5pm Sunday

You’ve probably heard about the new fire that started just south of the Eagle Creek Fish Hatchery 24 hours ago.  Officials say it was started by a person, potentially from fireworks as you see from the FOX12 Oregon tweet less than one hour ago.

What kind of person takes fireworks out into the woods (our woods that the public owns) after almost 3 months of no rain and lights them off???  Well, here’s the result; thousands of burned acres and the fire is raging out of control just south of I-84 above Eagle Creek and Cascade Locks.  This is the first time in my 26 years forecasting in this area that we have a large fire burning in the WESTERN end of the Columbia River Gorge.  The last time was the Falls Fire in September 1991.  That year a fire started right around Multnomah Falls and quickly moved west toward Bridal Veil and Corbett on easterly wind.  Today the wind through the Gorge has been relatively light; first light easterly then westerly breezes arrived this afternoon.  This fire is going to be a big challenge due to the changing wind direction and two very hot days ahead.  Fire conditions will be extreme with a quick spread possible.  Late tonight through Tuesday night high pressure develops to our east pushing wind from east to west through the Gorge.  It won’t be a real strong wind, but 10-25 mph wind speed under hot conditions can cause lots of trouble.  Check out the WRF-GFS (numerical weather model) cross-section of the atmosphere over Cascade Locks the next 3 days.  Click for a better view:

Notice time goes from right to left.  The bottom is sea level (river level in this case) and where it says 850 that’s about the 5,000′ elevation.  See the easterly wind beginning around sunrise Monday and continuing for about 36 hours?  A dry easterly wind coupled with an almost record-hot atmosphere for early September could spread the fire quickly westward.  Sometimes models do “over-forecast” the offshore (easterly) wind flow so maybe we’ll get lucky this time.

Beginning Wednesday, a strong WESTERLY wind returns to the Gorge which means fire danger will go down signficantly west of Cascade Locks, but increase east of there.  In fact either Thursday or Friday a thick layer of low clouds will blanket the western Gorge with near 100% relative humidity.  So the big danger for fire spread is the next two days.

Some more bad news…satellite imagery confirms a new fire about 10 miles west of Trout Lake in the Indian Heaven Wilderness area.  Here is a pic from around 3pm:

Easterly flow the next 2 days also means very thick smoke (from both fires) will likely move into the far western Gorge and possibly into the metro area through Tuesday.  We’ll see how thick it gets…we might get lucky and see most of the thickest smoke confined within the Gorge.

Stay cool the next two days…more hot weather to go!  Today we just tied the record high for September 3rd…hitting 94 at PDX.  Tomorrow and Tuesday we’ll be in the 97-100 degree range with the return of the offshore wind flow.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen




  1. W7ENK says:

    84 with light flurries in Milwaukie. If it keeps up at this rate, we might have a solid dusting of grey by morning.

    So weird…

  2. J. Patrick Moore says:

    Light ash falling this afternoon and evening in the south end of Oregon City

  3. Jake-(Gresham near Nadaka Nature Park) says:

    I’ve never seen this living here in Portland all my life. The sun was literally blotted out most of the day and around sunset just a red ball.


    85F and light flurries of ash. Here…

    Smells like smoke now too. Everyone is indoors.

  4. ocpaul says:

    A smoke sky all day in Oregon City at 300′. Hit 85 for the high (a full
    11 degrees below the forecast high. Love the cooler temps, hate the smoke.

  5. Boring 550' says:

    Today is proof that if we pollute the air enough we can reverse global warming.

  6. JERAT416 says:

    They just closed I-84 in the gorge because of fires. Everyone wash your cars so it will rain!

  7. Jason Hougak says:

    The Eagle Creek Trail is one of the most scenic trails in the Gorge and really is ridiculous it’s started by fireworks. We can’t do much about lighting started fires but the human caused ones could have been prevented. I’m so ready for months of unending rain.

  8. lurkyloo says:

    Lots of that “ashing” going on around here. Just got back from my parents’ house near 42nd and Johnson Creek (under the dome!?) and it’s happening here as well (Rose City Park area).

  9. Alohabb says:

    For those looking for cleaning air your home, turn your furnace or air handler fan to “on”. Make sure your filters are cleaned. Also, look into investing in an “Air Scrubber”. I have one and my house is as clean as a clean room. Can’t smell a thing. Contact a HVAC pro as they are the only ones who have access to that specific product. Trust me , it works.

