Winter weather

King County has released an app that puts flood warning information at residents' fingertips. The smartphone- and tablet-friendly app displays real-time flooding information on major rivers in the county.


November, which marks the start of flood season in the Northwest, is just around the corner. And the National Weather Service says there is high potential for rivers to burst their banks from now through February.

This winter will bring what is known as a “neutral” weather pattern; we won't see the milder El Niño nor the wetter, windier La Niña this winter. But that hardly means we get a break.

A neutral winter can mean trouble for those who live or work near flood plains in western Washington as it brings the highest number of so-called “Pineapple Express” events during which an atmospheric river forms off the coast. 

dorena-wm photo / Flickr via compfight

The first frost of the season hit the northwest Friday morning on both sides of the mountains, but skies will be sunny for much of the weekend.

Enjoy it while it lasts, since it will turn rainy again on Monday, says KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass, a professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington.

It was three, maybe four o'clock in the morning when he first saw them. Grad student Jeff Bowman was on the deck of a ship; he and a University of Washington biology team were on their way back from the North Pole. It was cold outside, the temperature had just dropped, and as the dawn broke, he could see a few, then more, then even more of these little flowery things, growing on the frozen sea.


Forecasters say the latest storm moving across Washington will leave up to 2 feet of new snow in the Cascades by Thursday morning.

Travelers planning on heading across the mountain passes this weekend should plan accordingly. Traction tires or chains are being advised, and in some cases may be required. 

The WSDOT offers these tips to protect yourself and your passengers while driving in snowy/icy conditions: 

The National Weather Service has downgraded a winter weather warning for the Washington Cascades Tuesday night to an advisory.

Heavy rain sets off landslides around region

Nov 19, 2012

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Heavy rains and high winds are making it hard to get around parts of western Washington and northwest Oregon this afternoon. Flood watches and warnings are in effect across a wide area of the Northwest. At least half a dozen mudslides have blocked highways and rail lines since this morning .

The freight train of storms pummeling the Northwest has saturated soils. Some places are not getting enough time between downpours for the water to drain off. Oregon's Department of Geology put all of western Oregon on notice for increased potential of landslides.

Jake Ellison / KPLU

Forecasters say the wet and windy weather with mountain snow will continue this week in Washington, but there may be a lull on Thanksgiving Day. The current deluge so far has resulted in a few mudslides, street flooding and a state trooper’s car being smashed.

The National Weather Service says a series of Pacific storms are aiming to hit the Northwest every day or two.

Getting around

The morning commute around Seattle was tough, but the commute home today may be a bit easier.

Plenty of snow in the mountains means it should be a good year for the water supply in Washington.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service says the mountain snowpack as of April 1 — when it typically peaks — is 137 percent of average.

Cliff Mass / UW

A winter storm is bringing another shot of snow to parts of Washington.

The National Weather Service says a Pacific frontal system will hit the coast and northwest interior Tuesday with gusty winds and rain in most of Western Washington.

Mike Danisiewicz / National Park Service

The conditions that led to fatal avalanches in the Washington Cascades could get worse this week. Three expert skiers died near Stevens Pass on Sunday and a snowboarder died in a separate avalanche near Snoqualmie.

Mark Moore is the director of the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center. He says a crystalline layer of frost prevented new snow from bonding with the bottom layers. He estimates that led to hundreds if not thousands of avalanches in remote areas over the weekend.

Jessica Robinson / Northwest News Network

While cities west of the Cascades recover from the ice storm, flooding and mudslides, the Inland Northwest is getting more of what residents have been expecting for a while: a wintry white layer of snow. And forecasters say there's another round on the way.

The Associated Press

Cliff Mass, KPLU weather expert and University of Washington professor, says the snow storm we woke up to is almost out of gas:

"... amazingly the worst is almost over. In fact, it should really be all over for most of the western side of the Cascades by 1 PM," he said.

Adam DeClercq / Flickr

But not too much. 

"It's not going to be the big snow-storm," says KPLU weather expert, and UW professor, Cliff Mass.

The areas most likely to get a couple inches of snow are the so-called "convergence zone," between north Seattle and Everett, and in the Bellingham area. For everyone else, Mass says it will be "hit and miss" depending on so many factors that it's hard to generalize.

Associated Press

Climate experts have predicted a colder and wetter than normal winter on the way for Washington, thanks to a second year in a row of La Nina’s effects. 

While some people in the area will be happy about a surge in showers, a lot more are probably disappointed or worried.


Heavy rains brought mudslides that covered roads in Pierce County early this morning, including a slide over East Jovita Boulevard in Edgewood. More rain is expected today, along with gusting winds that could topple trees in already soaked earth, according to KOMO News:

Forecasting models put this storm about on par with the one that blew through on March 2 -- enough to perhaps cause a few power outages and knock over a few trees, but we are not expecting a major windstorm.

In Tacoma, a slide brought a tree down over one lane of Schuster Parkway. There were no injuries or cars involved with that slide, and traffic is getting by the area, according to KIRO-TV.

The peak winds are expected this afternoon in the Puget Sound lowlands, with gusts as high as 50 miles per hour in the late afternoon and early evening hours, according to the National Weather Service. 


Updated 9: 21 p.m.

Avalanche danger, heavy snowfall and spun-out vehicles have kept Interstate 90 over Snoqualmie Pass closed for hours as a winter storm buffets the Washington Cascades. Eastbound lanes reopened late this afternoon, and westbound lanes later Monday evening.

Transportation officials closed the pass late Monday morning due to eight inches of snow that had fallen since 6 a.m., plus poor visibility and spinouts.

@Brycej / Twitpic

This statement might surprise you. It sure surprised us. 

