Editor’s note: This is a live account of weather updates from Feb. 14, 2021, as the day unfolded. It is no longer being updated. Visit The Seattle Times weather page for the latest on weather in the Puget Sound region.
This weekend’s snowstorm barreled through Puget Sound like a frost-draped freight train Friday night and Saturday, giving residents of Seattle and surrounding area a wintery break from COVID-19 cabin fever.
It also proved challenging for commuters and disrupted local efforts to keep up with vaccination schedules. Snow slacked off by the morning, and was turning to rain by the afternoon.
How much snow ultimately fell this weekend?
A light rain is coming down in Seattle and you can hear the drip-drip of snowmelt in the streets.
Ultimately, over the weekend 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.
Closures planned at Snoqualmie Pass
Be advised, if you're planning an early-morning trip back to eastern Washington you might hit some delays. Eastbound closures are planned for Snoqualmie Pass beginning at 4 a.m. for avalanche control work.
Smooth transition to rain expected, NWS says
Most areas "will transition nicely from snow to rain," the National Weather Service Seattle office said in an update Sunday afternoon, with just a slight chance of freezing rain in the lowlands from Seattle to Burlington. No ice accumulation is expected in those areas.
The boundary of warmer air was pushing northward, and was near the King/Snohomish County line as of 3 p.m., the weather service said.
Freezing rain is possible in the Cascade foothills between Sunday evening and early Monday morning, with ice accumulation of between 0.1 to 0.2 inches around Enumclaw to North Bend.
Forecasters also warned that urban flooding and falling branches from the weight of snow — which could result in localized power outages if trees hit power lines — are still possible.
Much of the U.S. hit by deep freeze
A historic Arctic outbreak continues to bring a bone-chilling deep freeze to the central United States, as the coldest air in generations plunges south and is accompanied by snow and ice all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. Some cities will see their lowest temperatures in more than a century as high-impact winter storms roll across the country.
Temperatures about 50 degrees below average occupy an enormous swath of the central United States, stretching from the Rockies to the Mississippi Valley and the Midwest. At least 15 states could see temperatures of minus-10 or colder, while lows near the U.S.-Canada border flirt with minus-40.
More than 50 million people could see temperatures dip below zero during the next several days as the record-setting deep freeze envelops the country.
Some winter fun before it melts away
As Seattle waits for the weekend's snow to melt away, some were still out sliding around and enjoying themselves Sunday afternoon. Seattle Times reporter Joy Resmovits captured footage of some fun on Capitol Hill.
Seattle updates winter storm response, preparing for possible power outages
The city of Seattle provided an update to its winter storm response as snow continued to fall early Sunday afternoon, bringing a total of more than a foot to some parts of the city.
The biggest concerns now are about the impact of possible sleet, freezing rain or rain falling on top of the snowpack later today, including urban flooding and power outages, as well as the ongoing impact on people living without shelter.
Currently, only 10 Seattle City Light customers are without power. But the change in precipitation could add weight to already burdened tree branches, causing more outages if they fall onto power lines, City Light said.
The utility has crews on standby to respond to outages, but it cautions people to be prepared with nonperishable food, flashlights, batteries and blankets for everyone in the household.
People should not use generators, camp stoves or barbecues indoors because they can quickly cause lethal carbon monoxide poisoning.
Space heaters should be kept at least three feet away from combustible materials, the Seattle Fire Department warned. It reminded people to double-check smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.
Seattle’s four severe weather shelters, with room for 239 people, will remain open through Monday morning. The shelters offer meals and accommodations for pets.
Nearly 200 people stayed in the shelters overnight, as well as 14 people in a new permanent women’s shelter at First Presbyterian Church.
The city HOPE Team spent Saturday night doing welfare checks, providing supplies and arranging transportation to shelters, provided by City Light and Seattle Parks and Recreation employees. However, transportation options are limited by COVID-19 precautions and road conditions, the city said. People in need of shelter can call 2-1-1, or 1-877-211-9274. Families with minor children can call the YWCA at (206) 461-4882.
Clear storm drains or prepare for 'winter discontent' as temps warm
Could the coming warm-up and change from snow to rain lead to urban flooding?
“It happens. I’ve been schooled in winter discontent,” said Rudy Pantoja, a member of the Fremont Rotary who was spending part of Valentine’s Day clearing storm drains in the neighborhood.
He said he’s seen many storm drains buried in snow piled up by plowing Saturday and Sunday. It can be a heavy lift to dig them out, Pantoja said.
“It’s going to be gnarly,” he said, encouraging others to clear drains in their neighborhoods, but to be careful. “Don’t have a heart attack.”
Seattle Public Utilities said crews are ready to respond to urban flooding and other water-related issues on short notice.
“Customers can help reduce ponding or flooding by removing snow and ice from local storm drains with a snow shovel, garden shovel, rake or another strong tool,” SPU said as part of the city’s Sunday afternoon update on its winter weather response.
People can also call the SPU Operations Response Center at (206) 386-1800 to report flooding or ponding from blocked drains.
National Weather Service meteorologist Mary Butwin said forecasters are keeping a close eye on the potential for urban flooding as the winter storm progresses.
“A lot of that is going to be dependent on the intensity of the rainfall that’s coming in,” she said early Sunday afternoon.
The forecast calls for snow to shift to a combination of rain, sleet and freezing rain sometime Sunday evening, though the timing and location of the change remain uncertain. A warmer weather system coming Monday is expected to bring rainfall to most of the region and temperatures in the 40s.
