‘Brief yet intense’ snowstorm blankets East Portland

See what weather records are being set – and learn when the typical winter storms will return …

Mill Park Elementary School is closed for the day – but the playground is open for winter fun.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
What Steve Pierce of Northwest Weather Consultants called “an historic February arctic blast and snowstorm” swept into outer East Portland in the afternoon of February 7, coating the area with a blanket of white.

Schools and many businesses closed down just after lunch on February 6 because of the impending winter storm. Hundreds of motorists crept along gridlocked streets and a very congested Interstate 205 trying (fruitlessly!) to get home before the storm.

Cautious drivers venture out on SE 122nd Avenue in the Hazelwood neighborhood.

During the Thursday afternoon exodus, IT Consultant Matt Hunt told East Portland News – using his hands-free device – that he’d left his office in Clackamas County near the Town Center at 12:30 p.m. that afternoon, heading north on I-205. “I’m glad I have a full tank of gas,” Hunt said. “It’s now 3:15 p.m., and I’m only just approaching the NE Sandy Boulevard off-ramp.”

In their outer East Portland offices, the National Weather Service’s Meteorologist Jeremiah Pyle followed the path of the second snowstorm to hit the area in two days.

Before the second snowstorm hit on February 7, we traveled to the regional National Weather Service (NWS) office in Parkrose to speak with Meteorologist Jeremiah Pyle, and to look at this weather system displayed on their many video screens.

“What’s interesting is that today will be a near repeat of yesterday,” Pyle said, “and I expect snow to be falling here within the hour.” The interview was recorded at 12:28 p.m.; the snow started falling at 1:28 p.m. – score one for the weather forecasters!

Lily and her dad Tim take their dog Abby out for a winter jaunt in the Mill Park neighborhood.

It’s a textbook example of “wet colliding with cold” Pyle commented.

“We’re seeing an easterly flow, pulling very cold air from east of the Cascades into the area; that’s the cold air that’s needed for this. And, we have a low pressure system approaching the Oregon coast, bringing a ‘warm front’ that is spreading onshore and inland. That warm front is bringing precipitation from south to north.”

This is the area’s biggest “snow event” since December of 2009, Pyle advised. “In terms of the widespread snowfall throughout our entire forecast area, it’s going to be one of the biggest on record.

“In Portland, we had anywhere from three to six inches of snow across the metro area,” Pyle added. “And, with accumulating snowfall on Friday too, we’ll probably have another two to five inches here in the Portland metro area.”

Saturday, February 8, was likely to be visited by more snow, followed by sleet and/or freezing rain in Saturday evening, he forecast.

Neighborhood roads, covered with snow, were passable. This would change whenever freezing rain were to fall.

At Division Center, the landmark thermometer illustrates the depth of this cold snap.

The record cold temperatures have caught the eye of commercial weather forecaster Steve Pierce.

“We have a new lowest high temperature for the day at Portland International Airport,” Pierce confirmed to East Portland News. “The old record was 38 degrees set in 1948; so this eclipses the old record lowest high for the day by 15 degrees.”

At Pizza Baron on S.E. Division at 122nd, owner Bill Dayton says because of the snow, walk-in business was slow, but calls for hot pizza delivery were “way up”.

Back to ‘regular’ winter weather
By Sunday, the temperature would rise, predicted NWS’ Pyle. “Precipitation will turn to rain and scour out the snow.”

Expect storms to roll through the area, Pyle added. “We have several pretty juicy-looking systems coming that probably will bring us pretty good rainfall.”

No one was out ice skating, but it looked like parts of Johnson Creek were frozen over!

© 2014 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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