Cold East Wind Won’t Stop; Gorge Freezing Rain Wednesday Night

It’s been 7 days/nights of cold east wind on the east side of the Portland Metro Area and many of you are tired of it.  This is when I get the “WHEN will it stop???” questions at the coffee place, Freddies…anywhere.  The answer is that we have 2 more days of wind, then it’ll stop Wednesday night.  Here are the peak gusts the past 7 days at PDX and Troutdale Airport.

MarkEastWind_Last6DaysPDX MarkEastWind_Last6DaysTTD

Vista House/Crown Point has been gusting over 80 mph several times in the past few days…definitely a “mid-winter” strength event with 100+ mph on “the steps”.

Yes, it’s annoying, but it’s part of the cold season in our area.   The most densely populated part of the Oregon was settled just downwind from a wintertime wind tunnel; the Columbia River Gorge.  It is what it is.  If you REALLY hate it, live somewhere west of I-205 and you won’t feel it as often.  It’ll just be a little chilly and breezy and you won’t get sandblasted by dirt just getting out of your car in a parking lot.

What’s different this year is the timing…it’s just the middle of November and the wind strength/duration is what we would see in December or January.  It’s because of the cold air that has settled into the lower elevations of eastern Oregon/Washington.  Look at the dramatic change in high temperatures at The Dalles the past 13 days.  We’ve gone straight from October to January!


Right now the depth of the cold air is holding steady at just under 4,000′ eastside.  We can tell by looking at higher elevations in the Gorge and down into north-central Oregon.  The cold air sure isn’t going anywhere either, especially with lots of snow-covered ground to our east in those areas.  Models often try to weaken the strong high pressure eastside too quickly in these situations.

A splitting & weak weather system swings up from the southwest on Wednesday, sending precipitation overhead.  it’s pretty obvious that it’ll be rain in the Portland metro area, but it’s equally obvious it’ll be freezing rain or snow in the Gorge.  The airmass up above 4,000′ will be above freezing, so snow will be real spotty over there, mainly just freezing rain and sleet this time around.  It is a very weak system so total accumulation of anything will be light.  So this sure won’t be a big storm, but just 10 minutes of freezing rain can bring a freeway to a halt.  Especially since surfaces will be quite chilly in the Gorge from the past 6 days of cold temps.

There will be a slow warmup with above freezing temps Thursday, but no west wind until Friday or Saturday.  Those of you out in the Gorge know you don’t REALLY warm up until the west wind kicks in.


  • It’ll be too warm in the metro area (including Troutdale/Gresham/Camas) for freezing rain Wednesday night.  Just a cold light rain.
  • Light freezing rain, or ice pellets, arrives in the Gorge during the evening (well after school gets out).  It’ll stay frozen during the night.
  • Could be snow near Cascade Locks/Stevenson…maybe
  • Not a whole lot of anything though
  • Freshly iced roads possible for much of Gorge Thursday morning.  Not sure if west end (Corbett) will warm during the night a few degrees.
  • Warming above freezing all parts of Gorge Thursday, but still in 30s

By the way, assuming the ECMWF is reasonably accurate, we could get a decent dumping of snow on Mt. Hood this weekend.  Snow levels around Government Camp elevation and 12-20″ new snow.  That would be on top of the 8-10″ at the resorts right now.  If this comes to fruition, I can see some partial openings for Thanksgiving weekend.  And by that I mean at least 2-3 lifts at Timberline and Meadows.  The GFS is not as promising, including the 00z run which has rain at ski resorts Friday PM and just 5-10″ this weekend and the middle of next week (total).  That model would imply we slowly sputter towards a reasonable base sometime in early December.  I’ll take the ECMWF instead…


Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

47 Responses to Cold East Wind Won’t Stop; Gorge Freezing Rain Wednesday Night

  1. paulbeugene says:

    Euro looking frosty again around Thanksgiving weekend. Spirit of ’76

  2. schmit44 says:

    11/18/2014 Oregon (All) Temperature Summary

    High:66 at LONG PRAIRIE(1093 ft)
    Low: 51 at FLYNN PRAIRIE(1543 ft)

    High:9 at NYSSA(2172 ft)
    Low: -15 at HEREFORD (3599 ft )

    Largest Diurnal Change: 48 degrees
    COLGATE (46/-2 ) (3231 ft )
    CW1010 Sisters (40/-8) (3189 ft)

  3. Jason Hougak says:

    It’d be awesome if the mountain could pickup 20″ of snow by the end of the weekend, Timberline would have a good chance of opening.

  4. Jake-(Gresham) says:

    So this was the quickest Fall I’ve ever experienced here in Portland. My folks backyard has fruit trees and this East wind literally blew/shredded all the green trees to stubs. Picture a 2 story cherry tree with 75% of its foliage at the start of all this reduced to 10% (if that). The plumb tree was the craziest of them all to watch. It had the most green leaves so it lost everything from the east side to west side as the wind just made it go bald inch by inch. In the end I only had to mow the lawn at the start of all this to catch what was on the ground prior to the wind/ice event we had. Insane.

  5. dharmabum says:

    The lights are on but nobody’s home

  6. High Desert Mat says:

    Wow the 18z drops the snow level down to the surface on Friday as another arctic intrusion digs south out of Canada. At the same time frigid east winds come out of the gorge as a moist and juicy cold front hits the central coast. Sunday it has a reinforcing shot of arctic air and lows look to be record breaking for us all. This winter is going to be great. I knew it.

