Thanksgiving Travel: Could Be Rough For Some

After several years of uneventful Thanksgiving road conditions across the region, this year is looking much different.  If you are headed into mountains either east, west, or south, pay attention to the forecast this week.

What’s going on?

As of this Sunday evening it appears 3 separate weather systems will move through the region Tuesday through Friday.  In between each and after Friday’s system more cold showers will be streaming onshore.  Those showers turn into snow in the Cascade & higher Coast Range.  The Blue Mountains will get in on the action at times in NE Oregon too.  The Siskiyous could really get slammed later this week as well.  The one place you DON’T need to worry about is the Columbia River Gorge.

Snow levels will be fluctuating between 2,000 and 4,000′ Tuesday through Sunday since these are “cold” storms, totally different from the warmer events we’ve seen so far this season.  Basically this IS the beginning of our winter season here in the Pacific Northwest.

We don’t need to worry about flooding because of snow falling in the mountains instead of rain, and it’s not the incredibly heavy subtropical rain we saw in October.  Check out the WRF-GFS precipitation forecast from Monday through Thursday afternoon…a solid 1.5″ in the valleys and 2-4″ in Cascades and Coast Range:


Then from Thursday PM through Sunday PM the rain lightens up in the valleys a bit.  Maybe 1″ or so, but another 2-4″ in the Cascades and Coast Range.  During this period it is ALL SNOW above about 4,000′!


My forecast for the Mt. Hood area says the ski season starts big-time this coming weekend!



Yes, you are reading that correctly…several feet of snow are coming.  That includes down to Skibowl & Hoodoo ski areas as well.  In the past 4 years there hasn’t been more than 12″ of snow on the ground at Government Camp on any November day.  Looks like we’re going to see much more than that one week from today!

Here is a detailed look at what you can expect on all the major highways heading away from the metro area:




Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

31 Responses to Thanksgiving Travel: Could Be Rough For Some

  1. Jason Hougak says:

    Winter Weather Advisories across most mountainous locations and now a Winter Storm Watch for the Cascades.
    The GFS continues with a very cold air mass in the extended. 850 mb temps -7C on Fri. 12/2. It does show light precipitation as well.

  2. Boring Oregon says:

    Are snow levels supposed to drop or are they higher than expected?

  3. WEATHERDAN says:

    A snowy Winter here in the Valley would be a nice change of pace for us. Pete Parsons says we have a highly elevated chance of a major Arctic event in December. Hmmm would be nice. After a dry morning the afternoon has turned wet. Peace.

    • JohnD says:

      Great name drop. Pete’s seasonal rendition is chilling compelling (pun intended.) For those who don’t “know” him, Pete Parsons is a former TV met (hugely credentialed) who currently is the Oregon State Dept. of Agriculture/Forestry met. His creativity and insight is definitely on par with Mark’s. Unlike Mark, Pete’s job description includes a seasonal forecast.

    • W7ENK says:

      I like Pete, and I like the way his forecast sounds, but based on my own (almost) 40 years of observation, a good 30 of those being interested in and paying attention to weather, I’d have to disagree with him.

      Two words, and they’re not even in English: La Niña.

      Everyone always believes La Niña brings lots of cold and snow to the PNW lowlands, and they’re always so disappointed at the end of Winter when it doesn’t pan out that way. I know, because I’ve done it myself, but I’ve learned. The last several La Niñas have proven this point, and I don’t expect this one to be any different.

      There’ll definitely be a ton of snow in the higher elevations — this may be one of those Winters where we see 100+ inches down as low as ~1,500 ft. in some areas — and we may flirt with snow a handful of times down at the valley floor, but the chances for an epic, massive arctic blast are virtually out of the question. That’s because La Niña tends to block the types of setups that traditionally give us arctic air and decent lowland snow, as difficult as it is already. This is why I don’t hold out much hope for “a major arctic event” or “lots of cold and snow” this Winter.

