Heavy Cascade Snow Finally Arrives Tonight

8pm Sunday…

The long Thanksgiving Weekend is pretty much finished.  If you are STILL at your relative’s home?  Time to go home, they are most likely tired of you by now.  Plus they wanted to make more turkey sandwiches and you are gobbling up those precious leftovers.

The weather in the lowlands turned out about as expected with the big soaker on Thursday. Almost 2″ fell (in case you were out of town and didn’t get to experience it).


Note how much wetter the past 6 days have been compared to the week leading up to it.  November’s rain total is now well above average…it has been a wet fall.  I missed it all since I drove with the family to the Reno area and back Wednesday through Saturday.  But oh that sunshine was nice!  Cold nights and comfortable afternoons.  Good enough for a Black Friday bike ride with nobody around


We also drove through a brief dust storm in progress between Lakeview and Summer Lake, plus it’s so cool to see the huge clouds of alkali dust blowing off that lake too.

Now let’s talk about that snow forecast.  Early last week we were REALLY excited as models showed several systems coming in Wednesday-Sunday to bring 3-6 feet of snow in the Cascades.  By Tuesday evening, models were slowing down the Thursday system and digging more energy south into California later Thursday and Friday.  As a result, at 10pm that night I had this forecast for Mt. Hood:


You can see I lowered the numbers…thinking 2-3′ by late Monday when everything was done.  Marja lowered the numbers even further Wednesday night.  On the forecast I made Tuesday PM, for the Thanksgiving Weekend you get a forecast of 20″ at Government Camp (lowest number) to a 33″ for higher up at Timberline and Meadows.  Ooops…that’s not what happened.

Instead THIS is what we have seen…as of midday Sunday.  Only 3″ at Govy!


It was a GREAT weekend for travelling in the mountains since very little snow fell, totally different than what we were warning about Monday and Tuesday.  But for ski areas, it was an epic forecast fail.

What Happened?  It’s relatively simple…the upper-level trough moving into the Pacific Northwest slowed down Thursday-Saturday, keeping us in warm air longer.  It also stalled the surface front Thursday over the Coast/Coast Range/Western Willamette Valley.  Very little of ANYTHING fell on Thursday in the Cascades.  To the south they had more action than expected (as of Monday/Tuesday) in California.  Instead of several waves of moisture moving in from the west Thursday-Saturday, half the time the moisture was coming up from the south or southwest…hardly good for Cascade snow.  This illustrates why it is important to “stay on top of the latest forecast”.  I know it’s a cliche, but it’s true.  If you saw the forecast on Monday for many feet of snow, then didn’t pay attention to the gradually evolving forecast in the days following, you missed out.  I think by 10pm Wednesday our forecast was down to 1-3 feet of snow…a bit closer to reality in the end.

What you really want for big snow in the Cascades is strong westerly or northwesterly wind to ram into the mountains.  That is happening tonight.  So tonight is the big snow dump.


I will be surprised if 10-12″ fresh snow is not on the ground at Government Camp by Tuesday morning.  15-20″ is more likely at Timberline and Mt. Hood Meadows.

Looking ahead…the weather this week looks quite benign.  Another weak system, but with that perfect northwest flow behind it, arrives Tuesday night.  That will bring another nice round of snow to the Cascades.  I expect mainly dry conditions Thursday and Friday as an upper-level ridge develops over the West Coast.

Temperatures remain near or just a bit above normal for the next 7 days.  December begins uneventfully.  But so did 2008, then we had our biggest snowstorm in 30 years just 2 weeks later!

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen


25 Responses to Heavy Cascade Snow Finally Arrives Tonight

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

    Wow, great time with family, in the sunshine? Ok, just a lil jealous!!!! I will admit, it was a bit amusing watching our family members dressed to the nines dashing into/out of the house as a Hollywood like downpour continued….ALLL DAY LONG on Thanksgiving. So much for spending money to get your hair done! That is one of the reasons I shave my hair….

