Out of the snowfall, into the ice box

Out of the snowfall, into the ice box »Play Video
Image by YouNews user isis915@hotmail.com.
SEATTLE -- Skies were clear and the sunshine was out on Tuesday, but it did little to relieve the icy grip that kept temperatures around Western Washington well below freezing.

Temperatures began the day in the upper teens and low 20s, and were struggling to reach the mid 20s by noon, meaning roads that were turned into skating rinks during Monday's snowstorm had little hope of improvement Tuesday.

Several schools have announced delays or flat-out closures, including the Seattle School District. (See full school delay list.)

Meanwhile, Metro announced their buses would remain on snow routes again Tuesday, but warned that conditions were so bad that it was hopeless to expect full service and warned people to just stay at home Tuesday if they didn't have to travel. Some commuters faced hours stuck on buses in Monday's storm.

Those who do brave the roads Tuesday should be warned that icy roads could be a factor through the day and temperatures will plummet again as night falls.

In fact, temperatures could fall to record levels, rivaling the great cold snap over Thanksgiving weekend in 1985. Lows in Seattle were expected to fall to the mid teens, threatening the record low of 16 for November 24. Some of the outlying areas could drop into single digits. A lighter, but still chilly north wind will keep wind chills near or below zero.

The region will awake again Wednesday still in Mother Nature's ice box, with afternoon temperatures perhaps managing a few more degrees' warmth, but still likely to come up short of the freezing mark. Meanwhile, clouds will increase through the day. But I don't see any new weather problems for the big Thanksgiving traffic exodus on Wednesday evening, aside from any lingering ice/road problems from Monday.

By Wednesday night, we begin the transition to more familiar autumn weather in the Northwest as the winds turn from the north to the west, ushering in milder air off the Pacific Ocean. In addition, a weak warm front will approach the area late Wednesday night into Thursday morning. This storm has no arctic bones about it -- it's a rainy-and-45 storm at its core, but we still have some cold air entrenched to deal with.

So this will be our next forecast challenge because of those pockets of lingering cold air, and it'll be a race between whether we can warm up enough before the moisture arrives as to whether it starts as snow or rain, and whether it'll even be wet enough to bring anything until Friday.

Scenario A as of this moment brings some light precipitation from about Seattle north to the Canadian border, reaching Seattle around late morning/midday Thursday. This will be close as it might briefly start as snow before changing to rain, especially if it arrives earlier in the morning when we're colder. But if it truly is midday arrival, we'll probably be pretty close to being warm enough to rain -- maybe a little period of snow before the changeover. Sounds scary, but unlike Monday, conditions will improve, not deteriorate, as we go forward.

Scenario B keeps the warm front moisture even less and well to the north of Seattle -- just mainly affecting areas near the Canadian border. That would allow the Puget Sound region a safe transition to warmer weather without the moisture. That doesn't have any rain until late Thursday night into Friday for Puget Sound area, and it's all rain by then. Either way, highs on Thanksgiving should make it well into the 40s.

So we'll keep an eye on it. Bottom line: Wednesday evening travel should be dry, but still around freezing temperatures. We could see a period of snow on Thanksgiving day in spots, but it will change to rain with temperatures safely into the 40s.

Forecast models are pretty consistent that Friday will be back to Seattle normal: Rainy and breezy with highs in the 40s. The rest of the weekend features scattered rain showers and highs in the low-mid 40s.

Get Updates on Twitter:

The weather staff is providing frequent updates on weather conditions and forecasts. You can follow them here:

KOMO News Main Twitter Feed: @KOMONews
Steve Pool -- @StevePoolKOMO
Paul Deanno -- @PaulDeannoKOMO
Scott Sistek -- @ScottSKOMO