Jan 5, 2024 - News

The end of Portland's unseasonably warm winter

Illustration of a stop sign with a large snowflake on it with smaller flakes falling around it

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

After one of the warmest Decembers on record — and a mild start to January — heavy mountain snow and frosty temperatures are headed for the Portland area in the coming week, local meteorologists tell Axios.

Driving the news: A series of weather systems are expected to bring more than 3 feet of snow to the Cascades between Friday and next weekend, while the rest of the region could see near-freezing temperatures and maybe even snow.

Why it matters: The drier, warmer conditions forecast for an El Niño year has created concern about snowpack in the mountains, one of the most crucial climate-related variables in the Pacific Northwest.

However, forecasts estimate the Cascade Range could receive between 6 inches and 2 feet of snow between Friday and Sunday — with another 2 feet between Monday and Wednesday, said Andy Bryant, a hydrologist at the National Weather Service in Portland.

Plus: This is great news for Oregon skiers who've been encountering slick ice and bare spots since the slopes opened just last month.

  • Mt. Hood Meadows, Mt. Bachelor and the area around Timberline Lodge all had to delay the start of the ski season, which traditionally begins the day after Thanksgiving, due to lack of snow (but plenty of rain).

Details: Temperatures across Portland will gradually decrease starting Saturday and drizzle will continue — potentially bringing a sprinkling of snow and freezing rain to lower elevations next weekend.

Yes, but: That's still a ways out, Bryant said, and various forecast models show a "huge spread of possible temperatures from the high 20s into the lower to mid-40s."

  • Snow, if it comes, is most likely to occur the weekend of Jan. 13, minimizing impacts to schools and commuters.

🗯️ Our thought bubble: If snow does reach Rose City, consider staying in instead of venturing out.

  • The Oregon Department of Transportation will be operating fewer snowplows due to a budget shortfall, meaning drivers may encounter more setbacks and dangerous driving conditions.
  • Interstates like I-84, I-5, I-405 and Highway 26 will be given priority if the inches start piling up.
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