    I am enthusiastic to hear potential in the nearer term, we’ll just have to see…

  2. Jason Hougak says:

    ⚠️ Warning ⚠️
    12Z ECMWF model is showing even deeper punch of cold air into BC and even out off the coast. It’s coming together😆

  3. Roland Derksen says:

    Last night I was thinking of a different November and December- back in 1980. That year’s November ended with similar weather to what I’ve been seeing lately: Cool and wet conditions. Then the first week of December 1980 came along and we got blasted by a big arctic front. (I had up to 14 inches of snow on the ground). However, the big difference between this year and 1980 (HOPEFULLY) should be what happens after the first week of this December- back then we had a return to wet and very mild weather. I’m expecting something else this time. PLEASE!

  4. W7ENK says:

    Glad you had a good time, Mark. We spent both Friday and Sunday tromping around in the woods getting rained/snowed on, but as native Oregonians that doesn’t stop us… it hardly even slows us down! Snow line both days was right around 3,500 feet, with snow actually falling at that elevation midday yesterday. Made for some beautiful photos, and helped set the mood for the Holiday Season.

    Models look interesting after this week…

  5. Longview 400 ft says:

    If anything, something is better than nothing or the small hope that something possible is there after all. LOL

  6. Jason Hougak says:

    Looks like Monday December 5th things will get interesting. Both the 06Z GFS and 00Z ECMWF show cold air dropping out of the Gulf of Alaska. The 00Z ECMWF shows a nice low dropping right down the BC coast pulling the cold air right down with it.

  7. Tyler Mode in Battle Ground says:

    The first 10 days (highs and lows) of December 2008 at my Vancouver station…pretty benign, fairly dry really. Boring, mild.

    1) 55/40
    2) 55/42
    3) 51/42
    4) 52/30
    5) 49/28
    6) 50/29
    7) 46/39
    8) 49/38
    9) 46/36
    10) 50/42

    I’ll post about the next 15 days in a minute.

    • Tyler Mode in Battle Ground says:

      Here are the next 15 days in December 2008, highs, lows, daily snow totals.

      11) 51/33, 0″
      12) 46/31, Trace
      13) 40/35, Trace
      14) 36/23, 1/3″
      15) 28/21, 0″
      16) 31/14, 0″
      17) 36/23, 1/3″
      18) 37/31, 1″
      19) 34/28, 1.5″
      20) 29/23, 8.5″
      21) 26/23, 3″
      22) 27/23, 2″
      23) 32/25, Trace
      24) 36/27, 2.5″
      25) 35/32, 1.5″

      Quite an amazing run with 21.2″ of snow total for the month.

      Most people forget about the snow that fell in early January too. I measured 2″ on the 2nd and another 2″ on the 4th. In an normal year, that would have been the entire winter.

    • JJ78259 says:

      Yes I remember my kids were excited with all the snow days. Getting to work sucked so I took a week of vacation and played in the snow!

  8. Washougal1100ft says:

    So I went back and looked at the December 2008 blog and if you look at December 2 blog he hints something similar to what he posted last night😀 Maybe something coming maybe not? Models are showing something in the distance we shall see?

  9. JJ78259 says:

    Mark is Correct Sunshine is nice. We have had a vey dry fall really not much rain. Great fall for some tennis golf and bike riding in San Antonio close to 79 degrees today!

  10. alohabb says:

    He said a bit more on his 10 o’clock forecast than he says here on the blog. He hinted that
    Long range models showed possibility of arctic event and or lowland snow. Going out on limb a bit with that, but he must have a feeling about something.

  11. muxpux (Longview) says:

    Some time in late Nov, 2008…models hinted in the long range, and for once the wish casting train finally pulled into the station around mid December. My theory is that everyone got their tickets punched and rode the trollercoaster that never ends. But now, they all want to come home. Their wish casting annoys us sometimes, but they are just hoping to get to come back to the station and get back home to their loved ones. So we can’t fault them for that.

  12. Leeateea says:

    I’m thinking the same thing as Mike,a possible hint on what’s to come!

  13. Jason Hougak says:

    Glad your back safe and had a great Thanksgiving. We did as “well!”😆 Enjoyed a stormy weekend on Ocean Park, Washington.
    Sorry but Timberline did not get all that 21” since Wednesday.

  14. I like Mark’s parting comment, “December begins uneventfully”….”But so did 2008″…. maybe he’s hinting at the long range models. 🙂

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