Winter Is Over In The Lowest Elevations

February 28, 2017

11pm Tuesday…

It’s time to stick a fork in this winter.  It’s been a wild one, but I think for those of us living at the lowest elevations the winter is finished and ready to come out of the oven.

What does THAT mean?


Could we still get a snowstorm?  EXTREMELY unlikely.  In March 2012 we had heavy/wet snow in the central/southern Willamette Valley mid-month, but it barely affected traffic in the lowest elevations of the metro area.  We sure don’t get frozen roads during the daytime from this point forward, in fact we’ve never had a daytime high below freezing after March 3rd.  You can take off your faucet covers since we’ve never had an “arctic blast” after the first few days of March.  We might get a few light frosts but that’s it.

This also means IF YOU PLAN ON DRIVING ONLY IN THE LOWEST ELEVATIONS you can take off your snow tires.

What parts of winter could we still see?  Exactly what we’ve seen the past few days…a brief wet morning snow that doesn’t affect our driving.  In fact that could happen several times in a cool March (Example = 2012).  We can also get a wind storm in the month of March.  That said, we haven’t had a wind storm since October!  This has not been a winter with lots of south wind by any means.  It’s been dominated by cool easterly flow…until now.

Meteorological winter is defined as the three coldest months of the year.  That is DECEMBER-JANUARY-FEBRUARY.  As far as we are concerned spring in the northern hemisphere starts tomorrow.  In fact in three weeks the sun will be halfway to its summer position so that seems perfectly reasonable.

It was sure a cold winter…in Portland the coldest in 38 years!  Note the #5 coldest ranking here right after that cold 1968-69 winter:


In other parts of the Pacific Northwest it was not as extreme.  For most of us around the region it was the coldest since 1992-1993.  There are just a few locations that saw a colder winter within the past 10 years.  That includes Seattle, Roseburg, Eugene, Medford, & North Bend.

The reason it was so cold was the thick snow cover that covered most lower elevations east of the Cascades from early December through early February.  That kept a cold low-level airmass over the region much of the time, remember the almost constant easterly wind through the Gorge?




For the record, the official snowfall at the Portland NWS forecast office (the official Portland total) is 11.2″ so far and my gut feeling is that will be the final number this winter.  The last time we saw measurable snow in the city was January 11th, the big snowstorm.  By the way we are exactly tied with Seattle for snow this season.


For the first time in my career (all of it has been in Portland these 26 years) Portland had 4 ice storms and Eugene had 2.  Of course the thick icing was only in the eastern metro area and generally close to the Columbia River, but that’s normal.

In just under 3 weeks the Oregon Chapter of the AMS will hold it’s annual winter recap meeting and I’ll be presenting far more information at that time.  Afterward I’ll post a link to the presentation too.

Stay warm the next 7+ days as we wait for that first 65 degree sunny day!

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen