Midday Friday Storm Update: Heavy Snow & Damaging Ice Tonight

Noon Friday…

It’s rare that we have weather forecasts turn out exactly as expected during these big winter storms. There’s always some sort of “last minute twist” right? Well, so far this event is behaving correctly. But we DO have a last minute twist and that involves freezing rain…lots of it in more places than we were thinking, and that changes our snow total forecast a bit for some of you.

RIGHT NOW

Cold air coming through the Gorge has filled the entire metro area, plus western valleys from Longview all the way down to Albany and Corvallis. Even near/below freezing on the northern Oregon and SW Washington coastline. THIS TEMPERATURE SETUP WILL NOT CHANGE MUCH THROUGH TONIGHT

It appears 1-4″ snow has fallen in the metro area as of 11am. Lighter totals south metro, heavier north and east. Gorge is 3-7″ so far. Official NWS Office total is 1.6″ as of 10am. THE FIRST OFFICIAL SNOWFALL OF THE SEASON IN PORTLAND. Precipitation type has been mainly freezing rain south of the metro area. A pic from the Sloans in Aumsville area…icy

What’s ahead? I’ll get straight to the main points:

KEY POINTS

  • Generally we stay frozen from Longview all the way to Salem today. Coldest temps and cold east wind continues through the Gorge. Even at 28-30 degrees roads can partially thaw in the afternoon due to strengthening February sun even through the clouds. Then roads freeze up again after sunset. Expect light snow accumulations central/north metro through sunset, spots of ice pellets and freezing rain south/southwest metro and down into the Willamette Valley. Maybe another 1-3″ in the already snowy areas.
  • Round #2 of much heavier precipitation arrives sometime after sunset and continues until sunrise Saturday. Whatever falls in your neighborhood will be quite heavy. Either thick glazing of ice or lots of snow, or a mix.
  • Expect 4-10″ additional snow anywhere from the central metro area north and east. West metro down through Lake Oswego to Oregon City will see a messy mix of freezing rain, ice pellets, & snow. South of this line, almost all liquid rain that freezes on contact. This is going to be an ice storm to remember in the northern Willamette Valley plus south & west metro. Expect lots of power outages and downed trees…a real mess. Historic.
  • Even in the snowy areas central/east metro there will be some mixing of freezing rain and sleet during the night. Roads will likely be terrible by Saturday morning.
  • From midday Saturday to Sunday afternoon things are pretty quiet. Just light mixed showers (snow, freezing rain, rain) and temperatures rise to around freezing or a little above in the metro area south and west of downtown. Road conditions might improve a bit there. East metro stays mainly frozen through Sunday.
  • Round #3 is Sunday evening and night. Some decent precipitation, although not as heavy as tonight. I think it’s likely much of the metro area south and west of downtown will be near or slightly above freezing and we avoid significant additional ice glazing. But lots of freezing rain in the typical Gorge-exposed areas. That’s central Portland east to the western Gorge, plus the West Hills.
  • Finally, a south wind arrives sometime Monday and cold east wind disappears…into the 40s by afternoon at the latest.
  • EXPECT LOTS OF ICE AND SNOW ON THE GROUND AND IN THE TREES THROUGH THE MONDAY MORNING COMMUTE central and east metro.

TECHNICAL INFO

This is turning into a historic February storm! I’ve never seen an ice storm setup like this so late in the season, but we’ve always known it can happen if everything sets up right. Plus tons of snow…Amazing.

Only minor changes today compared to what I was thinking yesterday, but the “minor change” has a significant effect on snow total forecasting. Basically a warm nose pushes a little farther north into the metro area tonight (we’re talking 10 miles maybe); meaning that what could have been 12″ of snow for some will be 4″ snow + heavy freezing rain instead. Still a huge event, but not as much fun to sled on ice-covered snow. I’m following the WRF-GFS closely for forecast since it’s doing so well. Plus some Euro thrown in since it’s higher resolution than GFS. Surface low up against the coastline right now, keeping cold air in place

By 10pm a strong system is approaching the coastline. Cold air is locked in Salem north and surface low is approaching coastline

At 7am Saturday the surface low is at Astoria, which means south Willamette Valley may pop into 40s, but below freezing from Salem north

How much precipitation has fallen by midday tomorrow? Whew…1.00″ to 1.50″, that’s snow/glaze ice/ice pellets folks. All snow could be 12″, all freezing rain is devastating ice storm

During the night the warm nose of above freezing air (overhead) shoots north to the Columbia River, reducing snow totals from there to south and west. That zero degree line at 2,500′ is punching north at 3am. Beyond that point it retreats south again.

