February 12, 2019

From the Freezer Into The Refrigerator

A typical refrigerator is between 35 and 40F and those represent the kind of high temperatures we will "enjoy" the next few days at the surface over most of the western WA lowlands.

And "refrigerator temperatures" have a lot of implications.  First, the snow is only going to melt slowly, which should lessen the threat of urban (or other) flooding.  Second, the snow levels are low, so if you are up on high hills or in the foothills, snow fall is not over.  And third, such temperatures will keep meteorologists awake at night, worrying that the next weather system could drive the snow level to the surface.

For those interested in yesterday's snowfall totals, check at the end of the blog:  in central Puget Sound totals ran from roughly 2.5 to 10 inches.  As suspected, the models underplayed the totals due to moving out the cool air too quickly.  And the mountains have been hit hard, with roughly 4 feet of new snow during the past two days at Snoqualmie Pass (which is now closed by the way).

The regional surface observations at 10 AM (below, click to expand) show low to mid 30s over much of the lowlands, with the exception of Northwest Washington, where cold air is still draining out of the Fraser River Valley (with gusts above 30 mph as well!).  The northern San Juan Islands are getting a piece of the Fraser cold/wind.

The current freezing level (9 AM) in Seattle is around 1300 ft (see plot from the City of Seattle SNOWWATCH site) below.  The snow level can be as much as 1000 ft below the freezing level.   So if you are on a high hill, you could still be getting snow.
 The current radar image (10 AM), shows scattered shows precipitation still moving into our region, resulting in COLD rain at low levels and mixed snow and rain above roughly 500 ft.  But snow continues to the north in the Fraser outflow region.

Cooler air will be moving in aloft tonight (but not the super-cold stuff we had a few days ago) and there will be considerable cloud cover that will keep the temperatures up.  Lows near sea level should drops to 32-34F, so one should not expect a major icing event.    And keep in mind that what makes things slippery is the liquid water on ice....so things are plenty slippery at temperatures in the mid to upper 30s.

There should be drying later tonight and Wednesday, but showers tonight and tomorrow morning will result in some snow over NW Washington and the mountains (see the 24h amounts ending 4 PM Wednesday).

Finally, an extraordinary aspect of yesterday's weather was all the power outages-- tens of thousands of homes were blacked out as tree branches snapped or leaned over power lines.  Walking to the bus stop this morning, I saw two downed trees and a number of big branches broken off.  Our trees have been well tested by strong winds this winter, but many could not deal with the weight of large amounts of wet snow, made even heavier by rain.

The power outage map this morning from Puget Sound Energy tells the story (see below).  Seems to be worse in a relatively narrow band.  North of the band, the precipitation stayed snow.  South of the band, it turned to rain early.    Finally, from the snow totals I have seen, amount were heavier in central Puget Sound and in the area around Olympics where there were also lots of outages

Looking at the cams around our region and experiencing all the closures, I will end with some questions--one that I will discuss in a future blog:  don't we need more snow plows in our region?  

NOUS46 KSEW 121805

Public Information Statement
National Weather Service Seattle WA
1005 AM PST Tue Feb 12 2019


Location                     Amount    Time/Date       Provider


..Clallam County...
1 NW Hurricane Ridge         13.0 in   0800 AM 02/12   Cocorahs
2 SSW Port Angeles           12.8 in   0700 AM 02/12   Cocorahs
3 SSW Port Angeles           10.0 in   0825 AM 02/12   Public
7 ESE Hurricane Ridge        10.0 in   0700 AM 02/12   Cocorahs
3 E Neah Bay                 9.0 in    0810 AM 02/12   Trained Spotter
5 ENE Hurricane Ridge        8.5 in    0700 AM 02/12   Cocorahs
Port Angeles                 6.5 in    0507 PM 02/11   Public
Port Angeles                 4.5 in    0423 PM 02/11   Public
1 WNW Dungeness              3.2 in    0700 AM 02/12   Cocorahs
Port Angeles                 3.0 in    0308 PM 02/11   Public
Port Angeles                 2.8 in    0354 PM 02/11   Public
3 E Neah Bay                 2.0 in    0331 PM 02/11   Trained Spotter

..Grays Harbor County...
Central Park                 5.0 in    0130 PM 02/11   Public
3 SSW Montesano              5.0 in    0115 PM 02/11   Trained Spotter
5 NNW Central Park           4.0 in    0700 AM 02/12   Cocorahs
Aberdeen                     2.5 in    1212 PM 02/11   Public

..Island County...
1 NNW Oak Harbor             1.5 in    0700 AM 02/12   Cocorahs
4 NW Langley                 1.5 in    0700 AM 02/12   Cocorahs

