Put A Fork In It; Winter is “Over” West of the Cascades

10pm Thursday…

Our mild winter (minus one cold week in mid-February) has come to a conclusion in the lower elevations west of the Cascades. As I look into the first week of March on our various models, it’s pretty obvious that

It’s time to put a fork in Winter 2020-2021.  This season is finished

So what kind of a statement is that?

It means I’m quite confident we’re done with most of our typical winter weather events.  But not all!  Read on…

First, this winter (December 1st to now) is running 13th warmest on record at PDX.  Those records extend back to 1940.  Spokane is 14th warmest out of 72, and Baker City is experienced its 12th warmest winter.  So not a record warm winter, but definitely at the upper end for many spots. This “La Niña Winter” will go down as warmer than average.

Looking at the models for the next 10-14 days…

  1. I don’t see an outbreak of cold arctic air.  For that matter I don’t see unusually chilly air for this time of year.   We have not seen a region-wide arctic air-mass descend across the Pacific Northwest since December 2013!  Sure, some cold-air intrusions to some areas at times, but no big arctic blast.
  2. I don’t see a setup for lowland snow west of the Cascades.  Even a brief & wet morning snowfall.

Point #1 on the graphic below is most important; the chance of a widespread snow/ice event in the metro area is down to just about zero.  I mean the type of event that shuts down our area for a day, or even part of it.

  • Other than the cold spell with the snow/ice storm, we didn’t have a major freeze this winter. Portland’s low temperature was 24.
  • Sure, we can still get a chilly east wind, but in early March we don’t get long periods of the screaming cold easterly wind.
  • As for flooding, for the first time in my career we DID see some significant April flooding in Spring 2018.  But otherwise all of our big floods have occurred during the winter months.

What could we still see as we head into March?

We have seen March windstorms in the past and even one April event a a few years ago.   And of course in recent years we’ve seen close calls with snow in March, including last year.  Although it’s still far more rare than December-February snow.

What actions can YOU take at this point?   Get those snow tires off and turn on the water to the chicken coop (mine is back on).

There you go.  Basically it’s time to “de-winterize” WEST OF THE CASCADES.


We transition from late winter to early spring weather over the next 2-3 weeks as temperatures gradually rise.

In the short term, we’ve got big-time winter in the Cascades! Winter Storm Warnings are up for there and in Northeast Oregon.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

53 Responses to Put A Fork In It; Winter is “Over” West of the Cascades

  1. Mountain Man says:

    Picked up a 1/2″ snow up here at 1400 feet. Came down heavy for about 20 minutes.

  2. ron says:

    There’s about a quarter inch of hail covering the ground in Astoria at the top of the hill (250 feet). There were three or four good lightning flashes as well. Fun morning so far!

    • Ken in Wood Village says:

      My brother lives in your area. He made a short video of the hail. He said the size was 1/2 to one inch hail!!

  3. Ken in Wood Village says:

    It looks like it could be a active day for some people today. My brother lives in Astoria and he posted a short video of some good size hail. Don’t be surprised if you see hail. I just hope we can get a thunderstorm out of all these showers. 🙂

  4. Joshua Lake Oswego says:

    Last time we got more than .20” of rain in a day: 3 weeks ago. Lots of dry days coming up. Not very La Niñaish.

  5. tim says:

    March is looking pretty boring this year, i mowed my lawn tuesday thinking there’s no windstorms on the horizon and sure enough that apears to be the case spring is here.

  6. Kyle says:

    When there is only 2 comments a day you know Mark has put the fork deep in our throats when he sends in the delete police!

  7. Ken in Wood Village says:

    Wow, there has been a lot of earthquakes just NE of New Zealand. They issued a Tsunami warning for New Zealand. The latest earthquake was a 8.1. Hopefully they won’t get a big Tsunami if they get one.

  8. Andrew says:

    I still find it remarkable, and a bit tragic, that there are significantly more “snow” signals in models through March, when many of us are ready for warmth and sun, than there were in December, when we actually want the cold and snow. Here is hoping Winter 21-22 is front loaded for a change and we can actually take better advantage of shorter days and lower sun angle. Who knows, maybe we would have avoided all the ice and just seen snow if the mid-Feb storm and instead came together in mid-December. As an aside, I always get a little nervous this time of year when see big pass level snow totals. It just takes one mild spring soaker to accelerate a massive melt off. Flooding is usually rare in spring, especially late spring, but the late season La Niña influenced snow totals present a somewhat unique variable. That, combined with an unusually wet pattern, would potentially be problematic.

  9. Mountain Man says:

    I have to say, Cliff Mass is sometimes a little too enthusiastic, and occasionally too political, but I really have a sour taste for people bashing him in the comments here. He deserves respect and is a heck of a cool professor and person. Can those few of you talking smack all the time at least go to his blog comments to give him your opinion? It’s distasteful hiding in Mark’s blog comments complaining about him.

