Major Winter Storm Ahead

5pm Tuesday…

The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Watch for ALL of Western Oregon from the Coast Range to the Valleys FOR THURSDAY.


So here we go folks…at this point it appears that Thursday we’ll see the biggest snow/ice event we’ve seen since early February 2014.  Yes, we’ve gone two winters without a major snow/ice event.  Although we DID have an all day icy/snow episode early last January that gave us 1″ of snow.

What’s going on?  It’s our classic snow/ice storm pattern:

  1. Cold and dry air is moving in now, and by tomorrow at this time the freezer door will be wide open.  That means east wind gusts 40-50 mph as that cold/dry air pours out of the Gorge from Eastern Washington.
  2. Thursday morning a low pressure system slides north along the coastline, pushing abundant moisture OVER THE TOP of the cold air mass in place
  3. The air mass should be cold enough to support some mix of frozen precipitation (snow or freezing rain) all day in the Metro area, Gorge, & Kelso/Longview.
  4. Likely cold enough for brief snow than freezing rain for at least the first part of the day in the Willamette Valley.

This should give you a good idea of what we’re expecting…




Once cold air is stuck in the Columbia River Gorge, it’s extremely difficult to modify (warm) that air mass.  It takes several days IF we don’t get a warming westerly wind.  And as of this evening no model shows a warming west wind in the Gorge Friday.  So I think the Gorge will see the worst weather…likely blizzard conditions Thursday as the snow falls heavily.


Of course you all want to know…“how much snow am I going to get at my house?”.  The short answer is that we don’t know yet, but it’s fair to say in the metro area 1″-5″ is reasonable and a Trace-4″ in the Willamette Valley.  That’s a real rough guess.

Except for the Gorge and Cascades, that snow forecast is a real problem.  That’s because above-freezing air will be moving in up around 2,000-4,000′.  Once that occurs, then it’ll just be freezing rain and/or ice pellets until the temperature at the ground goes above freezing.  And warmer air above will arrive at different times in different parts of the valley.  So let’s say it remains as all snow all day Thursday for you…probably 5-7″ of snow!  But if the changeover happens quickly, you might only get a dusting.  Generally, the closer to the Coast Range you are (due to cold air piling up against eastern slopes) and closer to the metro area/Gorge, the better change you’ll hang on to the snow longer.  Of course models have a tough time predicting snow totals to start, but this really screws up those snow maps!  Our RPM, not usually a good performer in these east wind snow events, just shows very light totals before changeover, even in the metro area:


The WRF-GFS does a little better:


It shows the heavier snowfall up against the Coast Range AND down into the Valley.  Supposedly Clark County gets left out…r.i.g.h.t…  See the problem here?  I guarantee the next run of the same model will look different.  It’s still almost 2 days out and we’re going to see some last-minute twists and changes in the forecast the next day or so.  There is still time to figure things out.  We do know there is plenty of moisture coming in from Thursday morning through Friday morning.  Check out the RPM rain forecast!  If it’s all snow, you can get about 10″ of snow for each 1″ of rain.  You can see the possibility in the Gorge can’t you?  Theoretically 20″ of snow could fall (and has in past snow storms there!)


Of course once we get into the cold air then we look for a warming south or westerly wind to bring those temps above freezing.  Now that the unreliable GFS model has come around to the ECMWF on timing (morning start Thursday), we can compare them a bit more closely.  The GFS brings a deep low up toward the NW Washington coastline, turning our wind gusty southerly Thursday evening/night.  The ECMWF barely gives us a breath of southerly wind late Thursday night and never gets rid of the easterly gradient in the Gorge!  That’s due to a much weaker low just offshore, with the main low center much farther west.  For now I’m going with a slow warmup like the more reliable ECMWF.  That means it’s still frozen in the Gorge Friday morning and we ever so slowly warm up Thursday night and Friday in the metro area.

To sum it up:

I’m quite confident that a big storm is coming for the Gorge and much of the metro area.  Thursday will be one of those days you may not make it into work or school.  Friday is a question mark…there could still be a lot of snow/ice left around.

More tomorrow!  Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen


110 Responses to Major Winter Storm Ahead

  1. HAWKEYES23 says:

    Not going with an all out bust until Mark throws in the towel. Which could be after this evenings run. 2 plus inches is no way a bust around here.

  2. Tracey Anderson says:

    Winds are picking up in Camas, 25 mph gusts from the SE

  3. Lee Wilson says:

    Just a reminder, if and when the power goes out , remember, you have a way to stay warm.