HRRR produces this much freezing rain

And WRF-GFS snow total continues to look as it has the past couple of days…4-12″ more snow central/east/north metro

The morning ECMWF run is similar to past runs as well, thinking we hang on to plenty of snow center and east/north metro

By 7pm tomorrow, the surface low has really beaten down the cold dome east of the Cascades. Wind much calmer in most of metro area but we’re still mainly frozen. Calm wind and not much precip around? I can see some roads thawing (a little) and areas away from the Gorge (and valley) creep up to around freezing Saturday afternoon

Early afternoon Sunday you see another system approaching. It’ll prompt one last big surge of east wind through the Gorge, although cold air will be much thinner in metro area and valley. Notice the 2500′ temp (colors on map) is above freezing for most of the area = mainly liquid precipitation Sunday evening and night.

My gut feeling is (based on past storms), west & south metro plus Willamette Valley will be near/above freezing at this point. So no new major ice accumulation there, but this will be the first big glazing from West Hills over to western Gorge. Even the western sections of the Gorge will go to ice pellets and freezing rain at this point.

7am Monday the southerlies are taking over west of the Cascades, but a stubborn area of subfreezing air lingers right along Columbia River and in the Gorge. This happens every time. Since the WRF-GFS was modified a few years ago to better hang on to low-level cold airmasses, it has done a great job.

Finally, 4pm Monday and southerlies should have even reached Troutdale. But what a mess left behind all across the Portland metro area and Willamette Valley!

That’s it for now…

  • We will have specific forecasts for the Coastline, Valley, Longview/Kelso, The Gorge & Cascades all through our evening shows. We are on FOX12 for an hour at 4pm, 5pm, 6pm, 10pm, & a half hour at 11pm. Also two hours on FOX12PLUS 8pm & 9pm. Find me and the weather team there!
  • Make sure you are following me on Facebook at @MARKNELSENWEATHER and Twitter @MARKNELSENKPTV

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

188 Responses to Midday Friday Storm Update: Heavy Snow & Damaging Ice Tonight

  1. Ken in Wood Village says:

    I’m looking at the radar right now. The precipitation has increased a lot. In my area it’s snow really hard now.

  2. JohnD says:

    23.9’ now here at 200’ SWPDX. Sleet changed to snow! Hurray!

  3. geo says:

    Yeah, just turned over to snow now here in Sw gresham

    • Ken in Wood Village says:

      I replied to your comment a little further down. I said there was some really heavy moisture coming your way and I thought it would change your freezing rain to snow and I’m glad I was right 🙂

  4. Scott Reeves says:

    Wind is howling and snow is coming down and I’m getting another beer

  5. OC550 says:

    Lost power for 3 hours, but back on now. The ice is already really thick. We have a bunch of trees around our house, so pretty nervous right now as we have a long way to go until this stops and temperatures rise. A lot of people are in this same situation. Will be a restless night. Keep safe everyone.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Amazing watching the radar and how the Chehalis River is creating a warm zone.

  7. Andy says:

    Anybody know the location of the low… any change?

    • Ken in Wood Village says:

      I looked at the satellite picture. The main Low is off the Queen Charlotte Islands but I think there is a secondary Low further South. It’s still way offshore but I think it looks like it’s going to come ashore maybe around Tillamook. I’m guessing about this. Maybe someone else can confirm this for me??

      • Evan -- Cedar Mill says:

        Yes I think there are two lows.

        • Ken in Wood Village says:

          Thank you, if that second low moves closer to Tillamook, I’m thinking some of the freezing rain could switch over to snow. At least that’s what I’m thinking but don’t quote me…lol.

  8. JohnD says:

    Can honestly say that in all my years I have never seen it sleet as hard as it is right now. BUT snow is mixing now too! Temp down to 24.2’—coldest it’s been here in this event.
    —-
    Donned appropriate layers, Microspikes and hiking poles and hiked with my wife all over town today—5 hrs. So scenic! Then came back and shoveled our 3.75”. “Maybe” more shoveling tomorrow!? This event has been a real treat for snow starved Portland! Nice keeping PBOT busy too!

