Winter weather coming in

Clouds move in Sunday over the mountains surrounding La Grande. The National Weather Service office in Pendleton issued a winter weather statement Sunday that covers the Blue Mountains, Wallowa Mountains and the Cascades.

LA GRANDE — Snowfall early this week in Eastern Oregon’s mountain ranges could total 4-12 inches.

The National Weather Service office in Pendleton issued a "special weather statement" Sunday afternoon reporting "multiple rounds of snow" will blanket the Blue and Wallowa mountains in Eastern Oregon as well as the Cascade Mountains to the west. Meteorologist Rob Brooks said a wave-like system is moving across the area and will deliver a mix of rain and snow.

The Weather Service warned the winter weather will affect driving along Highway 204 and Interstate 84 in the Blues. Those traveling through Washington, however, could face greater difficulty. The Weather Service estimated the Cascades in Washington could receive 8-18 inches of snow.

The snow level Sunday was in the 1,500-2,500 foot range, but that’s rising Monday night to around 3,500-5,000. While the snow level rises, Brooks said be ready for temperatures to turn down.

"We are going to get colder," he said.

High temperatures will decrease from the lower 40s to around the mid 30s heading into Thursday, and nighttime lows will drop from around 39 Monday night to 26 Thursday. Looking into next week, Brooks said, temperatures should be below normal while precipitation will be a tick above. The area since October has been overall warmer and drier than usual.

October’s average temperature in 2019 was about 29 degrees, he said, which was below normal, and November’s average of about 26 also was slightly below normal. But December’s temperature averaged almost 27 and was warmer than usual. That trend has continued into the early part of January, which is averaging about 30.5 degrees.

"The first five days of January have just been under 10 degrees warmer than the average," he said.

Precipitation for the water year starting in October has been below normal, Brooks said, and a long way from any record snowfall.

La Grande’s climate data goes back to 1965, according to Brooks, and the books show December snow can get deep, with 19.5 inches in 1997 and 29.5 inches in that first year of tracking data. That remains the record for the month.

He said 13 inches of snow fell in the first five days of January 1975. But the local climate data also has gaps.

The National Weather Service relies on locals to provide crucial information about what is happening in a given place. The Weather Service’s station near the Bi-Mart in La Grande has gone through its share of volunteers over recent years, he said, so some information is spotty.

He also said the Weather Service in Pendleton provides online tools with the most recent weather data available. Go to www.weather.gov/pdt/ and click on the "Forecast Weather Tables" icon on the lower right side of the page. From there, type in a location in the search box and that will bring up a ream of data you can fine-tune with intervals down to an hour for the span of one to seven days.

Brooks said he finds that a useful tool when planning an outing with his family.

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