It was the snow so unlike Seattle snows: fluffy, light, not Cascade Concrete. And it arrived in so well-behaved a manner, whisper soft, on a Friday night of a three-day holiday weekend.
We do winter windstorms better than most. And ask former Mayor Greg Nickels about the political pitfalls of Seattle snowstorms. An epic snow right before Christmas in 2008 that the city struggled to clear during two weeks of freezing temperatures may have been what iced his chances for reelection.
This snowfall was not that kind of event. To be sure, it was no fun for people who still had to get to work. And yet another frustration for people whose long-awaited appointments for a COVID vaccination were rescheduled. Sidewalks could be sloppy and even treacherous, and roads the same, and the cold was particularly dangerous for people without homes.
But there was no big wind, no drama. It wasn’t even particularly cold. It was just a lovely, soft snowfall, and picture pretty. Saturday morning brought more of the same, with flakes still gently falling. It was perfect for playing in outside. And who, in the middle of this endless pandemic, didn’t need that?
The fun kept right up on Sunday, as in even the smallest city yard, kids got going on snowman sculptures. Snowballs were on the wing. Dogs were high-stepping and Blizzard, the polar bear at the Point Defiance Zoo, plowed his snout through the drifts.
Neighbors got a chance to help each other out with the shoveling and visit over the task, sometimes seeing each other out on the sidewalk for the first time in many long, claustrophobic weeks.
The winter storm clobbered Portland, and there, nearly 300,000 people were without power by Saturday afternoon. Freezing rain coated roads, power lines and trees with ice. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown declared a state of emergency.
Indeed much of the country was locked all weekend in an icebox of wintry mayhem. Storms and extreme cold affected much of the Western U.S. and were particularly dangerous for people experiencing homelessness.
Authorities in Western Washington and western Oregon opened warming shelters in an effort to protect homeless residents from the wet and cold. Seattle fired up its emergency response center, and crews were on call at utilities to deal with anything from power outages to flooding.
But Seattle mostly was treated to a dreamy, snow-day respite. The power stayed on, the trees stayed up. The snow drifted down like feathers.
A total of 12.4 inches of snow was recorded at SeaTac Airport by the weather service, with 2.2 inches on Friday, 8.9 on Saturday, and 1.3 on Sunday. Some parts of the region had even more: Tumwater in Thurston County had 13.5 inches of snow just on Saturday, according to the Seattle office of the National Weather Service.
Seattle, a city full of hills, became a winter playground. People got out their cross-country skis and snowshoes, and headed right down the middle of neighborhood streets.
In some neighborhoods, the newspapers never came. The mail didn’t either. Why not spend Sunday — Valentine’s Day after all — making homemade Valentines and cocoa?
By late Sunday afternoon, temperatures warmed to 34 degrees. But there was no deluge of rain, no big flood or mess. It just … slightly warmed up.
As the evening light began to temper the snow’s brightness, the weather service noted warmer air had eased into the area, and was going to continue moderating temperatures, as the warm air progressed northward through the evening.
Most locations were predicted to “transition nicely” from snow to rain, a phrase not often seen in weather service briefings.
But this was a Seattle-nice event, if ever there was, with only an ever-so-slight passive-aggressive undertone. Translated, in this case, to “however there is still a light chance for freezing rain in the lowlands from roughly Seattle to Burlington through the evening.”
If freezing rain did occur, it was likely to be spotty, with no ice accumulation expected, the briefing reported.
Elsewhere, freezing rain was predicted to be possible in the valleys of the Cascade foothills especially from King County into southern Snohomish County through early Monday, with ice accumulation up to one-fifth of an inch possible.
The rain was predicted to continue Monday, which could bring urban flooding, depending on how much rain falls on the snowpack and how fast it all melts. But the rain was expected to be very light, amounting to only about a quarter inch by Monday afternoon, said Mary Butlin, meteorologist at the Seattle office of the National Weather Service.
The weight of the snow — especially as rain comes — also could cause some tree limbs to come down, causing power outages.
By Sunday evening, there were a total of 33 outages throughout the entire Puget Sound region, affecting 2,538 customers, according to Puget Sound Energy.
Seattle’s usual weather was expected to settle in all this week, with temperatures in the 40s. So no big refreeze events threaten. Apparently that’s it for snow for now. And maybe for the winter.
Daylight saving time arrives March 14 — and the first day of spring is just a little more than a month away.
Material from The Associated Press in included in this report.