Put a fork in it: Winter is over WEST of the Cascades

What that means, and what might still be ahead
Published: Feb. 25, 2022 at 7:07 PM PST
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Our mild winter is over in the lower elevations west of the Cascades. As I look into the last few days of February and early March, it’s pretty obvious that...

It’s time to put a fork in Winter 2021-2022. This season is finished

What kind of a seemingly ridiculous statement is that?

It means I’m quite confident we’re done with most of our typical winter weather events. But not all! Often early-mid March is included as part of winter in the USA, but that’s not really the case west of the Cascades...we already live in a mild climate where winter is weak sauce anyway. So it doesn’t take much warming to “pull out of winter” here.

First, this winter has been about as average as it gets. No long stretches of cold OR warm. November was much warmer than normal and December slightly cool (warm early, then chilly later). January was about average. February has seen a mix of cool/warm & then very cold. February will go down slightly cooler than average.

Winter Stats
Winter Stats(KPTV)

Rainfall has been about normal, and snow in the northern Oregon and southern Washington Cascades has been near normal as well. Of course, December was a soaker and so was November. Then a ton of rain the first week of January. Since then the faucet has been slowed to a trickle. There IS going to be quite a bit of rain Monday/Tuesday next week, but overall this winter will be remembered for a wet first half and dry second half.

Winter Stats
Winter Stats(KPTV)

Looking at the models for the next 10+ days…

  • 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 (earlier this week), but no big arctic blast.
  • I don’t see a setup for lowland snow west of the Cascades. Even a brief & wet morning snowfall isn’t in the cards. But that can happen in March.

Point #1 on the graphic below is most important; the chance of a widespread snow/ice event that cripples 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 between Christmas and New Year’s Day, we didn’t have a major freeze this winter. Portland’s low temperature was only 24 (this morning!) We didn’t have any calendar days where it stayed at/below freezing. Both December 27th and January 1st saw high temps of 34.
  • Sure, we can still get a chilly east wind, but no long period of screaming cold easterly wind is likely through the first week of March. That threat goes away for the season by March 10th.
  • 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 and not in March.

What could we still see as we head into March?

We have seen March windstorms in the past and even one April event 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 rarer than December-February snow.

What actions can YOU take at this point?

Get those snow tires off and turn your faucets back on. I just swapped out my tires today and will turn exposed chicken water lines back on tomorrow.

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

SUMMARY

We transition from late winter to early spring weather over the next 2-3 weeks as temperatures SLOWLY rise and days get longer. We’ve had our “false spring”; 3 days in the 60s! Now it’s back to near normal temps as we head into early-mid March.