Snow moves into Seattle area, mainly gone by morning

Snow moves into Seattle area, mainly gone by morning
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SEATTLE -- After days of anticipation, snow began falling across Western Washington Tuesday afternoon, and by late evening, several areas were reporting 1-3" of snow.

Snow began in Forks and in parts of Southwestern Washington just before 2:30 p.m. and had spread into the Seattle-Tacoma area just after 6:30 p.m.

The snow was causing problems on several roads around the Puget Sound area. As of 9:45 p.m., the Washington State Patrol said they were responding to 11 calls for their help in King County with more coming in. A car spun into a ditch on I-5 south on 272nd in Federal Way. Several spinouts were reported I-405 near Bothell.

In Tukwila, Sound Transit light rail service was disrupted when a car landed upside down on the tracks on Tuesday. The car was heading up a hill on 144th when it failed to turn onto a bridge, fire officials said. The car crashed through a fence, fell down an embankment and landed upside down on the tracks at approximately 9 p.m. The driver suffered minor injuries.

The threat of late evening snow was forcing several school districts, including Seattle and Bellevue, to cancel evening activities, although classes were generally releasing on schedule. (See full list of school-related closures.)

A Winter Weather Advisory was extended until 5 a.m. for the greater Puget Sound Metro area for as much as 1-3" with some spots possibly getting to 4".

A Winter Storm Warning is in effect for the greater Bellingham/Western Whatcom County area, as well as the Hood Canal area until 7 a.m. Wednesday. Snow totals could reach 4-8" along the Hood Canal area and 3-6" near Bellingham, with added potential of freezing rain before the snow changes to rain.

For all other areas, the Winter Weather Advisory remained in effect.

The snow will gradually change to rain after midnight Wednesday morning, and most areas will be seeing rain and warming temperatures and what snow that fell will begin to melt and no issues are expected with the Wednesday morning commute. But some other areas outside the Seattle Metro area could still see accumulating snow that will linger longer before the changeover to rain. Most notably is the Northwest Interior and Hood Canal areas.

In addition, gusty east winds will continue to blow out of the gaps in the Cascade Mountains, making for blowing snow and poor visibility in the foothills. Gusts have been reported at 35-45 mph. Winds will taper off around midnight.

Observed Snow Totals

Some observed totals as of 11:30 p.m.:

  • Silverdale: 5"
  • Belfair: 5"
  • Renton (East): 4"
  • Redmond: 4"
  • Mill Creek: 4"
  • Port Orchard: 4"
  • Mountlake Terrace: 3"
  • Issaquah: 3"
  • Gig Harbor: 3"
  • Olympia: 3"
  • Mukilteo: 3"
  • Seattle (Greenwood): 3"
  • N. Bothell: 2.75"
  • Shoreline: 2.5"
  • Seattle (Finn Hill) 2.5"
  • Monroe: 2.5"
  • Port Angeles: 2"
  • Lynnwood: 2"
  • South Everett: 2"
  • Kirkland: 2"
  • Duvall: 2"
  • Sammamish: 1.5"
  • Puyallup S. Hill: 1.25"
  • S. Tacoma: 1"

Expected Snowfall Totals:

Here are some of the expected snow totals around the region mainly Tuesday night into early Wednesday morning before the change to rain, updated late Tuesday evening:

  • Greater Seattle-Tacoma-Everett, Whidbey Island area: 1-4"
  • King/Snohomish County foothills: 2-4"
  • Whatcom/Skagit/San Juan County areas: 2-4"
  • Hood Canal area snow belt between Shelton and Quilcene: 4-8"
  • Rest of Kitsap County: 2-4" (heaviest as you go west)
  • North Olympic Peninsula: 1-3" ("Snow" shadow in effect)
  • North Coast: 2-4"
  • Central Coast: 1-3"
  • Southwestern Washington: Trace-2"

We will also have to watch for a period of freezing rain during the changeover -- especially in the valley areas of the South Sound and near where cold air is coming out of the Cascade passes -- so along I-90 and anywhere you get an east wind. Freezing rain can add a coat of ice wherever it falls, but the good news is it appears most of this would occur and be done before the Wednesday morning commute, but just keep that in mind for another potential challenge for Wednesday morning.

Wednesday Morning's Commute:

By the commute Wednesday morning, just about everyone should be in the rain, save for perhaps the far northern areas, but even they will most likely be rain.

But it'll depend on how much snow/freezing rain has fallen as to how much will have washed away. The greater Seattle area is now looking like Wednesday's commute won't be much of a factor, and as if there is any lingering snow it'll just be wet and slushy on the roads. But other areas that did receive a lot of snow Tuesday night could see a fair amount of snow/slush around. So just be sure to monitor conditions Wednesday morning.

Wet and Windy

Once we get past the snow, Wednesday will look and feel like a typical stormy Seattle day. We'll see rain, moderate to heavy at times, with gusty south winds. Winds along the coast and Northwest Interior could gust to 50 mph while gusts in the Puget Sound area could reach 35-45 mph.

Gobs of Snow in Mountains

If you're itching to experience what 20" of snow would have been like, just head to the mountains. A Winter Storm Warning is in effect from 7 p.m. Tuesday to 4 p.m. Wednesday for 12-24" of new snow by then. For the passes, it'll remain a mix of snow and freezing rain -- especially at Snoqualmie for freezing rain -- so plan on potentially treacherous driving conditions in the pass.

Five Storms In Seven Days

While we ponder what could have been one of the snowiest weeks in Seattle history, the reality will be that we'll be dealing with a rather wet and windy stretch of weather. Forecast models show five moderately strong storms, each packing period of steady moderate to heavy rains and gusty winds, that will blow through the region between Wednesday and Sunday.

But each storm is expected to pass to our north, keeping it rather mild with high temperatures around 50 and lows only in the 40. By the weekend, Seattle might have received at least 1-2" of rain and we'll be keeping an eye out for any potential river flooding or landslide issues.