Winter has stormed back to Washington’s mountains after a slow and relatively dry start to the season.
Storms during the past week dumped snow not only in the mountains but all the way to the shores of Puget Sound, prompting school districts across the region to cancel or delay classes and causing some headaches for commuters and people traveling across mountain passes.
The recent accumulation is getting the snowpack back to where it’s expected to be this time of year, said Mike McFarland, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Seattle.
“We are making up for not-a-very-good December,” he said. “We are doing great. We made up for lost time.”
Snowpack levels at the passes and ski and snowboard resorts are now a bit ahead of last year at this time, according to information from the Northwest Avalanche Center (NWAC). As of Jan. 15, Snoqualmie Pass had 80 inches of snow, compared to 15 inches on Dec. 15, 2019. On Dec. 15, 2018, Snoqualmie had 28 inches of snow, which had crept up to only 49 inches by Jan. 15 of last year.
Farther south, snow has been plentiful this month at Mount Rainier. Nearly 100 inches of snow has fallen at Paradise since Dec. 15, bringing the total on the ground from 44 inches to 139 inches and counting.
Avalanche danger can increase when snow piles up quickly in the mountains. Areas with the greatest avalanche danger are in and around Mount Baker, which had 128 inches as of Jan. 15, and the Olympic Mountains, where 88 inches have accumulated at Hurricane Ridge, according to the NWAC. On an avalanche danger scale of 1 through 5, the center has those areas pegged at a 3, or “considerable.” Stevens Pass, Snoqualmie Pass and Crystal Mountain are listed as having a moderate danger level, or a 2 on the scale.
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