..King County...
Snoqualmie Pass              53.0 in   0807 AM 02/12   Park/Forest Srvc
2 WNW Snoqualmie             24.0 in   0819 AM 02/12   Public
5 ENE Cedar Falls            14.0 in   0700 AM 02/12   Cocorahs
Stevens Pass                 14.0 in   0500 AM 02/12   Park/Forest Srvc
3 N Carnation                13.0 in   0700 AM 02/12   Cocorahs
4 SW Duvall                  10.3 in   0921 AM 02/12   Cocorahs
2 NNE Sammamish              10.0 in   0833 AM 02/12   Public
4 WNW Carnation              9.0 in    0837 AM 02/12   Public
1 S Sahalee                  9.0 in    0823 AM 02/12   Public
3 ESE Sahalee                8.0 in    0826 AM 02/12   Public
3 SE North Bend              8.0 in    0700 AM 02/12   Cocorahs
1 E Redmond                  7.5 in    0757 PM 02/11   Public
2 N Redmond                  7.5 in    0925 AM 02/12   Cocorahs
1 ESE Woodinville            7.0 in    0928 AM 02/12   Cocorahs
1 SSW Woodinville            7.0 in    0700 AM 02/12   Cocorahs
SeaTac Airport               6.1 in    0635 PM 02/11   Official NWS Obs
Carnation                    6.0 in    0832 AM 02/12   Public
3 ENE Renton                 6.0 in    0820 AM 02/12   Public
Queen Anne Seattle           6.0 in    0839 AM 02/12   Public
Bothell                      5.0 in    0823 AM 02/12   Public
1 ENE Seattle                5.0 in    0700 AM 02/12   Cocorahs
Vashon Island                5.0 in    0411 PM 02/11   Public
Woodinville                  4.8 in    0708 PM 02/11   Public
Eastgate                     4.3 in    0700 AM 02/12   Cocorahs
3 NNE Seattle                3.1 in    0724 PM 02/11   Public
1 W Bellevue                 3.0 in    0451 PM 02/11   Public
Redmond                      3.0 in    0407 PM 02/11   Public
1 N Seattle                  3.0 in    0506 PM 02/11   Public
3 WSW Seattle                3.0 in    0530 PM 02/11   Public
4 SSW Sheridan Beach         3.0 in    0831 AM 02/12   Public
White Center                 2.5 in    0344 PM 02/11   Public
3 NE White Center            2.3 in    0700 AM 02/12   Cocorahs

..Kitsap County...
4 SE Seabeck                 16.0 in   0948 AM 02/12   Trained Spotter
Port Orchard                 9.0 in    0604 PM 02/11   Public
2 S Seabeck                  9.0 in    0636 PM 02/11   Trained Spotter
2 WSW Poulsbo                7.5 in    0951 AM 02/12   Public
1 NNE Seabeck                6.5 in    0226 PM 02/11   Trained Spotter
2 NE Bremerton               5.0 in    0700 AM 02/12   Cocorahs
5 N Poulsbo                  5.0 in    0600 AM 02/12   Cocorahs
2 NW Bainbridge Island       4.3 in    0700 AM 02/12   Cocorahs
1 NNW Indianola              3.3 in    0700 AM 02/12   Cocorahs

..Lewis County...
3 NE Onalaska                3.5 in    0700 AM 02/12   Cocorahs

..Mason County...
4 WNW Hoodsport              15.9 in   0918 AM 02/12   Cocorahs
3 SSW Belfair                4.5 in    0156 PM 02/11   Public
2 N Skokomish                3.0 in    0104 PM 02/11   Trained Spotter

..Pierce County...
Paradise                     32.0 in   0600 AM 02/12   Park/Forest Srvc
Crystal Mountain             27.0 in   0600 AM 02/12   Park/Forest Srvc
2 NE Vaughn                  8.4 in    0700 AM 02/12   Cocorahs
Artondale                    5.0 in    0420 PM 02/11   Public
Gig Harbor                   5.0 in    0514 PM 02/11   Public
Tacoma                       3.0 in    0332 PM 02/11   Public
1 S Ruston                   2.5 in    0700 AM 02/12   Cocorahs
Steilacoom                   2.1 in    0700 AM 02/12   Cocorahs
University Place             1.5 in    0442 PM 02/11   Public

..San Juan County...
2 WNW Friday Harbor          7.0 in    0700 AM 02/12   Cocorahs
3 S Roche Harbor             5.0 in    0700 AM 02/12   Cocorahs
10 WSW Anacortes             4.5 in    0700 AM 02/12   Cocorahs
2 N Friday Harbor            3.0 in    0523 PM 02/11   Public

..Skagit County...
3 S Marblemount              10.0 in   0700 AM 02/12   Cocorahs
3 NNE Allen                  7.0 in    0927 AM 02/12   Cocorahs
Anacortes                    6.5 in    0848 AM 02/12   Trained Spotter
5 N Sedro-Woolley            6.3 in    0928 AM 02/12   Cocorahs
1 SSE Anacortes              5.0 in    0700 AM 02/12   Cocorahs
3 W Mount Vernon             3.5 in    0700 AM 02/12   Cocorahs
La Conner                    3.0 in    0700 AM 02/12   Cocorahs
1 SSE Mount Vernon           3.0 in    0700 AM 02/12   Cocorahs
3 WNW Snee Oosh              3.0 in    0700 AM 02/12   Cocorahs

..Snohomish County...
7 WNW Darrington             12.0 in   0800 AM 02/12   Cocorahs
Cathcart                     7.0 in    0822 AM 02/12   Public
2 NE Mill Creek              6.1 in    0700 AM 02/12   Cocorahs
1 SSE Mill Creek             6.0 in    0700 AM 02/12   Cocorahs
1 NNW Everett                5.5 in    0836 AM 02/12   Public
2 S Martha Lake              5.0 in    0700 AM 02/12   Cocorahs
3 SSW Lake Stevens           5.0 in    0930 AM 02/12   Cocorahs
3 WSW Snohomish              4.6 in    0700 AM 02/12   Cocorahs
Lynnwood                     4.0 in    0824 AM 02/12   Public
4 WNW Lake Goodwin           2.5 in    0700 AM 02/12   Cocorahs