    Use your car as an emergency shelter. jsut make sure you have a full tank of gas.
    if you have cooking items like crock pots get a 120 watt inverter. it may take a while to prepare foods but it is better than nothing.

    in cars like the insight you can fold all the seats down to make sleeping room.

    its better to use some gas in your car than to freez to death.

    now an average car can run 8 to 10 hours on an idle.

    so I would recommend having some extra fuel stored some where.

    some people have been known to heat cans of soup under the bonnet of the car. while a good idea, one wrong placeent and it can do 1,000 of dollars of damage to you car..

    Most cars power ports can take up to 120 Watts of power.
    there are portable crock pots that will use that as well.

    In an ice storm, when it comes to survival..think out side the box.

    and for heavens sakes, don’t drive in the stuff.

    if you have a gas grill at home, you are lucky, you can prepare food.

    also in an ice storm you can prevent spoilage by moving your foods out side. at night should the temps be below 30 you basically have nature’s freezer working for you.

    as for water, don’t eat snow it lowers you body temp.
    melt the snow, and if you want boil it. and then store it. you will have water to drink.

    Now if your all paranoid as to what may be int he air…well then..can’t help you on that one.

    Also, get to know your neighbors.

    there are also other things you can do,
    instead of heating your whole house, confine your living space to a bead room and heat that area only. if you have a generator and back up source of heat.

    use applaicnes that are low watts like crock pots.
    use the gerator to power things like modems, tvs, so you can keep up to date with weather and other related news.

    keep your power to minim levels.don’t max out a 3 kw generator by running a full load. you burn more fuel doing that.

    the idea is to make your fuel last as long as possible. some generators will run 12 hours on a full tank if the load is light enough.

    use appliance that cook food fast , like a Power pressure cooker XL or Microwave, Or NuWave Oven, an induction cook top.

    • BruceInTroutdale says:

      Or, I just wait 55 seconds. That’s how long it takes the Natural Gas Fired Onan outside my house to start up and auto-transfer the entire house over. Last year that happened two times – both in the middle of the night. I awoke to all the UPS’es alarming (13 of them in my house for all the electronics).. then I could hear that engine starting outside.. Then BOOM as the big transfer switch in the garage switched and everything came back on! All big demand appliances are NG as well (including clothes dryer) so even with everything on in the house there is to turn on we are only at 75% load. Normally, running about 40%.

      Lots of fun to have all the Christmas lights on when the entire neighborhood is dark! So here’s to hoping it goes out for awhile!

    • W7ENK says:

      HAHAHA!! 😆 120 watts is barely enough to power two standard incandescent light bulbs. Your average crock pot draws ~1,500 watts. You’re not going to find one capable of sustaining that amount of power on the cheap. Maybe at the ‘Made in China Store’ (Harbor Freight)? That might work once or twice before it tries to burn your house down.

    • W7ENK says:

      “one” = an inverter.

    • @W7ENK – Actually crock-pots do have very limited (for heat-generating appliances) wattages. Most of the ones I’ve thought to check the ratings on are around 175 Watts. That’s the reason they cook so slowly.

      With my propane stove in the kitchen and propane-fired heater that needs no electricity to run, I’m well-set to weather any extended outages I see. I’d never want to live in an all-electric home in an area prone to lengthy power outages.

    • W7ENK says:

      That’s weird. Without running all the way home to flip mine over to verify, a quick Google search confirms…

    • Who cares what the ratings on the appliance say? Google says otherwise!

  4. marinersfan85 says:

    This has bust written all over it.

  5. Ryan (Walnut Grove) says:

    Saddle up gents & ladies for tonightwe ride on every tiny snowflake and upper air temp change!

  6. W7ENK says:

    Models are backing off the snow idea so much now that even Rod Hill is toning it down…

    lol 😆

  7. Lee Wilson says:

    well, were at 29 and now turning our son in to The all so notocanloe…Puff ball.

  8. Boydo3 N. Albany says:

    A Keely Chalmers sort of day at Crown Point?

  9. …if you need a little extra cold air, come get mine….down to 5.9 for a low this morning here in Cove…

    • Lee Wilson says:

      ok, are you sure your in the Pacific Northwest?

    • …I think outside of La Grande qualifies as the pacific northwest…

    • Ryan (Walnut Grove) says:

      I would agree that you are in the PNW. As far as I’m concerned the PNW covers Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Western Montana. I’ve some some definitions that include Western Wyoming and Norther California.

