Winter Is Over In The Lowlands

February 15, 2016


It’s overdue, I’ve held out as long as I can, but I can’t stand it any longer.  I’m sticking a fork in winter because it’s quite obvious winter is over here in the lowlands of western Oregon and SW Washington.  Luckily John Rinier from Forest Grove made me the nicely stained solid wood fork for these big weather days.

I know what you’re thinking…one of 3 things:

“What Winter?  I only saw snow once!”


“Yeah, real tough forecast…after 5 days in the 60s this month!”


“Are you nuts?  Winter doesn’t end until the 3rd week of March!”

We did actually have quite a bit of winter this year.  All of it was in December and the first few days of January.   Looking back, winter more or less “ended” for us west of the Cascades after the 1st week of January.  This winter will be remembered for one month only…DECEMBER.  Flooding rains, high winds, storms, mudslides etc… Before December 1st and after the first week of January nothing of interest occurred.  Due to this, as of mid-February we are in our 4th warmest winter on record here in Portland:


Here in the lowest elevations of the Pacific Northwest, west of the Cascades, almost all our significant winter weather events happen between mid-November and mid-February.  Snowstorms, windstorms, ice storms, & flooding.  You get the idea…it’s rare to have these events (not so much with wind) outside of this time period.

Looking ahead to the next 15 days it appears the warm pattern will hold.  We can see general weather patterns on our models a good 10-15 days in the future and no models are showing a stormy or cold pattern through the first few days of March.  I see more of the same for the next two weeks.  So…


What does that statement mean?  These points apply to anywhere west of the Cascades (including the Coast) below 1,000′.

1. You can take your snow tires off IF you plan to stay in the lowest elevations (below 3,000′) for the next few weeks.  Wayne Garcia was the smartest…he gambled and didn’t bother putting them on!

2. You can unwrap your pipes, or any plants that need to be protected from temps below 25-28 degrees.

3.  More school snow days or delays are unlikely in these lowest elevations.

4.  Strong and cold east wind episodes are finished in the Gorge.  Still windy at times, but not the really cold stuff we saw in January.  The east wind always disappears in early March and then reappears in the fall.

5.  Dense and widespread valley fog is unlikely between now and October.  Inversion season is just about over.

Here’s a good idea of what we won’t see again until next winter and what is still possible:


Of course we all remember March of 2012 when wet snow fell several times in March. That’s always possible, but we’ve only seen March snow in the lowest elevations 3 times in the past 20 years!  And each time it’s been the wet/slushy overnight and morning stuff in the metro area.  Plus, we haven’t seen March snow in a strong El Nino winter since 1966.

What about Cascade Skiing?  We should be fine through Spring Break (late March), but it’s pretty obvious now that the best skiing was in December.  That’s perfectly normal in an El Nino year when most weather action in the Pacific Northwest tends to happen early.  Then winter gradually fades away in January and February.

Luckily we had a ton of snow in December and it returned over several weekends lately.  That snow is going to be very slow to melt even with these warm systems and above freezing temperatures.  That said, the weekend rain did continue the melt in the lower Cascades, mainly below the 4,000′ elevation.  I see a few (only a few) rocks at 5,000′ from our Skibowl Camera that I haven’t seen since before Christmas.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

Warmest February On Record…So Far

February 15, 2016

As of 5pm Monday we haven’t seen the temperature even get DOWN TO OUR NORMAL HIGH since early Sunday morning!  That’s right, even last night it was warmer than what we would typically see in the afternoon.  Feels like spring is trying to move in and we hit 61 today, our 5th 60 degree day this month.  Take a look at the numbers for the past 12 days here in Portland:


As a result, the average temperature for February 2016 is now slightly warmer than February 2015, which is the warmest on record in Portland.  That’s warm!  Will it remain that way the 2nd half of the month?


In general the pattern remains quite warm, so if we don’t stay at record levels we’ll most likely be close in the end.

More later as winter ends…