From March to August in 3 days flat

From March to August in 3 days flat
Seattle basks in the May sunshine. (Photo courtesy of Clane Gessel.)
Just 72 hours ago, we were in the 50s with a light rain -- typical of March. Friday, it was more like August as temperatures soared into the 80s and 90s across most of the region as Seattle tied its record high for the day. Flood Watches have been issued for a few rivers due to rapid snow melt. SEATTLE -- So just what month is it?

Mother Nature might be asking herself that question as one month ago today, there was snow in the forecast with some cities dropping into the 20s, and now here we are talking about shattering record high temperatures.

In fact, it's completely possible that Olympia will see a 60-degree weather swing between their low on April 20th and this weekend.  And even this week, high temperatures are running about 25-35 degrees warmer than they were just three days ago.

Some high clouds prevented the Puget Sound area and North Sound from getting as hot as expected, but many other areas were very hot -- even over 90 degrees.

With a late push, Seattle tied its record high of 84 degrees Friday, matching the temperature reached in 1985. Olympia and Bellevue also hit 84, while the North Sound was considerably cooler: Bellingham only got to 74, while it was 71 in Port Angeles and 75 in Arlington as a cooler north wind combined with those high clouds to keep temperatures down a bit.

But it was the opposite story along the coast, where everyone was in the 90s. Forks hit 91, while Hoquiam hit 92 -- both record highs. (Forks was 86 and Hoquiam was 88, both also set in 1985.). Farther south, Astoria hit 93, Newport hit 95 and Tillamook hit 99. Even the Portland area got in on the heat, with that city hitting 92 and Vancouver, Washington hitting 96.

(This link has a full list of all high temperatures Friday.)

If that is too hot, we are expecting a little relief Saturday. New forecasting models hint that our thermal trough may weaken early Saturday morning and move inland much sooner than anticipated.  This will shut off the hot, east winds early.

The long and short of it is that Saturday's highs might be cooler than forecast too, but still very pleasant -- like low-mid 80s instead of near 90, and still mostly sunny. That's not as much fun for statistical record keeping, but I think a vast majority of people in the Northwest would rather have 81 over 88. 

The exception is the coast, where they will be much cooler as the wind shifts to the southwest during the day. It'll likely start warm during the day but cool from the south (quite rapidly) as the morning progresses. Temperatures will be in the 60s there by afternoon.

So to recap: Still a nice Saturday, with highs in the upper 70s/low80s near Puget Sound to low-mid 80s inland, and then cooling to the 60s on the coast and along the Strait as the day progresses.

But just in case the models are wrong and the weather heats up Saturday, here is a sample of some record highs coming up:

LOCATION 

SAT

BELLINGHAM  

81

SEA-TAC ARPT

85

OLYMPIA ARPT

90

QUILLAYUTE

82

HOQUIAM 

87

 
It's really hot in the mountains too, and that is doing a great job of melting some of our huge snowpack from the winter.

A FLOOD WATCH is now in effect for rivers in King, Lewis and Pierce Counties due to higher levels due to rapid snowmelt. Any flooding would be minor as forecasted river crests are at or just below flood stage.   The rivers at most risk at the Snoqulamie, White, Nisqaully, Puyallup and Cowlitz.

But there's a greater danger posed by rivers, and that's from people jumping into them to cool off. Not only will mountain-fed rivers be running higher and faster than usual, but they might be several degrees colder than you are expecting. Even though it might be 90 outside, that water might be 38 degrees or so.

Every spring during our first warm spells, we see stories of people drowning in the rivers due to hypothermia. People should still use cold water safety practices by wearing a wetsuit when going into such cold waters. Or just find your local swimming pool.

Also, avalanche danger is very high in the backcountry areas of the mountains. As you might imagine, this heat -- it's even 80+ in the mountains -- is melting a lot of snow and that is making the big snowpack unstable.

The North Cascades Highway (S.R. 20) is closed due to high avalanche danger through the weekend, and DOT warns people to check mountain pass conditions through the weekend in case of other avalanche control methods are needed.

But believe it or not, you can go skiing this weekend in the heat. Alpental will be open both Saturday and Sunday, in case you ever wanted to go skiing in shorts. (At least on Saturday. Temperatures will be cooler on Sunday.)

And finally, one last reminder -- don't leave pets or kids in the car.  Temperatures inside can get well over 120 degrees in the sun. Bring the kid in, and maybe leave Fido at home.

The heat wave is expected to last just two days, with cooler weather returning on Sunday. Highs are expected to drop back into the 60s and 70s by then, getting the calendar at least closer to May.