    • 5OClockCharlie says:

      Nobody is “bashing” him. It was a joke about his recent use of unreliable model info and literally all my previous comments about him have been respectful. I challenge you to prove otherwise. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but you should take care not to get worked up about what people think of you or others in general. Insecurities breed bitterness. I see you on here second-guessing your own worth to this comments section all the time and I don’t think that’s a healthy way to approach what should ordinarily be a light-hearted discussion section. I enjoy reading your comments and I value Cliff Mass’ teachings greatly, which is why I read his blog regularly. His blogging platform is restrictive and requires extra steps to sign up, etc unlike here where you can post anonymously without registering. It’s not worth the hassle to sign up for Cliff’s blog IMO.

      • Mountain Man says:

        Hmm, ok I guess you’re right, I have asked a couple times if people want my input, because it takes work, I’m not doing it for myself if I comment. Sometimes nagitive comments build up in here, and you do second guess if it’s worth the time. Saying Cliff lost his marbles, I’m sorry, I know him, I don’t think it’s cool. Posting a 30 day EC snow map, that is a bit out of character for him, but a few comments sound like bashing every few days, for a month now. No it’s not just you or course. I feel compelled to just say something about it because that’s what it feels like to me. That’s all.

    • Peter Christenson says:

      In re “lost marbles.” I follow Cliff’s posts and listen to his podcasts, which I actually find quite entertaining and informative. He goes further (and farther) in his guesses than most meteorologists, but the guesses are never “out there.” They are educated, based on data, not crazy. After all, the freedom to go out on a limb is one of the perks of academic tenure. Incidentally, I can think of more than one recent case in which a significant weather event or pattern change has been predicted by Cliff well before our other wx heroes.

      Moreover, I disagree that there is anything odd or even slightly naughty about posting the EC 30-day snow map. All that map (and Cliff) says is that March snowfall will likely be 1-2 standard deviations above the long-term norm. Would you bet against that? I wouldn’t. He is not predicting 28 inches of snow at Snoqualmie Summit on March 26. I am.

      • 5OClockCharlie says:

        Looks like we disagree then. I think it is indeed odd and even irresponsible to post an extended forecast model of bountiful snow encompassing 3 states this late in the season without some sort of disclaimer. Remember that people make their snow tire decisions off these forecasts and modify their travel plans from them, so the forecast has a real impact and dollar amount attached. It’s not just a simple graphic.

  10. Joshua Lake Oswego says:

    Underperforming rain event number 4 (or is it 5) in a row coming up on Friday?

    • Peter Christenson says:

      The rain doesn’t underperform. It has no intent. We underperform in our understanding of it.

      • Peter Christenson says:

        That said, I guess there are those who think about the weather as if it were a (usually malevolent) person.

  11. 5OClockCharlie says:

    Just got done reading Cliff Mass’ post… I swear that guy has lost his marbles recently, right there with the GFS. They’re both the Oprah of weather now: you get snow, you get snow, you get snow, everybody gets snow!!!!!!!

    • Tanis Leach says:

      Cliff Mass was using the Euro to back up his opinion, which has been more reliable than the GFS, especially longer term (though both aren’t great past day 7)

      Side note: One person in the comments section said that the local meteorologists in Portland (directly said NW Oregon) said the snowpack was only near normal. Can anyone confirm this? I just looked at the basins, and the one that matters most, the Hood-Sandy-Deschutes, is at 124% of normal right now. Yes, I know the further you go south, the lower the snowpack is.

      • 5OClockCharlie says:

        Yes, but just like you said, long term forecasts are unreliable and Cliff of all people should know that extended forecasts are as good as rubbish. Not only does he use it though, he uses it quite confidently as if it’s a sure thing to happen. I don’t think even the amateur commenters here (myself included) would go that far.

  12. Jason Hougak says:

    Japan getting hammered with snow, it’ll be our mountains turn next, hopefully record snow for the lowlands.

  13. tim says:

    March coming in like a lamb a sign of a nice spring and a long blazing hot summer on the way.

    • W7ENK says:

      That’s not how it works, typically.

      You don’t remember the old saying about March?

      “In like a lamb, out like a lion.” and vice versa, of course…

  14. Roland Derksen says:

    Rather ominous looking cloud out here looking toward the NW. Could be a funnel producer, but I doubt it will get closer to me so I can only get a distant view.

  15. boydo3 says:

    Pretty average winter here on the south coast with 4 or 5 storms with gusts over 70 on the dock at Port Orford (not sure about Cape Blanco since the station has been offline since the park has been closed for nearly a year). 42″ of rain since Oct 1st. Several frosty mornings and a few days approaching 60. Not as balmy as last winter and spring is coming a bit slower this year.

  16. Weatherdan says:

    Lost power for 8 days due to an epic ice storm. Salem lost a lot of century old trees to said epic storm. I wouldn’t mind it a bit if we didn’t have an epic Winter storm for years to come. Peace.

  17. Larry says:

    The first week of March looks dry and mild. Thank goodness! We need a break.

  18. Mountain Man says:

    If what it looks like for toward middle March in the ensombles had happened 60 days ago… Instead of… Well, I think it’s still going to be a little exciting 2nd and maybe even 3rd week.

  19. tim says:

    12z gfs is saying winter isn’t over just yet.

  20. Paul D says:

    Only a small fork is needed since it was a short winter.

