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Showers Dampen Fire Risk, Vex Outdoor Event Planners

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Statistically speaking, it generally is the driest time of year in western Washington. Because of this, late July into early August is the most popular time for outdoor weddings and family reunions in the region.

But showers are in the forecast this weekend. If you were thinking of getting outdoors, you’ll have to travel east over the mountain passes, advises KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass. He says there’s a band of precipitation approaching from the west that will definitely dampen the region, pretty much anywhere west of the Cascades.

“So, a big change this weekend,” said Mass, who teaches atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington.

“I can see it on the radar,” he said. “It’s coming into the north coast right now. It’ll be in British Columbia this morning. And probably we’ll see some light showers hitting western Washington late in the afternoon and this evening – the clouds will be there even during the mid-afternoon.”

It’s not good hiking weather, unless you don’t mind driving east. And the predictions were wet enough that many event planners had to spend extra to get their guests protection.

“A lot of us will get a tenth of an inch (of rain) or more, ” Mass said.  "Cloudy and wet. Temperatures getting into the upper 60s."

But by Monday and Tuesday, the high pressure ridge will come back and the rain will go back on hold, making the region warm and dry again, he said.

Mass said the rain won't do much for eastern Washington fires, but it will provide a respite for Western Washington fires, particularly those in the Olympic rain forest.

"(The rain) is going to be mainly a west-side event, a mountain event," he said.

The Baby Gets Stronger

Mass said we are starting to see the effects of El Nino revving up. Southern California has seen dramatic rainfall. 

"We're seeing a pattern that usually doesn't set up until fall and winter," Mass said.

And generally, an El Nino means less snow for the Pacific Northwest, according to Mass, typically about 70 percent of normal. But given the last winter's historically low snowfall, skiers likely will find themselves pleased with next year's light snowfall.

"Bizarrely that's almost good news around here," Mass said. 

You can hear the whole conversation by clicking on the “play” icon at the top of this post or downloading the podcast.The weekly KPLU feature "Weather with Cliff Mass" airs every Friday at 9 a.m. immediately following BirdNote, and twice on Fridayafternoons during All Things Considered. The feature is hosted by KPLU Environment Reporter Bellamy Pailthorp. Cliff Mass is a University of Washington Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, a renowned Seattle weather prognosticator, and a popular weather blogger. You can also subscribe to a podcast of “Weather with Cliff Mass” shows.