'It has the potential to be a big deal': Ice storm in forecast


EUGENE, Ore. - Record low temperatures across the Willamette Valley Thursday — and potentially Friday — may contribute to a high impact storm system to hit the state on Saturday.

Snow, sleet and freezing rain are possible for western Oregon.

RELATED | Winter Storm Watch in effect for Saturday | WEATHER LINKS

“The forecast remains up in the air for Lane County southwards,” says KVAL meteorologist Travis Knudsen. “Timing is the critical factor and the biggest unknown at this point.”

The most recent storm system, which brought over an inch of snow to parts of the Willamette Valley, Umpqua Valley, and the Oregon Coast, has left behind cold and dry air.

Thursday’s low of 13 broke the 1924 record of 15.

“Friday may break another record, or at the very least tie the record low of 12 degrees,” says Knudsen.

This cold is one of two factors which may result in freezing rain Saturday.

Knudsen explains cold air sinks lower in the atmosphere and can become trapped in the valleys around the state. “Places like the Willamette Valley will see warm air move in above it with our next storm. The rain with this storm will snap-freeze when it hits the cold air, this is freezing rain.”

The most recent ice storm to hit the region was December 14, 2016. Over 0.4” of ice fell across Lane Country knocking out power for thousands, many for over a week.

“There is a lot of variation of how much ice Eugene and surrounding areas may see,” says Knudsen. “As of now, anywhere between 0.1-0.5” of ice is possible. So it has the potential to be a big deal.”

RELATED | 'Plan on being out of power': Another ice storm takes aim at snow-covered Lane County

Unlike December’s ice storm, the approaching storm may have a broader impact for areas farther north. Including Portland and the Columbia River Gorge.

“Saturday may see the warm band of wet weather move all the way up to Portland where cold air from the gorge continues to blow into the city from the east,” says Knudsen. “Whatever accumulates in the south Willamette Valley will probably be less than what norther locations will get.”

Douglas and Coos County may also see periods of freezing rain, but Knudsen does not expect ice to be as widespread or accumulate as much.

“The Umpqua Valley’s period of freezing rain will be much shorter. While no freezing rain is expected on the coast aside from a few places in the Coastal Mountain Range.” He says.

The best time to prepare is now.

“With luck our most recent snow storm and December's ice storm has many people in a winter mindset. Meaning more people are prepared to endure a loss of power and very icy roads,” says Knudsen.

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