  9. Anonymous says:

    All snow and snowing hard in castle rock. About 10 inches now.

  10. Larry says:

    Earlier branches were coming down every minute! They sounded like gunshots, so wild. Hard to realize it’s only 9 PM with all this action.

    FYI I live SW of Molalla, nowhere near the bullseye. Imagine what Salem and the surrounding areas will look like tomorrow morning. 😳

  11. Ken in Wood Village says:

    Just looking at the NWS website for Troutdale, the temp has fallen to 24F and the DP is 19F. That’s making the moisture back to snow in my area.

    • Ken in Wood Village says:

      Just went back outside to see what the conditions are and it’s all snow now and coming down at a good clip. 🙂

      • ocpaul says:

        28, Freezing rain here. Just lost power. 2hrs. until backup battery runs out. Not the winter finale I signed up for.

        • Ken in Wood Village says:

          I hope you get power back soon. My area gets a lot of freezing rain some years and I’m glad it’s not doing that right now but I’m sorry your getting it. I hope everything gets better soon for you.

      • Doug in Wood Village says:

        I’m in Wood Village too. We live off Arata near the Church. It’s hard to get a total due to the snow being rather dry and the wind, but maybe about 5″. What do you think?

        • Ken in Wood Village says:

          I’m just up the street at Treehill Park Condos off 238th. It’s hard to tell really. I have areas that have 8″ of snow (like on my garbage cans and on my deck) but I’m not sure if it’s because of the wind. I’m just glad it switched back to snow because it’s bad when we get freezing rain for hours.

      • geo says:

        Must be a fine line between where i live in gresham vs. wood village. still Zr

        • Ken in Wood Village says:

          Not sure exactly were you are in Gresham but I see much heavier moisture coming your way. Maybe it could make the air cooler and it could switch to snow (hopefully).

  12. If you are in the ice storm, plan on losing power.
    If you don’t have a wood stove, consider the comfort inn before it books up.
    No power=no furnace
    Lost power for over a week after the 2006 (whenever that was) windstorm Seattle; snow followed the wind. I think a bunch of people in town died trying to heat and cook indoors w charcoal.

  13. 5OClockCharlie says:

    This is the lamest winter storm I’ve witnessed in this region since 1990. Can’t play in it. Can’t drive in it. Can hardly walk in it. Just a big disappointing mess

  14. Echard says:

    ZR all day. No snow since overnight hours. 1/2″ solid ice on everything. Trees bowing low to the ground as the ice keeps coming down steadily. If this keeps up we’re going to be in a world of hurt. Luckily power is on for now. West Sherwood 675′. 24°

  15. lurkingsince’14 says:

    ZR, probably all night. Big time bust, but at least Mark called his shot and got yesterday right. Super frustrating but somehow not surprising.

    Will be interesting to read the recap — walking back a historic snowstorm is not easy.

    On to Spring!

  16. Evan -- Cedar Mill says:

    Thankfully, I’m still under a sleet/snow mix.

  17. Ken in Wood Village says:

    I just went back outside, I believe it’s trying to go back to snow. I’ve seen more flakes but I still see sleet too.

    • Jake in Gresham says:

      I don’t want to be negative but I think we all switch over to mostly zr. I hope I’m wrong but I saw some mixed in going outside with the sleet and snow.

      First storm was spot on if not better than forecasted but this second one is no snowstorm. Started as so but it is an icestorm as others have stated.

      • Scott says:

        Heavy ZR in Milwaukie with maybe some small sleet. This could end up being the most intense ice storm I’ve ever seen.

      • Ken in Wood Village says:

        I’m watching the 8 o’clock news right now and they just had a live report from Troutdale and it’s all snow there. I’m less than 2 miles from there so I believe I’m right that it’s trying to switch over to snow here. I am looking at the radar and it shows really heavy moisture in my area. I think it’s bringing really cold air all the way down to the surface and the thin layer of warm air is not there anymore.

        • Zach says:

          Yeah back to mostly snow in SE Gresham.

        • Jake in Gresham says:

          @Zach and Ken, I’m just stating that for the vast majority this wasn’t forecasted. Anything can happen and if people got caught in this it is their fault. Mark plenty warned and his analysis was that we were in for it. I’m mostly concerned for my grandparents who do not have a wood stove or gas stove.

