Feast goes on despite rain, chill

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Proving once again the old adage “even a blind squirrel finds an acorn every now and then,” your slightly vision-impaired forecaster appears to have stumbled upon a good-sized nut with his prediction/warning last week of a possible freeze event.

A well-defined cold front sloshed through the Walla Walla Valley on Friday night, dragging along with it some wind, moderate rain (about three-tenths of an inch) and a mass of cold air whose provenance in the Gulf of Alaska was borne out by a couple of near-freezing nights on Sunday and Monday.

Your weatherperson had the pleasure of attending the Chef’s Dinner under the tent on Friday evening, the start of which regrettably coincided with the initial drops of rain associated with the front. As each delectable course was served, it seemed to get a little colder, and the rain drummed just a little harder on the tent — which was mostly waterproof, except for where two overlapping sections met, just to the right of where your stout seer was seated. In that very spot, a veritable torrent of water poured forth and cascaded into a couple of inadequately proportioned buckets that were stationed on the floor to catch the flow.

Though the setup was somewhat off-putting at first, your forecaster soon discovered the volume of water issuing from the leak was a very handy way of determining how hard the rain was falling outside — but he paid it little mind until sometime later, when he realized that his right pant leg and shoe were both sopping wet. Such is the diverting power of copious quantities of great food and wine.

The following day, attendees at Feast Walla Walla were buffeted by intermittent showers and gusty winds to 35 miles per hour as a couple of weak systems rotated around the broad area of low pressure that had come south with the front. Neither the chill nor the rain showers could dampen the spirits of the revelers who were well-protected by the same tent that had shielded the diners the previous night.

Your weatherperson, in the company of three lovely ladies — two canine and one human — spent part of Saturday at the Tucannon Lakes/Camp Wooten area, scouting possible summer campsites, though the weather at that higher elevation was anything but summerlike. Occasional snow showers made it quite clear that the snow level had sunk abnormally low under the influence of the unseasonably cold air mass above.

Fortunately, it remained too breezy on Saturday night for a serious frost event, with the wind sufficiently strong to keep the atmosphere well-mixed, thus mitigating the temperature drop that would occur on Sunday and Monday nights due to clear skies, dry air and a nearly calm wind that permitted maximum radiational cooling.

In response to these conditions, the National Weather Service office in Pendleton issued a freeze warning for much of south-central and southeastern Washington, and local vineyard wind machines got a good workout on both nights — though considerable cloudiness did help to hold the minimum temperatures up a bit early Monday morning.

The cold weather should moderate somewhat over the next two days under high pressure — a process that will be temporarily interrupted on Friday by a brief bout of rain and wind as a short wave of low pressure traverses the area. Further warming looks to occur Sunday and Monday as well as into the next week, with highs possibly touching the unthinkably warm 80-degree mark.

If we are to believe the 16-day outlook, this will mark the beginning of a mini late-April heat wave in which afternoon maxima could climb well into the mid-80s as winter-type weather finally loosens its icy grip on the Pacific Northwest and spring asserts itself in all its warm and welcoming glory.

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