While parts of the Seattle area may receive more than a foot of snow in total before it lets up, much of it, particularly from the early part of the storm, has a fairly low moisture content, Butwin said.
Weather continues closure of some King County testing, vaccination sites
COVID-19 vaccinations at the Kent and Auburn sites run by Public Health — Seattle & King County are on hold due to expected icy conditions, the agency said.
The Kent mass-vaccination site is scheduled to reopen at noon on Monday. People with Monday morning appointments should expect a text or email with their new afternoon time.
No vaccination appointments are planned for the Auburn site on Monday. Both the Kent and Auburn sites are expected to return to a regular schedule on Tuesday.
King County's medium- and high-volume testing sites — Auburn, Tukwila, Federal Way, Highline College, Enumclaw, Renton and Bellevue — will remain closed Monday due to weather conditions. Testing at the Bellevue College site is scheduled to be open on Monday.
More information on the county's testing and vaccination sites is available here.
Winter storm wallops Oregon with ice, power outages
So far, the precipitation during this winter storm in the Puget Sound area has been mostly of the fun variety. Copious snow, great for sledding and packing into snowballs and sculptures.
Oregon, however, has received much more in the form of sleet and freezing rain, icing trees that have snapped and knocked out power to tens of thousands of people. In the Portland area alone, more than 200,000 customers were without power Saturday night.
And the cold temperatures across the Pacific Northwest have further imperiled people living without shelter. Cities around the region, including Seattle, have opened emergency shelters and warming centers.
Read more about the winter storm in Oregon and elsewhere around the Northwest here.
Valentine's vort lobe vexes forecast
If you’re loving the Valentine’s Day morning refresh of snow in parts of Western Washington, you can thank a sinking “vort lobe” — with its associated positive vorticity advection — and the exit region of a “jet streak”.
The Seattle office of the National Weather Service, in its Area Forecast Discussion update just before 9 a.m., gets technical in explaining what’s causing the “snow banding” we’re seeing in portions of Island, Snohomish and King counties.
The discussion, a regularly updated narrative account of forecasters’ observations and thinking behind the weather headlines, complete with a glossary, is a great place to start to learn about the why and how behind the region’s weather.
But what does it all mean for the here and now?
In the lowlands from Tacoma northwards, including the Seattle metro area, forecasters expect snow to continue into Sunday afternoon, with as much as 3 to 4 inches of new accumulation in some places. The threat of a winter mix — including sleet, which is water droplets that freeze before hitting the surface, and freezing rain, which falls as liquid and freezes on contact with the surface — arrives in the Seattle area this afternoon and evening.
But it remains difficult to predict when and where the snow will turn to rain, sleet or freezing rain.
A warmer weather system arriving Monday morning is expected to clear the remaining cold air in most of the area, with rain and high temperatures in the 40s.
Closures, collisions and snow routes continue
Continued winter weather Sunday morning made travel difficult in much of the region as crews scrambled to keep roadways clear.
Multiple collisions and disabled vehicles along Interstate 5 had caused lane closures in the north and southbound directions between Seattle and Tacoma, the Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT) reported Sunday morning.
The agency said that the main highways in the region had been plowed, but remained icy. State crews were mainly applying sand and salt Sunday, an agency spokesperson said.
Several King County Metro buses remained on snow routes Sunday morning. Route-by-route information is available here.
U.S. Highway 2 northeast of Wenatchee was closed due to a rock slide. WSDOT said it would be an extended closure, with no detour available. The highway was closed between mileposts 140 and 148.
As big snowflakes started falling again around the Seattle area Sunday morning, crews continued a plowing effort that has been ongoing for the last two days.
The city’s Storm Response Map shows streets that remain closed, planned response routes and roads that have been serviced recently.
People could not cross the Fremont Bridge, which was experiencing "technical issues" Sunday morning, the Seattle Department of Transportation said.
The Washington State Patrol responded Saturday afternoon to a series of collisions on westbound Interstate 90 at milepost 38. The incident involved a total of 15 collisions including three rollovers. Police admonished drivers to slow down.
Here's where this weekend's snowfall lands in the record books
The more than 10 inches of snow that blanketed the Seattle area Friday and Saturday marked the 15th highest two-day snow total recorded since the 1890s when weather records began, the National Weather Service said.
The Seattle Weather Blog noted that 8.9 inches that fell at Seattle Tacoma International Airport on Saturday was the fifth-snowiest single day at that location, and the most snow on one day since 1969, when nearly 15 inches fell there.
The snowiest two-day total for the region on record was Feb. 1 and 2, 1916, when 29 inches fell.
Rain or snow today? Sunday's early morning forecast update
The National Weather Service said temperatures should gradually warm throughout Sunday, but an incoming weather system expected to arrive this afternoon could still bring a bit more snow to parts of the region.
Forecasters acknowledged in their early Sunday morning update that the exact timing of the warming trend and weather system's arrival were tough to precisely predict.
"Precipitation type is going to be the question of the day," the NWS Seattle office noted in its latest forecast discussion. Will this afternoon's precipitation fall as rain, snow, freezing rain, sleet?
Working in the favor of colder temperatures and more snow is the presence of so much of it on the ground across the region. Particularly from Tacoma northward, this looks to hold freezing levels low enough to keep snow in the forecast.
Tthe NWS issued a winter weather advisory, for that part of the region, with up to 2 inches of additional snow through Sunday night.
For the coast, the precipitation arrives earlier and is expected to fall as rain and snow in the morning before becoming just rain by the afternoon.
In the Chehalis Valley and Southwest Interior, a wintry mix including snow, sleet and possible freezing rain is in store.
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