Cascadia in January


Oct 30th, 2003, 08:00 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 115
Cascadia in January

Hi all,
We are planning a little get-away to Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver in January. I'd like information on the weather conditions for the middle of winter in Cascadia please. I have rented a small SUV just in case it will be needed. We live in New Orleans and know precious little about snow or how the weather changes as the road climbs towards the heavens. Thanks, Tim
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Oct 30th, 2003, 08:22 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 16,656
Snow seldom sticks on the lower elevations, maybe once or twice a year at most; January is often when it does so, but by no means a regular thing. Obviously the higher you go the more snow you'll encounter. The lowest mountain pass in the Cascades, Snoqualmie Pass (Interstate 90) 40 miles east of Seattle, typically has snow on the road maybe half the time or less in midwinter. (Elevation at the pass around 3000 ft.) Stevens Pass (US 2) is a couple of thousand feet higher hence much more likely to have winter driving conditions. In Oregon, obviously Mt. Hood or other ski areas have reliable and deep snow; at lower elevations (e.g. Columbia Gorge) it's more likely to be wet, or, worse, icy if the east wind blows down the Gorge, which it does do on occasion. Around Vancouver, same story - gain elevation and the snowier it gets. Grouse Mountain, just north of Vancouver, is reliably snowy, and of course Whistler is a couple of hours up the road.

The downside is that when there is a lot of snow on the lower passes and elevations in the Cascades it tends to be "Cascade concrete" - very wet, very heavy snow - a far cry from the powder beloved by skiiers. A side result is that it can easily lead to avalanche conditions in the mountains - hazardous obviously but prone to result in road closures while the authorities make things go boom to bring down the crud more predictably than would otherwise be the case. And, in January, there can be storms that close all the mountain roads for even days on end. Playing it by ear is the watchword. All the radio stations feature nonstop "stormwatch" drivel when conditions become tenuous - you can't escape full knowledge of every trivial detail of snow that other parts of the country would laugh off.
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