December debuts with record rainfall

The month of December is only a few days old, but Hood River already has one weather record in the books.

A wintry storm hit the Cascades and the Gorge as expected this past Sunday and produced torrential downpours that shattered local precipitation records.

According to the Hood River County Oregon State University Extension weather station, which is located on Experiment Station Drive, 2.23 inches of rain fell Dec. 1. Larry Spellman, who runs the Hood River Weather Blog, reported that Sunday was the rainiest Dec. 1 on record, obliterating the previous title-holder of 1.07 inches that was set in 1942. The station’s data also shows that Sunday was the rainiest day in nearly five years. With another half inch of rain received on Monday, the Hood River weather station has already received nearly half its average rainfall for the month of December.

A few miles up the road at Tucker Bridge, the Hood River swelled from approximately 3.7 feet to 11.3 feet in a 24-hour period, according to data from a stream gauge reported by the National Weather Service. The river level was approximately 1.5 feet below flood stage before it crested around midnight and began dropping in the early morning hours of Dec. 2.

Up on Mount Hood, the storm was even more vicious. According to the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center, the storm dropped over 9 inches of rain at Timberline Dec. 1 — sometimes at the rate of .75 inches per hour — before transitioning to snow early Monday morning. Temira Wagonfeld, who runs a recreation forecast blog called “The Gorge is my Gym” (see page 18 in the new issue of The Gorge Magazine), called the rainfall on Mount Hood “unprecedented,” and noted in her blog that the storm delivered twice as much rain as expected.

Wagonfeld wrote that the intensity of Sunday’s downpours was fueled by the Pineapple Express: an “atmospheric river,” according to the NWS, that is so-named due to its propensity for transporting moisture from Hawaii and depositing it over the West Coast.

As temperatures dropped Sunday and Monday, all that precipitation became good news for ski resort operators, who have been anxiously waiting for a winter storm to beef up slim snowpacks plagued by high temperatures and low precipitation this season. Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort reported on its blog early Monday afternoon that the storm had dumped 3-5 inches of snow at the base and upwards of 16 inches near the top of the Mt. Hood Express lift, which lies at an elevation of 6,600 feet. The resort listed a base snow depth of 23 inches as of Tuesday morning.

The NWS calls for unseasonably cold temperatures for the rest of the week in Hood River, with highs in the mid- to high 20s. Sunny or partly sunny skies are forecast for the rest of the week, with the exception of Friday, which has a 20-percent chance of snow. At Meadows, temperatures are forecast to stay in the teens for most of the week, but no snow is in the forecast, with the exception of a 40-percent chance of flurries on Friday.

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