Seattle won't escape next round of region-wide snow

Seattle won't escape next round of region-wide snow »Play Video
SEATTLE -- After days of on-and-off snow that blanketed much of Western Washington, the Seattle metro area was finally getting its own shot of the white stuff early Wednesday morning.

Snow began falling in the city before 4 a.m., and several inches may cover the area before the day is over.

Heavier snow is falling south of Seattle, and most roads were covered in the Tacoma area well before the start of the morning commute. Significant snowfall is expected in Southwest Washington and Olympia, which had 6 inches of new snow by 4 a.m. and was still expecting quite a bit more by afternoon.

Schools throughout the area cancelled or delayed the start of classes, and buses in King and Pierce Counties were running on snow routes.

City, county and state road crews were plowing main roads and highways and dropping de-icer, but officials urged drivers to use extreme caution throughout the day. A Winter Storm Warning remains in effect for the Seattle metro area and much of the rest of Western Washington, save for the greater Bellingham area, until 8 p.m.

The general story is that this event will likely be snow start-to-finish, so no warm slush fest at the end as mentioned in earlier forecasts, but not quite as much snow as initially feared, at least from Seattle north to the border. Those of you Tacoma south are still facing significant amounts of snow.

Overall, figure less snow as you go north.

Points from Olympia south to Portland and out to Pacific County could see 8 to 12 inches of snow. For Tacoma area over towards central Kitsap, we're looking at 4 to 8 inches. For greater Seattle it's now about 2 to 4 inches, with the higher amounts toward the foothills. As you go north, the snow totals now get less. Everett, for example, is looking like 1 to 3 inches, although that's on top of what you got in the convergence zone Tuesday.

By the time we get north toward Bellingham, they may just be windy and cold with blowing light snow in gusts to 55 mph and low wind chills near zero amid temperatures in the teens as the Fraser Wind ramps up. A lesser Winter Weather Advisory is in effect here for Whatcom, Skagit and San Juan Counties instead of a Winter Storm Warning.

The snow will continue to fall through the morning and then taper off as we get into the afternoon. By Wednesday evening, most areas should be dry but cold with temperatures hovering in the upper 20s to low 30s.

Other Warnings Besides The Snow

In addition to the snow, wind and freezing rain are concerns in spots.

A Wind Advisory is in effect for the Whatcom/Skagit/San Juan County area for midnight Wednesday morning through 6 p.m. Wednesday for northeast winds of 35-45 gusting to 55 mph. This will also drop wind chills to near zero and cause freezing spray on the northern waters.

Also a special note for those in southwestern Washington corridor up to about Olympia and maybe Tacoma -- the National Weather Service says there are indications you could go through a period of freezing rain toward the end of the snow event as a little warm air gets in to that area in the midday hours, adding to travel woes down there. Forecasts say as much as 1/10th of an inch of ice accumulation is possible. This would come after a period of heavy snow. It's possible that if the air warms a bit early you'll trade some inches of snow accumulation for greater ice accumulations.

Freezing rain is also possible near the Cascade foothills near the pass outflows.

Avalanche Danger Extreme in Cascades

Four to 8 inches of snow might sound like a lot around Puget Sound, but it's child's play in the mountains. The Cascades are forecast to get anywhere from 18 to 36 inches of new snow Wednesday into Wednesday night. Avalanche warnings are up and conditions couldn't be more extreme. Expect frequent and lengthy delays trying to get over the passes for avalanche control.

Some good news for those who don't want snow

Now, how about some good news for those who are not happy with snow? Models now indicate snow tapers off late Wednesday afternoon which would help give road crews time to clear the roads in time for Thursday. No changeover to rain likely though for Seattle-Tacoma and points north, so no help from warmer weather to melt the snow, but on the other hand, it should prevent any heavy snow weight issues.

Models show areas from Seattle north stay dry and cold Wednesday night with likely icing concerns Thursday morning. Another wave of moisture passes across southwestern Washington on Thursday that could bring another round of snow to the south Sound and southwestern Washington, but not as much and Seattle is on the extreme northern edge.

By Friday, we warm up but stay quite stormy with more traditional steady rains, gusty winds and heavy mountain snow continuing. Cascades could see several feet by the end of the weekend, maybe even approaching 70-80 inches of new snow in the central Cascades using rough model estimations.

General Recap

* Steady snow will continue fall from Everett south to Portland through the midday and early afternoon hours. * Heaviest snow totals in Olympia, Hood Canal & Southwestern Washington (8-12), possible ice-freezing rain toward end of event mid-morning.
* Tacoma area and central coast and South/Central Kitsap, 4-6"
* Cascade foothills 2-5", possible freezing rain at end of snow event in midday/early afternoon
* Seattle area/Norrth Kitsap: 2-4"
* Everett area: 1-3"
* Bellingham / Northwest Interior: 0-2", gusty northeast winds to 55 mph. Freezing spray on waters
* 2-3 feet of new snow in Cascades. Avalanche danger extreme. Lengthy delays possible in passes for avalanche control. * Snow just ends in the afternoon, no change to rain except perhaps far southern Washington
* Cold Wednesday night with below freezing temps for icy commute Thursday morning.
* Perhaps some light snow Seattle south on Thursday, best chance south of Olympia.
* Warming up Friday into the weekend, but remaining stormy with rain, wind and snow.

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