Stormy Weather – Why Weather Blindsides Oregon

From unexpected snow days to cold nights and inclement weather, Oregon has seen a wide range of bad weather this winter. KDRV 12’s Mariah Hill faced the cold one snow day in late February to ask Ashland residents their opinions on the snow. Children and parents agreed that the snow was exciting but were glad it had not been a regular inconvenience. SOU campus was closed or started late due to the snow around five times in Winter Term and now at the beginning of April, the mountains are still full of snow and cold weather surrounds the small town. 

Throughout the winter, Oregon experienced many unexpected storms. The forecast was often wrong and then fixed to show the stormy weather only after the start of the storm. This made planning for school closures more difficult and roads more dangerous. Individuals struggled to plan for transportation and potentially dangerous roads. In Portland, for example, a light dusting was predicted, however, commuters were dismayed to find eleven inches of snow making their evening drive unsafe.

 This unfortunate and inconvenient situation has a pretty straightforward cause – Oregon has a radar gap that makes weather harder to track. The gap is nearly 200 miles long on the central coast of Oregon. Oregon is the state with the worst weather prediction in the lower 48 states. “When a tornado hit the coastal town of Manzanita in October 2016, the only warning residents got was an alert sent to their phones,” According to KGW8. 

Unfortunately, it would be quite expensive to add or move a radar that would help. Cliff Mass of the University of Washington says his solution would be to move the radar from Medford to the coast. This would make it easier to see incoming weather patterns and predict how they are going to impact the rest of the inland state. As the impact of climate change increases, the weather only gets less predictable and more dangerous. This incremental but soon-to-be catastrophic change is a pressing issue that needs more attention. 

While a solution would be costly and the unexpected increase in snow inconvenient, there is some good from all the weather Oregon got this winter. The snow continued to fall into late March causing snow to accumulate in the mountains. As spring comes, the snow will melt and help bring fresh mountain water into the valleys. This may aid the state in recovering from drought. The Rogue region is 174% snow-water equivalent as of early April 2023. The more it snows in winter, the more fresh water gets transported to reservoirs and streams in the spring. This water helps the wildlife and vegetation that have been struggling through the drought.        

Unpredictable weather reminds us that there is so little we can control. Even though we exercise power over our lives, we still have to obey the weather. The weather can be beautiful like the spring sun we will soon see but let us never forget that in the dead of winter, the natural world is still a terrible and dangerous place. A place that we should always respect. Because we don’t know how many perfect spring days we will have and we don’t know how many beautiful snowflakes will fall before our very eyes, we don’t know how many winter storms will keep us in our warm little houses or how many days, beautiful and terrible alike, we will have on this great green dot we all call home. What we can control, ultimately, is ourselves and what we do with the time we have been given.

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