    • W7ENK says:

      Also commonly referred to as Cascadia, quite literally, the Pacific Northwest is:

      Cascadia is a Bioregion that defines the Pacific Northwest of the United States and Canada, incorporating British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, parts of Idaho, Southern Alaska and Northern California. In many ways, The Pacific Northwest is geographically, culturally, economically and environmentally distinct from its surrounding regions. It is a region with unique flora and fauna, topography, and geology comprised of the entirety of all interconnected ecosystems and watersheds of the Columbia River, as well as the Cascade Range, from the Continental Divide to the Pacific Ocean.

  10. Models have really backed off on the snow up this way, too. GFS now says 2″ for me, Euro says I should get just a light dusting, not even an inch.

    • 28 after an overnight low of 26 here. Colder than forecast by a few degrees.

      The apparent snow bust is a disappointment given that the Euro had been consistently bullish an a major snowstorm for several runs. Now it seems like it was merely consistent bullsh–.

    • …how can something be a bust if it is still a day away…seems to me that that word gets thrown around waaaaay to freely…

  11. Tyler Mode in Battle Ground says:

    25 and fog in Battle Ground. The fog is lifting a bit.

  12. JJ78259 says:

    Looks like San Antonio will get its first cool night down to around freezing Friday morning. Had to harvest the Tangerines and Lemons. Made a gallon of Tangerine juice very sweet! No sign of snow upper 50s and low 60s next few days. Warmer next week up to the 70s

  13. Longview 400 ft says:

    Low so far this morning 26.2, Currently 27 and frosty

  14. muxpux (Longview) says:

    Twinkling stars and 26 at my location outside Castle Rock, WA. About 170′

    Hoping the snow starts early enough Thursday I can get the day off, I usually leave the house around 1:45pm. Commute to woodland.

  15. Windsday says:

    I think I may have reached my low point. It dropped to 29F at 9pm then shortly after that the fog came in and the temp has JUMPED to 31F.

    It has been doing that a lot this fall/winter where when it’s clear the temps would start to fall like they usually do but sometime in the middle of the night clouds or fog would come in and warm it up several degrees from it’s previous mark.

    I hope it doesn’t rise above freezing and we are the only ones with 33F and rain. 😦

    At least the good news is if that happens there won’t be idiot drivers who think it’s Sacramento all the time.

    Oregon drivers and ice don’t mix.

  16. Alan S Shole says:

    I’ll believe it when I see it. The local TV Mets do not have a lot of credibility these days.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Hmmm…seems like Mark is backing off things a bit…..said metro area may be just looking at a trace of snow.

  18. Diana F. says:

    Well, going just about’ish live……back-from-commercial stories first!

    • BeaverDreams says:

      Well…it seems Mark backed way off the snow forecast. A trace of snow in metro perhaps……

    • Runtmc says:

      Well, he just made the comment that the “freezer door is open but it’s set on low.” That doesn’t sound like a man real confident in a prolific snow forecast for pdx metro.

    • Jake-(Gresham) says:

      NoooOOOO! The curse of these snowflakes on this blog strikes! )_(

    • Dave in South Salem (500') says:

      Models slowed down the moisture a lot. That means some changes to the winds and direction too. I’m predicting rain in molalla and snow in McMinnville kind of event.

  19. Diana F. says:

    I imagine I am not the onlyone sitting on the edge of my chair right this second, as Mark is just about to go live!!!

    ……..chewing nails…….eating pecan pie……(can’t help it, it feels like a holiday….)

  20. Lurkyloo says:

    Where are Rob and PaulB? Usually in a predicted event like this they’ve commented by now. Is that a bad sign? Or maybe they’ve just abandoned us … (sniff, sniff)

  21. Diana F. says:

    Thank You Mark!!! Thank you Snow Gods! Thank you……EVERYONE! It sounds like we’re gonna have a SNOOOOOOOW DAAAAY~~!!

    Now where are my snow pants….
    from 2008……….

  22. John Fairplay says:

    Although I’m always hopeful, no one ever went broke betting against snow and/or ice events in Portland. The only question is usually which will never arrive: the cold air or the moisture or both. Got my fingers crossed!!

    • Yes, that is always the issue with the lowlands west of the Cascades. In order to get a significant snowfall, everything has to go just right. One minor slip-up in any one of the many factors at play and it’s one-way ticket to Bust City.

