As Wet Weather Returns To The Pacific Northwest, Is There Big Snow On The Way?

Feb 3, 2017

A burst of snow hit the Puget Sound region Thursday night, mixing with rain overnight in areas from Olympia to Bothell to Bellingham. An even bigger snow event could hit the region on Monday, but knkx weather expert Cliff Mass says it’s too soon to say whether that will in fact take place.

Mass says the air above the region has been cold enough for snow. So when a band of precipitation came up from the south Thursday night, it quickly morphed into the white stuff of winter.

“We had a burst of snow that lasted in many places only 15 minutes, but laid down about a half an inch of snow, “  Mass said. “So it was all white outside my house, I was pretty excited.”

But he says temperatures on Friday will be warming up, as a much stronger area of low pressure approaches from the southwest, pushing much warmer air over the region.

Mass says some areas around the Sound will keep seeing snow, because of the barrier created by the Olympic Mountains. That means more snow in Bellingham, for example, and a mix of rain, snow and freezing rain near Shelton.

“Those places that are to the southeast of the Olympics often hold in snow and colder temperatures for a while because of the blocking effects of the Olympics.”

Warm And Wet Saturday

Mass says the weekend ahead will be a relatively wet one, with a series of warm and wet systems coming through on Saturday, bringing rain and breezy conditions with them.

“Expect a blustery, wet day — temperatures getting up into the upper 40s,” Mass said.

Colder Sunday, With Snow in the Mountains

After that the forecast becomes much more difficult, Mass says. “And I want to stress there’s a lot of uncertainty with the forecast,” he said.

He says another area of low pressure will swing around and head north of the Puget Sound region at the same time as air temperatures drop. But it’s not clear at this point whether the conditions will come together for much in the way of lowland snow.

“Mountains are going to get a few feet of snow, there’s no doubt about that, it’s the lowlands that’s the question,” Mass said.

He says as of Friday, it was looking like probably mostly rain on Sunday in the lowlands, with maybe a few snow showers in the foothills, but nothing sticking as temps are expected to be in the lower 40s.

Big Lowland Snow Possible On Monday     

Monday is the biggest question, Mass says, with the forecasting models splitting their predictions.

“Some have it cold enough and have the low just in the right position to start giving us some lowland snow,” he said, with amounts from a few to as much as five or six inches.  “Other models are not doing that.”

“So we’re in the situation now of substantial uncertainty,” Mass said. “I think people have to watch very carefully what happens on Monday.”

He says by Sunday it should be much clearer what’s going to happen.

“So pay attention to the forecasts on Sunday and I think we’ll have a much better idea.”  

To hear the forecast along with Cliff’s discussion of Groundhog Day and its prediction for a long winter in 2017, you can click on the “play” icon at the top of this post.

The weekly knkx feature 'Weather with Cliff Mass’ airs every Friday at 9 a.m. immediately following ‘BirdNote’, and twice on Friday afternoons during ‘All Things Considered’. The feature is hosted by knkx environment reporter Bellamy Pailthorp. Cliff Mass is a University of Washington professor of atmospheric sciences, a renowned Seattle weather prognosticator, and a popular weather blogger. You can also subscribe to a podcast of ‘Weather with Cliff Mass’ shows.