..Thurston County...
4 WSW Tumwater               10.2 in   0700 AM 02/12   Cocorahs
7 NNW Littlerock             9.7 in    0700 AM 02/12   Cocorahs
4 N Olympia                  9.5 in    0700 AM 02/12   Cocorahs
5 NNE Olympia                8.0 in    0300 PM 02/11   Cocorahs
1 W Olympia                  8.0 in    0416 PM 02/11   Public
Littlerock                   6.5 in    0217 PM 02/11   Public
Rochester                    6.5 in    0148 PM 02/11   Public
1 SE Tumwater                6.5 in    0121 PM 02/11   Trained Spotter

..Whatcom County...
Mount Baker                  20.0 in   0600 AM 02/12   Park/Forest Srvc
1 SE Sudden Valley           12.0 in   0830 AM 02/12   Public
5 ESE Van Zandt              8.0 in    0700 AM 02/12   Cocorahs
Glacier                      7.5 in    0700 AM 02/12   Cocorahs
2 NW Ferndale                5.1 in    0700 AM 02/12   Cocorahs
2 SW Bellingham              4.5 in    0700 AM 02/12   Cocorahs
Point Roberts                4.3 in    0700 AM 02/12   Cocorahs
3 NE Marietta                3.5 in    0700 AM 02/12   Cocorahs


  1. Im in North Bend and we have received about 18 inches since Sunday night -- I have snow drifts that have buried my cars and my driveway has 4 foot drifts .. it is still snowing hard though the temp has gone up to 33 from 28 this morning total of about 3 feet from last Friday still on ground .. most snow ive seen in 40 years living here !

  2. King County Metro was extremely conservative in instituting their Emergency Snow Network for both Monday and Tuesday. There was no reason to make that call on Sunday morning. I also agree on the snow plows. After living on the east coast for most of my life, the ability for such small amounts of snow to shut down an entire city is baffling. Perhaps Seattle will be a bit more prepared the next time this occurs, which may be more frequently in the future.

    1. Average annual snowfall in Seattle is less than 1/5 of what Chicago gets, and there are very few days in recorded history when we've had more than six inches in one day. So yeah, the city hasn't invested much in preparation for such conditions. We may do better to invest more in rail than in snow plows, given the the better performance of rail (compared to buses and cars) when it snows and the greater benefits of rail on all those days and years when snow isn't a problem.

    2. Rail does nothing if you can't get out of your neighborhood. Sorry, but that wishful thinking. And I love rail.

    3. And not just seattle. King county plows haven't been seen in neighborhoods out here in eastern king county since the snow started. That's getting a bit silly.

  3. 14 inches since 7 PM last night in North Bend and still snowing at noon. Cliff, can you get Mother Nature to stop for at least a month? That would really help me.

  4. Very interesting, thanks Cliff. I am impressed at how well things have been predicted here. My consumer weather forecasts here in Stanwood come via my phones weather.com and WeatherUnderground Apps. Since our mini-ice age started WeatherUnderground provided slightly superior forecasting. Generally they were right on with snow amounts. Weather.com consistently had the temperatures too high and the snowfall correspondingly less. In the December of 2009 pattern which was much like this we got a total of 36 inches of snowfall. The accumulated max was about 29 inches. Looking out a few days in the WeatherUnderground's forecast I see more days of snow ahead. Yikes my daffodils were ready to bloom.

    With regards to the shutting down of the city I will just say that what needs to happen is for your community to help civic leaders understand whether we will expect more of these type events or less as the climate changes. The civic leaders need to assess the costs of this type event to both the public and private sectors. With a proper cost/benefit analysis publicly available the tax paying public can determine whether to pay for it. Of course the large employers such as QFC, Boeing and Amazon can always pay for some plows for special routes. With regards to the power system nobody is going to pay for that to go underground. I personally am going to look for a Greek Historian to understand what sort of offerings they used to give to Boreas when he would go on the rampage in the old days.

  5. Bow, WA here - Noon on Tuesday. It is - guess what - snowing!!! What a beautiful sight. It will take 4 trips out to shovel the driveway. But - although the neighbor with the big toys is gone away one of his helpers came over really early and got the whole hill cleared and even removed the berms in the driveways. If not, the hill would have been impassable for several days until a good thaw.

    The Reporting Rock has no comment - I think batteries dead.

  6. Seems the low just sat and filled, with no honest cold front. We expected to awaken to 6" of snow in the hills behind Longview after the frontal passage, but ended with over 3½" of rain+melt in the gage. Definitely a case where 1-2° makes all the difference.

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. One of the big surprises was going to an ATM this morning (Tues) and finding there was no cash available to withdraw. Maybe the lessons from the big snowstorm will also be applicable to planning for a regional shutdown in event of an earthquake.

  9. Do we need more snowplows in our area? As far as I'm concerned, it's a rhetorical question, as you implied. The short term financial layout pales in comparison to the repeated economic losses incurred thanks to the lack of equipment (and inadequate infrastructure).

    Last winter we endured a significant ice storm in Whatcom County, with power outages & damages. Really hope we avoid a repeat and the rain/snowmelt situation occurring south of us. I mentioned in other comments that I already had a huge cedar tree fall on my house last week, so I've had enough of winter storm byproducts!

