Winter Is Over In The Lowest Elevations

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




31 Responses to Winter Is Over In The Lowest Elevations

  1. Paul D says:

    The forks are coming out but there’s flakes in the Sunday forecast…..

  2. W7ENK says:

    How dare you Mark, stealing Big Dave Saleski’s fork schtick like that!! lolololol

    • Boydo3 N. Albany says:

      Well if Melania Trump can do a little plagerizing I suppose it’s OK for Selesky 😉

    • marinersfan85 says:

      Mets calling winter done now is usually how the big one happens.

    • Boring 550' says:

      Watch those jabs Boydo!

    • GTS1K' says:


      Your comment would be relevant if, perhaps, it weren’t so blatantly political and off-topic. Additionally, you could (and should) spell check when you decide to spout such crap

      WEATHER BLOG! Just sayin’…..

    • Gene says:

      Wow — senses of humor in short supply around here . . .

    • marinersfan85 says:

      You have no idea, gene.

  3. JohnD says:

    It will always be frustrating to me that Portland has not had one official weather recording site in its history. The current NWS Parkrose site seems so skewed and relative. Everyone knows that easily 13″ of snow fell downtown during the biggest of our 4 accumulating events”, for example–I was out and about in all of them!–and the snow hung around for 8 or 9 days. The impacts of this winter were definitely greater in Portland metro vs. Seattle–it sure seems to me. (And not to disrespect; I love Seattle, etc.!)

  4. Anonymous says:

    ‘Will always be frustrating to me that Portland has not had one consistent recording station throughout its history. Also how skewed and relative the NWS Parkrose current site is! Everyone is aware of the conservative 13″ of snow that fell downtown as the biggest of the 4 accumulating events this season (I was out and about walking in all of them!)–the accumulations of which hung around for 8 or 9 days! Hardly comparable to Seattle’s events. (Please don’t get me wrong I love Seattle too!)

  5. Roland Derksen says:

    My December to February mean temperature was 35.5F. That’s my coldest for that period of months since winter 1984-85. My total precipitation(including melted snow) for that period was 18.94 inches which is 92.8% of the average calculated over 43 years. I had over 29 inches of snow for the 3 months.

    • JJ78259 says:

      San Antonio’s Average High for February was 75 stick a fork in it! Winter was tough this year!

    • Roland derksen says:

      I had a 74F here last year at the end of March. Wonder if it will happen again this year?? Probably not.

  6. oldwxwatcher says:

    And while we had our fun other parts of the country were wondering where winter had gone. As of yesterday (2/28) Chicago had gone 73 days without at least an inch of snowfall. Their total snowfall for January/February combined was 0.6″. There was no snow cover at all in January/February, the first time that has happened in 133 years of record. More at

  7. W7ENK says:

    So, that’s it then? The forks have officially come out, this one is done…

    It sure was a wild ride, wun’nit?? Let’s do it again, soon!!

  8. Interestingly, after trailing Portland for most of the season, Seattle’s official snow total (so far) for the season is… also 11.2″! Will there be a “tie breaker” later this month?

  9. Jason Hougak says:

    Anybody see the watches and warning map for Hawaii… flash floods and blizzard warning for the volcanoes on the big island. I’ll bet nobody has stuck a fork in their winter yet!

  10. Anonymous says:

    I, for one, would really appreciate annual video links for Mark’s “Winter Wrap-Up” presentations. I think there was one year where I saw an audience video of his spiel at an OMSI meeting in October, but the others? To this day I have never seen them. o.O

    • W7ENK says:

      I recorded and posted the annual “What Will the Winter Be Like?” meetings at OMSI several years in a row, but I haven’t been able to make it for the last couple. Sometimes life just gets in the way.

    • Katie E says:

      I’m sorry, but I thought of this when you said “Winter Wrap-up” ^_^

  11. ThreeStrikeMike says:

    What was our final rain total for February?

  12. marinersfan85 says:

    You’re willing to say a widespread snowstorm chance is unlikely. 4 days ahead of one that is being advetised via the models in February. But you struggle with one on the day before in January

    Regardless of the fact the little handle any model has had overall this winter.

    I’m not trying to go all warm bias Jesse lane. But, who has any kind of leg to stand on?

  13. Is anyone else as anxious as I am for decently warm, dry weather? Will we have a repeat of March 2011 and not see a 60+ day until the 31st?

  14. Great wrap up Mark! Great winter indeed, time to move on to Spring now……Will be a lot to talk about during the March AMS meeting coming up.

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