Fresh warnings issued as snow becomes relentless

Fresh warnings issued as snow becomes relentless
SEATTLE -- No rest for the weary...

Just as the region began digging out from Saturday night's widespread snow, a second storm formed off the coast and blew into the area, bringing another round of steady moderate to heavy snow that threatens to add another 3-8" on top of what already fell overnight Saturday and forcing Alaska Airlines to cancel all Alaska and Horizon flights into and out of both Seattle and Portland.

A WINTER STORM WARNING has now been issued through 4 a.m. Monday for the greater Puget Sound and Hood Canal area and until 4 p.m. for the southwest interior.

In the greater Puget Sound area and Hood Canal region, we are looking at additional accumulations of 3-6" through Sunday night, with some locations getting as much as 8". In Southwestern Washington, it could also be 3-7" of new snow, and then perhaps another band of persistent snow that might set over Lewis County Monday, dropping another 4-8" on top of all the other snow.

All other areas, including the interior north of Everett, Olympic Peninsula, and coast were under a Winter Weather Advisory, for another 1-3" possible .

The snow will gradually taper off late this evening and overnight and should be over by Monday morning.

This system comes right on the heels of Saturday night's storm, where heavy snow and strong winds made whiteout conditions in many areas. In the mountains, the dangerous weather forced the DOT to shut down I-90 across Snoqualmie Pass late Saturday evening. It remained closed until noon Sunday when the wind abated enough to reopen the highway.

The snow and wind has caused several travel challenges across the region. Snow covered roads and treacherous driving conditions were reported across the region, worsened by the coating of ice from freezing rain. Seattle streets were littered with spun out cars. Sea-Tac Airport reported several flight delays and cancellations, while Amtrak canceled service to Seattle.

Metro and Community Transit are reporting limited service for Sunday, with Metro operating only about half its normal bus schedule.

Blizzard conditions were reported overnight in Enumclaw, where wind gusts as high as 75 mph combined with snow to make for near whiteout conditions and heavy snow drifts. Over in the tiny foothill town of Cumberland, an unofficial gust of 100 mph was recorded, knocking a large tree over onto a main road that just missed the town's fire station. Snoqualmie reported a gust of 61 mph, Buckley hit 60 and North Bend had a gust of 57 mph.

The North Coast also reported blizzard conditions overnight with wind gusts to 55 mph combining with a foot of snow to make 4-5 foot drifts around Clallam Bay.

In the lowlands, heavy snow, ice and freezing rain were the main headaches.

By Sunday morning, widespread freezing rain was falling across the Puget Sound area. The heaviest accumulations were in the South Sound area, including Olympia, Shelton and Fort Lewis.

About 4,700 Puget Sound Energy customers were without power with most in the Olympia-Tumwater area as of 9 a.m. Sunday. (Click here for the latest information about PSE outages.)

Along the coast, freezing rain was also becoming a problem as warmer air moved in.

A spotter in Ocean Shores reported ice coatings as thick as 1/4" to 1/2". Grays Harbor PUD says 2,300 people lost power due to ice and freezing rain, while about 1,500 people lost power from Snohomish PUD -- mostly in the Canyon Park area north of Redmond. All areas had been restored by late Sunday morning, save few a few isolated pockets.

Here are some unofficial snow totals as of Sunday morning: (Some of these might include snow already on the ground from previous snows.)

  • Bainbridge Island: 12"
  • Sekiu: 12", 55 mph winds, 4-5 foot snow drifts.
  • Port Orchard: 12"
  • Bremerton: 10"
  • Oak Harbor: 9.5"
  • Anacortes: 9"
  • West Seattle: 8"
  • Federal Way: 8" (1/8" ice)
  • Shelton: 8"
  • Kenmore: 8"
  • Bothell: 7"
  • Lacey: 7"
  • Brinnon: 7"
  • Green Lake (Seattle): 6"
  • Grand Mound: 6" (3/8" ice)
  • Redmond: 6"
  • Lynnwood: 6"
  • Edmonds: 5"
  • Port Townsend: 5"
  • Seattle/Ballard: 5"
  • Snohomish: 5" (8" on ground)
  • Bethel: 5"
  • Puyallup: 5" (7" on ground; 1/8" ice)
  • Kirkland: 5"
  • Forks: 5"
  • Mukilteo: 5"
  • Seattle Downtown: 4-6"
  • Vaughn: 4"
  • Tacoma: 4"
  • Everett: 4"
  • Woodinville: 4"
  • Issaquah: 4"
  • Mill Creek: 4"
  • Auburn: 3.5"
  • Camano Island: 3"
  • Renton: 3"
  • Enumclaw:2"

Scores of churches across the region cancelled Sunday morning services due to the hazardous conditions.

Where do we go from here?

The snow will gradually taper off overnight and should be over by Monday morning. Lows will drop into the mid-upper 20s.

There may be some lingering snow showers early Monday, but they should taper off by noon. Highs will stay in the low-mid 30s.

A partially clear and calm night Monday, but that will allow temperatures to drop well below freezing -- about 22-26 for lows.

Tuesday will see a weak system pass by offshore, tossing a few showers our way that may be snow again, but they would be light and very hit-and-miss. Nothing significant expected. Highs will be in the mid 30s.

It now looks like another moderate storm will move in on Christmas Eve. This storm is coming out of the north as most others have recently, but is expected to turn inland much farther north -- around southern B.C. That could make for some breezy south winds -- not major but noticeable. Precipitation would likely start as snow, then probably start changing to rain as the south winds increase. But since this storm still has cool origins (unlike Saturday's storm) we don't expect a big warm up. So this will be a tough call for how long it'll snow.

Initial bets would be to get some sort of widespread transition to rain since the arctic air isn't as deep this time around, but then perhaps a change back to snow again as northerly winds return in the storm's wake. (No east wind this time, since the storm is not coming from the due west.) That's quite the messy, complicated forecast, so it'll likely change, but could be another challenging day. We'll try and peg any snow accumulations as we get closer as there's too much uncertainty now.

Christmas Day looks fairly calm, with just a few isolated showers that might be snow or rain, but nothing major. Highs will stay in the mid 30s.

What might finally be the kicker to punt the cold air for good comes in on Friday, as another storm rolls in. This again might start as snow, depending on how these earlier systems shake out, but it looks like this one will be more determined to get some warm air in here and change it to rain.

And for next weekend, it's.....rain! Highs in the 40s even! Long range forecasts advertise a change to more of a wet and blustery pattern for the first week of 2009 -- actually a good pattern for mountain snow but lowland rain. I think even the snow fans will take it :)

Other areas:

Conditions were much worse in Portland, where heavy snow combined with strong winds and a major ice storm.

I-84 was closed through the Columbia Gorge and into Portland, while chains were required to drive on any state highway in the Portland area.

Several flights were canceled in at Portland International Airport and more snow and ice was in the forecast for them today. You can find more from our sister station KATU.

More snow fell in Eastern Washington as well, dropping as much as 9-18" of new snow across the area.

Overall, travel across the entire Pacific Northwest will be incredibly difficult this weekend, and should be put off until Monday or Tuesday if possible.