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February Weather Goes Down In Record Books

Traveling by car throughout the recent snowfall might have been a bit treacherous for some. Traveling by dog and skis, however, seemed to be the perfect answer. A number of area residents took to their skis both for enjoyment and for transportation.

Traveling by car throughout the recent snowfall might have been a bit treacherous for some. Traveling by dog and skis, however, seemed to be the perfect answer. A number of area residents took to their skis both for enjoyment and for transportation. Photo by Elaine Bakke.

As the big thaw continues, the winter of 2013/14 will go down in the record books after three unprecedented February snow and ice storms in just five days blanketed the region.

As of Monday morning, the Portland International Airport has received more than 7 inches of snowfall for the month of February. This now qualifies as the most February snowfall at the Portland airport in 25 years when more than 8 inches fell in the month of February 1989. With more than half of the month yet to go, there is the possibility of adding more snowfall to the record books.

Last fall we mentioned that, “anything goes” in a La Nada winter, where neither El Nino or La Nina are present. We also expected “large swings in month-to-month and even week-to-week weather.” Once again, mother nature has not disappointed this winter.

This winter has also featured two arctic blasts in the same winter, which is the first such occurrence since the winter of 1990/91 when two arctic blasts hit the Pacific Northwest in the month of December. Equally impressive are the following storm stats:

q The high temperature of 23 degrees at the Portland International Airport last Thursday, Feb. 6, was the coldest day of any month of the year since January 30, 1996 (18 years ago) when the high temperature reached 23 at the Portland International Airport.

q The high temperature of 23 degrees at the Portland International Airport last Thursday, Feb. 6, was the coldest day on record this late in the winter season at the Portland International Airport. Records date back to 1940 (74 years) at the airport.

q The high temperature of 23 degrees at the Portland International Airport last Thursday, Feb. 6, was the coldest day this late in the winter season in 81 years in Portland when looking even further back to records pre-dating the airport. The last time an equal or colder high temperature was recorded this late in the season in Portland was a 23 degree high temperature recorded back on Feb. 9, 1933 in downtown Portland. Records date back more than 143 years in downtown (1871).

So, How Did This Happen?

Arctic air from the north and Pacific moisture from the west came together directly over Oregon and dumped quite a bit of snow over the region. This continues the pattern of significant winter snowstorms every five or so years in Portland. The winters of 1998-99, 2003-04, 2008-09 and 2013-14 all saw significant arctic outbreaks and/or snow at low elevations. This winter did not disappoint. The historical average snowfall at the Portland Airport for the entire winter is approximately 6 inches and this includes many winters where no snow falls at all.

There is a trend for several winters with almost no snow, then a big snowfall, then no snow for a few more winters. Rinse and repeat every five or so years.

Last week was a classic example of nearly the perfect snowfall setup for Portland/Vancouver and the Willamette Valley. Cold arctic air swept down from Canada, followed by several Pacific storms sliding over top of the cold air. Cold air is heavy, dense and extremely hard to displace as long as the center of these storms continued to stay south of Portland, as they did. This allowed cold easterly low level winds to blow from the east transporting additional cold and dry air into northwest Oregon and southwest Washington. This was somewhat similar in nature to the Christmas snowstorms of December 2008.

Preliminary snowfall and ice totals from all three storms

The following are few of the inch totals for all three storms, beginning last week (Feb. 6 to Feb. 9). The storm stats were provided by the Portland office of the National Weather Service.

Astoria – 2.0

Manzanita -- 8.0

Tillamook -- 4.0

Newport -- 2.0

Albany -- 10.0

Corvallis – 15.0

Salem – 12.0

Ridgefield – 12.0

Washougal – 9.0

Salmon Creek -- 8.0-10.0

Vancouver – 9.0

Portland – 5.0 to 8.0

Battle Ground -- 7.0

Troutdale – 7.0

Woodland – 7.0

Eugene – 7.0

Kalama -- 6.25

Hillsboro -- 6.0

Gresham – 6.0

Kelso -- 5.0

Longview – 6.0

Willamette Pass -- 22.0

Government Camp -- 16.0

Timberline – 16.0

Mt. Hood Meadows – 17.0

Bennett Pass -- 10.0

Hood River – 10.0 to 12.0

Cascade Locks – 8.0

Parkdale – 21.0

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