Snow, ice and unusually cold temps could be coming our way

A National Weather Service forecast map shows predicted snow accumulations in Washington state by 4 p.m. Thursday.

LONG BEACH — A winter storm watch is in effect this week for most of Western Washington, with widespread snow expected down to sea level in Pacific County. 

Icy driving conditions will make travel difficult at times, particularly with many families planning trips north of Seattle to attend Ilwaco High School boys and girls playoff games. Six inches of snow is predicted for the Seattle area, so travel to Snohomish may be a challenge. Checking the Washington Department of Transportation website would be a good idea at www.wsdot.com.

“Significant snowfall to sea level is looking more likely Wednesday through Friday,” according to the National Weather Service (NWS) in Portland. “Unseasonably cold weather for late February will cause snow levels to fall to the lower elevations of the Cascade foothills and Coast Range of southern Washington and northern Oregon by Wednesday morning.”

University of Washington Professor Cliff Mass said, “an upper level trough will move towards us from the north. This is close to a classic upper air snow configuration. Not quite perfect (little too much extension over the Pacific), but close enough.”

Another leading forecaster, Steve Pierce of Vancouver, who is vice president of the Oregon Chapter of the American Meteorological Society, said the potential exists for record-breaking cold and snow in parts of the region.

“If the pattern evolves as presently forecasted, this has the potential to be the coldest air mass to invade Portland and Seattle, for this late in the season, since March 2, 1989, when the Portland International Airport reached high temperature of just 35 degrees, setting a new record for the date,” Pierce said. “ This is the best chance for an area-wide valley [and beach] snow event since the white Christmas of 2008.”

Here at the beach, the NWS said, “At sea level, cold air will begin to change rain to snow sometime late [Tuesday] or early Wednesday morning. The first bout of snow will be heavy and wet making for a slippery Wednesday morning commute. There is some chance for a switchover to a rain and snow mix by midday Wednesday before heavier snowfall is expected Wednesday afternoon through midday Thursday. Then Thursday into Friday, lighter snow showers and cold temperatures could result in even more snow accumulation to sea level.”

“Based on the latest information, it appears snow totals of several inches will be possible along the coast and in the interior valleys,” NWS predicts. “Snow accumulation will be much greater in the higher terrain, with up to 2 to 3 feet of new snow possible in the Cascades by the end of the week. Drier weather is expected to develop Thursday night and Friday as an even colder but drier air mass moves into the Pacific Northwest. High temperatures may struggle to reach the freezing mark even in the lowest of elevations Friday.

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