INTO?THE?WHITE

Pendleton received a blanketing of snow Monday as the first wave af a winter storm moved through the area. The snow is forecast to taper off today and temperatures will stay below freezing.

Eastern Oregon residents, prepare for a wintry mix — not the fun-filled, Chex party kind.

The National Weather Service is predicting a full array of winter weather in the coming days, from snow to rain to freezing rain to arctic temperatures.

Meteorologists issued a winter storm warning Monday that was in effect through 10 a.m. today for Pendleton, Pilot Rock, Heppner, Meacham, Tollgate and Ukiah. They predicted snow accumulations of 3 to 7 inches in the valleys and 9 to 14 inches in the Blue Mountains. Moderate to heavy snow was expected through  midmorning, tapering off to light snow before noon.

The agency canceled its winter storm warning this morning for Boardman, Hermiston and Ione, saying the storm that brought heavy snow to the area has moved off to the southeast. More heavy snow no longer was expected for those areas.

Meteorologists predicted occasional light snow showers earlier today, saying it might accumulate to a dusting or less than an inch more snow.

As of this morning, about 2.3 inches had fallen in Pendleton, 5-6 inches Hermiston, 8 inches in Weston, 17 inches in Meacham and 14 inches in the Spout Springs area.

But today’s winter storm is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. 

Diana Hayden, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Pendleton, said tonight will be the coldest yet, with below-zero temperatures throughout Eastern Oregon.

On Wednesday, the temperature will climb to the balmy mid-teens and skies may clear, but not for long. On Thanksgiving, Hayden said there is an increased chance of snow and, in the evening, freezing rain.

Expect snow on Friday, or another combination of precipitation and freezing cold. Friday night and into Saturday, expect rain in the lower elevations, snow for the mountains.

Another storm system is expected to blow into Eastern Oregon on Sunday — more snow, colder temperatures.

Winter debuted a bit earlier than usual this year, Hayden said. The Pendleton weather station has been keeping records since 1928. Since then, the first snowfall date averages at Dec. 6.

“The early December timeframe is usually when we start to see snow,” she said. “(This) is not usual, but it’s not uncommon, either,”

Thanks to a La Nina weather cycle, this winter is expected to be colder and wetter than normal. Scientists predict the El Nino/ La Nina cycles based on the ocean temperature off the Pacific coast of South America. This summer, they saw those temperatures drop from warmer than normal to colder than normal. This signals predictable changes to storm systems elsewhere in the Pacific.

“For a La Nina winter, the precipitation part of it is not as clear for us,” Hayden said, “but I belive they are looking at, based not only on La Nina but on other factors, above normal precipitation for our region.”

For those who must drive in the dangerous weather, the Oregon State Police has these tips:

•Plan ahead to give yourself plenty of extra time to get to your destination.

•Stay informed about weather conditions, potential traffic hazards and highway closures.

•Check road conditions by visiting www.TripCheck.com or calling 5-1-1

•Make sure your vehicle is ready for winter driving starting with good tires, a good battery and a full tank of gas.

•Carry an emergency kit and chains or traction tires, especially if traveling over mountain passes.

•Drive according to conditions. If it’s wet, icy, snowy or foggy, slow down and increase your following distance behind other vehicles to at least a four-second distance. Keep in mind that conditions may not be perfect to drive at the posted speed.

•Be watchful for potential icy conditions during cold weather on bridges, curves and shaded areas.

•Use headlights even in daylight to help other drivers see you.

•Don't use cruise control in wet, icy, snowy or foggy conditions.


EO Senior Reporter Dean Brickey contributed to this report

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