  10. Mike says:

    Why can’t the Governor call for a state of emergency? I have seen these stubborn High pressure systems cause some very strong easterlies the closer we get toward fall. One late summer/ early fall east dry winds were strong enough to knock down trees at my place. This can create a literal fire storm if these fires aren’t under control soon and Oregon has a valuable resource in the Gorge and forest lands not to mention lives and homes that are at risk. I say this because we will be running out of time if not more is being done soon

  11. Mike says:

    Why doesn’t the governor step in and call for a state of emergency? Stubborn high pressure systems this time of year can go on into as late as October. I’ve seen it before and more needs to be done now. We cannot afford to loose time letting these fires continue as the closer we get to fall the stronger these Easterly winds build. I’ve seen them strong enough to cause a complete fire storm. The Columbia river gorge is a valuable resource not to mention the potential disaster to peoples homes and businesses.

  12. Nahtalkin says:

    I myself try and enjoy each different & unique day, even these smoky days are a joy to behold…..back out to the campfire for some 420 time! Peace to all you complainers and to the “king of the blog” (he knows “W”ho he is)

  13. Mike says:

    Air quality in Eugene at 411, worse than yesterday’s 400, which was the worst since 1991. I’ve been trying to correlate air quality with solar visibility, but there are too many variables. The only good thing the smoke has done has kept the temperature down a few degrees. I’m beginning to think the “blob” has moved to the western US. Hope there isn’t a big wind event in the Gorge, and that people don’t set off any more fireworks….

  14. Gresham gal says:

    Really bad out here in Gresham. You can now smell smoke in the house. It isn’t hot which is good. Ashes are falling out of the sky. Worse I have seen it in thirty years of living here.

    • Marques. says:

      3:30 now on Monday.. light ash falling in Maywood Park (NE PDX)… unbelievable!.. last time I remember any ash falling here was oh, around May 18th 1980!.. light dusting on my Black Jetta made me realize I just wasn’t imagining things.. this is really incredible.. stay safe my friends.


  15. lurkyloo says:

    Looks overcast out here by Rose City Park. Strange orange tint, smells smoky. Yuck.

  16. Marques says:

    Mark.. not sure how many of these you actually read .. but I tell ya, it’s just now 11am, I’ve been home for about an hour and a half, and wow what a difference that hour and a half has made.. it almost looks overcast outside, but then I look up towards the sun & it’s almost red!!.. realizing of course that it’s the smoke, but my goodness, the temp has dropped about 6 degrees from the time I got home, an artificial cool if you may.. was gonna go hit some iron out in my garage, but I dunno, it sure got thick fast, fast enough for me to hit the lawn sprinklers & I just may bag workin’ out today.. Intellicast is now showing us here in Maywood Park (NE PDX) at 74 degrees!.. crazy stuff.. almost feels like rain, but there’s no chance of that.. Anyways, just wanted to toss in my .02.. crazy times for sure!


    • Marques. says:

      PS- Not sure if anyone can understand where I’m coming from here, but it’s very similar to the Hilo side of the big island during VOG (volcanic fog).. I mean I can still feel the heat from the sun as if it were almost clear out, but that’s not happening right now.. of all the years I’ve lived here I can’t ever remember it being quite like this… smh……….. amazing!


  17. Peter Berkey says:

    Sad, sad, sad situation. What’s worse is the ignorance of the mental illness that’s associated with causes of fires such as this. I suspect that ANYONE foolish enough to lite fireworks in the woods is suffering from pyromania.

  18. muxpux (Longview) says:

    I remember in my youth, going on a rafting trip to Madras, we passed a fire burning in the gorge. 91 seems a bit early though, I was only 9. I seem to recall it being more towards Hood river. I wanna say it would have been mid 90’s.

    I remember seeing the glow on the ridges above 84. That’s a sight that stays with you.

  19. Boydo3 N. Albany says:

    Sooooo tired of the heat and smoke. This summer started out so perfect and went ballistic instead. Hopefully we do get some precip in the mtns. later this week but my concern is it only makes things smokier.

  20. Question for you, Mark: Will we be affected on the west side of the Cascades from the remnants from Post Tropical Depression Lidia during the coming week?
    Wondering if we’ll see any precip or dry lightning until the flow aloft turns more westerly as the upper level ridge moves east.

  21. Mike says:

    Please, if you have any faith… pray for the rain to return. I thank you sincerely.

  22. Mike says:

    I ask sincerely that those who are faithful to please pray for the rain to return soon. Thank you ever so much

  23. JERAT416 says:

    Crazy! I can’t wait for Thursday, hopefully we end up getting actual rain!

  24. We were supposed to hike Eagle Creek today, but ended up at Beacon Rock instead. Very thick smoke and even some ash swirling through the air. The only silver lining? An incredible blood-red sunrise. This is heartbreaking news…my two favorite places in the Gorge both going up in flames. Let’s hope the wind doesn’t pick up as much as forecast and these fires are contained relatively quickly.

  25. W7ENK says:

    Terrible situation, all around. 😢

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