Skiers and other snow-hungry Washington state residents will probably have to wait until the new year to see a surge in snow, meteorologists say.
The National Weather Service said Thursday the Puget Sound area should remain drier than usual for another couple weeks before returning to normal precipitation levels.
The past couple of months have ranked as the third driest Oct. 1 to Dec. 25 stretch at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport since official Seattle weather record keeping started there in 1948. Spokane International Airport, on the other hand, has seen the 16th driest start to the snow season since 1889.
“It’s definitely been dry,” said meteorologist Josh Smith, who blamed a run of high pressure and fewer weather systems than normal in the Pacific Ocean.
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The conditions have hit ski resorts especially hard, keeping snow levels low and preventing some resorts from starting lifts or, in some cases, opening at all.
“Weather patterns are beating us all up,” said Kathleen Goyette, a spokeswoman for the White Pass Ski Area, which opened all its lifts Thursday for the first time this season.
“We’ve had to be creative,” Goyette said. “We’ve made a lot of man-made snow.”
Trent Kaivo, an owner of Pro Ski Service Seattle, said the entire industry is feeling stresses — from ski instructors to lift operators.
“Everybody’s stressing out,” Kaivo said.
Among the most affected is the popular Summit at Snoqualmie, which has not yet opened and could set a record this winter for its latest opening ever. A spokesman said earlier this month that the latest it had started operations was Jan. 1.
The reason for this year’s late start at Snoqualmie Pass is obvious: The National Weather Service has recorded just 4.3 inches of precipitation this snow season
at its nearest measuring point to there, Stampede Pass.
Normally, the area would have already gotten 15 inches by this point.
Another popular spot, Stevens Pass Ski Area, is open but has seen just 9.1 inches of snow-water equivalent — less than the typical 14.5 inches by now.
“We’re at around 51 percent of normal snowpack by this time for the South Puget Sound area, 49 percent for the central Puget Sound and 67 percent for the north,” said Smith, the Weather Service meteorologist.
He said the lack of precipitation could affect water supply if it were to continue because melting snow feeds rivers that supply water to some areas. But the current outlook for January, February and March calls for normal precipitation, he said.
Several people in the ski industry said they feel the weather is about to turn around.
“It’s not ideal yet, but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to have a winter. It’s coming, for sure,” said Jim Finkle, a manager at Alpine Hut in Seattle.
He added: “It’s all about perspective. We can’t expect to have a perfect winter every year.”
The National Weather Service is predicting mostly dry conditions with fog and high temperatures in the 40s, and lows in the 30s, for the next week.
But there will be a chance of rain Friday and the beginning of next week, Smith said.
Brian M. Rosenthal: 206-464-3195 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @brianmrosenthal