Friday, January 10, 2020

The Coldest Air in Years Will Hit Western Washington

Sunday Snow Update at noon Saturday
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This is a lot of discussion about snow, but there is something we should keep firmly in mind:  the arctic air that is going to reach western Washington will be the coldest in years.  Backed by strong winds in some areas, this cold will not only test our housing infrastructure (freezing pipes), but will be life threatening to those living outside or for the unprepared in higher terrain.


Take a look at the latest National Weather Service ensemble temperature forecast for Seattle-Tacoma Airport.  The solid line is the average of all the many forecasts (the gray lines) and the blue is the single high-resolution forecast. 

Wow.  The highs on Tuesday (14th), will only get in the mid-20s, with lows that morning in the teens.

The excellent weather.com (IBM) forecasts suggest a high of 29F that day (see below).

And the European Center forecast is going for highs of mid-20sF for both Tuesday and Wednesday (with lows around 20F).


You can have a lot of confidence in the fact it will be very cold on Tuesday and Wednesday over the western lowlands.  

You thought last February was cold?  This is going to be colder.   In fact, we may experience the coldest temperatures in at LEAST six years.   

According to my colleagues in the National Weather Service, the last time Seattle had a high temperature below 30F was in February 6, 2014.   And one has to go back to November 23, 2010 to get a high temperature of 25F.

And if you think Seattle is bad, is will be FAR worse in Bellingham and NW Washington, which will be exposed to the strong, cold outflow winds from the Fraser River Valley.    According to weather.com, Bellingham will have a high of 20F and low of 15F, while the European Center model is going for a high in the low teens and lows in the single digits.


And then there are the winds!  According to the high-resolution models, northeasterly winds, with gusts to 40-60 mph, will hit NW Washington, resulting in wind chills below zero.   

So no matter what snow falls, the cold is going to be a big part of the story.  

Disconnect exterior hoses on homes and apartments, get pets inside, and most important of all, the greatly increased homeless population of our region needs to be brought indoors.  Next week could be a killer.




64 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. I love weather and enjoy different weather anomalies, so I get it that this kind of stuff can be fascinating. But at the cost of someone's life? I'd pass on the weather fun in favor of someone continuing to live. It's fine to be excited about something like this, but to say "bring it on" directly in response to someone saying it could kill people? I don't get that. There are times where it's okay to keep your thoughts to yourself, in my humble opinion.

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    2. Okay, you're right. I'll make sure it stays in the low 70s all next week. Since we each have total control over the weather and all.

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    3. I imagine that person's comment could have just been a reaction to the headline, not a reaction to the entire post and the way it ended.

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    4. In my humble opinion...a person shouldn't be forced to censor their happiness for someone else's situation.

      It isn't as though they're encouraging these people to sleep outside. We have enough negativity in our communities. Let the folks be excited for a winter storm and potential snow.

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    5. As if the homeless have any choice in the matter.What is wrong with you? I imagine you would be one of the people who enjoys seeing other people being hurt or killed. What morality were you taught as a child?

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    6. I agree. This kind of weather isn't all fun and games for everyone. I knew people who lost their jobs because they couldn't manage the icy roads in 2008.

      These so-called weather enthusiasts seem to only think of themselves, and frankly I'm sick of of the self centered attitudes.

      These conditions are life threatening for some, but I guess they don't matter as long as "bring it on" gets to use his/her snow toys.

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    7. It's as if empathy for others is a bad thing. SMH. I bet you claim to be Christian too.

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    8. You all know that the people who enjoy the weather anomalies don't actually CAUSE them, right? I mean. . . the weather remains outside of anyone's control.

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    9. Cool Bob, you go ahead and take care of that for us then, why don't you. Thoughtful, intelligent, constructive comments like yours really warm my heart(into the low 70s). You've really added something to the discussion, you must be proud. And Anne B, thanks so much for that tidbit, I had no idea! In other news, the sun rises in the east, water is wet and the sky is blue. Do you have any other revelations for us?

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  2. On the plus side, maybe it will kill off the Asian Giant Hornets that have been spotted in Blaine and BC recently. They're the stuff of nightmares IMHO.

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    1. Probably not. They live in Japan after all and are quite well adapted to cold weather. Would be nice thoigh.

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  3. Can you please clarify how the winds will be for the Seattle area?

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  4. Coldest air in years. Yikes. In the town of Snohomish last year we had a 12 degree overnight low on 2/10/19.

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  5. I had a low of 15° in Puyallup last February, and a total of 4 days that had lows in the teens, this is from a Davis VP2 that is properly sited. Why so much hype for this event when it doesn't sound any colder than last year ?

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    1. Because the highs are going to be in that range, not the lows.

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    2. I was thinking the same, until he got to the wind part. I think he is referring to the addition of the wind chill factor.

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    3. Because you are only looking at it from the perspective of Puyallup. The low you experienced then was not the low in Seattle at all. This weather event is plunging temperatures across the region and will bring lower temps seen in years across many areas

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    4. Because it's been boring the last two months.

