It likely won’t be a white Christmas in the Mid-Willamette Valley, but cold and wet conditions could still spell trouble for holiday travelers.
The forecast for Christmas Eve and Christmas day is more wet than white, according to the National Weather Service. Temperatures will have warmed by then and any precipitation will likely be rain.
It’s the days leading up to Christmas that travelers should worry about. Freezing rain creates hazardous driving conditions.
An arctic front brewing to the north will touch down around Wednesday night and cause trouble when precipitation starts falling Thursday afternoon.
NWS forecaster Clinton Rockey said to imagine the weather conditions as a jar of multi-colored sand. On the bottom is blue sand, or cold air. Above it is red sand, or warm air.
The jar is all blue Thursday; only cold air. Cold winds will blow in from the Columbia River Gorge and temperatures will stay below freezing.
Snow could fall Thursday afternoon before turning into a “messy mix of freezing rain, sleet and snow,” according to NWS.
That’s because by Friday morning, warm air will have started to settle on top of the cold air. Imagine a layer of red sand getting thicker as the hours pass. As snow falls through that warm layer, it melts, Rockey said.
But then it falls back into the cold air and freezes on contact. Willamette Valley and Portland residents will likely wake up to freezing rain Friday morning.
Ice could accumulate on the roads, Rockey said. It likely won’t be much, but “enough to create travel problems for people.”
“If anybody’s got travel plans going over the mountains or northward, keep an eye out and be flexible,” Rockey said. If possible, “get whatever you need to get done early Thursday.”
Temperatures will rise again in the Willamette Valley by Christmas Eve. Eugene and Salem could see temperatures as high as 50 degrees Saturday and Sunday. Rain is in the forecast both days.
“Then, plain old green Christmas,” Rockey said. “Maybe a little silvery.”
Send tips, questions and comments to reporter Shannon Sollitt at [email protected]