The Columbia Valley, a sprawling appellation largely in eastern Washington but stretching into Oregon and abutting Idaho, experienced record low temperatures in certain areas over the weekend. The temperatures were caused by an Arctic air mass that moved into the region.
According to the National Weather Service, Walla Walla airport saw a record low temperature of -14 degrees Fahrenheit on January 13th. This broke a previous low of -5 degrees that was set in 2017.
Multiple other sites in Columbia Valley saw record lows. This included -21 in Pullman. The previous record of -7 was set in 1930. Lewiston, where some vineyards are located, tied a record low of -10 set in 1909. Wenatchee Airport set a record of -10 degrees, breaking a record of -1 set in 2017.
Even areas that did not set record lows saw quite cold temperatures. Some southern areas of Columbia Valley experienced temperatures between 0 and -5 degrees. Some areas of the valley were considerably colder.
Areas near Portland, Oregon, meanwhile, not only saw cold temperatures but also intense wind gusts. Southeast Portland recorded gusts up to 56 miles per hour. Corbett, west of the Columbia Gorge appellation, experienced gusts of 74 miles per hour.
As noted in a recent article by Michael Fagin, the cold weather was well-forecast. Warmer temperatures are expected to return to the Northwest later this week.
Given the extreme cold temperatures, some bud damage is likely in certain varieties and areas. Cold-sensitive varieties would be particularly susceptible.
Isolated pockets of winter damage are not uncommon in Washington and are largely considered one of the costs of grape growing in the state. However, with the extreme low temperatures this weekend, the damage is likely to be greater than the norm in some areas.
As always with such events, it will take time to understand what varieties might, or might not, have been impacted, how badly, and where. Look for updates as the 2024 growing season progresses.
Overall, despite the recent cold snap, the Pacific Northwest is experiencing El Niño conditions this winter, with above average temperatures and below average snowpack. These conditions are forecast to persist for the remainder of winter.
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