Heavy snow falls across parts of Western Washington

Heavy snow falls across parts of Western Washington
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SEATTLE -- Round 2 of our early bout with winter is under way Wednesday morning, as a chilly system dropping in from Alaska is bringing snow to several areas across Western Washington, with more snow to fall at times through tonight.

Reports of 4-8" of new snow had already fallen across Skagit, Island and northern Snohomish County. The DOT is reporting whiteout conditions in the Mount Vernon/Skagit County area.

We've received a report of 3" of snow in Olympia as well with several roads closed throughout the city. Snow has also brought up to an inch or so to the Gig Harbor area as well as Puyallup's South Hill.

The snow is prompting several school closures and delays. Get the latest information at this link.

Here are some snow totals reported so far:

  • Mount Vernon: 8"
  • Stanwood: 8"
  • Anacortes: 6.5"
  • Hamilton: 6.2"
  • Granite Falls: 5.5"
  • Oak Harbor: 5"
  • Arlington: 4"
  • Marysville: 3.5"
  • Olympia: 3"
  • Grand Mound: 1.5"

A WINTER STORM WARNING remains in effect for the area from Everett north to the Canadian border, Island County and Olympic Peninsula and the Puget Sound foothills. A WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY is in effect for all other areas aside from the coast, where it's rain today.

Snow will continue to fall at times through the day in the Everett to Bellingham corridor. Snow totals could reach 6-8" in spots by the evening in Skagit and Island County.

In the greater Seattle/Central King County area, shadowing off the Olympic Mountains was continuing to keep the snow away for the morning and looks like it'll spare the immediate Seattle-Bellevue area for most of the day, thwarting our early morning snow forecast totals here. However, and I can't stress this enough, snow chances are not over for this region, it might just be delayed a bit -- and perhaps long enough to get everyone home. More on this in a moment.

Elsewhere, it's been hit and miss snow showers, with the South Sound/Olympia area doing a pretty good job of catching most of the roaming showers. Olympia's had 3" of snow and the hills around Tacoma have a little bit.

Along the coast, it's just rain, and some of this mild air could filter into the South Sound and Central Sound areas later this afternoon, but again, this is temporary and we will switch back to a colder, north wind later this evening and tonight. So many places that may get rain or a mix will switch back to snow overnight, and whatever moisture is on the ground will freeze.

Here is a breakdown by time:

Now-2 p.m.:

The North Interior from Everett to Bellingham and Island County will see snow continue to pile up in frequent snow showers. Another 1-3" new snow possible here. Puget Sound area will be mainly dry to perhaps a few rain/mix showers due to the rain shadow. Southwestern Washington up through Olympia/Thurston County will see snow showers for a while, then perhaps changing to rain later for a short period as warmer air races up to meet the still-drifting south storm.

2-6 p.m.

We might ease back on the Olympic Mountain shadow to where the Eastside and Eastside hills, like Bellevue, Issaquah, North Bend, could start picking up some snow in the afternoon. Maybe 1-3" here -- with the higher totals expected up above 300-500 feet. Forecast from Now-2 p.m. holds all other areas. We'll have to watch and see if this affects an Eastside commute.

6 p.m. - Midnight

We are still expecting a cold, north wind to reenergize in the wake of this low pressure system as it passes by. That will collide with the strong southwest winds in place and create a Convergence Zone around Everett, where it could dump quite a bit of new snow there, then move south through the Puget Sound area during the late evening. This is where Seattle proper could see 1-3" of snow. (More on snow totals below.)

Here are some expected totals within these time frames:

Now-6 p.m.

  • Northwest Interior (Whatcom, Skagit, San Juan, Island Counties): 1-3" New (3-7" total)
  • Eastern Puget Sound Foothills: 1-3" (2-6 p.m.)
  • South-central Snohomish/North Central King County (Areas like Duvall, Snohomish and Monroe): 0-1"
  • Olympic Peninsula: Rain
  • North Coast: Rain
  • Everett area/West Snohomish County: Trace-2"
  • Seattle-Bellevue Metro area: 0-Trace.
  • Tacoma area: 0-1"
  • Kitsap Peninsula: 0
  • Olympia area: 0-1" New (2-4" total)
  • Southwestern Washington: Trace-1"
  • South/Central Coast: Rain

6 p.m. Wednesday - 2 a.m. Thursday

Additional snow totals falling in this period on top of what's fallen:

  • Northwest Interior: 1-2"
  • Olympic Peninsula: 1-3" Lowland/ 2-4" above 500'
  • North Coast: 2-3" above 500 feet (Trace near water)
  • Eastern Puget Sound Foothills: 2-5"
  • South-central Snohomish/North Central King County: 2-5"
  • Everett area/West Snohomish County/Island County: 2-4"
  • Seattle-Bellevue Metro area: 1-3"
  • Kitsap Peninsula: Trace-2"
  • Tacoma area: 1-3"
  • Southwestern Washington: 1-4" (Above 600 feet)
  • South Coast: Rain

What's Up With The Seattle Snow?

