Have umbrella near this winter: forecasters say La Nina will bring wetter weather
October 20, 1998
By BETH QUINN
Forget about carving that Halloween pumpkin. Better clean out the gutters instead.
Weather forecasters ranging from the Oregon Climate Service to “The Old Farmer’s Almanac” predict a very wet winter for the Northwest, citing a periodic weather phenomenon known as La Nina. Its last visit, caused by cooling water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, delivered 1997’s New Year’s Day flood.
Rain turns out to be the cause — and the cure — for the string of foggy mornings endured by local residents in the last few days.
“If you get a little moisture, you’re going to fog in, at least at this time of the year,” says Chuck Glaser of the National Weather Service’s Medford office.
Moisture left over from last week’s rain combines with cool overnight temperatures to create morning fog. A few days of warmer weather late in the week should clear that up, at least temporarily, he says.
But the clearing trend will be too late for travelers who faced hour-plus delays flying in to Medford Saturday and Monday.
Years with the least fog tend to be the wettest, Glaser said, because frequent storms stir the air, clearing out the fog that frequently leaves the valley socked in when the weather is drier.
Plenty more wet stuff is needed before the dusting of snow on area peaks turns into an adequate base for winter recreation.
Crater Lake National Park recorded its first snow of the season on Oct. 2 and has seen a total of 7 inches to date.
Nothing’s sticking so far, but that usually changes about this time of year, says Andrea Coulter of the ranger’s office.
“We go from zero, zero, zero, zero to 3 inches on the ground,” she says.
If Oregon climatologists are right, a higher than average snowfall is due at the caldera and across Eastern Oregon this year. The average annual snowfall at Crater Lake is 533 inches.
Many skiers felt a spurt of excitement at the sight of snow-dusted Mount Ashland last weekend, but ski area officials caution against breaking out the hot wax any time soon.
“It’s a harbinger of the coming winter, and it’s happening pretty normally,” said Gene Landsmann, Mount Ashland marketing director.
Although the ski hill has opened as early as Nov. 15 twice in its 35 years, this year’s schedule still calls for a normal opening on Nov. 25.
Normal weather for the Northwest includes occasional years that deliver weather phenomenon such as La Nina, which forecasters expect will begin influencing local weather soon.
“November through March will be about 2 degrees milder and much wetter than normal,” predicts the Dublin, N.H.-based “The Old Farmer’s Almanac.”
“A number of storms will be bring heavy rain from November through January.”
For southwestern valleys, the state climate service provides a mirror forecast: wetter and warmer October through December.
The National Weather Service’s Glaser isn’t convinced, however.
“The further away you get from the present time, the more you just don’t have anything to go on,” he says. “Trying to predict what’s going to happen in the winter is pretty hard to do.”
But just in case, don’t forget those gutters.