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It was a very dry first half of the year -- starting in March, and ending with a record-breaking heat wave

PAIGE WALLACE - The relentless series of all-time local heat records scorched many a Portland garden - including the Rose Citys namesake blossoms, which normally bloom unimpeded throughout summer. We have been keeping daily precipitation records for well over twenty years at our Southeast Portland location, and report on the results from time to time. Although our records are mainly of rain, snow, sleet, ice, etc., we have space on the form for other weather observations of note, and the first half of this year that space is entirely filled up.

Although since February this year has been pretty dry, there certainly has been notable weather – RECORD weather – to keep track of.

When we came to Portland almost half a century ago, winter ice storms were common, and we well remember the January of 1979, when at the start of the month, right after a snowfall, the temperature plunged into the single digits – and stayed below freezing continuously for almost a month. Chunks of ice were floating through town on the Willamette River. Fortunately there was no more precipitation until the temperature finally rose above 32 degrees, but hitting 32 felt so WARM after weeks of freezing weather.

In recent years, ice storms have been few and far between; but four days in February this year were a major exception. On the 12th, the official Portland low was 27 degrees, and the sun arose on a half inch accumulation of sleet and snow – continuing as sleety snow until noon. There was a total of 3.5" on the ground at THE BEE at 5 p.m.

On February 13, the low was 24 degrees and there was snow and freezing rain overnight; in Southeast Portland, there was a total of 5" on the ground at THE BEE, with a strong ice barrier 2" down. The high was 30 degrees.

On February 14, the overnight low was 28 degrees. The Portland Airport recorded 10 inches of snow, and there was no TriMet service. Southeast experienced light sleet and snow, and there was 1/8 inch of ice on twigs and branches. The high was 32 degrees. Finally, on February 15, we recorded a steady overnight temperature of 31.5 degrees until past 9 a.m. There was a quarter to a half inch of ice on vegetation, but melting began around noon, when the temperature had risen to 41 degrees. However, this four-day streak of ice and snow left boat slips collapsed near the Sellwood Bridge and dozens of boats sunk there, under the weight of the ice – and the same ice caused the collapse of part of the Powell Les Schwab store's roof and the total collapse of two gyms at Reed College, among other things. After that things began to warm up and dry up. On March first Portland had the first 60 degree daily high since the previous November; on March 31 came the first seventy-degree daily high temperature, at 72 degrees. On April 17, the daily high was 84 degrees, making it the first temperature over 80 for 2021 – and April ended as the driest April on record in the Rose City.

June 1 was the first day this year with a daily high over 90, when it hit 95 degrees. But that was just the beginning of the hottest month ever in Portland; the previous hottest temperature ever recorded in the Portland area was 107. A "heat dome" moved over the Northwest in late in the month, resulting in heat advisories from Northern California up into the Arctic Circle, and Portland was in the bullseye. On June 26, a new all-time record temperature was set, at 108. On June 27, that record fell, replaced by a new all-time high of 112. And on June 28, that record fell, replaced by a new all-time Portland high of 116 degrees! But shortly after 7 p.m. on Monday, June 28, a small low pressure system moving up the coast began to push cooler ocean air over the coast range into Portland, and over the next four hours our temperature dropped by some 25 degrees.

So much for the first half of 2021: The precipitation total for the first half of the year in Southeast Portland was 14.82 inches, all but 2.34 inches of it limited to January and February.

So, what can we expect in the second half of the year? Were the first six month just a harbinger of weather catastrophes to come between here and December – or have we used up all the unusual weather for the year? It's impossible to know. The extremely dry spring and early summer certainly has led to another year of massive wildfires in the West, including here in Oregon.

It would be nice to have a little rain.


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