  10. Cliff - please make it stop snowing in Bellingham. It's beautiful, but enough is enough!

  11. I have lived in the midwest for about a decade in my life and I have found that there is often a few days of a nearly a complete shutdown due to snow nearly annually. 1 foot or more of snow causes similar disruptions to what Seattle sees once every 6-8 years with a heavy snowfall.

  12. Hood Canal slammed as suspected Cliff...8-16 inches, overall heavier as you go south.
    The most snow on the ground we have seen in at least 15 years. Slowly melting now.

  13. Thank you for all of your posts!

    If you ever get the time I'd be really interesting how does what happened over the last few weeks get fed back into the models you use for even better forecasting in the future.

  14. Why is Jefferson County continually excluded from these lists? NWS has heard of Port Townsend, Quilcene, Port Ludlow, Port Hadlock, Chimacum & Coyle, right? Most folks out here are stuck, over 30+" of snowfall since 2.3.19,15-16" yesterday alone! Represent! (And deepest thanks, as always, to you Cliff, for keeping us in the loop).

  15. Why is Jefferson County continually excluded from these lists? NWS has heard of Port Townsend, Quilcene, Port Ludlow, Port Hadlock, Chimacum & Coyle, right? Most folks out here are stuck, over 30+" of snowfall since 2.3.19,15-16" yesterday alone! Represent! (And deepest thanks, as always, to you Cliff, for keeping us in the loop).

  16. Lots of Pierce County locales other than GH and Tacoma that received amazing amounts of snow. For instance, Puyallup, Edgewood-10+", Fife, Orting, Bonney Lake, etc. Don't get me wrong, I love GH, but there and Tacoma to set the record of snowfall in PC? Maybe need additional snow plotters in PC. I'll volunteer for Edgewood, Sumner, Puyallup and Milton; if that would help. Thanks for the wonderful forecast work, in any event. We rely on Dr. Mass' team for accuracy in snow events 100%.

  17. Thanks as always. The partial shutdown (our second as hubby is a NOAA employee!) is very expensive for those of us who are self-employe. The now event is costing me $$$ of dollars. Unlike Federal employees, we self-employed don't get back pay! So yes, a few plows would be nice. However, I am also well aware that these snow events have been every 10 year episodes. Our money might be better spent elsewhere. I don't have any answers.

  18. Thanks so much. I hope you realize how much we rely on your blog for the "full" story and accurate forecast. Even if it's a question, at least you state that is the case. Our total accumulation in Gig Harbor Friday to Monday was over 17" .... amazing! Thank you Cliff!

  19. Akin to the Portland area, these kinds of events demonstrate the need for a hardening of our infrastructure. To those who claim that the costs outweigh the benefits, the net loss of businesses closing and emergency vehicles being impeded are immeasurable.

  20. Both GFS and NAM are showing 32 or colder on thursday with 90% chance of rain. Winds seem sort of mixed, east, north, and sw.

    EURO shows thursday in the upper 30's though.

    Should we be concerned about another round of snow on thursday?


  21. I don't think buying more equipment (plows, etc.) is a worthy investment of scarce tax dollars.
    Even if this happens every couple of years, we have much better options for our tax monies.

    Being snowbound shouldn't be too awful for most. Just hunker down, stay warm and dry, be creative with the food you have on hand.

    Some solutions are in place for the homeless, or those with very poor home heating options. We need to improve these.

    Look at a "partial shutdown" as an opportunity. Time to pause and reflect, time to take a break from the frenetic lifestyles of this region. Enjoy your family, housemates, and the snowy beauty outside.

    There are a lot of hidden expenses to buying and owning more equipment, Maintenance, storage, hiring and paying for drivers, servicing, replacing worn-out parts, and more.

    Then there's the issue of replacing pavement, curbs, pavement markings (stripes, crosswalks, bike lanes) that may be damaged by the plows.

    Relax and enjoy.

    Our home is semi-rural. 500 ft. driveway full of snow. The county keeps our road plowed. We are using an ATV to get to our mailbox and neighbors.

    If our power goes out, we have a backup solution in place. If you don't, now might be the good time to research.

    This too will pass.

  22. A pretty good description of the state of affairs. After having very little snow for most days, we got a fair amount quickly. Our house in the range of 8" or so. It may be a while before we get out of our driveway even with a four wheel drive. Still lots of cold air near the airport, but the winds have moderated considerably. One advantage for Bellingham is the snow has been dry and due to the wind, there is less accumulation on trees and rooftops. But of course that could change. Power outages here have pretty low in the last day or so compared to the earlier big wind days.

    In terms of infrastructure to support snow removal, you have to be realistic. Having a large, expensive and mostly unused fleet of snow plows seems like a hard sell, when you consider that it is competing with a long list of city infrastructure needs. I would think that Dr. Mass, as an apparent political conservative (and not wearing a meteorologist's hat) would be a little more appreciative of the limits of government. I can already hear conservatives screaming about another Seattle tax and spend boondoggle.

  23. Thanks again for the service you render to the region, Cliff.
    Your forecasts are as educational as they are informative.
    I also enjoy the "color commentary" on related (and sort-of-related) subjects.

    Doug in Covington

  24. Hi Cliff,

    Thanks for keeping us all updated on the effects of the storm.

    Living in Bellingham, I am surprised by the 24hr snowfall forecast chart appear to show 4-6 inches more in this part of the world (by 4 pm Wednesday). The radar and IR satellite seems to be clearing out so another heavy dump of snow seems unlikely. Do the models show so kind of convergence happening in Whatcom County?


