After a relatively dry start to winter that had some people worrying about the mountain snowpack, the season has taken a more familiar look with a parade of mid-February storms marching across Washington on strong winds, steady rains and heavy mountain snow.
About 3 feet of snow have fallen since Friday at Snoqualmie Pass, and another 2 to 4 feet of snow are expected by Thursday, said meteorologist Chris Burke in the National Weather Service office in Seattle.
“We’ve been getting pounded in the mountains,” he said. “We’ve been getting a storm once every 24 hours since Friday.”
Restrictions, delays and highway closures are possible on the Snoqualmie, Stevens and White passes.
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The Transportation Department closed Interstate 90 at the summit of Snoqualmie Pass Tuesday morning for avalanche control. The highway was reopened before noon, but eastbound lanes were closed again within an hour near Denny Creek due to multiple spinouts and disabled vehicles.
Many skiers who have been waiting for the snow were thwarted from reaching the Cascade slopes Monday and Tuesday by closures for avalanche control on Stevens and Snoqualmie passes.
A winter storm warning was in effect until Wednesday morning.
The rain at lower elevations is filling Western Washington rivers, and the weather service issued flood warnings on the Chehalis, Skookumchuck and Skokomish rivers. Any flooding would likely be minor, Burke said.
Forecasters also warned of high winds Tuesday on the south Washington coast, but that’s not that unusual for this time of year, Burke said.
Tuesday’s storm will be followed by another vigorous frontal system on Wednesday night and Thursday, the National Weather Service said. The storm parade may pause this weekend. There’s a chance of partly sunny days, which may allow the skiers and boarders to reach the slopes.
The mountain snowpack that had been around 50 percent on Feb. 1 has climbed to about 80 percent in three weeks, Burke said. And it will likely continue to accumulate into the early spring.
“We’ve made a lot of progress,” Burke said.
“We call this reversion to the mean,” he said. “If you take a long enough period everything is always average.”