A Historic Cold & Snowy March Day

7:30pm Wednesday…

What a crazy day.  As expected the light morning showers turned to steady snowfall.  Most of the day it didn’t accumulate much because we were a few degrees too warm.  But a good burst of snow between 4-6pm across the east metro area dropped a coating of white just about everywhere east of I-205.

First the snow.  Officially 0.5″ fell at the Portland NWS office.  That makes it the 5th measurable snow event in Portland, all in the past 4.5 weeks of course.

Winter Snow_Ice Totals So Far

  1. It’s the first March snowfall (measurable in the city) in 7 years
  2. This is only the 5th March with measurable snow in my lifetime.  All of them except 1989 have been in the past 14 years.  Interesting don’ t you think?
  3. Looks like plenty of 1/2″ to 1″ totals eastside, with up to 2″ or so up around 1,000′ far eastern edge of metro area
  4. This is the first time since the late 1970s we’ve seen 3 consecutive snowy winters.  Around 7″ these past two winters and then 11.2″ in 2016-2017

Portland Snow Last Few Times In March2

Now as of 7pm, Portland’s high temp has only made it to 35 degrees.  That could change in the next 4 hours now that the wind has gone westerly through the Gorge (we’ve lost the cold source of air coming at us from Eastern Oregon).  And we’ve now got 3 millibars southerly gradient west of the Cascades from Eugene to Olympia.  We’ve completed the transition to weak onshore and mild air flow.  It’s possible we rise to 36-38 before midnight.

Assuming we don’t…this is the latest we’ve seen a sub-37 degree day in Portland.  We easily broke a record for coldest high for the date (41 was the record).  IF we don’t go above 35, it’ll also be the coldest day of winter!  That’s crazy and I’ve never seen it happen in March.

Coldest temp in Months

The forecast is much easier now, brief clearing this evening in spots could lead to some icy roads.  OR, we just remain mostly cloudy with snow showers returning after midnight.  The chance for widespread sticking snow in the lowest elevations has gone downhill.  More likely the next two nights/mornings we’ll see at least a dusting up on the higher hills around town.  Then each afternoon we’ll change to rain showers with daytime “heating”.  Friday morning should be our last brush with low-elevation snow.

Snow Headlines Metro Tonight

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

52 Responses to A Historic Cold & Snowy March Day

  1. […] hard to believe.  Just 11 days ago we had a snowy day with high temps in the mid 30s in Portland.  Remember the day it was dumping snow all day long but hardly sticking?  Or just 9 […]

  2. […] hard to believe.  Just 11 days ago we had a snowy day with high temps in the mid 30s in Portland.  Remember the day it was dumping snow all day long but hardly sticking?  Or just 9 […]

  3. ocpaul says:

    Hope for the best, expect the worst. I’m reminded of the Steve Pierce ‘Snowmageden’ blog post recently.

  4. Andrew says:

    So I’m sensing the consensus is to largely ignore the snow totals suggested for tomorrow by GFS and NAM. Still seeing onshore flow so assume they’re greatly overdoing snow potential.

    • W7ENK says:

      Well, I mean, how have all the other snow events panned out for the majority of folks in PDX metro lowlands so far this season?

      That should be your first clue…

      • Andrew says:

        Haha. Good point. But I thought it was kind of over after last night. Shocked to see snow in forecast for Friday all of a sudden. Models kept us cold but only dropped sticking snow in the recent runs.

  5. Ken in Wood Village says:

    We had a downpour out my way around 1:30pm (I’ve been shopping so I’m guessing the time) but it was very chunky rain. I mean I could have made a snow cone because it was so chunky. Funny thing, the temp was 46F. There is some cold air right above us 🤗🌨❄

    • Evan -- Cedar Mill says:

      I know, it’s just that the sun is warming surface temps like crazy. Everytime we get a sun break the temp spikes a few degrees. It’s so strong!!

  6. Roland Derksen says:

    Quite a dump of graupel (snow pellets) here this morning between 8-9am. Suddenly we were back to a white landscape with slippery streets. This first week of March will likely be one of the coldest I’ve recorded. Comparable periods: in March 1976, 1989, 1991.

  7. Andrew says:

    Very weird! Models definitely trying to drop snow on us tomorrow afternoon and evening. Decent totals too. I’m assuming this is a model anomaly more than anything. They seem to want to kick up east winds again. I don’t know. Didn’t see this coming at all. WTF!

  8. Ken in Wood Village says:

    I just looked at the Visible Satellite picture. There is a lot of cold air in the Pacific (the popcorn clouds) which looks like it will roll in the next day or two.


    Sorry for the long link. I wish they made this link a little shorter…lol

  9. Tanis Leach says:

    Is the 35 degree high the lowest ever in March or the lowest on or after the 6th?

  10. Heinrich Lippschitz says:

    Well folks that’s it for me Winter is OVER!! Let’s do it again starting in November

    • W7ENK says:

      Not so fast…

      Valid 18z Friday

      Valid 00z Sunday


      • That first one shows me getting 8″. Color me skeptical.

      • On the other hand WRF-GFS shows me getting 2-4″ tonight. That’s a more believable total, and the very fact that it’s not alone in showing me getting more than a trace makes me think I may well wake to an inch or two on the ground tomorrow morning. If I get 2.1″ or more I will have gotten 2+ feet and counting for the season.

      • Tanis Leach says:

        Those are screaming red flags too me, especially the high totals in Seattle area.

        • W7ENK says:

          You’re obviously unfamiliar with how the PSCZ works.

        • Tanis Leach says:

          No duh, I’m in college learning all of this, LIKE I’VE MENTIONED MULTIPLE TIMES. Judgement much?

          If you want the full reason why I think that, the pattern also favors an onshore flow, and the stronger sun angle makes it hard to get snow in the day. I think it will just be a little too warm.

        • W7ENK says:

          Calm the tatas, child. It wasn’t a personal jab, it was more a statement of fact wrapped in a rhetorical question… or perhaps the other way around.

          At any rate, most everyone in the PNW is at least casually familiar with the PSCZ, how it works and what it does. All you need to do is look it up and read for about 10 minutes, it’s not really all that complicated.

          Here, I’ll get you started:

          You’re welcome.

  11. Jason Hougak says:

    Heavy Snowshowers coming through. With cold pool coming in I wouldn’t be surprised to have a rumble of thunder latter as with more instability in the atmosphere.

  12. W7ENK says:

    40 consecutive years, I can’t get any snow on my birthday in January, but my brother gets it on his…

    This is absurd.

    I’m ready for Spring.

    • I’ve had considerably better luck than that, but still, at this point I’m ready for spring, too. However, I think we’re going to get a cold one. Wouldn’t be surprised to see snow showers make at least one more return before it’s all over (that’s in addition to the current event, which NWS says is ongoing for me: more chances for an overnight dusting tonight and tomorrow night).

    • Ryan Lounsbury says:

      I caught lightning in a bottle during 1989 when I managed to get snow on the ground for mine.

  13. runrain says:

    Flew out of PDX yesterday morning. No issues getting to the airport but our flight was delayed while they deiced the plane.

  14. Just the proverbial 34-degree drizzle yesterday, then 34-degree cold rain overnight… then, finally, snow! But just a dusting on the lawns, nothing major.

  15. Evan -- Cedar Mill says:

    Barring a few snow showers the next two mornings, it looks like were done with snow.

    Hopefully we can get a la nina pattern and pull in some cooler air earlier in the winter.

    Although thankful for the late season snow I have two dissapointments:
    1. Literally anyone about 100 miles from us has had at least a foot of snow on the ground (due to unfavorable storm tracks that were either too far south or too far north of us)

    A lot of this cold has been wasted due to sun angle causing multiple borderline opportunities for sticking snow (including today where just 2-3 degrees cooler would have left a widespread coating of 6 inches). Storm tracks have also wasted the cold.

    • Ken in Wood Village says:

      I agree Evan. If only this pattern was a little earlier in the season. Then we would have had a better chance of sticking snow a few times instead of seeing it fall out of the sky and not stick.

      Let’s hope we have a active spring and summer. I’m not looking forward to non-stop sunny skies. I don’t mind having sunny skies but when it lasts for 5 to 6 months (or longer) then I feel like I’m in L.A. I want a variety of weather, that’s the reason why I never moved from the PNW. 🙂

  16. Anonymous says:

    39/28 up here at 1600 near Silver Falls with 2.5″ of snow this evening. Bumped my snow depth back up to 15″. I was at work, so just speculating, but must have had the warm tongue work its way up the foothills around noon before the colder air aloft moved back in. Starting to see some moderation in Central Oregon and the Columbia Basin. Incredible run of late season cold, but spring will inevitably come.

  17. Ken in Wood Village says:

    I’m going to go out on a limb for tomorrow. I think we will see maybe a Thunderstorm or two. It looks like the atmosphere could be unstable enough to get a couple. 🙂

    • Ken in Wood Village says:

      I forgot, if we have thunderstorms and it’s snowing. Maybe we could have thunder snow!! 😉

  18. Jason Hougak says:

    The NWS really missed the afternoon dump on the east side. GFS and MAM show more snow coming tomorrow.

  19. Pgiorgio says:

    Forecast was underdone eastside like i noted last night. 2.2 inches measured in happy valley. Forecast was nothing to .5 inches. Many areas saw more than .5 in.

  20. Jason Hougak says:

    Mark don’t you think this is related to the solar minimum?

    3” new in the Cascade Foothills @ 1300’.

  21. Andrew says:

    I’m curious, do winds ever shift unexpectedly? Like could east winds return overnight or are those elements of forecasting fairly locked in at this point.

    • Evan -- Cedar Mill says:

      Low pressure has pushed northeast of us so we are now getting a sw wind. Winds are pretty easy to forecast as they rely mainly on hi/low pressure positions.

  22. Diana F. says:

    And I didn’t think I enjoyed rollercoasters!

  23. Ken in Wood Village says:

    Thank you for the update Mark. It would be funny if we did get something Thursday and Friday that is measurable. It would be nice to do a couple of records…lol. First?

  24. Winter 2018-19 = Summer 2011 in reverse

  25. Echard says:


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