Thursday, January 1, 2009

Snow in the mountains and no major storm here.

Happy New Year!

Today, a modest low center will cross the Olympic Peninsula as it moves eastward across the area (see plot of 6 hr pressure and temp forecast). No windstorm for us. Modest winds (15-30 mph sustained) will be experienced to our south where the large pressure differences are found. South of the low we will first experience a warm front passage this morning, followed by a cold front this afternoon.

Astoria has already experienced the warm front...take a look at the attached plots to see what happens. With the warm front temps increased rapidly (into the 50s!), and the dewpoint (a measure of humidity) jumped as well. Winds shifted from SE to SW and increased in speed.

As discussed yesterday, substantial snow has fallen in the mountains, greatly increasing the threats of avalanches, particularly since the underlying layers are weak. WSDOT has closed I90 for the time being and I imagine they will be completing serious avalanche control before letting people through (it is interesting how Snoqualmie closes so much more than SR-2, I assume because of the close-in steep slopes to I90).

The heaviest precipitation from today's system will be from the central Cascades southward (see the 24h precip plot) and I think the Olympics will be spared the worst. We are talking serious precipitation down there--5 to 10 inches in the mountains--and flooding is a possibility. Regarding lowland snow later tonight and tomorrow morning, the biggest threat is over SW Washington and northern Oregon--but it will be close for us (see latest prediction by the weather model--the WRF-GFS) The temperatures over central PS will be marginal for snow and with the heaviest precipitation to the south, the cooling effects of melting precip from aloft will be correspondingly strongest southward where the intensities will be there. So the salt probably won't be needed tonight in Seattle. But don't be surprised to see some wet snow mixed in...and if you are at higher elevations...there may be a white coating.

PS: Comment on the mayor's new salt plan. This is a positive step to be sure...but the city must not constrain the use of salt to only such large (4 inch) snowfalls. There has been very disruptive events with lesser amounts..where salt could have help tremendously. One is noted in my NW weather book...on Nov 27, 2006 (Pg 72). I remember that event well.. I walked home that night due to all the ice..and only about twoto three inches fell. And we need more snowplows with metal edges. I just got an email from Sea Tac Airport...they have 27 pieces of snow removal much as the entire city!


Nickolett said...

Wow, we woke up to at least an inch of snow here in the Port Orchard/Bremerton area this morning! Talk about unpredictable weather. And no rain to wash it away yet.

JewelyaZ said...

Foggy and light rain here in East Bellevue at 210' .. 39.2F so I doubt we're at risk for snow.

I remember the November 27, 2006, storm well too, Cliff. My daughter and I tried to get home from Factoria to Woodinville and it tooks five hours to get to Bothell, where the 124th Ave hill defeated us... it was a skating rink. My 6 year old daughter and I (10 weeks pregnant!) walked into a neighborhood under construction and found a porta-potty (heaven!) and a not-yet-finished house with the garage door open where the furnace had been wired so that it was on full-blast... they'd done the tile work that day and needed the heat for the grout to dry, I guess. So we slept upstairs in one of the bedrooms on the dusty and bare but warm wooden floor. We walked the two miles home the next morning and it was three days before we could get my car off that hill. Salt would have helped a lot.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Cliff. We should use salt in all "disruptive events". Those events don't disrupt the environment but they do disrupt human schedules and productivity and Puget Sound would be just some Pacific Northwest backwater (and a beautiful one) without those. Sure some salmon may die but Seattle was built on dead salmon. Dead trees and dead salmon.

Anonymous said...

There is a reason a major airport has 27 plows and even they had to shut down for awhile. There's also a reason steel tips are not used on roads, ask any plow operator how they're supposed to gauge the distance from the bottom of the plow to the surface when it varies in elevation without gouging the road. That's why the rubber boards are used and those have to be replaced as well.

Anonymous said...

The airport never shut down. Alaska Airlines ran out of deicer, but the runways were operational and clear at all times.

Why can plows in the eastern and central U.S. use steel plows and we can't?

Anonymous said...

We have 3" of new snow at my house in Abbotsford BC, a mile north of the Canada/US border. Any reports from Whatcom county?

Anonymous said...

Raining here in Bellingham at about 400 feet elevation. My thermometer has been moving up and down between 34-37F, not quite cold enough for snow at this point. Hopefully it will stay as rain.

Prepared said...

Why, amongst all of the criticism about plows and salt, has there not been any discussion about individual preparedness?

Learn how to put your own chains on, know the alternate ways home, own a snow shovel, have a supply of ice melt or sand on hand, keep warm boots and storm clothes in the car on the bad days and pay attention to the weather!

BTW--is your earthquake kit up to date?

evilzenscientist said...

