Rain is on the way Friday, but the lingering effects of the week's weather could still make getting around a challenge.

Share story

Rain was falling over much of the Seattle area early Friday, bringing welcome relief following two days of freezing temperatures.

“I think we’re moving in the right direction,” said Brad Colman of the Weather Service, as the temperature at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport hit 34 degrees by 6 a.m.

But the rains offer little immediate comfort to hundreds of thousands of Western Washington residents who are without electrical service, and whose power may not be restored until the weekend or later.

And Colman cautioned that Friday afternoon commuters could face challenges as the snow melts to thick slush, causing pools and some urban flooding. “The evening commute could be pretty bad, with water everywhere,” he said.

Rainfall began as showers this morning, but is expected to become heavier and more widespread through the afternoon.

High temperatures forecast in the Seattle area Friday are between 40 and 45.

The northern part of the state was still getting some snowfall early Friday, including Bellingham, where the temperature at 6 a.m. was 25.

Downed trees and power lines cut off power Thursday to hundreds of thousands of customers around Puget Sound — sometimes twice.

In Seattle yesterday, officials blocked off several downtown sidewalks, fearing that ice falling from buildings would hurt pedestrians.

At the Roosevelt Hotel on Pine Street and Seventh Avenue, large sheets of ice crashed to the ground, scaring hotel guests but not injuring anybody, an employee said. The sidewalk was blocked off afterward.

At the National Weather Service, there was chagrin about off-base forecasts that first predicted a huge storm, then backed off a bit snow-wise, and finally incorrectly forecast a Thursday return to warmer weather.

“We were about a day early with the warm-up,” said meteorologist Dennis D’Amico, who said he and colleagues “felt the vibe” of irritated critics.

Predicting winter precipitation in the lowlands is often tricky, he said, but the combination of models and interpretation led meteorologists astray until very early Thursday, when they realized the problem and issued a rare ice storm alert.

“We underestimated how much that cold air would really stick in place,” he explained. “We had cold air at the surface, then we had warmer air riding up over that colder air.”

That, it turns out, is a recipe for freezing rain. “Freezing rain is a snowflake that fell, went through a warmer layer, melted and became rain, then went to a colder layer near the surface, and freezes on contact. That’s the nice ice you scraped off your car.”

Even Cliff Mass, a University of Washington professor of atmospheric sciences who writes a popular weather blog, issued a broad “mea culpa.”

“Well, folks, this is not my profession’s finest hour,” he wrote Thursday. “Our models did not indicate that the precipitation would move so far north, so fast.”

Then it all gets kind of technical, when most folks really just want to know whether they can drive to work or not.

For Friday, Metro buses are continuing to run on a snow schedule.

Amtrak passenger service is suspended between Portland and Seattle because of scores of fallen trees and other debris on the tracks.

Service north of Seattle to Vancouver, B.C., and south of Portland to Eugene, Ore., continues, subject to weather-related delays.

At Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, all three runways were open Thursday night and operating “normally,” said Charla Skaggs, spokeswoman for the Port of Seattle. However, airlines make their own decisions about whether flying into the area is safe, and many were still canceling flights into Seattle.

Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air said weather has forced the cancellation of 50 flights Friday. That’s in addition to the 310 flights to and from Seattle canceled by early evening Thursday, affecting 29,000 passengers; only 15 of Alaska’s 114 daily flights and one Horizon flight had departed Seattle by that time.

For those with a way with words, this storm had a certain inspirational quality. For some, it evoked the film “Groundhog Day.”

“It’s like a storm in slow motion that keeps happening again and again,” said Puget Sound Energy spokesman Roger Thompson.

It also pumped up some creativity among those posting comments on Twitter, particularly those about how this storm has morphed from one thing to another.

The Bellevue Reporter noted that the “hashtags” — a # plus a short name used on Twitter to help identify different threads of conversation — have changed as the storm progressed. In a condensed way, they tell the story of what we’ve been through:

“It started with #WAsnow, then it was #WAice, now we have #WAsnow, on top of #WAice, on top of #WAsnow. #snOMG.”

Friday, it will all turn to #waSLUSH.

Seattle Times staff reporters Mike Lindblom, Brian Rosenthal and The Associated Press contributed to this report. Carol M. Ostrom: 206-464-2249 or costrom@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @costrom.