Lots of Rain and Wind Ahead

January 7, 2014

It’s been a very quiet 5 weeks in Western Oregon…since early December we’ve seen no period featuring rainy and windy weather systems.  It appears that we have one week of action (this week), and then it’s back to boring weather again for next week and beyond.

One cold front moves through tomorrow afternoon; expect to get real wet at that time, similar to what we saw midday today except it’ll last a bit longer.  We’ll see a breezy south wind with tomorrow’s front, but wind gusts should be in the 20-30 mph range, maybe a little higher.

Much stronger wind comes with a powerful Pacific storm system moving through the area late Friday through Saturday.  This one will feature very warm air ahead of a cold front later Friday through about daybreak Saturday, then lots of cooler showers and wind behind the front during the day Saturday.  A classic surge of rain in the mountains followed by heavy snow as strong and colder westerly wind runs into the north-south oriented ranges.  Peak wind gusts look to be in the 40-50 mph range with this system during that time west of the Cascades.  Certainly not high-wind warning material, but since we haven’t seen a south wind gust over 25 mph in Portland for 5 weeks (that’s weird), it’ll cause a few issues.

I expect 2-3″ of rain before we dry out next Monday, not enough for flooding, but a much-needed soaking.

How about the mountains?  Avoid the times ahead of the cold fronts, especially Friday, and aim for the post-storm days.  Thursday and Sunday look great to me.  Saturday should be fine too, but heavy snow will be falling.

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Will this be enough to open up some more resorts?  Maybe or maybe not.  Looks like Skibowl, Hoodoo, and Willamette Pass are starting from just about zero again, so 20″ or so might not do it.  IF we avoid getting significant rain Friday that would help avoid disturbing some of tomorrow night’s snow base.  We’ll see.

Note the 3 day snow forecast from the WRF-GFS, showing a solid 18″+ around Mt. Hood from Thursday through Sunday mornings:

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Why do I think we will return to the mild upper-level ridging pattern?  Take a look at the 12z ensemble chart and earlier 18z GFS chart; they both show above normal temps through the foreseeable future after this weekend.

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Those that called for some sort of exciting cold or snowy weather in January are going to be disappointed, unless it happens the last few days of the month.  All models continue to show a general ridging pattern for the next two weeks at least.  Take a look at the 500mb height anomaly maps from the 00z GFS, 12z GEM, and 12z ECMWF…all hold onto ridging nearby.  There is one change from a few weeks ago, the ridging now seems to want to be over us or even a little to the east.  That’s not good for avoiding rain in the Cascades.  Seems to me some sort of warm rain event is more likely in the next two weeks than any snow below 4,000′ (after this weekend).

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So enjoy and savor the rain and wind this week; plus no frost and mild afternoon temps too.  No, winter isn’t over, but I don’t see any cold/snowy winter weather along the West Coast for the next couple of weeks.  Who would have thought we’d see these conditions in a neutral or cold side of neutral winter as we head into the middle to 2nd half of January?

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen