Best Christmas Vacation Skiing in 3 Years!

9:30pm Monday…

What a run of snow in the Cascades the past 2 weeks or so!  The result has been the best snowpack for late December we’ve seen since December 2012.  Note the snow depth at 5,400′ (Mt Hood SNOTEL site) the past few years on yesterday’s date:


And that means the snowpack is ABOVE normal across the entire state of Oregon!  The best news is across the southern half of the state: almost double the typical late December snowpack right where we need it.  This will ease the drought quite a bit, especially if we get normal or better snow down there the rest of the winter.


A dramatic change has occurred though, models are showing a very dry pattern for the next 10-14 days…well into the 2nd week of January at least.  A weak system just misses us tomorrow, we’ll get a few showers but that will be it.  Otherwise upper-level ridging will develop later this week over and north of our area.  That will divide storms and/or send them to the north.


The result will be warmer than normal temps in the mountains over and west of the Cascade crest.  In the lower elevations and east of the Cascade crest…well, it’s mid-winter and that means big-time inversions developing later this week.

We do have a situation in which we’ll see stronger and colder than “typical” east wind through the west end of the Gorge and metro area too.  That’s because the vast majority of the Pacific Northwest is covered in snow.  Take a look at the snow cover map today, which obviously isn’t perfectly accurate since we know there is no snow on the ground in the Tualatin Valley!


It’s probably fair to assume the areas that show less than 2″ on the ground don’t actually have any on the ground.  But the point is that most areas east of the Cascades are cold and snow-covered.  With strong high pressure developing Wednesday and beyond, we’re going to see 10-14 millibar easterly gradients through the Gorge.  Probably Thursday-Saturday will be 100+ mph days at Crown Point, with temperatures only around 30!  Too cold for me , heck, I was freezing up there when it was in the low 40s.  Lots of ice on Gorge waterfalls by this weekend as well.  Gentlemen…start your cameras!

Here in the metro area the combo of the wind and chilly air will give us the coldest weather so far this season.  In fact if we don’t have an arctic blast in the next 6 weeks, this may quite possibly be the coldest weather of the winter.  Calm areas should drop into the 15-20 degree range Thursday and beyond.  This should be mainly a “gap” wind event with strong wind confined to the usual east wind spots.

I am very confident we do have lots of sunshine ahead Wednesday through at least this coming Sunday.  It’ll just be cold!

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

21 Responses to Best Christmas Vacation Skiing in 3 Years!

  1. Tyler Mode in Battle Ground says:

    This last heavy shower ended as mostly snow here. Temp Down from 37 to 35.7. 0.18″ for the day which takes me to 15.05″ for the month.

  2. Washougal 1100ft says:

    What a surprise been snowing since 6:30 this morning and still coming down hard. Looking at the radar it seems to be a slow moving system today possible get 2″ or 3″ out of it?

  3. Interestingly the models do seem to be really picking up on the “fake cold” evolving this time. It has often been my experience that they fail to foresee strong, cold inversions developing; what turns out to be a cold, foggy, inversion-y spell often is forecast several days out as just cool and dry but not cold. (Which typically means forecasts several days out calling for low forties and at least partial sun while highs end up being in the thirties with perpetual overcast and fog.)

    Will be interesting to see how this one plays out; whether the models nailed it or it ends up still being colder than forecast. You down in Portland may well see quite a bit of sun, but the price you’ll be paying for it is a cold east wind. Odds probably favor me getting badly socked-in after the first few days. This one looks like it’s gonna last long enough that some might eventually get some light snow showers from it when the stratus gets thick enough.

  4. GTS1K' says:

    Positively dome-like up here @ 34.8 and rain….

  5. W7ENK says:

    Mark, I fear you may be wrong about seeing the sunshine in most of the Willamette Valley including much of Portland metro, except for in the immediate Gorge outflow areas. We’ve seen it before when an inversion sets up, the lowest elevations sock in with 35 degree pea-soup fog and the East winds ride right up over the top.

    • Boydo3 N. Albany says:

      Shades of the last two winters. Let’s hope the east winds bust through.

    • Myself I doubt the Valley much south of the Portland metro area will see much sun in this event (past the first few days; before it builds to a strong inversion, there will be a fair chance of the stratus burning through by afternoon). Like I just posted, the models often underestimate how profound inversions will be.

  6. Tyler Mode in Battle Ground says:

    Here are my weather comments the last few days…

    27th: Cloudy, Then Rain and Snow Off and On, Cold, Dreary
    28th: Cloudy, Fog, Mist, Continued Cold
    29th: Cloudy, Foggy, Drizzle and Light Rain

    Temp has not budged more than 7.8 degrees in the last 4 days…

    I’m ready for the gunk to clear out of here. I may be close enough to the gorge to reap the benefits. Although, a few times I’ve seen it socked in everywhere north of Mill Plain and sunny south.

  7. Washougal 1100ft says:

    Dumping snow at 1000ft right now!! Might get a few inches out of this band of moisture coming?

  8. Washougal 1100ft says:

    Why can’t computer models just be off for once for the good of things today sure be nice to get some moisture today. Currently snowing down to 32 .

  9. schmit44 says:

    12/28/2015 Oregon (All) Temperature Summary

    High:53 at CW5925 Coos Bay( 49 ft) & BROOKINGS(79 ft) & Gold Beach (US 1(60 ft) & Yaquina Bridge W(120 ft) & KB7QWZ Garibaldi(10 ft)
    Low: 41 at EW7153 Monroe(338 ft) & LINCON Lincoln C(187 ft) & EW1135 Yachats1(32 ft) & OCNSID Oceanside(22 ft) & ROCKWY Rockaway(450 ft)

    High:19 at KB7DZR Joseph(3984 ft) & DW9628 Richland(4046 ft) & NYSSA(2172 ft)
    Low: 0 at DIMLKE (4726 ft )

    Largest Diurnal Change: 35 degrees
    KLAMATH NWR (38/3 ) (4531 ft )

    Heaviest Rainfall:
    1.20″ at ANNIE SPRINGS(6010ft)
    1.10″ at MUD RIDGE(4070ft)
    0.90″ at MCKENZIE(4770ft)
    0.90″ at MADISON BUTTE(5150ft)
    0.70″ at TIDEWATER(2035ft)
    0.69″ at DW1439 Eugene(810ft)
    0.60″ at BILLIE CREEK DIV(5280ft)
    0.60″ at NORTH FORK(3060ft)
    0.60″ at MT HOOD TEST SIT(5370ft)
    0.59″ at CW4896 Waltervil(574ft)

  10. Mark Nelsen says:

    A classic. I remember visiting grandparents in the Hood River Valley at Christmas that year. Maybe 12″ of snow on the ground, hard as a rock. High of 25, low of 20 all 3 days we were there. I know because I took my brand new Taylor Hi/Lo thermometer with me on that trip…what a dork.

  11. MasterNate says:

    I for one am looking forward to some sunny cold days. I sure hope El Nino doesn’t spoil our 2nd half of winter though.

  12. paulbeugene says:

    the textbook, all-time example of fake cold probably is Dec 1985.

    • JohnD says:

      That December came on the heals of the bonafide coldest November in 100 years. There was actually skateable ice on Laurelhurst Park pond in SE Portland for 6 weeks straight. Truly incredible! Cold east winds each and every day.

    • That month (Dec.1985) was followed by a mild, rainy January. Anyway, that was 30 years ago. Let’s welcome Mr. Rex Block for our New Year’s weekend! (and hope he doesn’t overstay his visit in the coming weeks) 🙂

    • Farmer Ted says:

      And then we had heavy wet snow in March of 1986 that broke some of the shrubs in the yard.

  13. paulbeugene says:

    About as real as fake cold ever gets

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