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Top local weather stories of 2016 as voted by National Weather Service


The June 8 supercell which produced a tornado, large hail, and damaging winds was 2016’s top regional weather related event as voted by staff members of the National Weather Service in Pendleton. The supercell event received an average score of 9.8 on a scale of 1 to 11.

1. June supercell (9.8)-On June 8, a thunderstorm over southern Wheeler County, Oregon rapidly developed into a supercell with golfball hail, damaging winds to 70 mph, and a brief tornado as it tracked northeast to near Monument and Ukiah.

2. December snow and cold (8.2)-Widespread heavy snow was followed by arctic air during mid-December. Snowfall averaged between 5 and 10 inches across the Columbia Basin and eastern mountains, but ranged up to between 15 and 20 inches in central Oregon. The arctic air following the snow dropped temperatures below zero in many areas. By the end of December, mountain snowpack had surged to 115 to 130 percent of normal.

3. Fire outbreak (7.4)-Triple digit temperatures and humidity in the 5 to 10 percent range helped to spread an outbreak of fires at the end of July. The Weigh Station fire occurred east of Pendleton and shut down I-84. The Rail Fire near Unity, Oregon burned nearly 42 thousand areas in rugged terrain before being contained in early September. The Range 12 fire started on the Yakima Training Center and burned for a week on 176 thousand acres of mostly grass and sage on BLM, state, and private lands.

4. Wet October (6.4)-Rainfall was 1 to 3 inches above normal and ranked in the top 5 wettest Octobers across the region. It was the wettest October on record in Washington at Bickleton, Prosser, Selah, Mill Creek, and Whitman Mission. Trout Lake, Wash. at 14.58 inches beat their previous record by 3.62 inches.

4. TIE. Strong El Nino to weak La Nina (6.4)-One of the strongest El Nino patterns on record last winter was reversed in a matter of months to a weak La Nina by mid-Summer.

6. TIE. Launch of GOES R (6.0) -The next generation of weather satellites began with the launch of GOES R on November 19. GOES R reached geostationary orbit as was re-named GOES 16 at the end of the month. After sensor deployment, calibration, and checkout, it promises to revolutionize satellite imagery and data collection. It has 4 times the image resolution and can take an image every minute. It also has the capability to track thunderstorm lightning.

7. Tri-Cities tornado (6.0)-An intense, but short lived thunderstorm brought a brief EF0 tornado in Kennewick on the late evening of May 21. The thunderstorm also produced hail up to ¾ inch, damaging winds which downed trees, and localized flash flooding.

8. Warm Dry April(4.4)-It was the warmest April on record in Washington at Walla Walla, Ellensburg, Yakima, Cle Elum, Kennewick, Moxee City, and Richland. In Oregon, it was the warmest April on record at The Dalles, Hermiston, LaGrande, and Pelton Dam. Ellensburg beat their previous record warm April by near 5 degrees. Couple the unseasonable warmth with a drier than normal month and the mountain snowpack virtually disappeared.

9 TIE. Snowless January and February (4.2)-Many stations in the southern Columbia Basin went through the entire months of January and February without measurable snowfall. In Washington, this included Dayton, Ice Harbor Dam, Walla Walla, and Whitman Mission. In Oregon, a snowless end of winter was observed at Heppner, Hermiston, Madras, Milton-Freewater, Pendleton, and Pilot Rock. Snowpack in the mountains also suffered decreases.

9. TIE. Drought Eased-(4.2) Moderate to severe drought was diminished in March, made a comeback in June, and finally eased to just abnormally dry in December. The mid December rating was the least drought coverage for the area since November 2013.

10. November warmth-(3.4) Indian Summer continued into November across eastern Washington and eastern Oregon. In Washington, it was the warmest November on record statewide and second warmest on record in Oregon. Individual stations in Washington which set records for warmest November include Walla Walla, Ellensburg, Pasco, Yakima, Easton, and Moxee City. In Oregon, record warmth was set at The Dalles, Hermiston, Pendleton, Antelope, Grizzly, La Grande, and Monument. Precipitation was below normal and mountain snowpack well behind normal.


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