Max Denning

From intense heat and smoke-filled air to snow and ice, La Grande and its neighbors in Northeast Oregon saw a wide range of weather in 2018, but in general, the year was warmer and had significantly less snow than average.

According to statistics provided to The Observer by the National Weather Service in Pendleton, La Grande came close to setting records for the highest temperature and the driest July to September stretch since NWS began recording the data in 1966.

La Grande reached a scorching 106 degrees on both Aug. 10 and 13, which is the second-highest temperature ever recorded in La Grande. On July 13, 2002, La Grande hit a record high of 108 degrees. Those extreme temperatures in August were coupled with smoke filling the skies from fires in Southwest Oregon and Northern California, leading to multiple heat and smoke advisories.

Accompanying the torrid heat was an extremely dry three-month stretch from July to September. The NWS recorded zero measurable precipitation in July and just a trace in August and September, 0.21 and 0.06 inches, respectively. James Smith, observation program leader for the NWS station in Pendleton, said 2018 had the third-driest July to September stretch, with only 1991 and 2005 being drier over that three-month span.

Even with the inordinately dry summer, La Grande still saw slightly more precipitation in 2018 than the 1981 to 2010 averages that the NWS has calculated. The average is 16.52 inches of precipitation, and La Grande had 16.65 inches in 2018. This was less precipitation than 2017, which saw 18.07 inches, but more than 2016’s total of 14.52 inches.

Although the year had roughly average amounts of precipitation, snowfall in La Grande was less than half the average from 1981 to 2010. Average snowfall for the 30-year period is 15.3 inches, and La Grande had only 7.7 inches of snowfall in 2018.

La Grande’s significantly below average snowfall is perhaps not surprising considering the year’s high temperatures, low temperatures and average overall temperatures were all warmer than average.

See complete story in Monday's Observer