  23. Lee Wilson says:

    I have lived in Longview area ever sense I was 6.
    I have seen 3 feet of snow 2 white Christmass, another 2 feet of snow, I have seen ice build as winds blow , I have seen it freeze,that then refreshed then flood.

    I lived where we had 2 day black outs and we used a pot belly stove to stay warmotivated.

    I know what this area can throw. I am 45 years old.
    We have even a 1992 family video of snow.just before Christmas.

    December 24th 1992 we hado snow the time was around 2 or 3pm when it began.

    Elevation. Of the farm we lived on was 500 feet.
    Location Longivew Washington. About 10 miles west along Ocean Beach highway.

    • muxpux (Longview) says:

      I may only be 34, but my family is from here and I’m quite sure we’ve never had 3 feet of snow here. A long stretch of low snow levels and at elevation, sure it could pile up, but from what I know of the history of the area, 1980 was the big one, at least it was recent in people minds, parents have radio recordings from the storm. I used to listen to them and look at pictures and daydream about getting a storm like that.

      Also, are you thinking of 1990? I remember that xmas well. Lots of home movies from that xmas. Grandparents lived in Portland near the airport, every year for Christmas we’d go down for a family get together. It was a snowy, icy mess.

    • Anonymous says:

      I think Lee has good intentions. (with a little hubris) But I’ve lived in Cowlitz County for 50 years and unless he lived above 1000 ft we have never had 3 plus ft of snow. 2 day blackouts? hmm..Columbus Day storm would be the only thing that would qualify and that would be 54 years ago.. I hope we get 3 feet and then everyone can remember 2016 fondly..

  24. Washougal1100ft says:

    Not looking past the storm this week but next week looks like it could be epic! Weather underground has snow starting next Tuesday and going through Friday with 14″ or more! Could be amazing winter! Everyone do your snow dance and hope that the low to come in further south so the east wind will keep pumping in cold air! Fingers crossed! Would like rob to chime in hope he does!

  25. Lee Wilson says:

    Mark, I am taking this storm serious.
    Maybe it should so be named ?

    I see this Storm has to potential to take out power as well.
    Winter storm Adella has a nice right guy to it.

    This is going to be a real night mare. I would suggest people just stay home…Don’t drive…just stay home…no job is worth ones life.

    I wish you all good will. Stay warm, Stay safe, stay calm.and please don’t drive…

    Oh were at 28 and patchy fog.

    • lilfoot123 says:

      I too live in Longview! I am on Columbia Heights! It is scary this is supposed start while The kids are on the way to school! I That day gonna play in it! My hubby will be at work when it starts! Stay safe all!

  26. Lee Wilson says:

    Mark, I am taking this storm serious.
    Maybe it should so be named ?

    I see this Storm has to potential to take out power as well.
    Winter storm Adella has a nice right guy to it.

    This is going to be a real night mare. I would suggest people just stay home…Don’t drive…just stay home…no job is worth ones life.

    I wish you all good will. Stay warm, Stay safe, stay calm.and please don’t drive…

  27. Jake-(Gresham) says:

    Meanwhile we wait for Thursday to roll about. A video I thought everyone might enjoy:

  28. Washougal1100ft says:

    So your saying theres a chance?

  29. Andy says:

    31F here in Jefferson Or under clear skies.

  30. About 5″ for me if (and that’s a big if) the WRF-GFS holds. Cliff Mass says “Serious Snow Threat on Thursday”. But so far the official NWS forecast seems to think that the proximity to salt water will stop me from getting much of anything. Time will, of course, tell.

    Moreover, models continue to hint at a true arctic blast next week. This winter is certainly shaping up to be better than last one for us weather geeks!

  31. JJ78259 says:

    Good time to get the chain SAWS fired up and ready for action!

  32. So the roads could be bad Wednesday morning? Or just really cold out?

  33. Dave in South Salem (500') says:

    Looks like the headline confusing the masses Mark. Look at Facebook, all the comments show people discussing this as if it were happening tonight. The winter storm watch should be clarified it’s for Thursday morning.

    • Sapo says:

      Yeah, until you read the second sentence that says “Thursday”. Anyone who misunderstands this as tonight probably deserves to haha

  34. W7ENK says:

    Alright, so here’s what I think will happen:

    We’ll all watch the radar vigilantly to see the dry East wind eating up all the moisture over PDX metro. By the time the atmosphere finally becomes saturated enough for precip to reach the surface, the temperature will have bumped up above freezing and PDX metro gets 37 degree rain.