      • flurball says:

        This is rare but FZR is coming down so fast it is not feezing on contact as you woud think. It is puddling and eventually freezing,

      • Ken in Wood Village says:

        I totally understand your concerns. I hope your grandparents won’t lose power. It’s switched back to snow. I believe the heavy moisture scoured out the thin layer of warm air which made it switch to snow again. 🙂

    • Ryan Lounsbury says:

      I think folks discounted the atmosphere cooling down even a little bit as the night wears on. It was a 50/50 snow/sleet mix here in Vancouver Heights but it does appear to be ticking back over towards snow but I do hear some sleet.

      If we haven’t transition back over to snow in Central/North/East areas of the metro by 11pm or so then we can probably stick a nail in the coffin.

      I just hope in my area we don’t go to ZR and stick with the snow/sleet mix for the rest of the nice if we don’t go back to snow.

      • Zach says:

        Yup. Evaporative cooling may get us over the edge in some locations. Granted I understand the situation is far more dire down south of the Clackamas / Multnomah border….

  18. runrain says:

    Lots of power outages coming in now. Portland down to Salem.

  19. Andrew says:

    Mark made it sound like it’s a bit of an inexact science forecasting those mid level temps. Perhaps they drop a little and some of us go back to snow but I fully agree that this is an ice storm not a snow storm at this point. praying for a miracle but feeling inevitable now. i’m in SE Portland so really a shock for me as I was squarely in the snow zone.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yep, been a partial ice store all afternoon in Beaverton. It’s a mix of sleet and rain. Have about 1/8 inch of ice covering everything.

  20. Evan -- Cedar Mill says:

    This is almost worst case scenario. Huge swath of ZR with temps in the mid 20s. Then to the north it is dumping sleet with temps in low to mid 20s. Brutal.

    • Joshua Lake Oswego says:

      Yep. It’s game over. 1’’+ of QPF headed our way in a short amount of time with very cold surface temperatures and warm air aloft. Add your homeowners insurance agent to your speed dial and enjoy electricity while you can.

      • runrain says:

        And stay away from trees, even during thawing. Chunks of ice can fall of and the release of the weight can snap a limb off in the opposite direction. I’ve been through some of the worse ice storms around here in the old days and this could top them.

    • Jake in Gresham says:

      We’re all in a lot of trouble. Some were saying no fair on our fun with the snow here on the Eastside but now with the zr the wind will do some serious damage.

  21. Jake in Gresham says:

    Temp: 22.8F
    DP: 19.6F
    Windchill: 9~13F

    Heaviest sleet I’ve seen in my life. None stop sideways.

  22. JERAT416 says:

    With so many of us getting freezing rain now, I am going to call a bust for the 12″ or higher snow totals for most places other than the gorge or mountains.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yeah was going to say….this looking more and more like another forecast blunder….

      • flurball says:

        And your forecast was????

        • JERAT416 says:

          Yesterday worked out pretty well though. So the first 24 hours went as planned at least.

        • flurball says:

          It was as adverised 10 or 20 miles will make a difference, and I am being generous. Don’t chirp because you were not in that area. It happens every year or two. It’s a roulette wheel. Your time will come and others will get burned and you will howl.

      • pdxmeier says:

        I think most of the forecasts have been heavily caveated with the uncertainty associated with the sensitivity to low placement and how the snow/ZR line can move north or south. I, for one, don’t envy the Met’s job during a situation like we’re seeing now. Just hope the damage is minimal.

  23. Anonymous says:

    So say this low comes in further north than projected what stops the next low from coming in further south than projected? I remember a time I believe it was Jan 1995 where we were projected to have a big warmup and the pattern completely flipped at the last moment due to a low that veered from the projected path

    • Evan -- Cedar Mill says:

      It won’t because lows tend to swing north in our climate for some reason. Furthermore, cold air will be degraded and we would need a more perfect path. At the moment it looks like the third low will come directly from the west and hit around Astoria which is more south than this one but not enough cold air left by then…. This sucks.

  24. If I were PDX NWS I would be hoisting the ice storm flag for PDX right about now…. TTD apparently has gone to ZR….

    • Jake in Gresham says:

      Fully agree it is pouring sleet outside. Sounds like someone is dumping rice all over the place. Super dangerous road conditions.

