It's really cold. And it's going to be that way for at least a few days.
The freezing temperatures that sent a piercing chill through the Puget Sound area weren’t enough to thwart mechanics such as those at Seattle’s 7th Avenue Auto, who labored through oil changes and tire rotations in largely unheated garages.
As he drained the oil from a car hoisted six feet in the air, one worker wore a half-dozen layers that made him look inordinately chubby beneath his signature blue shirt. But like shop owner Pat Abe, who poked under the hood of a customer’s car nearby, his hands were minimally covered, with a pair of thin gloves.
“It’s pretty hard to control your fingers in the cold,” said Abe, who wore two pairs of socks but, in the interests of full dexterity, no gloves. “But I’ve been doing it for so long, I guess I’m used to it.”
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On Monday, the temperature topped out at 30 degrees, and the next few days won’t be much warmer. Today’s high is expected to be in the lower 30s, and Wednesday’s and Thursday’s slightly higher, but it’s the lows that will really bite, approaching 16 degrees in the Seattle area.
“We’ve been running 10 degrees below normal since Friday, give or take,” said National Weather Service forecaster Dennis D’Amico. The normal high for this time of year is 46, the normal minimum 37.
“Our high is not even going to reach our normal minimal temperature,” he said.
The relatively dry weather system means the earliest chance of snow won’t come until Friday, when at least some moisture is expected to return to the region. The weather service predicts a slight chance of snow flurries that day, but by the weekend temperatures should hit the 40s.
The cold has prompted expanded emergency-shelter offerings throughout the region, including “severe weather shelters” in Bremerton, Port Orchard and Kent, where Kent Lutheran Church opened its doors primarily to homeless families with children.
The iceboxlike conditions set in this past weekend as Arctic air trapped over the Yukon Range moved south, reinforcing cold temperatures already in place. That, coupled with an uncommon stream of air currents drawn to the west from the even colder Cascades, contributed to a bone-chilling blast.
The system was notable for its dryness, University of Washington meteorologist Cliff Mass noted.
Extremely low dew points meant that local residents escaped the task of scraping frost from their windshields Monday morning.
“The lack of frost is good,” Mass said. “People don’t talk about it, but the number-one weather killer is not winds, or floods. It’s ice in the roadway.”
Despite the low temperatures, record lows have floated just out of reach. Even this morning’s expected low of 16 wouldn’t supplant the Dec. 8 record of 13.
Meanwhile, mechanics maintained their mettle. At the University Village-area Jiffy Lube, mechanics kept a brisk pace, moving from one car to the next, the activity a protection against the cold.
“This is Seattle,” agreed 7th Avenue Auto’s Abe. “It’s not Alaska. It could be worse.”