  7. gidrons says:

    Are those ECMWF weeklies out yet?

    • Jason Hougak says:

      Who believes in those, the last one before this cold snap didn’t even pick this one up and that was only a week out. Don’t think it’s a crystal ball to tell us the next whole months weather.
      This is weather, there are no rules governing how it plays ball, other than the fact that water freezes at 32F… 😃

  8. High Desert Mat says:

    4 nights in a row with sub zero temps here in Redmond. Finally warmed to freezing at my house today, but has since dropped back into the 20’s with the cloud cover. Tonight may be the first night in awhile it won’t drop below zero. Thinking maybe 15-18 for a low. What nice stretch of cold weather to start out the season and hopefully more to come this winter. Snow still on the ground and hasn’t melted at all except for the main roads as all side roads are still snow packed.

    Mark, any thoughts on the next system coming in tomorrow night for sleet or zr over here? I k ow the upper atmosphere is way too warm for snow but is this inversion sticking around longer in these parts?

  9. Another cold morning in the Willamette Valley. It looks like EUG ended up hitting 21 which ties the record for this date set in 2000.

  10. Tyler Mode says:

    After a beautiful sunrise yesterday, I picked up my mom and we went to the gorge to view the ice on the falls. We also, of course, stopped by Crown Point. The winds weren’t too bad at that point (maybe 80-85 mph).

    Later last night the peak on the sensor reached 92 mph which means down on the steps, winds were likely over 110 mph.

  11. Tyler Mode says:

    19.3 this morning in Battle Ground.

  12. Jason Hougak says:

    This has been awesome weather to work in!

  13. W7ENK says:

    Hey, at least the sun is shining!

    • Mark Nelsen says:

      Yeah, if it’s not stormy in the winter I would prefer this over the gloom

    • Garron near Washington Square says:

      …Sunny and the leaf raking held to a near zero thanks to the East winds!!! Quickest leaf turning to falling ratio I’ve ever experienced in Oregon!

    • W7ENK says:

      Exactly, Mark!

      60 degree rain
      55 degree rain
      45 degree rain
      33 degree rain

      It’s all the same, and it gets old, real quick!

      I would never complain about the sun…

      99 degree sunshine
      75 degree sunshine
      20 degree sunshine

      As long as the sun is shining, I’m happy! 🙂

    • gidrons says:

      I agree with Erik on this one!

  14. Brian Leroy says:

    Spit flows and dirty ridges our in our future thanks to a moderate el el nino as of today’s enso update and the gfs model is showing a split flow after next weeks rain with storms going into California, time to face really folks el nino is here to stay this winter.

    • Jake-(Gresham) says:

      I hate this pattern, I don’t know if it’s just me but the split flow seems to come around far too often as of late. I can’t remember two winters in a row without having the jet stream split – killing our weather.

    • Jake-(Gresham) says:

      winter weather.*

    • Brian Leroy says:

      I meant reality not really.

    • Jake-(Gresham) says:

      Yeah I know (I’m just saying it’s not a pleasant thing to see on the ecmwf). >_<

    • buffedman says:

      During September through October the ENSO conditions retreated from those of a borderline El Niño to a warmish neutral state.

    • chris s says:

      lol you keep pushing the el nino, yet it hasnt even materialized. Ya, it looks like we may have a weak to moderate el nino this winter, but its like one week of split flow in november and your gonna throw in the towel. We get dirty ridges and split flows here quite often, not just in el nino. And ya, your putting stock on a model that is totally un reliable 16 days out..why not post 16 days from now and lets see how it turned out?

    • Taylor says:

      Well California needs all the rain they can get!

    • Brian Leroy says:

      chris, region 3.4 is now 0.8 C. and and it’s been there for weeks el nino starts at 0.5 for those who don’t know in fact all regions are above 0.5 also. go to cpc website and look for yourself.

    • chris s says:

      Let me know when its been +.5 for three straight months….. and cpc, lol, go ahead and stick with what they say. They not only have been wrong in the past, but wayyyyyyy wrong at that. Fyi, they had us above avg temp wise for the past few weeks….. worked out well for them didnt it. And they update on mondays, not this morning fyi. Again, follow up with this post in 16 days, and see if your forecast is correct… I bet it wont be.

    • gidrons says:

      This hasn’t met the definition of an El Nino yet.

    GUSTS ALONG THE STAIRS ARE LIKELY 120-130 MPH RIGHT NOW. 17 Nov 10:57 pm PST 31 13 ESE 46G92

  16. schmit44 says:

    11/17/2014 Oregon (All) Temperature Summary

    High:65 at BANDON( 79 ft) & RED MOUND(1753 ft)
    Low: 49 at FLYNN PRAIRIE(1543 ft)

    High:12 at NYSSA(2172 ft) & Madras Municipal(2427 ft)
    Low: -15 at HEREFORD (3599 ft )

    Largest Diurnal Change: 47 degrees
    COLGATE (38/-9 ) (3231 ft )

  17. geo says:

    Paul Revere rides again.

  18. Mike P says:

    Ecmwf is funded by our British friends. GFS is funded by our government, so blahhhhh. There you go. Which one will be accurate?

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