Clark County might get its first low-elevation snow of the winter next week.
Forecast models indicate a trough of cold air will spill out of Canada’s Yukon Territory into the Northwest, bringing with it freezing temperatures and the potential for midweek snow.
Forecasters at the National Weather Service in Portland say the likelihood of snow is increasing, but they aren’t sure if snow will blanket the Portland-Vancouver area.
“It’s still early, and there’s an awful lot of uncertainty right now,” Gerald Macke, a meteorological technician, said Wednesday. “We can’t rule it out, but we can’t definitely say there is going to be snow.”
One model indicates the weather could turn so cold that it would break Portland’s record for the lowest high temperature for a day, a frigid 14 degrees, but forecasters don’t believe that will happen, Macke said.
“There are a lot of computer models we are looking at, and there is a wide variety in what could happen,” he said. “We know it’s going to get cold, starting Monday.”
A strong storm expected to arrive Friday should dump between 1 and 3 feet of snow in the Cascades. Friday evening through Saturday morning will be the worst time to travel through mountain passes. No snow is expected at lower elevations this weekend.
With the arrival of colder temperatures, additional storms from the Gulf of Alaska could spread moisture into that cold air and bring snow levels down to the valley floor.
Local governments are in a wait-and-see mode. With heavy rain expected this weekend, they aren’t spraying saline anti-icer on roads since it would wash away before cold weather arrives.
“We are paying really close attention to the weather reports,” said Magan Reed, spokeswoman for Clark County Public Works. “All of our crews will be ready to go if there is ice and snow.”
Loretta Callahan, spokeswoman for Vancouver Public Works, said the city is watching weather forecasts and conditions and will be ready to respond.
Vancouver will have a night shift on duty starting Sunday, she said.
“If the winter weather passed us by, we have other maintenance plans for that time,” she said.
Both Reed and Callahan encouraged residents to be prepared for winter weather.
If homeowners have not insulated pipes near outer walls in crawl spaces and covered hose bibs, this weekend would be a good time to make those preparations, Callahan said.
“Property owners are responsible for the plumbing on their own property,” she said.
Tamara Greenwell, acting communications manager for the Washington State Department of Transportation in Southwest Washington, said her agency responds to weather at Cape Horn on state Highway 14 and other locations that get snow and ice more frequently than the metro area.
“We are tracking the weather system that is expected to move in,” Greenwell said. “We’ve got phone calls with the weather service this weekend to ensure we are prepared for whatever Mother Nature has in store for us.”
Amtrak already has run into problems, even before the arrival of heavy rain and possible snow.
A landslide between Tacoma and Lacey has blocked railroad tracks, prompting Amtrak to bus passengers between Portland and Seattle.
Passenger rail service between the two metro areas is not expected to resume until this morning.