Winter Storm Slams the Pacific Northwest

The much-heralded winter storm has arrived in the Pacific Northwest, already dropping close to 2 feet of snow in some areas south of Seattle. What had earlier appeared to be an historic snowstorm in Seattle, with at least a foot of snow, has turned into a decidedly more modest event, with about 3-6 inches expected today. The storm is taking a track a bit too far to the south of Seattle to result in a major snowstorm there, and frigid and dry air from Canada is being drawn into Northwest Washington, eating into the precipitation totals. Still, considering that Seattle's average snowfall in an entire year is 5.9 inches, this still ranks as a significant storm.

Computer model projection of precipitation totals in the Seattle area. Credit: Cliff Mass weather blog.

It's mostly a rain event now in Portland, Ore., but travel in that area has been slowed by snow in higher elevations. Speaking of higher elevations, many ski areas that had been hurt by an early winter snow drought are quickly making up for it. Mt. Hood, Ore., is projected to receive upwards of 8 feet by week's end and there is a danger of avalanches in coming days. As the storm moves further inland, it will dump much-needed snow in the Tetons and Bitterroots mountains as well, potentially benefiting ski areas such as Sun Valley, Idaho.

In addition to the heavy rain and snow, very strong winds are affecting coastal regions, with wind gusts up to 100 mph possible.  According to a statement from the National Weather Service, “WINDS OF THIS MAGNITUDE MAY RESULT IN WIDESPREAD POWER OUTAGES AND DOWNED TREES.. DOWNED TREES AND LIMBS MAY BLOCK ROADWAYS…MAKING TRAVEL DIFFICULT.”

Storm tracking resources:

Cliff Mass weather blog
Seattle Times
Weather Channel Live Updates