The snow level in the mountains may drop to as low as 4,000 feet, according to the National Weather Service in Seattle.
A cool, wet front is moving over Western Washington this weekend, making excursions into the highlands potentially treacherous for hikers and skiers and breaking a dry spell.
The weather pattern will bring “off and on” rain showers throughout the region Saturday and Sunday, according to the National Weather Service in Seattle. Behind that is “a pool of moist and unstable air” that could bring thunderstorms at times, as well as the possibility of snow and whiteout conditions at higher elevations, said meteorologist Doug McDonnal.
Meteorologists at Sea-Tac International Airport, which is where the weather service gauges weather for the metro area, said Friday’s rain total — .14 inches as of 4 p.m. — surpassed the amount they collected for all days in May combined.
“We’re transitioning to showery and rather cool weather with a high right around 60,” he said Friday, when the wet system began rolling in. The normal high in Seattle this time of year is around 69 degrees, McDonnal said.
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In the mountains, the snow level could dip to as low as 4,000 feet and a few inches of snow are likely above that elevation, he said.
Meteorologists urge people planning to backpack, ski, hike or camp in the mountains to check the forecast specific to their destination before making the trip.
“This is the time of year people go out hiking or do some mountaineering at Mount Baker and Mount Rainier,” McDonnal said. “It’s also popular to go skiing starting at Paradise and going up to Camp Muir. But this is the kind of weather where there could be whiteout conditions, which make navigation very tricky, and it’s easy to end up getting wet and cold.”
The four Seattle Boy Scouts who were rescued earlier this week on Mount Baker became lost due to whiteout conditions, McDonnal said.
Travelers to the mountains or any alpine terrain this weekend should at minimum have a GPS system and know how to use it, he said.
The service’s extended forecast for Seattle calls for a slight chance of rain showers Monday, mostly sunny skies Tuesday and a possibility of rain later in the week.
The wet weather comes roughly one week after forecasters at the service documented the warmest May in Seattle, as well as one of the driest, according to their records that span 120 years. That pattern is one in a series of weather extremes in recent months and years.