Pemco Insurance makes the claim, based on a survey it did of Washington drivers. Most polled (58%)  say they feel 'comfortable' behind the wheel when driving on snowy roads.


This morning's headlines are a roundup of the winter snowstorm and cold temperatures affecting Western Washington communities today:

Updated 8:58 a.m.

Driving Conditions Tough, Dangerous

Stay off the roads if at all possible. That advisory is from state transportation leaders, who are dealing with snow and ice clogged sections of freeways, overpasses, and ramps. While many main arterials are passable, the approaches are tough, especially in south King County, Snohomish, Skagit, Thurston and parts of Pierce County, according to KING-TV:

Drivers stuck on Sahalee Way in Redmond were abandoning their cars. Drivers on southbound Interstate 5 near Sea-Tac were crawling along.

As of 9 a.m., WSDOT cameras show that Thurston and Pierce county roads - including I-5 - are heavily impacted by heavy snow, freezing fog and ice. Accidents have caused backups.

The Olympian's Nate Hulings reports driving conditions are expected to worsen today, as National Weather Service forecasts for Thurston County show accumulations could be significant  through this morning:

Periods of heavy snowfall were expected to continue through this morning, with 2 to 6 inches of snow forecast, meteorologist Carl Cerniglia said.

Erin Hennessey / KPLU News

With frigid temperatures and up to six inches of snow bearing down on the Puget Sound region, transit agencies are getting ready.

The latest forecast says the snow is likely to arrive a little later than previously thought. That means evening commuters may escape the brunt of the blast.

Tom Pearce -- with Snohomish Community Transit -- says its buses are operating on regular routes, for now …


The brunt of an arctic cold front is expected to hit Western Washington this afternoon, bringing wind and 2 to 6 inches of snow.  National Weather Service meteorologist Art Gable says temperatures "will drop below freezing and remain below into Thursday morning." A winter storm warning remains in effect through 10 a.m. Thursday.

KOMOcommunities video

Several inches of snow are on the way to Puget Sound's lowlands. Exactly which areas will get the greatest accumulation is something forecasters say is tough to predict, but a number of sources say their models show anywhere from two to six inches in the Seattle area, and up to eight inches or more in Snohomish County and northward.

Making headlines around the Northwest this morning:

  • Seattle Hostages, Two Others Killed by Somali Pirates
  • Snow in the Forecast
  • Higher Logging Fees Needed: Lands Commissioner


Two From Seattle Killed by Pirates

A Seattle couple sailing around the world were among four Americans killed by their Somali captors aboard their yacht today, according to a U.S. military statement. The four were captured last Friday.

Brad Wong /

Making headlines around the Northwest this morning:

  • Wind, rain, snow hitting Western Washington
  • Search continues for missing Lake Washington kayaker
  • Nokia Getting Microsoft Billions to Ditch Smartphone
  • Ferguson Jumping Into Attorney General Race


High Winds and Rain Expected for Western Washington

The National Weather Service has issued a wind warning for the Washington coast and northwest interior through Monday evening.

Forecasters say the frontal system also is bringing heavy rain to parts of Western Washington and snow to the Olympics and Cascades. A winter weather advisory is in effect for the mountains where 10-to-18 inches of new snow are expected by Tuesday.

Gary Davis / KPLU News

You might have wondered -- as you gazed out your sunny window and listened to news of record cold and snow sweeping the midwest and East coast -- is there a connection?

Yes, there is.

"Our weather often is the just the opposite of what it is in the eastern part of the united states," says Cliff Mass, professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington. 

"When we are cold, like it was just before Thanksgiving, they tend to be warm," says Mass.

The reason we're yin when they're yang, and vice versa, has to do with the jet stream and "ridges" of high and low pressure in the sky, as Mass explains it.

Charla Bear

Drivers in Seattle may have noticed they’re hitting more potholes this year than usual. City officials say they’re aware of 1,800 holes in the road this winter compared to 570 last winter. Mayor Mike McGinn says Mother Nature has made it tough to fix them:

“The rain, snow, freezing weather has led us to have a dramatically larger number of potholes and an aging infrastructure, frankly, this winter season than in prior years.  We are not currently meeting the 72-hour standard we’ve set for ourselves because of the number of pothole requests.”

Lauren Padgett / Bonney Lake-Sumner

Rain continues to fall Friday, and forecasters say over the next few days some areas may get 9 inches or more. Combined with past days' heavy rain and warmer temperatures melting mountain snow, some areas King, Pierce and Snohomish counties report minor flooding and road-blocking mudslides.

The National Weather Service has issued a flood watch for most of western Washington. The statement lists areas of main flooding concern, including:

Gary Davis / KPLU

Predicted snow fell across western Washington on Tuesday evening, largely sparing the evening commute. This morning people are waking up to rain, thick slush and closed or delayed schools.

A driver in Tukwila slid down a hill and onto the tracks of Sound Transit's Central Link light rail. The car landed on its roof. The driver received minor injuries, according to KING-TV.  Those tracks were closed for a time, with service resuming before midnight.

Tuesday's headlines

Jan 11, 2011

Making headlines this morning:

  • Snow Threat Reduced
  • Protests Greet Lawmakers at Session Start
  • Eyman Files New Initiative
Gary Davis / KPLU

Updated 3:58 p.m., Mon., Jan. 10th

The latest weather foreceast shows much less snow may fall than had been predicted, and warmer temperatures will bring rain and wind on Wednesday.

The National Weather Service office in Seattle has eased off forecasts of larger amounts of snow for western Washington, as the latest models show warm air pushing in faster than expected. 

“We feel pretty confident the system will stay on the warmer side, and we will not see large amounts of snowfall” in the lowlands of western Washington, says Dennis D'Amico of the NWS Seattle office.