SEATTLE -- Snow that fell across the region over the weekend turned to ice on many area roads Monday morning as temperatures plunged into the teens and 20s across Western Washington. And it looks like a repeat performance again for Tuesday.
We are entrenched in a big pool of arctic air, and the long range forecast continues to show we likely won't get above freezing through at least next weekend -- and possibly through Christmas!
If so, the week ahead could go into the record books as the longest stretch of freezing weather since the arctic blast of December 1990.
Seattle set a record low temperature of 19 degrees, breaking the old record of 20 on Dec. 15, set in 1964. In fact, it's the first record low set in Seattle since November 29, 2006 when it dropped to 18 degrees. Hoquiam tied its record low of 25, set in 1967.
Here are some low temperatures recorded Monday morning: (Updated to add in 10 a.m. official low reports)
- Arlington: 12
- Oak Harbor: 16
- Bellingham: 18
- Puyallup: 18
- Everett: 18
- Renton: 19
- Seattle: 19
- Bellevue: 21
- Tacoma: 21
- Friday Harbor: 21
- North Bend: 21
- Bremerton: 21
- Olympia: 23
- Shelton: 24
- Gig Harbor: 24
- Vancouver (WA): 24
- Port Angeles: 24
- Forks: 24
- Hoquiam: 25
In Whatcom County, it feels considerably colder where northeast winds continue to rage. A High Wind Warning is in effect until Monday afternoon for gusts as high as 60 mph.
In fact, for 25 consecutive hours between 10 a.m. Sunday and 11 a.m. Monday, Bellingham has recorded a gust of 40 mph or higher (streak still active as of this update) and they've had a gust of 30 mph or greater every hour since 6 a.m. Saturday morning.
The frigid temperatures led to widespread icy roads Monday morning, forcing many area schools to delay classes (see complete list), and state and local transportation crews were busy overnight putting sand and de-icer on the roads.
There were no major accidents and traffic was moving smoothly on major freeways, but side streets in many residential neighborhoods were covered in ice.
Now, you might think with the sun out, it'll warm up today and it'll all go away, but this cold air is pretty dense. Highs Monday will struggle to get to freezing, and many areas, especially the north interior, won't make it out of the 20s.
With a clear night on tap, temperatures are expected to drop farther. Lows Monday night will drop well into the teens, with many areas getting into single digits. For example: the forecasted low in Tacoma and Bellingham is 9, while it's 7 in Chehalis and 6 in Olympia. Seattle proper will drop to around 15.
That will bring another icy commute to places where there is snow on the ground. The sun will melt it a bit, but it'll refreeze tonight.
We're Just Getting Started
Typically, ice and snow events are a 1-2 day event around here and then it warms up and we get on with not digging fingernails an inch deep into the steering wheel when you approach a hill. But if you're figuring Monday and Tuesday's commute should be the worst of it, you are wrong.
Another storm is heading our way Wednesday, dropping in once again from the Gulf of Alaska. Unlike Friday's event, this one is a slam dunk that whatever falls will be snow.
The trick will be to figure out snow totals, but just as a planning feature, let's just say 2-6" -- even to sea level -- but lean those higher totals to Everett north and the foothills. We'll try to pin these down better Tuesday, but just expect a snowy day. At this point, looks like snow will begin just after midnight in the north and spread south through the daybreak hours, very possibly affecting the Wednesday morning commute.
Snow would fall at times through the day, tapering off Wednesday night, but some snow showers would linger into Thursday. This doesn't look like a heavy snow -- if this were rain, we'd just say light rain at times. But if it snows for 6-8 hours, even lightly, that can add up.
Likely Not Even Half Way Done
Forecast models then show another very strong arctic blast following in that storm's footsteps for Thursday and Friday -- at least on par, but possibly even colder than what we're seeing now. In that case, we'll see highs in the teens/low 20s, and lows in single digits.
Then, forecasting models show another significant storm coming in for this weekend. Although timing differs in the models between late Friday or Sunday for arrival, if this one goes as forecast, we could see major snows here. There is some "hope" in that one model has it as of now going farther south into Oregon, which would limit the moisture for the northern half of Washington (although this would just mean Portland gets it much worse. But at least they still have NBA basketball.) On the other hand, a track that goes south just draws in more cold air here.
Believe it or not, forecast models hint at then *another* arctic high in that storm's wake, followed by another potential snow event late Christmas night or on Dec. 26. (British Columbians can start dreaming of a White Boxing Day.) And then, watching the models go father out *still* keep us cold all the way through New Year's Eve.
16 days is the farthest the model goes out, but on that last panel, there's another arctic high sitting in the Yukon area licking its chops and if the conveyor belt is still in place, might be the fourth or fifth one to blow through here, likely kicking off 2009 as we finished 2008.
Now, there's plenty of time for this to change -- a three week arctic blast is nearly unheard of here (although that winter of 1950 was 3-4 weeks long of frigid cold). And long range models give more a general pattern hint than specifics, but they're hinting still cold.
On the flip side, maybe by January, we'll all be experts in driving in the stuff.
Here are several links to more information and tidbits about the storm from my weather blog:
- Pity poor Bellingham (wind chill info.)
- What records are in jeopardy?
- Ray Ramsey's forecast, 30 years ago today
- What was December 1990 like?
- See some chimpanzees' first snow storm
- How much snow fell across the region?
- Current map of how cold it is across North America
- What's my city's elevation?
- Great place to find current conditions
- A beer tornado?