As we've been saying, once the storm passes, forecasting models are adamant and unanimous in showing a secondary band of moisture -- it's sort of like a Convergence Zone, but not classic.

Once this storm passes, we'll get a north wind in its wake filtering in from Bellingham. That wind will then collide with the southwesterly winds already in place now. That collision will force the air to rise and condense into what could be a pretty good zone.

The only hiccup has been this system has been a slow mover, so the north wind is getting delayed, thus delaying the Zone formation and the Puget Sound snow. However, the zone is still on!

Thus, we are still expecting a band of snow to develop in the Snohomish/northern King County area around sunset and then gradually push south through the Puget Sound area through the late evening and into the early nighttime hours. It appears Seattle could get through the evening commute OK, but snow could begin here around 7-9 p.m. The Eastside hills might get the snow a little sooner as the rain shadow weakens a bit and we begin to get some upslope flow up the Cascade foothills.

This Zone could add an additional 1-4" west of Lake Washington and 2-5" east of the lake, depending on how intense the zone in and how long it hangs over you neighborhood.

I'd still hedge the higher totals in southern Snohomish and northern King Counties, with the highest totals over toward the eastern foothills northern King and southern Snohomish County (like Snohomish, Monroe, Index, Duvall), and the lower totals Seattle Metro, south to about Renton, (The Zone shouldn't go much farther south than that before fizzling.)

Keep in mind - that's on top of whatever falls in the morning though. And also keep in mind that, as usual, this is an incredibly complex situation, and these systems always have a few surprises.

Don't Let The Warm Air Fool You!

This is important, because in many typical snow events here, once we warm to 36-38, it signals the end of the snow and a changeover to rain is permanent. Not so in this case!

The storm is bringing in a bit of milder air off the ocean ahead of it as we get a south and west wind. This will primarily affect the coast, southwest interior and perhaps up into the Shelton/Hood Canal areas, as well as down the Strait of Juan de Fuca and maybe even into the Tacoma/Seattle area this evening.

That means what falls later this morning and early afternoon in the sea-level areas could be a mix or even just rain. However, once this storm begins to sag south, we'll switch back to a colder, northerly wind and switch it back to snow. Bottom line -- don't see it rain and then give up on the snow. Also, the actual act of precipitating will typically cool the air temperature a couple degrees.

Also important -- as that north wind moves in, we will freeze hard again tonight. Lows Wednesday night are expected to drop down well into the 20s, so whatever falls Wednesday will likely freeze tonight -- even if you had rain today.

We could see some lingering snow showers Thursday, but generally mostly cloudy early and clearing late. Highs will only top out around the freezing mark.

Thursday night will be clearing and cold, with lows in 13-20 range.

Friday should be a lot like earlier this week -- sunny but continued cold -- possibly a few degrees colder than this current spell -- with highs 27-31.

Forecasting models are still debating what to do with the weekend, but are leaning more and more of Saturday being dry with highs in the low 30s. We then have an incoming storm for Saturday night or Sunday. Hints are now that this storm is a bit milder than before, so this could be a classic heavy snow-to-rain event. We'll have to see, but travel on Sunday could be very treacherous as well.

Long range models say Monday and Tuesday will likely be dry and cold again. Wednesday/Christmas Eve is now looking challenging with another storm approaching, but not known yet if it'll be cold enough anymore for snow to the surface. Snow levels look very low, though, so it'll be close. Odds of a White Christmas are still pretty decent across many areas here!

Other Areas

The mountains will also get hammered with snow. A Winter Storm Warning is in effect there until Thursday for 1-2 feet of snow there.

Down in Portland, they are expecting snow in the city Wednesday as well -- as much as 2-4", switch to a brief period of freezing rain, then switch back to snow with another 2-4" possible.

Over in Eastern Washington, Heavy snow is expected Wednesday as well -- as much as 3-7" in the lower elevations and 8-14" in the higher elevations. Highs there are only expected to reach the middle teens.

More Information

Here are several links to more information and tidbits about the storm from Scott's weather blog: