

    12z euro looks to give us a glancing blow next week before it heads east. I fully expect this time for the cold air to shift east in coming runs. We shall see

  8. vernonia1 says:

    Hope someone can get to the airport on 12/23. Grand kids incoming 🙂

  9. SnowedIn - North Plains says:

    So about the whole “W7ENK Dome” thing. I’m seriously interested in investigating it a bit more. Does the “dome” seem to block out precip or wind (or both)? I’d love to hear some theories as to why it occurs.

    • JJ78259 says:

      Precision Cast Parts!

    • W7ENK says:

      “Officially” called the Milwaukie/Clackamas/Gladstone/Oregon City anti-weather glass dome — better known and more commonly referred to as simply “The Dome”, it seems to be transparent to East winds, true South winds, rainfall in temperature down to and including 33 degrees, and aircraft. It just seems to block out thunderstorms, winds with any Westerly component to them, and all forms of frozen precipitation, particularly accumulating snowfall. Granted, there have been and will continue to be times when The Dome is defeated, but that is certainly the exception rather than the norm.

      It’s always been tongue-in-cheek, but is there really any science behind it? I don’t know, maybe. I’ve lived here my whole life, and there really does seem to be some sort of an anomalous warm microclimate in the area. I wish I knew the true answer, but this dome idea is much more fun.

      What’s more is, most everyone who’s ever lived in the general area knows “it” exists. They’ve experienced it for themselves, many of them long before I was even born. In fact, just this morning one of the older engineers in my office was telling me how his sister and her husband chose to purchase their house in Milwaukie back 30 some years ago specifically because the area gets less snowy/icy weather in the winter.

      It’s there, I swear it is! 😛

  10. dharmabum says:

    Rob, what do you make of all this? Or did you go south for the winter?

  11. Model Rider says:

    Portland is ridiculous when it comes to a little snow or ice. I’m in Redmond and there is packed snow on mostly all the streets. Not one cancellation for schools here due to that. There was one day where they did a 2 hour delay due to cold temps however. I’ve been driving on this packed snow now for 6 days now and no issues. Sprout a pair Portland

    • dharmabum says:

      Maybe it’s because the closer the roads get to 32 degrees the more slippery they get. I suppose Redmond is like Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.

    • W7ENK says:

      That doesn’t explain Klamath Falls, though. Where the women have no teeth, the men have no teeth, and the children eat Mac-n-cheese made with bong water. And sadly, that last part is a true story, according to one of my professors down there… 😦

      And yet they still somehow know how to drive on snow covered roads for 11 months out of the year. My guess is experience vs. the lack thereof. How often does it snow in Redmond or Klamabama? Now, now often does it snow in Portland??

    • dharmabum says:

      W7 wow, and their main hobby must be storing snow for the other 6 months to spread for their practice runs!

    • Mark says:

      In some cases the administrators in charge of making the “school” vs “no school” call are in error. But Redmond has no large-scale hills to deal with. Portland has the West Hills, and that is no small chore to deal with for a large-scale school bus system.

      Portland is a high density, vehicle laden metro area, with old, narrow, steep, roads to work with. The bus drivers are rarely driving in snowy/icy conditions. Other drivers are also another issue. There are those that do not take precautions or should not be on the roads that can cause accidents (and often do). Many, many factors must be considered for the bussing system in Portland when inclement whether hits.

      When buses slide off into ditches and other busses cannot reach them due to piled up traffic and risk, it becomes a nightmare to track down parents and have them rescue their children and get them to school, if it can be done at all.

      If MN had steep terrain all around (instead of flat ground as far as the eye can see), salt or no salt, they’d see lots of canceled day also.

    • dothgrin says:

      It is all about legality: Allow the students to come to school, bus gets in a major accident, then a parent can (in theory and in practice) sue the district for putting their child at risk. As Mark mentioned, Portland’s hills change the equation when it comes to ice. It is safer (and in the long term cheaper) to delay or cancel schools then the alternative.

