“It could be a really big snow year for Portland”

Even though it’s warm and sunny outside right now, you might cast your mind back to the snow storm that hit Portland in January 2004. That first week of the new year we got a foot of snow, frigid temperatures, and freezing rain. News programs kept playing footage of cars tobogganing down Johnson Creek Boulevard. I was stuck at home for a couple of days, and finally slogged to the bus stop so I could get in to work. Why bring all this up now? Oregon state climatologist George Taylor has just released his annual fall and winter forecast for the state, and he predicts “a good chance of one or more significant snow events in the Portland area” this winter.

His forecast for Oregon includes warmer than average temperatures, and average to somewhat above-average precipitation. Mountain snows may be a little deeper than average, especially in southern Oregon, and skiing may not be as good as it was last year, but should be decent. But even though he thinks low elevation snows are not likely to occur, he believes that “at least one large snow event (4 inches or more) is likely for the Portland area”. Particularly in those parts of Portland on the east side, where that icy wind comes blasting out of the Gorge.

You can decide for yourself how seriously to take a winter forecast that’s released before the end of August. But Mr. Taylor is careful to point out that his forecast for 2005 was ” probably our most successful forecast ever”.

I guess I better get a new pair of boots, and make sure the chains are in the car.

11 Comments so far

  1. Aaron B. Hockley (unregistered) on August 31st, 2006 @ 3:26 pm

    Bah. I’m not much into those climate predictions. Remember, this year’s hurricane season was supposedly going to be horrendous, even worse than last year. So far their predictions have been entirely wrong…

  2. Lelo (unregistered) on August 31st, 2006 @ 3:31 pm

    Yeah! Yeah! Double yeah! I hope we get a nice big 4 inch snowfall. (All of you from arctic areas where 4 inches of snow are nothing can stop snorting now.)

    I support climate predictions 100%. Bring it on!

  3. DIVEBARWIFE (unregistered) on August 31st, 2006 @ 3:38 pm

    Using chains to drive in snow anywhere except on the mountain is for wusses….ask someone from Minnesota or Wisconsin if they have chain up their cars and they’ll laugh at you.

  4. PAgent (unregistered) on August 31st, 2006 @ 3:43 pm

    Uh, divebarwife, that’s because Minnesota and Wisconsin are FLAT.

  5. DIVEBARWIFE (unregistered) on August 31st, 2006 @ 3:55 pm

    And that’s why on the mountains it’s ok, but in the city it’s not needed and shouldn’t be allowed. You know those huge ruts on I-84 that ptractically swallow your car if you get caught in them? That’s what chains do – and you sure don’t need them to drive on I-84.

  6. Worldwide Pablo (unregistered) on August 31st, 2006 @ 9:01 pm

    Consider also the type of snow: The midwest, given its normally colder temps than Oregon, gets the sort of snow that looks like a Currier and Ives Christmas card, and it is immeasurably easier to drive in [especially in the flatlands, pointed out above].

    We’ve done both: Kansas/Oklahoma and Washington/Oregon. The latter is wetter and way nastier, as a result of the more moderate climate that keeps snow at always slushy 30 degrees, on average (as opposed to 5 to 20 degrees cooler in the flyover states, where the white stuff is more likely to arrive like a powdered sugar on a bundt cake. BIG difference.

    Matt Zaffino explains this every winter. No one’s listening, eh?

  7. Oswego (unregistered) on August 31st, 2006 @ 10:12 pm

    No, because everybody’s waiting for the requisite remote from the reporter with the least seniority, standing on the Sylvan overpass with a thermometer and talking about how COLD it is up there.

    Anyhow, I haven’t trusted a weatherman in Portland since Jack Capell retired.

  8. DIVEBARWIFE (unregistered) on September 1st, 2006 @ 8:32 am

    Pablo – First off, I lived in KS for about 10 years and it is the least snowy of any midwestern state being the most southern midwest state, and since Oklahoma is actually in the south, that doesn’t even count in regards to discussing winter weather.

    But I can’t believe that you’re seriously suggesting that the 1-2 inches that Portland gets …..maybe….. for one or two days is “way nastier” than the min. 8 inches on the ground and a few new inches every day snow that lands in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, South Dakota, Nebraska and other “flyover” states?

