A stalled low pressure system led to a dumping of snow in Clark County last week as some higher elevations received up to a foot and a half of the white stuff.
Tuesday, Feb. 21 kicked off two days of snowfall, which combined with low temperatures and led to school closures and impacts on roadways.
The amount of snow was a surprise to forecasters who initially expected less precipitation. The National Weather Service originally thought low pressure air from the coast would continue to the south of the Portland metro area, leaving behind a dusting or up to two inches in some places, Clinton Rockey, a meteorologist out of the weather service’s Portland office said on Friday, Feb. 24.
“We figured the potential for anything big would be going on by, because the low was moving south on us,” Rockey said. “Unfortunately, mother nature likes to not agree with us and throw wrenches into the works.”
The low pressure area stuck around the coast for 12 to 15 hours while cool air from the Columbia River Gorge kept the region’s temperatures low, Rockey said.
“Once we had any traffic, it became a nightmare for people Tuesday evening,” Rockey said. “It just got worse from then on.”
On Thursday, Feb. 23, temperatures didn’t rise above freezing in Battle Ground, according to National Weather Service data. Those temperatures allowed snow to accumulate on the ground and on the roads.
Places like Amboy and Yacolt got up to 18 inches of snow by Friday, Rockey said. Lower elevations also saw significant accumulation in the 8 to 10-inch range around Battle Ground and Hockinson.
The band of snow was relatively narrow, Rockey said, with places like Oregon City to the south and Kalama to the north seeing barely any snow compared to the heavy accumulation in Clark County.
On Friday, the lack of cloud cover and warming temperatures helped the area thaw out somewhat. Another weather system came on Saturday night.
The snow led to school closures last week. Some districts like Battle Ground Public Schools and the Hockinson School District had three snow days. The missed school days mean the districts will have to add instructional days to their calendar, in some cases extending the school year further into June.
The weather also led to impacts on local government. Clark County closed its offices on Thursday, while the city of Ridgefield moved its regularly-scheduled city council meeting to a virtual-only format that night.