    • Scott says:

      While I do not dispute that Portland is ridiculous, you are talking about apples and oranges here. Redmond is flat and Portland is hilly. Redmond is less dense in population\traffic jams. Finally, you get snow all the time. You are better equipped for snow removal, and your drivers know how to drive. This morning it looked clear. However, in many places it was litterally a sheet of ice. In some places it was fine. The variability is dangerous. If it’s snow packed roads, you know you will have less traction. The black ice…comes out and bites you if not careful, and even when careful on a turn with slope…you are screwed…

  12. gidrons says:

    St. Helens schools are closed, but it was a scheduled early release day already. All of the side roads were pretty slick this morning. There’s still about an inch of snow at my house at 1000′.

    • pappoose in scappoose says:

      Just measured 2″ in an untouched spot in my driveway. Trees here that don’t see the sun are still flocked!

  13. Garron near Washington Square says:

    The road sanding trucks were parked in my lot this morning. I was absolutely puzzled that they were called upon for the freezing fog. But apparently most of the city was in an icy mess this morning, only the far west side was spared this time. The guys laughed and said yeah we were surprised too, but that this was just a practice run for tomorrow??? I guess they get paid to lay down deicer whether the weather warrants it or not. I want me won of them purteee big payin big city jobs!!!!

  14. W7ENK says:

    Well now, this is funny!

    Fake Portland Snow Day E-mailed From… China?
    Local news, Portland Police Bureau briefly punked.

  15. Jane - Forest Grove says:

    Snowing a little in Wilsonville this morning? Must have snuck in under the radar.

  16. W7ENK says:

    The Dome was in effect yet again this morning.

    23.0 degrees overnight, 25.0 with light fog when I left the house, and the roads were completely dry/bare. Just South of Milwaukie (Oak Grove/Gladstone) I heard McLoughlin was slick and slow going, also North of SE Tacoma St., the stretch of McLoughlin between the Bybee overpass and SE 17th was a skating rink when I went through at 6:30. Traffic was at a crawl, and the rear tires on my bus were breaking loose every time the driver touched the gas. All the side streets looked like it had snowed. By the time we got to the Ross Is Br, everything was dry/bare again.

    Hoping for another go-around with the cold weather again soon, this time with a healthy dumping of widespread snow please?

  17. alohabb says:

    I take that back , its pretty slippery over on stark in se pdx. Westside has nothing but sunshine

  18. chiefWright (Marquam) says:

    Spin up the Bing Crosby:
    “iiiimm wishcasting a white Christmas…”

  19. Andrew (Beaverton, OR) says:

    Portland public schools are now closed, is this a joke???

    • Ryan says:

      I think they got hacked or something. It is absolutely safe to drive out there today. And the days when it wasn’t, no cancellations? I think they start drinking early on these winter mornings.

    • Scott says:

      I have a subaru outback, and drove around this morning. I slid multiple times. (Well…I was kind of testing it if it was slick…) I could easily get to where I needed, but it WAS very slick. Not just side streets. rear wheel and\or non experienced drivers, could have problems.

    • MrdonutMr says:

      I walked to the store this morning 28th & E. Burnside. Absolutely not slippery anywhere until you stepped somewhere that was. Wife said if was a bit of a wild ride over to her office on NE Fremont – even with a fresh set of Blizzak winter tires. So much for my plans today…

    • W7ENK says:

      The stretch of McLoughlin between the Bybee overpass and SE 17th was a skating rink at 6:30 this morning. Traffic was at a crawl, and the rear tires on my bus were breaking loose every time the driver touched the gas. Multiple reports of accidents, especially around inner SE and out in far NE, I think closing schools was overboard, but certainly a 2 hour delay would have been appropriate.

  20. Ryan says:

    Did I hear Vancouver schools are closed all day for freezing FOG??? Are you kidding me? I live near Hillsboro, one of the foggiest places in the area. It was 22 this morning with dense freezing fog and I had absolutely no problems driving on either the side roads or the highway. Gimme a break!

    • Debergerac says:

      Eastside is crazy slippery. Worst road conditions of this entire arctic blast (in my opinion).