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    5. "The excellent weather.com (IBM) forecasts suggest a high of 29F that day (see below)."

      "And the European Center forecast is going for highs of mid-20sF for both Tuesday and Wednesday (with lows around 20F)."

      There is nothing saying mid teens will be the high temp, still don't get all the hype over 2-3 days of cold. The real fun is trying to figure out what catch phrase the news will give this, "Arctic Plunge", "Winter Blast", etc.

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    6. Again, those temps are in Seattle which means Puyallup will be even colder. Last year when Puyallup hit 15F, Seattle was significantly warmer than mid 20s.

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  6. This cold snap does seem to have the potential to be interesting. I moved to Whatcom County in 2004 and since that time, there have been 3 days during which the temperature never officially reached 20F at BLI: one during November 2006, the next during December 2008 and the third during January 2012. I'm not sure when the last time a single-digit temperature was officially measured at BLI, but it was definitely during the 20th century (possibly as far back as December 1990). NWS currently forecasts 9F Tuesday morning with a hi of 17F that afternoon. Really hoping to see that mythic single-digit low-temp as that would make this a truly historic event given the rarity of such temperatures at low elevation in Western Washington.

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    1. As exciting as it is to see records set and what not I am more worried about the homeless than excited for the snow. Not everybody is well equipped for this kinda stuff.

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    2. https://www.cob.org/services/housing/homeless/Pages/be-part-of-the-solution.aspx

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    3. Then, too, BLI isn't representative of most of the county.

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    4. Also from whatcom county. During the December 2008 cold spell I got up early one of the colder mornings and took pictures of bank signs that had temperature readings. Whidbey island bank on state state (I think it's now heritage Bank or something) showed the temp at 7 degrees.
      Of course that wasn't BLI but still a cold one!

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    5. Unfortunately, there are few reliable wx obs from Whatcom County - especially north of the river. I lived in Sudden Valley during December 2008 and had, at maximum, a level 22" of accumulated snow in my front yard. I also measured a temperature of around 5-6F, at minimum. However, I didn't know then what I know now about the importance of instrument accuracy and siting and, thus, am obliged to discount that measurement as being probably inaccurate.

      What location is representative of most of the county? Glacier? Diablo? Since most of the county is uninhabited, it's difficult to say...

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  7. North Whatcom County inevitably has more drastic weather than even ten miles south. Given what we dealt with last February, really not looking forward to this weather event.

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    1. I get a direct hit from the frasier valley, 60mph northeaster is the worst. Not looking forward to it.

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    2. You guys can have out right blizzard conditions up toward Aldergrove border crossing.

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  8. Everyone I know that lives in Bellingham disconnects hoses at the end of October or early November.

    Today's winds were very short duration and really did not develop into the possible predicted 60 mph. Highly exposed areas like Smith Island and Sandy Point got a few 50 mph+ gusts, but those locations are not very representative of the area.

    It will be interesting to see how cold it gets next week. Keep in mind that record lows for Bellingham are in the zero to +10 for many days January, but those are records that are quite old:

    https://www.wrh.noaa.gov/climate/monthdisp.php?stn=KBLI&year=2020&mon=1&wfo=sew&p=temperature

    I recall living in the Lake Forest Park area when I was a child in the mid-50's and there was a cold snap where temperatures were around zero.

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    1. In Lake Stevens (eastern side on the hill) back around 2009'ish (I forget exact year) we hit 2f one winter. Coldest I've personally ever seen it in western washington.

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    2. I also lived in LFP area in the 60s; think it was Jan '73 that I recorded a high of 19° and a low of 2°. We lived down in a low spot near Brookside elementary. Best snow I remember was around New Years 1969 when we had a few days of sloppy wet snow, then on a Saturday afternoon as I rode my bike home from my paper route, the arctic front rolled through. Rapid temp drop, strong north winds and heavy snow for the next 18~24 hours. Sunday morning route was almost a blizzard, with my tracks being pretty much obliterated within a few minutes. We had drifts around our house, and the cat was quite displeased.

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  9. Hopefully this kills off all these BLOODY STINK BUG eggs & larvae we've been having every summer!

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    1. Probably not. I live out near Leavenworth and we have lots of them out here and it's way colder out here. BTW they are probably not stink bugs but actually Western Conifer Seed Bugs. Squish one and if it smells a LOT of piney/fir resin, then it's one of these beasts.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_conifer_seed_bug

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    2. Sorry, stink bugs thrive in Western Montana which typically experiences subzero weather every winter. They will survive the next apocalypse.

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  10. Seattle tends to run warmer than Puyallup I would guess. Being near the water and all, subfreezing for an entire day is news for them. It will be chilly regardless.

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  11. I lived in Seattle area from 2006-2015. But now I am back in Chicago. When I saw the headline my first reaction was how far below zero is it going to get? Then I remembered that this is Seattle and somehow it is considered "cold" when it gets down to freezing. Oh, for those easy winters again.