Thanks for the latest Cliff. I was worried that my sister would be stuck here if there were wind storms (she's flying back to London from SEA tomorrow)

Heavy blowing drizzle in downtown Issaquah right now. It doesn't feel like much - but it soaks right through you.

22mm of rain since yesterday - almost 1".

8'C (46'F) outside.

Anonymous said...

Something to consider, the construction industry takes a dive in the winter months, lots of front end loaders around. Why can't they be contracted to shovel out roadways in the cities?

Anonymous said...

One side effect of snowplowing I've noticed; on a couple of the local roads the snowplow very effectively removed the reflective "turtles" from the centerline. When the snow berms are gone these will help us see the road edges at night, I suppose, but they'll have to be replaced later on in the year.

- Pete

Anonymous said...

"Why, amongst all of the criticism about plows and salt, has there not been any discussion about individual preparedness?"

Unfortunately some of us (due to circumstances outside of our control) have no choice but to take the bus. The city's failure to properly take care of the roads brought Metro to its knees, and we're still feeling the effects of that decision. The roads are clear, but Metro is still not up to full capacity.

Believe me, if I could legally drive, I would. (If you're curious, I cannot drive for 6 months because I had a seizure.)

Anonymous said...

While we're proposing revisions to snow policy, UW also needs a revised their snow policy. UW is a commuter school and the administration needs to recognize that people on the east side can experience severe weather events that prevent or delay attendance at UW. Flexibility should be built in for those students.

The January 28, 2008 snow storm was a case in point. I'm a post-bac student and had an exam that day. I also had a tyranical teacher who refused to delay my taking of the exam so I could wait until later in the day for the predicted weather warm up and the roads to clear.

Every school on the east side was closed that day, including UW Bothell.

Because of UW's ridiculous snow policy and my equally tyranical prof, I inched past the spun out vehicles and jack-knifed articulated buses in Redmond to make it for an arbitrary 9:30am exam. It made sense to these jacka*sses at UW for people to risk life and limb to attend an exam. By 2:00pm that day, the roads were pretty safe....

I complained all the way to Emmert about the situation. The answer: pat, pat, dear, we're "revising our snow policy". Never heard a word from them again, and this year proved that no revisions have been made to the snow policy, because during the latest snow event, the UW ridiculously stayed open for a day and a half even in light of buses not running, etc, ect, before they acquired the common sense to close.

The school doesn't care about safety. They don't care about WSDOT and their need to keep people off roads. They are just an ugly institution.

Anonymous said...

LOL, sometimes "preparedness" doesn't work.

I405 was at a standstill for 4 hours because it was an undriveable solid sheet of ice. No preparedness would help with that paralysis. The only thing that would have helped was to stay off the road....The Redmond entrance to 520 was also closed, and all side routes were also solid ice and full of jack-knifed buses and semis. And no doubt similar occurrences were happening in Seattle.

Some people look at things a bit too simplistically. They need to learn that situations are often more complex. In addition, they need to grow up and put themselves in others' shoes.

Anonymous said...

I agree, sometimes it's best to stay home and let ma nature do her thing.

MarkM said...

With regard to salt-it's no substitute for plowing. Given the infrequency of these events it may not be worth spending much. If I were limited I'd do what it takes to get decent buses for bad days. Accordians do nothing but jacknife and don't concentrate weight enough to get traction.

JewelyaZ said...

Individual preparedness is critical, but it doesn't help if you get stuck more miles from home than you and your children can walk, like I did in Nov 2006. And recent experience in Idaho shows, that you can't make children walk very far in the snow... a 9-year old girl froze to death on Christmas Day when her father made her and her brother try to walk to their destination after their car broke down.

Of course, being prepared to take care of yourself without getting to the store for a while IS critical, but one can't individually prepare to get to the hospital during a heart attack, say. The city has to do that part of the safety preparation. I think Bellevue did a better job than Seattle during this last storm but I'd still hate to count on anything other than the EMTs being able to get to us (they are 1.5 miles away).

I do love our road reflectors and turtles and would hate to see them scraped off frequently. We have more rain and dark than ice and snow, for sure. But on major arterials, especially near hospitals, sacrifice some relectors and keep people safer. They can't be THAT expensive!

Timothy said...


I am flying into Spokane tomorrow where my friend says they have 5 feet of snow on the ground.

Looking forward to that -- only a weekend before being back in pea soup here Monday.

Cliff -- your preoccupation with getting around in a storm -- SALT! PLOW! No disturbing American PRODUCTION!

I am afraid I have to say that sometimes the wheels are supposed to come off the machine you're on. Storms are disruptive. That's life.

Take a walk. Start earlier. Look around.

