Winter weather grips outer East Portland

Weather forecasts proved accurate, but seemed to be ignored this past week, leaving drivers stuck in evening gridlock. See what meteorologists are now saying about Christmas Day …

During the first winter storm, before the snow turned to ice, many families took advantage of the day off for some outdoor fun – as demonstrated by Wills Pinaire, Brian Pinaire, and Lucas Pinaire.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

On many occasions, weather forecasters at the National Weather Service (NWS) hedge when predicting winter conditions, such as during the 24th annual Winter Weather Forecast Conference held a few weeks ago.

> Read “Winter weather forecasts revealed”: CLICK HERE.

Even a small slope is enough to provide sledding fun.

But, during the first two full weeks of December, NWS meteorologists firmly and unambiguously provided accurate and timely warmings of the coming winter storms.

Many people heeded the warning of an impending ice storm that blasted into the area on December 8. But, for reasons unknown, schools, government offices, and businesses ignored the warning of a snowstorm coming into the area on December 14.

Traffic skidded and slid on freeways, such as shown on this ODOT traffic camera of I-205.

As 5:00 p.m. came around, traffic on main thoroughfares such as Division, Stark, Glisan, and Halsey streets, as well 122nd Avenue, came to a dead standstill, as unskilled drivers skidded and swerved, causing minor accidents.

Portland Department of Transportation (PDOT) grading and sanding trucks were stuck in the massive traffic jam.

Speaking with a television reporter, Portland Mayor Charlie Hales blamed the traffic snarl on drivers with a lack of skill driving in snow, and added that PDOT crews were out working to solve the problem.

It’s a snowy day, outside the National Weather Service building in Parkrose.

During the second storm week, National Weather Service Meteorologist David Elson spoke with East Portland News about their predictions, and what they expected to come.

“Our predictions actually have panned out fairly well over the last couple of weeks, looking at these forecasts,” Elson said.

Taking a break from examining weather patterns is National Weather Service Meteorologist David Elson.

Technically speaking, the winter storms have been the result of a “high amplitude flow pattern with a lot of North/South exchange between air masses to the north and to the south,” Elison observed.

The jet stream steered a mass of frigid cold air from north of us south, and an east wind kept pushing it toward and into Portland along the Columbia River Gorge. When this cold air met with the warm, moist air coming up from the south, it created freezing rain and snow, Elison explained.

The day after the second snow storm, Parkrose High School is closed.

“One of the biggest factors in snow forecasting is whether or not there’ll be enough cold air – and there was, for both of these events,” Elison added.

When weather conditions are in flux, NWS meteorologist run computer “weather models” several times a day, he said. “When the models remain consistent, it makes for a forecast in which we have a much higher level of confidence.”

In Raymond Park, this family takes advantage of a “snow day”.

But, looking ahead to the end of the year, Elison hesitated to comment. “We only look a few days out. So, about weather for Christmas, at this point I’m not going to venture out that far.” But the coming week looks warmer and rainier and a lot less dangerous.

“It’s pretty rare to get snow in Portland for Christmas,” Elison mused. “But it’s something that we cannot rule out quite yet.”

© 2016 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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