  25. Andrew says:

    So are we thinking any changeover to snow or kind of what you have now is what you’ll get?

    • Evan -- Cedar Mill says:

      What you have now is what you will get unless we get a dramatic shift in the path of the low.

  26. Ken in Wood Village says:

    I just went outside and it’s sleet and freezing rain right now. There is some flakes but few and far between. I don’t know if it will go back to snow. I’m hoping it won’t be freezing rain all night because it would be crippling and they may close I-84 into the Gorge. I really hope people stay safe if you have to go out but I highly recommend not to go out.

    • Anonymous says:

      ODOT just announced it will be closing I-84 between MP17 & MP62 at 9:00

      • Ken in Wood Village says:

        I-84 is actually closed now. I’m watching the news and they announced it at the top of the hour. I heard that my area should go back to snow but I’m not holding my breath. It’s going to get worse as time goes by 😣

      • Ken in Wood Village says:

        Funny, they didn’t say anything about 9pm on the news until after I posted my comment to you. They just said it will close I-84 at 9pm…lol.

  27. Evan -- Cedar Mill says:

    So what’s pulling these lows so far north?

    • Evan -- Cedar Mill says:

      Such a bummer because the next low is actually positioned better but by then a lot of the arctic air that we’ve built up to the east is pretty much knocked out.
      It sucks even more because now we have to deal with ZR.

    • tim says:

      Maybe 00z gfs will put it back in the right place, well see.

      • Evan -- Cedar Mill says:

        lol no it won’t. The GFS continues to be an embarrassment to the US meteorological society. It is a joke of a model (almost as bad as the GEM). Wrong every single time.

        • Zach says:

          I mean, the Euro completely blundered last nights low trajectory and was following the GFS the entire time. It was trying to put it North until the last day. The reality is these things are hard to forecast on all models.

        • Phil says:

          I wish the low made landfall similar to last night so we would change over to snow. Definitely not happening west metro. Well I guess if you wish in one hand and crap in the other, you know which one will fill up first!

  28. tim says:

    Latest Hrrr now has the low going into northern Washington coast, warmer air might move in sooner now.

    • Anonymous says:

      Good lord…..so another ‘big snow event’ slips through our fingers again. Lucy pulls the football out from us once again?! Lol….

  29. Evan -- Cedar Mill says:

    So close but yet so far….

  30. John Liu says:

    close in Portland east of river (Glisan & 39th) has about 4” snow on lawns, snowed hard in morning then on and off in afternoon, still coming down now, not ice or freezing rain and undisturbed snow isn’t glazed over.

    • SE PDX - Lily says:

      Really? Microclimates, man. I’m SE 39th & Holgate by the Trader Joe’s and it’s been fully sleet/freezing rain since about 2pm and there’s a quarter inch of ice on top of the snow accumulation so far… Bummer! And to top it off, wind is gusting so much that icicles are forming on my windows inside the screens

  31. runrain says:

    NWS stating on Twitter that most areas will have less snow now and more sleet/freezing rain when the heavier stuff comes in later tonight.

    • Joshua Lake Oswego says:

      The writing has been on the wall. I just want it to be over and thaw at this point. I am scared what I will wake up to tomorrow.

  32. Grizzly Bear says:

    🙏 Ice storm 🔨 west hills 🤞 🐻

  33. Phil says:

    Freezing rain confirmation in south Beaverton. Still has chunks in it but mostly rain. 1/8 inch of ice coating eveything.

  34. Kathleen Snyder says:

    1/2″ of ice on everything in the hills East of Amity. And the rain keeps falling. Temperature today has not moved from 27′. My entire front hedge is flat on the ground from the weight. Bathtub is full of water in the very likely event that we lose power.

  35. MasterNate says:

    1/2″ of ice from freezing rain all day long and the storm hasn’t even begun. Already limbs down on some roads out here. If it stays frozen all night this will be an epic ice storm for us. I see lots damage happening tonight.

  36. Mark B. says:

    How will all of this affect SNOTEL data which as of today the Willamette Valley is 75% of median?

    Link: https://www.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov/ftpref/gis/images/or_swepctnormal_update.png

  37. Evan -- Cedar Mill says:

    Why has the precip been so light on the west side?

  38. OLIVER WATSON says:

    How much snow at the official national weather service office?

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