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Winter Rain And Snow Has Been Heavy And Consistent, But Maybe Not One For The Record Books

Paul White
AP Images

There's no doubt about it, it's been a wet few months. But can we call this winter record-breaking? If you ask KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass, you'll get an answer: No.

"Let's be careful about these records. Some people have been fast and loose saying this is the wettest winter in Seattle history, and it's really not. It's the wettest December through February," Mass said.

He says you have to include November in the official "winter," because it's such a wet month. But Mass says it just wasn't wet enough. Though, this is an El Niño year, and he says there have been some surprises.

"I think the forecasts were a little low in the precipitation, and we're a little surprised by how heavy it is," Mass said.

Recent storm systems, including the so-called Pineapple Express, have caused some minor flooding of some rivers in the region. Mass says the flooding of the Yakima River came early this year. In a blog post this week, he pointed out it's more expected during the spring.

"Yakima got a real big hit earlier this week, because the snowpack was pretty good, and we had a warm atmospheric river that brought warmth and a lot of precipitation. The warmth caused a rapid melt-off of some of the snow," Mass said.

That combination of snow and rain caused the Yakima to surge past its banks. But the good news, Mass says, is the reservoirs on the eastern side of the Cascades continue to fill up.

Mass expects a fresh few inches of snow in the mountains to start the weekend, then sun will come out Saturday, with more rain in the lowlands expected by Sunday. But the start of next week could mean less precipitation and warmer temperatures.

And a special note to listeners: Mass will be giving a talk on March 16 at Kane Hall on the University of Washington campus. The event will also serve as a fundraiser for Save KPLU. Details about the talk and where to get tickets are available here.

Ariel first entered a public radio newsroom in 2004 while in school at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. It was love at first sight. After graduating from Bradley, she went on to earn a Master's degree in Public Affairs Reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield. Ariel has lived in Indiana, Ohio and Alaska reporting on everything from salmon spawning to policy issues concerning education. She's been a host, a manager and now rides shotgun with Kirsten Kendrick as the Morning Edition producer at KNKX.