Prolonged Arctic Blast Slams Pacific Northwest, Sierra Nevada

Dec 30, 2021  | 3 min  | Ep4720

This week is traditionally big on family and friends with economic reports few and far between. 

Credit card company MasterCard reported this week holiday retail sales were up 8.5 percent year over year and nearly 11 percent higher than 2019. 

Higher numbers were also found on thermometers in Alaska this week.

Kodiak logged a high of 67 degrees on Sunday - shattering the December record by nine degrees. San Diego’s temperature was seven degrees cooler. 

Winter arrived with authority in several locations this holiday week. 

Here’s Josh Buettner with a roundup.

While the Covid Omicron variant has dashed holiday cheer at airports since Christmas weekend, traditional travel delay conditions followed Santa’s sleigh into the Pacific Northwest and the Sierra Nevada with a prolonged arctic blast and record snowfall. 

Keith Hughes/West Seattle, WA American Legion Hall Post 160:  “The longer this goes on the harder it’s going to be tough on people that they…don’t have a place to get out of this.  So…”

Snow showers, from the Gulf of Alaska, blew into normally mild Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington – where up to 6 inches accumulated initially. 

Kaety West/Homeless: “We got a tent right down the street only like a block and a half away, and I’m not even willing to stay in it right now.  It’s just so difficult.”

Emergency shelters opened throughout Oregon and western Washington, with plans to continue through the New Year as plunging temperatures broke a 1948 cold record. 

Ron Shelton/Seattle, Washington:  “Work from home, hot chocolate…maybe a little bit of Baileys.”

Utilities reported several thousand customers lost power between both states as snow and icy conditions gloved up for round 2.  The National Weather Service reported daily cold records continued to surpass previous lows set back in 1968.

Following months of the most extreme drought in the Golden State’s 126-year archive, compounded by water shortages and wildfires, blowing snow froze traffic on key mountain highways in Northern California and Nevada.  Heavy snow added to a 17 foot accumulation at Donner Pass, east of Sacramento, prompting nearby UC Berkley Central Sierra Snow Lab to declare December 2021 the snowiest there since 1970. 

As the continued deluge extended road closures, scientists warned if the area doesn’t get another inch of snowpack in coming months, drought will persist into next year.

Ian Hoyer/Staff Forecaster – Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center/USDA FS:  “The avalanche was triggered, and broke…came down, caught 2 of the riders – one of whom was buried in this hole where I am now.”

Snow in Montana, north of Yellowstone National Park, caused an avalanche 5 feet deep and 300 feet wide – killing two snowmobilers from Minnesota.

While early western weather woes played out, parts of the Midwest and Southern Plains, like Texas and Arkansas, broke yuletide records for unseasonable warmth – though things took a turn by mid-week as heavy precipitation and flood warnings were forecast in the Southeast.

For the first time in recorded history, Chicago, Illinois went an entire fall season without measurable snow, but over 200 plow trucks and 400,000 tons of salt were deployed as the Windy City’s snowless drought came to a close, along with 2021.

For Market to Market, I’m Josh Buettner.

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