December '09 was truly a unique weather month for the great Northwest. The month started with near average temperatures. Then, in the middle of the month, a cold snap arrived, keeping temperatures below freezing for several consecutive days, but it stayed dry. This weather pattern lasted about week before another system, packing moisture, headed north from California. It looked like there would be significant amounts of snow and ice, but barely any moisture made it to north part of the valley and Portland, despite winter storm warnings and vast amounts of preparation. Temperatures moderated and rain returned. I found this to be quite a disappointment considering how much snow fell in December '08. At that point, it was almost certain there wouldn't be significant snowfall in December.
I can often sense when snow is about to arrive. The air has a distinct odor. December 29th, 2009, the necessary components for snow came together; cloud cover kept temperatures in the 20's past noon as a low pressure system pushed ashore. The forecast called for rain/freezing rain. There were no advisories for the valleys. Salem was among the first to see snow flurries. The first flakes fell in Hillsboro at around 1:00 PM and I knew we were in for something big. Flurries changed to light snow about 20 minutes later. The snow became heavy around 2:00 PM, tapered off a bit at 5:00 PM and diminished to occasional showers around 8:00 PM. Hillsboro was among the few in the area to receive 5" due to location.
Snow is fairly rare here and it doesn't stick around for long. Less than 24 hours after it all started, half the snow has melted away. It is my tradition to build a snowman whenever there is enough snow to work with and I did just that last night. Conditions were ideal; near freezing with light snow. Of course, I made sure to document everything. This picture shows me standing next to Mr. Snowman.