    1/21/2012 redux. That was one of the most agonizing weather days of this decade… and it all ended in 37 degree rain.

    • Matt (Vancouver 98683 @150ft) says:

      Booo! lol, that did suck! The rest of us will hope that this scenario is confined to “The Dome”.

    • JohnD says:

      Are you serious Eric? I would personally like to know more details involved in your analysis?! Or is this just a gut level pessimistic rendition?! In any event, we all hope that you are wrong. No doubt you too. (Wishcasting notwithstanding!)

    • I’ll gladly take a repeat of January 2012! That was an epic snow-into-ice event for Seattle!

    • W7ENK says:

      Who’s Eric? The letter C doesn’t even exist in the Norwegian language! Pfft!!

      No, to be honest, I’m just bored and I lost my filter somewhere midway through my last glass of wine. Oh, and I’m sure some might try and accuse me of attention seeking…? But alas, this mostly boils down to my gut instinct, having seen this same setup in the past, produce exactly what I’ve outlined above.

      And yes, I do hope I’m wrong. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen all that often.

    • Sapo says:

      Yeah, except we probably won’t warm up to 37 until Friday morning, meaning the east winds would have to eat up almost an inch of qpf on Thursday, probably setting a lot of records haha. But hey a pessimistic view on this means it’s more of a welcome surprise when it does happen.

    • JohnD says:

      Thanks Erik (with a k–I should have know that after all this time.) Yeah, in truth as a lifelong Western Oregonian and still novice climatologist, I (we all) have seen this pattern many times. Even potential “classic” events (as now) go haywire more often than not. Still–I think we would all agree–this one DOES seem particularly compelling. And so, apparently, does our buddy Mark!

    • boydo3 N Albany says:

      And once in a blue moon, it fails to warm up as quickly as forecast and we end up with an extra snow day!

  35. W7ENK says:

    718 PM PST TUE DEC 6 2016

  36. Jason Hougak says:

    30F here with hard crust layer that’s developed and icicles forming.
    23F Spokane
    21F Pendleton
    The cold air is starting to move in.
    It’s been awhile since we’ve had only a day of cold air settling in before we get a low pressure system. Usually we get cold for 3-5 days and each day slowly moderates. By the time the system arrives there isn’t enough cold air left.

  37. Matt (Vancouver 98683 @150ft) says:

    And Mark drops the mic!

  38. Lurkyloo says:

    Sooo … the train left the station?

    • pappoose in scappoose says:

    • Windsday says:

      Yup and the little red caboose goes with it!

      Puff n Toot early 1970s which the sound quality is above average considering it was designed for a children’s lo-fi record player.

      Here is one with train sound effects a rare record from what sources say.

  39. Laura in Springdale says:

    I am very excited to see some snow/ice because it is so rare here. Plus much more fun to watch these groups when it is so close!

    • Linda Harmon says:

      Obviously you haven’t lived in Springdale very long. I have lived in east Multnomah county for thirty years and I have seen many episodes of snow and ice. We have ice storms out here almost every year. Some are big like in 2004 and some are small. We only had a small ice storm last year.

  40. JohnD says:

    OMG! Thanks Mark! As always!

  41. marinersfan85 says:

    I’m going with a dusting and then a lot of freezing rain. Just not any really cold air from the east side to draw from.

    • jimbo says:

      But of course you know more then Mr Nelson

    • High Desert Mat says:

      Weird Mariners, I’m in Redmond and our low temp tonight is progged to be about 1. So try again.

    • W7ENK says:

      Who is Mr NelsOn?

    • marinersfan85 says:

      You guys will be alright. I can voice an opinion. Just because you don’t like it. Doesn’t mean I’ll be wrong. I’ve seen this several times over the years. If I’m wrong, neat. If I’m right, neat. Again, you’ll all be alright. I promise.

    • marinersfan85 says:

      Oh and ive never once claimed to know more than Mr. NelsEn.

    • Dave in South Salem (500') says:

      But you’re basing your opinion on something demonstratably false by saying there is no cold air on the east side. Just to clarify, this is not happening tonight.

    • marinersfan85 says:

      I didn’t say there was no cold air, just not a lot of it. I also never said It’s happening tonight. Jesus, the sensitivity level is off the charts.

    • Dave in South Salem (500') says:

      A bit of projection perhaps?

  42. GTS1K' says:


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