    Sure, some days it is “powder sugar” snow as you called it, but some days it’s nasty, nasty icy stuff – when it snows nearly every day you get as wide of a variety as we do rain.

    In the 8 winters that I have lived in Portland the only snowfall that could remotely compare to anything that happens on a regular basis in any of those states was the one PAgent started off talking about in Jan ’04 – and that only lasted for 2 days. Nothing else even merits mention.

    So even if I bought some silly TV weatherman’s description of “why Portland snow is so dangerous” it still doesn’t occur often enough to validate hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage to the roads, not to mention the danger that damage puts drivers in, because people drive around the city with tire chains on unneccessarily.

  9. valkraider (unregistered) on September 1st, 2006 @ 8:51 am

    Uhmm, the ruts on 84 are from studded tires. Not chains.

    And I am not sure if you have noticed, but the city is not flat either. If you need chains “in the mountains” because of snow – then you need them when there is signifacant snow in the city…

    The city (metro area) of Portland has “mountains” that are larger than some states largest mountain…

    Michigan’s highest point is 1979 feet, their lowest is 571 feet – making the largest possible elevation change in Michigan only 1408 feet.

    Wisconsin? 1951 feet highest, 579 feet lowest, 1372 foot difference.

    Minnesota? 2301 feet highest, 601 feet lowest, 1700 foot difference.

    By comparison, Portland has the West Hills which used to be called the Tualatin Mountains. There are elevation changes in the West Hills of more than 1000 feet. Tryon Creek area in SW Portland has a 900 foot vertical elivation change from Mt. Sylvania to the creek. Lake Oswego and West Linn have large “mountains” as well as Mt. Tabor, Rocky Butte, Powell Butte, and others in East Portland. Oregon City has a large elevation change between the river and the bluff, and then there are the likes of Bull mountain and the other mountains in the extreme SW metro area… I am sure that I have missed some…

    By comparison – the largest vertical elevation change in Minnesota is 988 feet, and that is at a SKI AREA.

    We have that kind elevation changes in Portland on highway 26 – a FREEWAY.

    So even though the midwest might get more snow on a more regular basis – I would say that when we DO get snow in Portland, chains are probably a good thing. Even in the relatively flat area in East Portland there are big hills, around Brooklyn, Woodstock, Alameda, Overlook, etc etc…

    I also say that most people in Portland should stay home when that happens. So that I can get to the slopes without getting run into by some moron with no winter driving skills. :)

  10. Banana Lee Fishbones (unregistered) on September 1st, 2006 @ 9:24 am

    I feel compelled to point out that I would rather people chain up when it’s a bit icy/snowy than put studs on their Suburbans from November to April. That really IS where a lot of the damage to roads come from, metal bits in tires on BARE pavement. At least with chains you can take them off when you don’t need them.

    I think folks in the midwest probably don’t “chain up” because they have (and actually need) studs most of the time. At least that is what I’m told by people who have lived there-and the road damage isn’t as bad there from studs because they aren’t beating on bare pavement most of the time.

    I am willing to bet the vast majority of the snow tires put on every winter in Portland are not necessary. It has been my experience that an awful lot of people in Portland believe Studs + SUV = exactly the same driving behavior as a summer day. Those people are the reason I don’t like to drive if the weather here is bad. I am completely capable, and I’m not scared to do it if it’s just me and the road and that’s all-it’s the jerk in the gigantic SUV who put studs on and thinks that is the only change he needs to make in order to drive in bad weather that is the problem. I have almost been in accidents with that guy more times than I can count.

  11. Anthony Bertolo (unregistered) on September 4th, 2006 @ 2:17 am

    I currently live in San Diego, but am moving back up in October (just in time for winter). And I for one hope that we get our share of snow events this year. I love the snow, everything gets so peaceful and quite. Plus, playing in the snow is quite fun as well :-p

    His Fall-Winter forecast is usually very accurate, it has been for the last couple years.

    2004 was quite a winter, very fun but somewhat harmful with the major ice storm.

    I will hope for snow until Dec.!

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