Oregon’s weather has turned from cold and icy to warm and wet, bringing the risk of minor flooding while limiting winter recreation during what’s normally the busiest time of its season.
An atmospheric river of warm rain is projected to bring heavy rain across northwest Oregon and spark the threat of flooding in urban areas and flood-prone creeks and rivers on Monday night and Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service in Portland.
No major flooding of Oregon’s largest rivers appears likely — at least at this point — although all waterways will rise sharply and could overflow banks. Rainfall totals could reach 3 to 5 inches in the mountains, along with 1.5 inches in the Willamette Valley. Flooding appears most likely in urban areas along with the Coast Range and Columbia Gorge, as heavy rain combines with melting snow.
Locally, many rivers like the North Santiam, for example, could reach “action” stage while the Willamette in Salem is projected to reach around 19 feet — impacting low-lying parks and potentially homeless populations.
High winds also will slam the area Monday and Tuesday, with gusts up to 50 mph and sustain winds around 25 to 35 mph, which could lead to additional scattered power outages.
At the same time, the warm rain should continue melt some of Oregon’s snowpack while leading to the closure of at least one ski area and limiting terrain at others.
Hoodoo Ski Area announced it would close “due to excessive rain” until Wednesday, when the forecast projects that the rain might turn to snow. The ski area on Santiam Pass east of Salem and Eugene already has lost about 10 to 15 inches of its snow base.
Some of the larger ski areas appear ready to stay open but terrain may be limited.
Mt. Bachelor Ski Area announced a spate of limitations and closures of terrain and lodges due to the rain. Other ski areas may follow suit, so if you’re planning on heading to the slopes Monday or Tuesday, check websites ahead of time and bring a sturdy rain jacket.
Traditionally, the holiday break is the most popular time at ski areas and for winter recreation.
Eventually, the rain is expected to turn to snow at pass levels and in the mountains, bringing heavy snow Wednesday and Thursday, which could make travel a challenge at the highest road elevations in the Cascade Range.
Zach Urness has been an outdoors reporter in Oregon for 15 years and is host of the Explore Oregon Podcast. To support his work, subscribe to the Statesman Journal. Urness is the author of “Best Hikes with Kids: Oregon” and “Hiking Southern Oregon.” He can be reached at zurness@StatesmanJournal.com or (503) 399-6801. Find him on Twitter at @ZachsORoutdoors.