  21. J. Partick Moore says:

    Is it just my devices, or is anybody else not getting the daily and hourly forecasts and warnings on the weather app?

  22. Of course now that winter has been forked, it’s snowing hard here in the PSCZ, with thunder to boot ! 🙂

  23. tim says:

    I think region wide artic outbreaks are gonna be a thing of past that’s not to say we won’t have them again but long term seems less likely 7 years and counting, texas is the place to be for extreme cold now.

    • Andrew says:

      I’ve wondered same thing. I recall them happening much more frequently growing up. But I wasn’t nearly as knowledgeable about weather then as I am now so those may have been more east wind influenced than I recall. They certainly aren’t required for snow but they do tend to eliminate many of the variables that impact snow/ice lines and positioning of lows that make the east wind events a bit of a crapshoot. Was there a time in our past where these cold onshore flow systems from northwest did produce snow at sea level? How much of a drop in ocean temp would be required for that to happen now? Looking back at the early 1900s when Portland was consistently getting 10-20 inches of snow per year, I have to assume those systems out of northwest were generating snow, where today best we can usually expect is 1000-1500 feet.

      • Roland Derksen says:

        Yesterday I was remembering this date Feb.26th, back 50 years ago(1971). It was a very snowy day here, about 12 inches in depth, followed by a few days of cold weather. They don’t make those kinds of winter anymore!

      • Tanis Leach says:

        I believe you are correct on the NW flow generating snow. Its not impossible to get that today (ex: Feb 18) but you would need these systems to be closer to shore. Even so, it was still marginal back in the day, since the snow equated to an average of about 1.2 inches of Portland’s total rainfall (Downtown averages about 43 inches of rain per year)and the primary flow still came from west to east.

        On arctic blasts, the minor arctic blasts (meets my qualifications, but not -12°C 850 mb over Salem) may be getting slightly less frequent. Blasts by decade:
        40s: 4
        50s: 4
        60s: 5
        70s: 5
        80s: 4
        90s: 4
        00s: 4
        10s: 3
        Ave: 4

        The 12°C major arctic blasts streak we’re on isn’t unprecedented, 3 longest streaks since 1989 (since I haven’t looked at data before then yet):
        Dec 1990-Dec 1998 (8 years)
        Dec 1998-Dec 2009 (11 years)
        Dec 2013-now (7 years 3 months)

  24. Roland Derksen says:

    Intresting weather events here in the last 2 days: Yesterday we had a nice surprise snowfall in the early morning. Today we were supposed to get strong winds (there were some gusts around 4am) but around 8am we had a layer of fog move through. Now it’s sunny and perfectly lovely.

  25. donaleen Kohn says:

    Last year’s March storm was the most damaging storm we have seen at our house in 26 years. Much more damage than this year.


    On Thu, Feb 25, 2021 at 9:26 PM FOX 12 Weather Blog wrote:

    > Mark Nelsen posted: ” 10pm Thursday… Our mild winter (minus one cold > week in mid-February) has come to a conclusion in the lower elevations west > of the Cascades. As I look into the first week of March on our various > models, it’s pretty obvious that It’s time to put a ” >

  26. Phil says:

    Where is the iconic Mark’s giant fork emoji??!!

  27. Mountain Man says:

    Feels a little weird reading this as it’s snowing just a bit out my window right now, but okay 95% can have your fork. My thinking, some hail and lightning and anyone might still have a little fun if you’re into it. Spring is my favorite season so I’m ready to get on with it, I think it’s going to be a good active spring with something for everyone! I love everything spring has to offer, now I just have to let the mountain I’m on know somehow that winter is over.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Overall, a pretty disappointing winter. Enjoyed the first snow the region got in January, but the second ice with a hint of snow storm was horrendous – not looking to repeat THAT anytime soon. Really hoping for some kind of December snow event this year since it’s been a while since we’ve had a good one, 2008 I think? I’d even happily take early an January one.

    • Andrew says:

      I’m feeling reasonably confident that we are in line for a more front loaded winter in 2021-2022. My unscientific take is that we’re woefully overdue for something (really anything) in December. It’s not just that we haven’t seen snow. We’ve barely seen temps drop into the 30s for like at least three straight winters. My more logical reasoning is that it still appears we have a greater than 50% chance of maintaining our La Niña conditions and trends apparently show the second year features more activity, and the warm blob off our coast may not be as pronounced if present at all by the time we get to late fall. That’s highly speculative but work keeping an eye on.

  29. W7ENK says:

    Just one thing to note:

    “…significant April flooding in Spring 2018. But otherwise all of our big floods have occurred during the winter months.

    The most significant flooding on record for both the Willamette and Columbia Rivers has occurred In June…

    So let’s keep building that snowpack and see what happens in 4 more months, shall we?

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes the snowpack is really good and going to get even better for the 2-3000 foot area for a few weeks, which holds more liquid because of its larger surface… for some flooding, and BC is caked for later this spring if it melts fast. Right you are!

    • JERAT416 says:

      I remember a few years ago when the Columbia reached flood stage from snow melt . That was crazy. Definitely was in June.

  30. W7ENK says:

    It’s the official fork post.

    Good riddance!

  31. Mountain Man says:


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