And if you get on that walk and find yourself in snow, maybe a poem will come to you.

White Fir
For Donald Hall

Near the woodshed a white fir,
bent under snow
nearly to the ground
stays bowed,
even after the thaw.
The woods are full
of trees like this--cedar, hemlock, yew.

Year after year it happens,
the awful
weight, more, almost
than can be borne,
& then a lifetime struggling
upright again, drawn
by whatever light still filters
through the heavy canopy
of all those gone before.

"White Fir in Snow" ©2008 by Washington Poet Laureate Sam Green; from his book, The Grace of Necessity, Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2008.

Best fishes,

Timothy Colman

theartist said...

Oh yawn Timothy! Disruption for a few days is one thing, over a week is something else entirely.

As another poster said, it's amazing how simplistic some folks are being.

I am tickled that the City of Seattle saw sense on allowing salting. It's also been a constant source of entertainment to read radicals talk about dead salmon due to salting once every few years. ;)

And let me sympathize greatly with the anon poster talking about UW. UW is AWFUL when it comes to snow. It does not matter the conditions, UW rarely ever closes. Every bad storm they literally put thousands of students and teachers at risk. My little story with them...

When I was a freshman at UW many moons ago we got some snow. Like the November 2006 storm, the snow totals were not impressive 3-5 inches), but the ice was horrific. Solid sheets gleaming like mirrors. A friend and I helped one slowly sliding car off of the freeway exit at 85th, using our bodies as a pivot point to sling the car (it was thankfully small) onto a side street. Powerlines were falling due to ice accumulation in addition to the snow. EVERYTHING was closed...except for UW. I called up the administration and asked very politely exactly why the campus would stay open in such conditions. The admin staff informed me that UW only closes if there's around a foot or more of snow on the ground. I asked what about a solid inch of ice because if I had to choose I'd take my chances in the snow rather than the ice. She hung up on me. So I chuckled in complete non-surprise when I saw that UW did not close in this recent storm. It's all about the $$$ as it costs to shut the campus down. UW's snow policy is glaringly ignorant of the actual conditions on the ground and is in dire need of including other metrics than just a foot or more of snow.

Anonymous said...

Three inches of snow overnight at Lost Lake, 15 miles west of Shelton.

serial catowner said...

Well, there's your slippery slope. The people who want to use salt say "What can it hurt to use salt every three or four years?" and then the next thing you know, it's "Salt the roads when any snow falls" and "Don't forget to salt the road out in Woodinville".

It's all part of a natural cycle in which authorities will buy as much salt as they can, sprinkle it at the earliest opportunity, and eventually cut back on the use as it becomes apparent that it doesn't do that much good anyway, and the public forgets the terrible year when they did not salt the roads.

It's also an illustration of the lowest common denominator. People say "Well, they salt the roads back east and don't worry about the environment". Right- and that's why it's been a 40 year effort to restore living fish to the Hudson River and the Great Lakes.

Well, it will probably be better for everyone when we're all eating textured soy protein in the shape of a fish. All is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.

And yes, we had four inches out here and I had to stay home when I wanted to get out. Stuff happens.

Dave said...

Preparedness, how do I prepare for an ambulance to get to my home should I need it? A fire truck? A police car? Chains don't really do much on solid ice. Good luck with that.

How do I prepare to take a bus that bus can't get to my bus stop, and I can't safely walk to the one that it can get to?

Dave said...

"Right- and that's why it's been a 40 year effort to restore living fish to the Hudson River and the Great Lakes."

Hmmmm...given all the dumping that happens, and the factories that are built along the Hudson and the Great Lakes, something tells me salt run off is the least likely cause of that situation, all things considered.

Anonymous said...

Check out the forecast discussion from the National Weather Service.. I think Cliff will be updating the blog..


Anonymous said...

Blah, blah, blah, salt. Blah, blah, blah, plows.

Weather -- Weather.

c said...

Would it do any good for these well written comments to become letters to Board of Directors at the UW?'s the UW...nevermind.
I wonder what a lawsuit would send them back if a student/faculty member was injured while trying to make their way across campus??

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
camco said...

C'mon -- We hardly ever get snow here. Last time we had it like this was 1990 for goodness sakes.

Forget the sand-versus-salt debate. We have so many other pressing needs that we should be focusing on, right?

Anonymous said...

It is important to realize that TV weathermen and Cliff both represent people expressing opinions that reflect their sources of income. TV people are trying to keep people tuned in until the next commercial so they will tend to exaggerate for the sake of engaging viewers. As a prof at a state school, Cliff has expressed concern about disruptions in consumerism and productivity that would negatively affect the state's economy - thus his salt advocacy. One has to be aware of their biases when assessing the validity of their views.