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Stormy Northwest Weather Filling Our Reservoirs, Adding To Mountain Snowpack

Ted S. Warren, File
AP Photo
In this Nov. 3, 2015, file photo, snow covers mountains in this view from the Snow Lake hiking trail above Snoqualmie Pass in Washington state.

This week, an extraordinary offshore storm produced waves in the Northwest that were 30 feet tall and higher in some places places. One even swept a man out to sea near Lincoln City, Oregon, on Thursday.

But KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass says that event is over, and we can expect more run-of-the-mill winter weather in the days to come.

“Showers coming through, some are pretty heavy,” he said Friday morning. “And the temperature is cooler aloft, so the mountains are getting some real snow. 6 inches will not be rare up above 3- to 4000 feet.”

Stormy Weekend

He says Saturday will be a mixed bag, with temperatures reaching the mid-40s.

“A few showers in the morning, but it won’t be a really bad day – there won’t be any major weather systems,” he said. “But then another weather system comes in Saturday night – Sunday morning. And that’s going to be a more serious one, with heavier precipitation, some wind and I expect a lot more snow in the mountains.”

Mass predicts 6-12 inches of new snow by the end of the weekend.

Sunday he says will be “basically cloudy” with temperatures again in the 40s.

“And then, next week, just a series of more systems,” he said. 

“We’re out of the pattern with the big ridge [of high pressure] over the eastern part of the Pacific. And we’re just going to get hammered by one Pacific storm after the other during the next week.”

No Drought In Sight

Mass says the wet and turbulent weather has been good for west coast water supplies – and will continue to add to them.

“If you look at the levels for the reservoirs supplying Seattle, they’re above normal,” he said. “Importantly, if you look at the Yakima system – the reservoir levels there – they are way above normal. So we’re storing a large amount of water that supplies eastern Washington.”

Mass says California’s reservoirs are also in good shape, thanks mostly to the heavy rains earlier in the season.

He says the snowpack is a little bit lower than normal right now in Washington and also below normal in Oregon and California. But he expects that to change rapidly.

“Because a whole series of weather systems are aiming south of us during the next week or two,” Mass said.

To hear the full conversation – including a discussion of what caused waves as high as 50 feet offshore in Washington waters– you can click on the 'play' icon at the top of this post. 

Weather with Cliff Mass airs at 9:02 a.m. Friday, right after BirdNote, and twice on Friday afternoons during All Things Considered. The feature is hosted by KNKX 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 podcasts of Weather with Cliff Mass shows, via iTunesor Google Play.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to