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    1. I'm from Indiana and lived several years in Ann Arbor, MI. Windy weather in the teens and 20s was so typical in the winter. When folks around here talk about the big chill, I feel like "What's the big deal?" but then snow is royal pain, as Seattle is so poorly equipped to deal with it.

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    2. "The weather is tougher here" comparatives are so tiresome. If you lived in Seattle for 15 years, you know Seattle weather and know what constitutes true cold for this region. The norm in Chicago (where it's currently ten degrees warmer than north Whatcom County) are irrelevant.

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    3. It does get old after a while. Every region has their climate and what is extreme for them. Our plants survive in a certain temperature range, go tell them that this isn't, "real" cold, they don't care, they'll still die.

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  12. I'm downtown and it feels like it dropped 10+ degrees in the past hour. The wind cuts through you!

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  13. I lived in Seattle area from 2006-2015. But now I am back in Chicago. When I saw the headline my first reaction was how far below zero is it going to get? Then I remembered that this is Seattle and somehow it is considered "cold" when it gets down to freezing. Oh, for those easy winters again.

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  14. The snows of 1996 in North Whatcom County created drifts up to 15 feet high. Shut the entire county down.

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    1. That was definitely a Weather Event, at least for those of us on farms!

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    2. 4 years ago when coming back thru Aldergrove from Canada they were useing the monster rotory snow plows to clear drifts blocking the south bound lane. The drifts were higher than the top of the cab of the plow!

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    3. Salt water froze in both Bellingham Bay and up in Birch Bay. Much damage to boat hulls. The tides and ice in Birch Bay left large rocks in the southern part of the bay looking like lotus blossoms. Every tide formed new "petals". They were amazing.

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  15. Cliff, Thanks for letting us know what to expect in such detail! I will be getting out all of my warmest gear and prepare for the worst case scenario. Here is how a youtuber in Canada dresses for the cold. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0qdwbgoSMQw&t=245s

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  16. These cold snaps are great for a bunch of fruit tree varieties that require more freezing hours than we regularly have in a maritime climate and afterwards time to prune...just wish I didn't work in a boatyard, layer up y'all.

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  17. My weather station recorded 11.0 F last February 10th in South Hill which is the lowest for me since late 2014. Looking forward to breaking that personal record.

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  18. Does anyone remember the winter of 1990-1991? There was a vast arctic air mass that came down before Christmas and covered Washington, Idaho, Montana, Idaho...more than that, I'm sure. I was in Boise at the time and I seem to remember it was -30F for weeks. I know it was bad in Seattle, but I wasn't here at the time, and had worries of my own (like getting my car to start, paying for heat, and so on). So if anyone can remember or pull up records, how cold *was* it?

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  19. The danger of extreme weather is in large part what you are accustom to. 10 degree F and lower for parts of the country are a normal part of winter. They are not for the shore-lands of Western Washington. Special preparations are necessary for those of us who are used to 20 degrees being the low.

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  20. Thanks for the heads up. Our woodshed's already been depleted early this year due to overnight lows in the teens at times since October. And Glacier's 1000 ft isn't "alpine," by a long shot. Last winter I recorded lows below ten - lowest night was 5 F.

    I'm particularly interested in the duration of lows like that because I'm an elected water commissioner (districts are muni's), and I worry about ice forming (building up) in our half million gallon water tank. The soil is mighty wet as it is; groundwater fills meter and valve vaults... Forecasts matter! I don't mind all that much if severity is less than what's predicted - not looking for thrills.

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  21. I'm just waiting till Sunday evening... HuuUUh i cant wait

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    1. Me too. And if long range models are anything close to accurate, next saturday/sunday there's another cold front coming in from NW (roughly alaska) that could bring another round of snow.

      But I generally don't believe any snow or wind forecasts. We get no wind on the predicted storm days, but we get high winds on days where wind is never mentioned in the forecast. Same goes for snow.

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  22. Unknown and Ward: I'm originally from Pittsburgh PA, so I definitely relate. Spent one winter in Elk River MN with stretches at 40-below and howling wind. And having flown to-fro Chicago from here for near a decade, I've seen I-80/90 in northern Indiana so buried in snow it was a bumper to bumper parking lot (real crisis). That said, this area has always taken warm and rainy as a given, when it's not. We're way north of places like Elk River MN and Chicago. It's the warmth of the Pacific that makes the difference - except for when The North Wind blows (and when it's crystal clear). These folks could be much better prepared...but that's another discussion. Cheers!

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  23. All hype- nothing is going to be that drastic

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  24. Cold snow cold snow cold... Snow

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  25. You feeble humans and your inane weather comparisons. Seattle is not Chicago.

    The Low Today on my world is -117°, and I have no shelter.

    Also, the captcha on this page is offensive.

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  26. Look here's the deal you gotta understand here that it get cold when them winds blow!!! The snows become a issue!! I take issue with the deal as it is!!!

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  27. It would be interesting, at the conclusion of this weather event, to compare measurements with the hi-res predictions.

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