Snow falls in Clark County; could be preview of weekend storm

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter

Published:

 

It may be time to utter that dreaded four letter word that starts with an "S."

Monday morning brought some scattered snow to Clark County, but that's nothing compared with what could be coming this weekend, experts said.

An arctic cold front will move into the area Tuesday that will last for several days. When it collides with a warm wet system from the Pacific Ocean this weekend, conditions could be ripe for significant snow, said Andy Bryant, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Portland.

"(We're looking at) potentially multiple inches," Bryant said of Saturday's forecast. "Potentially more than the dustings we've seen."

Before the moisture arrives, expect a crisp, clear, frigid week, with lows in the teens and highs below freezing, especially on Wednesday and Thursday, he said.

"It's going to be cold and breezy through the work week, especially for areas of Clark County near the (Columbia River) Gorge," Bryant said.

The first arctic blast will begin Tuesday, followed by a secondary blast on Wednesday, said Steve Pierce, president of the Oregon chapter of the American Meteorological Society.

"Once this second shot of cold air is in place, daytime temperatures will struggle to get above freezing up and down the I-5 corridor," Pierce said.

The highest potential for record-breaking cold could come Wednesday. The record low that day is 13 degrees, set in 1899. Records for other days this week were in the single digits, also set in 1899, Bryant said.

The record lowest high temperature for Wednesday is 30 degrees, and Thursday is 32 degrees, also set in 1899. Those records could also potentially be broken, Bryant said.

This will be the second arctic freeze of the season for the region, which is rare, Pierce said.

"This type of pattern is also rare for February and only a few have occurred in the past 25 years, most notably February 1989 and February 1996," he said.

As the warmer, wetter system moves in from the Pacific, temperatures will increase to a more normal range for this time of year early next week. The arrival of the warm air will determine how much rain, snow or freezing rain we'll see, Bryant said.

"It could be kind of messy Saturday," Bryant said.

Even if the weather is a little chaotic in Clark County over the weekend, the storm will be great for the region's snowpack levels. The Cascades are at only 20 to 30 percent of average for the year, Bryant said.

If the dry spell continues, we'll likely have low water levels in rivers and streams this spring and summer, he added.

He also suggested that gardeners keep an eye on their plants over the next week.

"People who have home gardens might want to take a look at any plants that have sprouted leaves," Bryant said. "It's going to be cold, and that could be detrimental to new growth."