  25. I’m glad some areas are clearing out but we need to keep attention on east King County. We are still getting dumped on with snow and we’re over 2 feet already. This is going to become an actual emergency situation soon.

  26. It’s snowing like crazy just northeast of Maple Valley. We are already at 27” here and I’m worried there will soon be a true emergency situation.

  27. No, we don't need more snow plows. The cost is too high, given the rarity of the need. The expenditure needed for enough snowplows & sanding/salting equipment to keep ALL roads clear is just too high. It's truly doubtful that the roads actually could be kept safe, given all the hills in this area, and the tendency for ice (esp. black ice) to form. Implying that the roads are safe, when they are not, is even more dangerous.

    People need to be warned, and then they need to just stay home. This current weather system was a once in several decade snowfall. It resulted in UW shutting down for 4.5 days (2.5 last week, 2 this week). However, that doesn't correspond to days of work lost.

    With the internet, many people can work from home. Classes can meet on the internet, both K-12 and higher ed, during these days -- school districts in MN are already implementing such practices when dangerous cold and/or snow force them to have snow days.

    You talk about cost of time lost. I don't see much of a cost, plus there's a benefit to this kind of weather event, too. People who otherwise might not get the benefit of working from home. That might spur employers to realize their employees can do their work remotely more often. For some people, there's a mental health benefit from not having to go into the office once in a while.

    1. Service industry folks don't get to work remotely. While I appreciate what you're sayingb and it is great to be able to work from home, I (and many others) cannot and we are left at losses that make a significant impact. I can tell you that my income is halved this month already by this snow event and while I agree that it would cost the city too much to be practical to have snow plows waiting, I'm hopeful for a different solution. One that would allow folks like me, folks who run restaurants, clean for a living, do childcare, work in retail or grocery or other jobs that they need to physically sure up to or they don't get paid to make rent and put food on the table.

  28. Indeed, more plowing is needed--but in so many Seattle neighborhoods, parking is on both sides of the streets with not much space between. All those late 19th-early 20th c houses without off-street parking. More of an issue, all those new apartment buildings without any parking at all. Makes plowing and even de-icing tough.

  29. GFS-FV3 giving us another foot Thursday night / Friday.

  30. Seattle depends on its bus system, which has been absolute chaos. Not even an army of snowplows could have done anything to get the bus system working well enough for most businesses/schools to be open. Even Midwestern cities experience major problems with buses during snowstorms.

    However, there were two transit modes that worked flawlessly during the snow: light rail and streetcars! If we want to keep Seattle open during winter storms, we need further investments in rail. Plus they benefit everyone when it's not snowing as well.

  31. Thanks, Cliff. We are now dealing with slush over compact snow and ice on our non-primary residential streets that have not been plowed, and for my money, slush is about the worst to drive in, as it kicks your steering here and there as you hit the compact snow and ice mounds. Here's hoping it melts soon.

  32. Oh my! North Bend is a snow globe, snowing all night and all day with at least 2-3 feet of accumulation out here. I'm grateful that we still have power. This must be historic levels out here?

  33. Are we stuck in a stationary (big) dip in the jetstream?

  34. Don't we need more snow plows?

    Just so they can sit around and not be used most of the time? And we don't even have money to fix pot holes, much less repair our failing bridges? What do I think? Stick to the weather, let others deal with transportation funding priorities!

    You asked...

    1. Have you looked at king county plows? They are converted for plow/ salting/ sanding duty. They are not dedicated hardware just for plow.

  35. I'm in Poulsbo on Forest Rock Road, which is still closed. I measured 14 inches last night before the rain started.

  36. What timeframe does the snowfall chart cover?

  37. The answer on snow ploughs and accompanying support seems to be taxes. The same people who are upset at this moment about snow ploughs would also be upset at the government spending and accompanying tax rates. As a nation and as a state, we demand a high level of government service at a Libertarian price tag.

  38. I agree that more equipment to clear up the snow of the streets is mandatory to be able to continue normal life and work.
    It is unthinkable that up to now we don't have much needed plan in place to efficiently clear up the streets. This snow event has cost a lot so far and I have not seen anybody clear up even the major roads.
    Where are the people in charge to set up immediate response to improve the road conditions?
    It is now two weeks with present weather. I know myself I had to cancel a lot of days of work and has cost me a considerable amount.
    Hoping that this comment will get to someone who can act on this particular issue and solve some problems that have arisen.d

  39. I found arterials in the area to be really well maintained. It seems like the issue is the risk-tolerance of school districts and the citizenry as a whole, not the lack of equipment. Example, both my newspaper and Amazon deliveries made it to me. I wouldn't be in support of more capital outlay for an event that happens once every 20 years.

  40. Still had 2’ of snow this morning despite the rain. 4 day grand total of all snowfall we recived on Key Peninsula... 37inches. Smashed our previous property record of 19” about 8 years ago! Appreciate your blog even more during da BIG storms! 🙌🏻🙌🏻

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  43. Cliff, as always thank you for the in depth coverage and insights. Now can you please make it all stop (meteorologists have this power, I am certain!), we are finally tired of this stuff.

  44. Absolutely we need more equipment. We live in one of the most affluent areas in the world and we are stymied by a fraction of the snowfall many people experience as a normal course of life. That's ridiculous.

  45. They won't get more snow plows to sit idle for years until the next massive event. I know I could have gone into work if plows and treatment trucks came into my neighborhood. Nice to have main highways clear, but sucks if you can't get to them!

