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Downtown Portland sees mid-April snow stick to the ground for the first time in nearly 120 years

PORTLAND APRIL SNOW STORM
Kristyna Wentz-Graff / OPB
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For the first time in almost 120 years, downtown Portland saw a measurable amount of snow in mid-April. The last time snow stuck to the ground in the downtown area this late in the year was in 1903, when snow was recorded on April 10, according to the National Weather Service.

“It’s not normal,” said meteorologist Colby Neuman. “We have seen snow in April in downtown Portland, but never this much this late in April.”

Approximately 1.6 inches, more in some areas, was recorded around Portland. The snow melted in the afternoon Monday, as temperatures rose.

Historical records for snow at the Portland International Airport don’t go back as far as the records for downtown. But, Neuman said, this is the latest into the year the airport has seen measurable snow since 1940 when the records began. “There have been snowflakes in the air at a later date, but never sticking snow like we saw this morning downtown and at the airport, and all over the city and metro for that matter,” Neuman said. As for what caused the late freezing weather, Neuman said it traveled from up north.

“This time of the year, we get a lot of cool weather systems that come out of the gulf of Alaska and drop down south out of Canada,” he said. “But this one just so happened to have cold enough air to actually bring snow levels all the way down to the valley floor. Obviously, that’s really unusual. ”As for what caused this year to be the year that broke late measurable snow records, Neuman said more detailed analysis would need to be done to come up with theories. But, he said, it’s likely chance.

“It’s just natural variability within the weather climate system and this just happened to be the year,” he said. Less than a week ago, Portland temperatures rose to the mid 70s. This week shows temperatures in the high 40s, with near-freezing lows. If it seems unusual, Neuman said it is. “We have a big body of water, the Pacific Ocean, very close to us and that helps moderate our temperatures and sort of keeps us from getting quite as warm and quite as cold,” he said.

Neuman said the cold front is expected through the rest of the week, but residents aren’t likely to see around 2 inches of snow sticking to the ground like they did Monday. At most, he predicts people in the Portland metro area could see a “rain-snow mix” late at night or in early morning hours when temperatures are coolest.

Even if the Portland area doesn’t get more snow, Neuman urged drivers to be careful as freezing temperatures and wet roads could develop black ice.

Copyright 2022 Oregon Public Broadcasting. To see more, visit Oregon Public Broadcasting.

A few tire tracks and footprints lead down a hill in the Bethany area, April 11, 2022. Monday’s snowfall is the first measurable snowfall in April in Portland’s recorded history. The snowfall amount varied widely across the city.
Kristyna Wentz-Graff /
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A few tire tracks and footprints lead down a hill in the Bethany area, April 11, 2022. Monday’s snowfall is the first measurable snowfall in April in Portland’s recorded history. The snowfall amount varied widely across the city.

Alex Hasenstab