    • Debergerac says:

      Surprised me too. Didn’t expect it to be that slippery but after the third or fourth slide (I’m a slow learner), I realized I better slow down even more. Maybe something to do with that old DMV test question I remember — which is slicker: ice at 22 degrees or ice at 31 degrees? (Or something like that…basically ice is slicker as it gets closer to 32 degrees). The ice/snow of this weekend/last Friday was very dry and sticky.

    • Tyler Mode in Battle Ground says:

      Vancouver had a lot more leftover moisture from the snow yesterday too. Plus fog doesn’t freeze onto surfaces everywhere. It takes the right conditions for accretion.

    • dharmabum says:

      micro-climates, watch out, they are lurking everywhere!

    • pappoose in scappoose says:

      Good point, Debergerac.
      I’m doing donuts much more easily!

  21. Mark says:

    EURO 00Z by day 8 brings back the cold in spades. 06Z GFS modeling almost equally split. Half the models try to keep us warm, the other half want to take us right back into the deep freeze – or beyond. Now waiting on that 12Z to take shape. If it falls in line with the 00Z – and these models hold for the next two days, the fun begins in seeing what the local weather stations call for in their long-range forecasts…

    A nice sized low pours right out of the Gulf of Alaska, dragging along the B.C. coastline, wrapping in cold continental air. Enough so to bring PDX and beyond a decently scaled snow event…

    8/9 days out, but again, the trend (overall) if holding (if you trust the EURO more than the GFS runs). Snow on the ground. Another arctic outpour. Zero in Portland anyone?

    • JJ78259 says:

      White Christmas in Portland!

    • David B. says:

      I’ll be rooting for it. It was really disappointing that I got almost no snow at all (just some very light flurries one day) out of the last event. And my favorite time for lowland snow is when the holiday decorations are still up… so let’s hope.

    • W7ENK says:

      I’m right there with ya, David!

    • JJ78259 says:

      We have some great photos of our old house in Milwaukie with snow and lights up from a few years ago we have them out for Christmas Decorations in our new house down here. I am hoping it warms up down here we should hit 60 today to almost 70 by the weekend the arctic blast kept us cold for 4 days.

  22. dharmabum says:

    Beautiful dense freezing fog this morning! Up to twenty two.


    “The fog comes
    on little cat feet.

    It sits looking
    over harbor and city
    on silent haunches
    and then moves on.”

    Carl Sandburg

  23. MasterNate says:

    I think what’s more amazing is how dry we have been since last spring really with the exception of May and September. October was great, November dry and December is shaping up the same. I know it only takes a few storms to catch up but nothing major in the pike as of yet. We need mountain snow!! 22 here this morning with dense fog.

  24. alohabb says:

    20 in aloha..but I don’t see any freezing fog.

  25. Andrew (Beaverton, OR) says:

    Roads are white downtown from the freezing fog, 26 on the car temp.

    • W7ENK says:

      It must have been warmer down here by the river or something. I stepped off the bus in downtown just 30 mins after you posted this and saw no sign of white roads. It was, however, so foggy that you couldn’t see the skyline at all from right across the river!

      • Ryan says:

        Yea I can’t understand how NE is so bad with the exact same temps and fogginess and Hillsboro. Couldn’t see a thing out in Hillsboro yet no issues with ice.

  26. Roman~Snow-Zone-Monmouth, Elv. 223' says:

    17.4F with freezing fog.

  27. Andrew (Beaverton, OR) says:

    Amazing how much colder we are here in Beaverton. I am currently sitting at 20 degrees with freezing fog while PDX is at 30.

  28. Muxpux (Castle Rock 175') says:

    Stepping outside for a smoke feels eerie. Like a cabin in the woods. The back deck is under 2 large firs on one side and a large cedar on the other. The trees are dripping, breaking the silence, and the fog is thick, looking down the length of the deck it’s noticeable. The slushy snow just adds to the sensation…

  29. dharmabum says:

    Got up to bank the fire, and wow 19 degrees!!! Holy smoke!!! Out here at Barton this is definitely one cold spell of historic proportion.

