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'Brief yet intense' snowstorm blasts Inner Southeast Portland

by: DAVID F. ASHTON - Not often seen here - a snow plow! It was clearing a path on S.E. Milwaukie Avenue, south of Holgate Boulevard. What Steve Pierce of Northwest Weather Consultants called “an historic February arctic blast and snowstorm” swept into Inner Southeast Portland around 1 pm on the afternoon of Thursday, February 6th, coating the area with a blanket of white. The city was immobilized till the following Tuesday.

Schools and many businesses closed down just after lunch that afternoon, because of the impending winter storm. Hundreds of motorists crept along gridlocked streets trying (fruitlessly!) to get home before the storm. For many, the trip home took many hours.

Before a second surge of snow hit on February 7, THE BEE visited the regional National Weather Service (NWS) office, located in near the Portland Airport, and spoke with Meteorologist Jeremiah Pyle about the weather system displayed on their many video screens at that time.

“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!

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

“Very cold air from east of the Cascades is flowing into the area. 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.”

His prediction for more snow and freezing rain on Saturday, February 8, was also accurate – and the winter blast continued through Sunday night, and the streets remained nearly impassible on Monday. Pyle also accurately predicted that later, wind-driven, but warm, rainstorms would pelt the area in mid February.

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 THE BEE. “The old record was 38 degrees set in 1948; so this eclipses the old record lowest high for the day by 15 degrees!” For additional photos of Inner Southeast Portland in the snow, CLICK HERE.