  46. honestly no, despite the cost extra equipment isn't worth it if it will sit there for a decade. I think you need to look at this over a larger timeline. Just like your views on climate change.

  47. I don’t think we need to talk about hundreds of new plows. If anyone watched the real time pope tracker map that sdot put out, it was pretty sparse watching the few crews that they did have work around the city. Now I know that sdot isn’t wsdot but I wonder how many plows could have been purchased for the $4.4 million that was spent on marketing for the new 99 tunnel? Even a couple more could have helped things much more long term than marketing for the tunnel that was one of the biggest transportation news stories in last 5 years....

  48. Former mayor Mike McGinn had a broad (IMO, insane) vision that he outlined on KUOW this week -- that we invest MORE money in a city-wide bike route so that, when snow happens, all of the happy citizens of Seattle can use the bike lanes as a multi-use walking/wheelchair/bike lane that will bypass the snow. This, of course, entails the purchase of a special "bike lane snowplow" that will keep these lanes clear. Cliff, if you do a post about snow preparation in Seattle, I hope you'll address this bonkers fairy tale.

  49. I live in the Elwha valley on the Olympic Peninsula. Your blog has been the closest at gauging the true effects of the storms that we have had. We ended up with another 24” here in 24 hours. Total snowfall in our backyard is 37”. Hopefully we get a break for a few days, I’m tired of shoveling my driveway!

  50. Well, even though the side streets have ~4-6" of slushy piles everywhere, a Subaru with a set of Blizzaks handled getting around just fine. Plus, all of my neighbors pitched in to shovel and clear sidewalks. I really don't think it makes sense for Seattle to buy a lot of extra plows so that they can wait another 20 years for the next round. The main streets were cleared exceptionally well. We all had plenty of warning to make accommodations for work. In other parts of the state, residents band together to hire plow operators- they don't expect the cities to plow every single street. I'd rather Seattle spend their money building better/complete sidewalks and fixing potholes.

  51. or we could all get back in sync with nature/the weather and STAY HOME if snow and ice become a hazard....

    this 'business as usual' 'gotta-keep-things-going, keep the economy 'growing' at all costs' is rubbish...

    we need to learn to live within limits....

    we cant have infinite growth in a finite system, we've changed the climate by tampering with the chemical composition of our ecosystem through our addiction to fossil fuels and capitalist profit and we're way overdue for a reminder about our own limitations and relative physical smallness and vulnerability in relation to massive natural systems...

    just wait till climate disruption really kicks in....

  52. It would be nice if garbage pickup could take place pretty much as scheduled. I guess that would mean enough plows and plow drivers to plow about 1/4 of the city's streets over the course of a day, so that that day's scheduled garbage pickup could happen.

  53. Interesting that Sedro-Woolley says only 6.3in because I live in-town in Sedro and measured 13inches this morning. It snowed nonstop all Mon night/Tue morning.

  54. As a grandfather from southwestern Ohio visiting his four year old granddaughter and parents this past week we expected to have cool temperatures but not this much snow. It has been fun sledding and building snowmen with her. It has been a unique experience removing snow from walks and the driveway with a garden spade and rake! Nom and dad left their snow shovel in Ohio when they moved to Seattle.
    I realize I'm getting ahead of the snow plow issue but I would like to comment now as we will be leaving the area soon for our next adventure with our grandsons in Massachusetts. They live in one of the snowiest parts of MA so snow is expected when we land this coming weekend. Even with lots of plows, both public and private, they have days when school is cancelled and folks stay home from work. I think the days off with this event weren't that significant and given the frequency of such storms not worth the expense of spending more tax dollars on snow removal equipment. You can have all the equipment in the world and if it starts snowing at 4 am in the morning, you will most likely have a day when school busses should not be on the highway as well as commuters heading to the office and work. Even if you pre-treat that would be the case depending on snow intensity. If I was running government here, I would not buy more trucks. at best, I would setup a system where private dump trucks could be put under contract quickly by using a pre-qualification process to remove snow when needed. Maybe even consider some cost sharing mechanism of the plows themselves. It makes no sense to buy more governmental trucks when there are plenty of trucks that could be used if the plow hardware was available.
    My two cents.

  55. The 53" at Snoqualmie Pass covers the 11th and 12th through 6:00 a.m. Add the 12" from the 9th and 10th and the four day total is 5.5 feet, and it's still snowing. Fantastic winter wonderland.

    Now the next question... can we surpass the 9+ feet we got in the week of Dec 18-24th 2015?!!

  56. There are many assumptions in these comments about snow plows and the effect of this snow storm. "Thousands of snow plows"-probably not that many needed; extra costs-I would be interested in the extra cost of extra snow plows vs. the economic effects of a snow storm like this one before making an actual judgement. Others have said that people and students can work from home with the internet....that only works if you have power and if you have internet and a computer in the first place. There are many people (mostly lower income) that don't work jobs that can be done from home and many students who don't have internet access. Honestly, I imagine that this type of storm affects hourly-wage workers and families with small children the most.

    We're looking at yet another school snow day tomorrow, which means another day of calling in to work.

    Love this blog, which I only discovered thanks to this storm. Thanks for the frequent posting and all of the detailed information!

  57. Local Gov. wastes huge sums, don't know why having snow removal gear in reserve seems insurmountable. There should be a way to share costs across a wide area and shift resources where they are needed.

