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Friday, December 19, 2008

The zone might have been 18 hours late, but boy, what a performance when it finally arrived!

As much as 3-8" of snow fell across the Puget Sound area, with the higher amounts on the Eastside and into the foothills.

But while the snow was the big story today, we'll shift our attention now from snow to ice and cold. Snow showers will linger through the evening, then taper off overnight. The exception is from Olympia south where snow showers will linger as late as midnight. Skies will gradually clear, allowing temperatures to drop into the upper teens and low 20s. A breezy north wind will also be blowing, adding a bit of chill to the air.

Friday will be much calmer in the skies, as it'll be mostly sunny all day. But with morning temperatures in the low 20s, icy roads will be a major factor. And temperatures won't budge much, only reaching the mid-upper 20s for highs as new arctic air moves in.

Friday night will be bitterly cold, with lows ranging from 10-18.

Saturday will be a lot like Friday -- mostly sunny but cold with highs in the 20s to low 30s. However, clouds will be increasing late in the day.

That sets up our next challenge -- a big storm heading in Saturday night and into Sunday. Now, I know we've tossed a lot at you this week, and many people have gone through a lot. But sorry to say, this storm also looks like it could have a profound impact on the region with several events -- including the potential of a major windstorm in the Cascade foothills, and a big mess of snow and freezing rain in the lowlands.

This storm is coming in from the west, and it looks pretty wet -- and warm. Second, we'll not only have some arctic air here in Western Washington, but even more in Eastern Washington. That air is very dense, and thus has higher pressure.

As the low pressure of the storm approaches, forecasting models are hinting now that we could see some very strong, gusty east winds in the passes to the usual North Bend, Enumclaw, Gold Bar east-windy places. But now forecasting models paint a much stronger wind -- perhaps sustained east winds as high as 50-60 mph with gusts reaching as high as 70-90 mph. Now, that's an initial estimate, subject to change, but we need to raise the red flag now. A HIGH WIND WATCH is in effect from Saturday morning through Sunday afternoon.

Aside from strong winds, we'll be putting a lot of moisture on top of a very cold air mass. This could bring a period of widespread heavy snow to the entire region Saturday evening and night. We could see 4-8" again as a general rule across all the lowlands, but areas over along the Hood Canal and eastern Olympic Peninsula area could see 6-12" of snow.

Then as the warm air starts to mix in, we could see a large change over to sleet or freezing rain. The freezing rain could cause its own problems of icy roads and power problems. We expect it to gradually change to rain and taper off in the evening.

Yes, that's quite a bit to toss at you, and you're likely weary from this past week's events. But particularly those who live in the areas susceptible to strong east winds, you should begin preparations for potential power outages Saturday night and Sunday. Maybe take advantage of Friday and early Saturday's sunny weather to get ready.

A cool system moves in right behind that one for Monday, but this doesn't look as cold as the past systems, with rain or mix in the lowlands and snow levels around 1,000-1,500 feet. Highs will be in the mid-upper 30s.

A few showers linger Tuesday of rain or mix with highs in the upper 30s.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day will see scattered showers but we should be all rain by then. Highs will actually climb into the low-mid 40s, so a White Christmas is not looking as likely, but there's still a chance these systems could end up cooler.


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