Stunning chill sends history-making, surprise spring snow into outer East Portland

GO ON A ‘VIDEO RIDE-ALONG’ AS WE COVER THIS STORM! Although weather forecasters predicted it, the full-on snowstorm across outer East Portland caught many people by surprise. Take a look at our photos …

April 11 was a surprise “Snow Day” for Parkrose neighborhood students, including those who attend Parkrose High School, after our heaviest-ever April snow swept into the area.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

After experiencing high temperatures in the upper 70s on April 7, it looked like summer would be arriving early in our neighborhoods.

Even though local television stations posted reporters in the West Hills for snow flurries at higher elevations late Sunday evening on April 10, most folks in our area would have never guessed they’d wake up to snow on the ground on April 11.

A flurry of huge snowflakes come down here, along SE Holgate Boulevard, in the Lents neighborhood.

For families with kids, Monday was certainly an unexpected “Snow Day” with all of the schools hastily announcing the closure of their campuses.

A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Meteorologist said they weren’t caught off guard by the historic snowfall. Read on to learn why …

Blizzard conditions blanket outer East Portland

In Raymond Park, in the Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood, a family braves the slushy snow for a little outdoor fun.

Driving through Lents and Powellhurst-Gilbert at the south, through Hazelwood and to up north in Parkrose, every neighborhood park, yard, and street wore a thick blanket of moist snow by 8 a.m.

With the snow being heavy and damp, few kids were out playing in it. But, some parents did take their children for one last romp – perhaps a “last slog” would be a better description – in the snow.

In the Midway Business District, the iconic Division Center clock tower displays the current temperature – just at freezing.

Portland Bureau of Transportation snowplows clear slush from SE 82nd Avenue of Roses, in Lents.

Overall, roads were passable. City of Portland trucks had sanded at least one lane on major streets – like 82nd Avenue of Roses, 122nd Avenue, and well-used east-west thoroughfares. Falling limbs caused scattered power outages, checker-boarded across the area.

More treacherous than the slushy pavement were the drivers who blithely plowed through intersections with dark traffic control signals – seemingly unaware that the law calls for drivers to treat such intersections as a four-way Stop.

Damage by downed wires bring firefighters to Hazelwood homes

Firefighters go from house to house, checking circuit-breaker boxes that overheated from a sudden jolt of high voltage.

As the snowflakes continued falling that morning, at 7:31 a.m. seven units from three different Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) stations were dispatched to the 10300 Block of NE Davis Street.

What firefighters found there were several homes along the stub of NE Davis Street, from 102nd to 104th Avenues that had lost electrical power, and were reporting acrid smoke emanating from their basements.

These firefighters are discussing their findings with PF&R Battalion Chief.

“When their power lines came down, behind the homes, the electrical wires somehow became over-energized; it looks like some of their circuit-breaker boxes have become singed or overheated,” said a PF&R Lieutenant at the scene.

“We’ve checked all of the houses, there is no fire in any of them. But, it’s likely they’ll need some electrical work before they can regain service,” he told East Portland News.

Watch what it was like to be out,
reporting on this freak blizzard:

NOAA Meteorologist not surprised

“This weather event is unprecedented – having measurable snowfall this late in April – according to records going back to 1940 at the Portland International Airport and in 1890s for downtown Portland,” said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Meteorologist Colby Neuman.

We can’t go inside, due to lingering COVID-19 concerns, but a NOAA Meteorologist working inside the office in the Parkrose neighborhood explained the cause of this freak snowstorm.

“However, this was not at all a surprise to us,” Neuman told East Portland News. “As early as Saturday, we saw a pattern emerging favorable to producing snow, like we’d expect to see in January. Our only question was where it would happen.”

Meteorologists were tracking a low-pressure system, laden with moisture, moving east  over the Pacific Ocean. “What was unknown was whether this ‘low’ would dip south, coming in over northern California and southern Oregon; break north, become a blizzard in Seattle; or, do what it actually did – slide in, just south of the Portland area,” explained Neuman.

From SE Foster Road to NE Marine Drive, the length of 122nd Avenue was only just passable.

Covered in April snow, it’s historic Rossi Farms.

“Then, overnight, when cold, dry offshore winds [coming down from Canada, channeled east through the Columbia Gorge] met the moisture-laden low pressure front, it was the ‘perfect recipe’ for snow in the Portland area,” Neuman pointed out. “Interestingly, while we measured snow depths of 1.6” at the NOAA weather station Parkrose and 2” downtown, the lowest temperature recorded at the airport was 33 degrees.”

As weather conditions lingered, East Portland saw quite a bit of rain for several days. “Some of it came in with graupel [a kind of snow]. Depending on elevation, one could see snow flakes mixed in with the precipitation,” Neuman acknowledged.

About the future, Neuman remarked, we should expect a “normal” spring season. “Here, our springtime weather is longer than in most places; it begins in February, and typically ends sometime in May.”

Storm exits with a bang

As a finalé to the historic April 11 snowstorm, a thundercloud with lightening and a pummeling of hail rolled through rolled through East Portland on April 13.

Although the snow melted off, for the most part, by the end of Monday, April 11, odd weather for April continued for the rest of the week. Periods of clear skies and sunshine were followed by heavy downpours and occasional sleet.

After sunshine on the afternoon of April 13, that evening, dark ominous clouds rolled in about 7:30 p.m. Amid crashes of thunder and lightning flashes, a considerable amount of pea-sized hail pounded down, coating the ground in most areas.

Perhaps we’ll see “normal” spring weather now, until summer arrives.

© 2022 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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