  30. Jake-(Gresham) says:

    There’s some pretty heavy fog outside (wasn’t expecting to see that looking outside). Currently sitting at 29F.

  31. melissa says:

    THE SNOW WAS VERRY BEAUITFUL and verry cold i put a cup of water out next morning was froz lol interesting

  32. schmit44 says:

    12/10/2013 Oregon (All) Temperature Summary

    High:58 at RED MOUND(1753 ft)
    Low: 41 at FLYNN PRAIRIE(1543 ft)

    High:14 at NYSSA(2172 ft)
    Low: -14 at Beatty (4320 ft )

    Largest Diurnal Change: 45 degrees
    Horse Ridge (US (37/-8 ) (4160 ft )

    Heaviest Rainfall:
    0.28″ at BURNT RIDGE(2955ft)
    0.22″ at HYATT DAM AND RE(5013ft)
    0.22″ at SLIDE MOUNTAIN(5589ft)

  33. Ryan says:

    Thanks, Mark! Question on Thursday… Does the fact that this was pretty much a historic arctic air mass increase out chances for models to be underestimating the scouring out of the cold air? I would think it would be that much harder to warm up without a south wind this time, as opposed to a more normal arctic air mass. My grandpa was recalling 1979(couldn’t remember exact year) where the forecast called for a very similar slight freezing rain event followed by a fairly quick warmup. BUT, it never did warm up, and when the heavier rain came in soon after, PDX was left with over 2″ of ice!

    • Richard Hodges SE 160TH & Burnside says:

      I remember it well. It was on, I believe, the 8th of January, 1979. I remember going to bed the night before the storm and the weather forcast was for a low of about 37 with a chance of some light rain.

      I woke up at 5:00 a.m. to the sound of transformers blowing up and it was 25 degrees and raining hard! I lived by SW 18th and market then, which was close to downtown. Anyway, we got about 1″ of freezing rain. However, my dad lived close to NE 167th and Glisan and he got 3″ of freezing rain.

      Also, exactly a year later to the day, the same thing happened again and my dad had 3″ of freezing rain at his place. I missed that one, since I was away at school then, but I heard about it.

      • Ryan says:

        Awesome, glad to know my grandpa wasn’t making it up, lol. With this fog, temps could stay near freezing tomorrow morning. Long enough to get freezing rain?

  34. Taylor says:

    I can’t read weather models, but if the model agreement continues until about Saturday or so then I’ll start to believe it.

    • David B. says:

      I’ll second that. 10 days out is la-la-land. Once it gets to within a week (and it’s not just a few runs, but the preponderance of them), then it’s time to get excited. It’s what happened with the most recent arctic outflow event.

    • David B. says:

      There’s also often false alarms 10 days out. Many of them. Don’t fall for the logical fallacy of counting the wins and ignoring the losses.

  35. Trish Lilley says:

    I’m gonna be incredibly upset if it snows on Christmas whilst I’m visiting family in L.A.!! Especially since it’ll probably be warm enough for shorts. *gag*

  36. Kenny says:

    The new 00z EURO is now in agreement with the new 00z GFS Ensembles. We are headed for another one starting next Thursday as true arctic air starts to arrive from the north. The Weather Gods felt bad that we have had great arctic blast in recent years but no widespread snow in PDX. It will give us a Christmas present that we will never ever forget. Merry Christmas!

    • Sifton says:

      Bravo Kenneth! Melodramatic much?

    • BoringOregon says:

      What did I say last summer haha….. “Its the calm before the storm.”

    • Mark says:

      Maybe… 10 days in winter forecasting is an eternity in time. A new trend may break out tomorrow or the next day or the next, moving away from this. That’s how it goes. But it is fun to hope…

    • EY (Oak Grove) says:

      That moment when you think that any good weather is an utter fluke and the bad weather is what will happen regardless of history.

      …That said, I’m banking on another cool-to-cold shot of air in the next 10 days.

  37. Joe Schmoe says:

    If more cold does in fact come in, the question is if we get any precipitation (Snow?)

  38. paulbeugene says:

    If this happens we should start seeing some ice floes

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