      Now, with the status of La Niña floundering, we could end up in Negative-Neutral territory all Winter long, which could work out in our favor… but who knows. I know better than to hold my breath.

      That’s just the realist in me. Of course the wishcaster in me is hoping, quietly begging with much anticipation for an epic Winter, as always!! lol

  4. Rob says:

    Hey Mark,

    Just curious what you are expecting for the Black Butte area. I assume Santiam pass will be snow covered but curious if you think the precip will make it over to the east slopes?

  5. JJ78259 says:

    Nice Rain over Salem

  6. Garron 1/3 of a mile from Hillsboro Airport says:

    Hey Portland, incoming! Looks like a nice band about to roll through!

  7. Paul D says:

    Thursday & Friday are looking like great days to stay home! It’s all part of my plan to keep my blood pressure and stress level down 🙂

  8. Jason Hougak says:

    GFS continues to show colder air in the extended period with lows in the lower 20’s and highs low 40 and colder. Climate prediction center now showing us below average during the 8-14 day outlook.

  9. Thank you Mark, for reminding us all that 2,000-3,000 snow levels count as “early winter is here!” in our climate. 😉

  10. Wendy-Silverlake, WA says:

    That’s very detailed about the snow, but what about the wind? Doesn’t look like Friday shopping is going to be overly enjoyable. Anyone with an outlook on the wind situation?

  11. W7ENK says:

    In just the last few minutes:

    Tsunami Warnings / Tsunami Advisories

    Issued at 06:02 JST, 22 Nov. 2016

    Tsunami Warnings issued for the following coastal regions of Japan:
    Evacuate immediately

    Tsunami Warnings have been issued for the following coastal regions of Japan:


    Tsunami Advisories have been issued for the following coastal regions of Japan:


    Tsunamis are expected to arrive imminently in the following coastal regions of Japan (coastal regions above with asterisks):

    ***********Tsunami Forecast definitions************
    Evacuate immediately

    Tsunami Warning
    Damage due to tsunami waves is expected.
    Evacuate immediately from coastal regions and riverside areas to a safer place such as high ground or an evacuation building.
    Tsunami waves are expected to hit repeatedly. Do not leave safe ground until the warning is lifted.

    Tsunami Advisory
    A marine threat is present. Get out of the water and leave coastal regions immediately.
    Due to the risk of ongoing strong currents, do not enter the sea or approach coastal regions until the advisory is lifted.

    Tsunami Forecast (slight sea level changes)
    Slight sea-level changes may be observed in coastal regions, but no tsunami damage is expected.

    ******* Earthquake Information ********
    Occurred at 05:59 JST, 22 Nov. 2016
    Region name FUKUSHIMA-KEN OKI
    Latitude 37.3N
    Longitude 141.6E
    Depth about 10 km
    Magnitude 7.3

  12. W7ENK says:

    This is great news!

    Maybe I’ll actually make it up to the mountain this year.

  13. Roland Derksen says:

    I’m happy(as said before) that the freezing levels are coming down. Still waiting, however, for my first freezing temperature of the season. Last year on this date I saw a minimum of 26F- the 3rd consecutive day with frosty temperatures. In fact, over the last 12 days of November 2015 (19th-30th) I had 11 days with below freezing minimums. Not a bad start, at least for what turned out to be a mild winter.

  14. MasterNate says:

    Long range trending quite after the 29th for a break first part of December. Hopefully the resorts get a good 5 to 6 feet to keep em going until more arrives. Hopefully models flip for more cold storms.

  15. Tyler Mode in Battle Ground says:

    I’m so ready for a normal snowfall year in the mountains, though it does delay hiking in the spring/summer.

  16. Paul D says:

    Excellent news!!! Bring it on!

  17. Jason Hougak says:

    Very exciting weather action Mark
    Thanks for the travel and snow condition update. Let winter 16-17 be the best since Jan. 1950😆

%d bloggers like this: