A freak April snowstorm left tens of thousands of Portland households without power Monday morning as a wet, heavy snow toppled trees and blew transformers across the metro area.
If that seems unusual, it was. It’s the latest date snow has ever been recorded in Portland history.
The previous latest day into spring with measured snow in Portland, says the National Weather Service, was April 10, 1903. That was a dusting—one-tenth of an inch in downtown Portland. The April 11 snowfall dumped 2 inches downtown and 5 inches at the Oregon Zoo in the West Hills.
“We actually ended up with a pretty classic snow pattern,” says Jon Bonk, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Portland office. “We have cold air diving south from Canada and Alaska, and also low pressure sitting right off the Oregon Coast. Usually when that happens, it’s January or February.”
Bonk says the snow that fell stuck—in part because it arrived after a day of rain and before sunrise. In addition, the snow was heavy and clumpy—a snow that skiers on Mount Hood refer to as “Cascade cement” or “Cascade concrete.”
The result was downed trees and power outages across the city. In Northwest Portland shortly after 3 am, transformers could be heard blowing so regularly in the West Hills it sounded like a gunfight.
Pacific Power says 14,500 Portland customers were without electricity this morning. Portland General Electric has not provided a number specific to Portland, but says more than 77,000 of its customers awoke to outages statewide.
Late Monday afternoon, the Portland Bureau of Transportation announced that the snowfall had felled more than 400 trees citywide, and that several roads in the West Hills, including portions of West Burnside Street and Southwest Capitol Highway, will remain closed for the next several days.
Bonk warns that clearing skies and cold conditions tonight could lead to black ice on the roads, as the melted snow freezes over. Portland could see more flurries through Thursday morning, he says.
Bonk adds: “We certainly don’t think any of that is going to result in an event like we had this morning.”