  58. Snow plows won't change the fact that Seattle, et al. consists primarily of hills. And hills are really the issue, IMO.

  59. Do some of you know what the King County Budget is? 11.6 BILLION over 2 years. Seattle is about the same per year: 5.9 billion. So, do you think there is money for some snow plows? Does Boston have a few?

  60. I watched a lot of people who had no clue how to drive on the roads think a 4 wheel drive means you can go the speed limit or faster. One of the biggest problems I saw was these type of idiots. Yes I live on top of one of the hills in Renton. They did a terrific job clearing roads. It is the loss of time helping idiots that slowed down the work they were doing. If you do not know how to drive it is safer not to be on the roads. Slow and dont slam your brakes is the thing people have to keep in mind. The worst driving I see right now is our parking areas for various apartments and condo's. Getting them cleaned up is up to them. Patience is needed and it will all get done.

  61. The 53' Snoqualmie pass storm totals are amazing! Those are Sierra Nevada like storm totals. Still snowing up here in Vancouver, Wed at 12am.

  62. @Eric Blair (Orwell would be proud) and @Sean T -- yep.

    My main thought is WA has to adopt more of an "east coast" approach. No, their system isn't perfect, but as I've stated in a different comment ... they get through much worse before major power outages and disruption start to happen.

  63. Thank you for letting us informed and sharing enough of what you do that I get to geek out about the weather! I've read your blog for years and for what it's worth coming from a layman: you do great work!!!

  64. 43" in Klickitat County



    “Within a few years winter snowfall will become a very rare and exciting event. … Children just aren’t going to know what snow is.”

    David Viner, Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia, 20 March 2000

  65. So there is another solution besides lots of plows and some folks have hinted at it. My solution is taken from Norway where I lived for a few years back in the early 90's. To get a Norwegian drivers license you had to come from a state where they had snow and ice (their DOL had a list) or you had to take an ice driving course. I had a Washington DL so I didn't have the opportunity to take the course. So if you need to get to work then learn to drive on the snow and ice. There are no doubt plenty of U-tube video's on the subject. Then find yourself a big paved parking lot with no obstacles and next time it snows sufficiently go at night and practice inducing and steering out off skids. Try a bootlegger turn. I Then buy some chains and use them. Chains will greatly improve your traction even if only put on the front wheels of a front wheel drive sedan. The cable kind can be put on and off relatively quickly. If you can work from home do so it will reduce the congestion on the road. Above all don't be foolish. Your vehicle only has so much clearance and you can't try and plow a road with your bumper unless the traction is excellent which it rarely is!

    1. Ask your local law enforcement what they think about catching you in a parking lot "learning how to drive in the snow" - I did - answer I got was "a reckless driving ticket." That being said, I think it's the most effective way to learn that skill. Just be aware of your surroundings.

  66. "Into The Refrigerator" -- Ok Google what temperature is it outside - 34 degrees at 4:30 am. But my cleared blacktop drive was extremely slippery with ice droplets, had to be 32 degrees due to 300 ft elevation. Thank goodness for Morton's rock salt.

  67. Snows like this have been very rare. I can't blame municipalities too much for not putting the money into snow plows that may not see any use in any given year. I grew up near Boston and, yeah, we had loads of plows and sanders and every winter, like clockwork, we got a lot of snow. I've lived here for 30 years now and I've seen maybe 10 or so winters where it really would have been nice if King County, for instance, had more plows. The cost/benefit/risk analysis just doesn't make a lot of fiscal sense to invest in that much equipment. Wind storms and flooding are more prevalent than snow events like we've had this past week. That being said, I live in Redmond and haven't had mail delivery since Friday! A snow plow finally came down our street at 1:00 AM last night. Yeah, Redmond is bigger than my hometown in MA by a lot and more hilly, but that took a long time to get to a side street that is literally just off a main artery. Happy to see the plow, though! Even if it would have been nicer to see it a few days ago.

  68. Seattle could easily address snow removal issues, but they'd have to actually ask other cities how it's done. That is a deeply offensive idea in Seattle, whose people and leaders think they are smarter than mere human beings and therefore wouldn't be caught dead seeking advice from their inferiors.

    I understand there was rampant panic buying in the grocery stores last Friday, after a couple inches fell the night before. I laughed, but it also reminded me that hardly anyone in Seattle has bothered to prepare for the coming subduction earthquake. When that one hits, millions of people will learn just how isolated the region is, and how fast life will get desperate without food, fuel, or electricity.

  69. Snow plows won't change the fact that Seattle, et al. consists primarily of hills. And hills are really the issue, IMO.

    Pittsburgh is just as hilly as Seattle, but it doesn't simply shut itself down and wait for the snow to melt. Someone from Seattle government could always call someone in Pittsburgh government and ask them how they do things there, but nooooooo.

  70. 2.5' In Maple Heights - Lake Desire, 500ft elevation above the cedar river valley. I think the valley held onto the cold air longer? We got snow all yesterday when the radar was saying rain.

  71. Still locked in the freezer in western Whatcom County right now. Another 4 inches last night giving a (compressed) 8-9 inches everywhere. All the untreated roads have packed snow on them and the kids (and some of us adults) are enjoying the sledding,

    A brisk wind and 26 degrees temps are causing some of the snow to blow around.

    With the sun, it looks incredibly beautiful!

  72. It was forecast to be sunny today! Why is it all overcast? Please, sun, come out and melt the snow!

  73. "I can't blame municipalities too much for not putting the money into snow plows that may not see any use in any given year."

