Central Puget Sound residents do not frequently think about living in a rain shadow, like their friends in Sequim and Port Townsend. But more frequently that you might expect, Seattle IS in a rain shadow and this will happen later today.
Seattle, with roughly 37 inches a year in annual precipitation, is far drier than the Washington coast, even places away from any terrain. For example, Westport, on the central Washington coast, gets about 74 inches....about twice a much as Seattle. The Long Beach Peninsula gets 81 inches.
The Puget Sound rain shadow is so profound that Seattle gets less rain than Chicago, New York, Washington, D.C. or Miami.
Our rain shadow is most evident when the winds along the coast are westerly (from the west), because of their interactions with the Olympics.
When the winds are from the west, air rises on the western side of the Olympics (producing heavy rain) and descends on the eastern slopes (causing drying).
During the past few hours (Saturday AM), a warm front has passed through our area (sorry skiers), bringin warm air and a shift to westerly flow. To illustrate this, here is the forecast heights, winds, and temperatures (shaded) at 850 hPa (about 5000 ft) for 4 PM Saturday (today). The wind are parallel to the height lines and the closer the lines are together, the stronger the winds. What you see is very strong westerly flow surging into our area, with red colors indicate very warm air. You can get strong Puget Sound rain shadow with such a pattern, as well as heavy rain on the western sides of the coastal mountains and the Cascades.
Here is a radar image around 6 PM for the Seattle area. A beautiful example of rain shadowing east of the Olympics!
What I like about this flow direction is that Sequim is way wetter than Seattle. What I don't like is that there will be a lot of warm rain falling on the limited snow in the Cascade. Stevens Pass opened for limited skiing today, with a 17 inch base. Baker opened as well. Bring old skis.