    This needs some clarification, at least if you've lived in areas that regularly receive substantial amounts of snow each winter. In Chicago you do have full - time fleets of snowplows, but when it gets really nasty they also equip their trash haulers with snowplows. So we're not necessarily talking about purchasing thousands of new vehicles, only retrofitting existing ones as needed.

  74. For further reference on this issue:


  75. When I was a teenager, my dad owned a big pickup truck with a hydraulic attachment for a snow plow. Every winter, he hooked the plow up, and he plowed our driveway, the gravel road we lived on, our neighbors' driveways, sometimes the road into town on his way in, and his business parking lot. Sometimes he plowed more than that. He taught my brothers to do the same with that truck.

    I did see a lawn care company truck with a plow on it a couple of days ago. What if cities and private citizens made a contract: citizens with powerful AWD pickups could take classes and qualify to have hydraulic rigs attached to their trucks at need, and the cities would provide the plow blades? The plow blades would be checked out, hooked up, and citizens would help keep roads clear, especially side streets. After the snow, the plow heads would be returned. The amount of money, storage space and maintenance would be much less than buying dedicated trucks that would sit unused for maybe years at a time.

    I'm sure there would be insurance concerns. But careful licensing should make this no worse than with the people who drive the big plows. And I suppose there could be union issues, but the union drivers aren't getting the side streets anyway.

  76. Snow plows? So spend millions of dollars on machines that we'll use, maybe, once a decade at sea level? I think people simply need to learn how to not be total morons and learn how to deal with weather like critical thinking adults. The degree of absolute stupidity of the average person when it comes to dealing with snow on the ground blows my mind. Yesterday I got this lady unstuck after she high centered her giant Mercedes SUV, only to watch her do the EXACT SAME THING immediately after and get high centered again, but this time 4 feet to the left. Its just INSANE how dumb people can be. I told her that she's an idiot and this time she's on her own and I walked away...

  77. i'm interested in the comments about how little seattle people seem to be prepared for civil emergencies based on climate or geophysical events... the comments about the 'panic' that cleared the supermarket shelves of food and the comments about people "buying enough for a month" and not eating what is in their pantries etc...

    this is a city which promotes a public facade/image of being well to do, with lots of people living in comfort with disposable income...

    the reality is that many people, myself included, live on very small, fixed incomes which are insufficient to lay in a store of food and water supplies and emergency equipment.... we dont have the income to buy extra for the 'rainy day' nor do we have the space to store said supplies....

    those that are unfortunate enough to have jobs that are not in tech, are finding they cant cope with rising prices and stagnant wages/salaries that havent increased in real value for more than 40 years...

    and youngsters coming out of college loaded up with tuition and living debt, cant find jobs that pay them enough to survive, let alone plan for emergencies...

    the reality is that most americans (as in 80%) live paycheque to paycheque and are one unforeseen disruption away from being homeless and hungry....

    people like me didnt buy enough for a month and we dont have pantries and freezers full of food we forgot we had, never eat..... we bought enough to last five days, maybe a week IF we had the cash to do so.... many of us with children to feed and no hope of getting out of the house to restock food supplies (because we dont have transport and we knew the buses etc would be out of service) made one big shopping trip instead of the three or four smaller trips we would ordinarily have made if this extended period hadnt kept us housebound by snow and ice and cold...

  78. @Angela, this is what they do in the Midwest and the East -- contract with pickup owners who have plow blades. One of my friends does it in a Milwaukee suburb. But Seattle can't do that because they are smarter and better than everyone else, and wouldn't dream of listening to anyone who actually knows what they are talking about.

  79. Should our money go into snow storm preparation (needed ever ten years), and save us from 2-5 days of shut down per event. Or should it go into major earthquake preparation (say every 300 years) which could shut us down for 10(?) years.

    Over that same 300 years, snow would shut us down c180 days compared with c3500 days. I am not highly confident of my numbers, but still fairly so. I doubt that the economic loss from a partial shutdown for 2-5 days once every ten years is all that substantial. 3500 days, catastrophic!

  80. Angela has the right idea. Why can't buses have front-end attachments for snow blowing equipment? No need for a fleet of massive specialized vehicles that get used once in while but require annual maintenance.

  81. OK Winter. That's good enough! Now move over and give Spring a chance!

  82. Cliff, I want to thank you so much for your careful analysis of the weather over the past week! Your concerns for safety, not to mention your dedication 2 accuracy are truly a gift to all of us...

  83. Have so enjoyed reading all these posts by Professor Mass, and the blog comments over the past few days. Thank you.

    I love living in the Pacific Northwest. We have such diversity! Comments by superior citizens who trash anyone who went to a grocery store last Friday. Irate citizens who unfavorably compare our city's snowplow operations to those in the midwest. A citizen from Bellingham who enthusiastically wears his neon art coat out for a walk in streets that our snow plows may never reach. A Bow resident who shares cryptic contributions from a special rock.

    Beautiful fir trees whose rebounding branches are slowly recovering from the stress of a hundred pounds of heavy snow. The fattest and roundest robin I have ever seen, perhaps from gorging on multitude of bird feeders. Spring is coming! We will move on to watching reports of flooding and landslides. Catch you later.


Rare Upside Down Lightning Viewed over Puget Sound

On Friday evening, camera 3 of Greg Johnson's wonderful Skunk Bay weather site captured an extraordinary lightning picture (see below),...