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Wet And Windy This Weekend As Pacific Cyclone Approaches The Northwest

Tim Durkan
Tim Durkan Photography
A recent evening at Seattle's Pike Place Market.

Batten down the hatches and keep your rain gear handy. A Pacific cyclone is headed toward Vancouver Island, British Columbia. While the highest winds will likely hit north of the Canadian border, KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass says people in western Washington will notice it too, especially toward the coast.

“This weekend, we’ll have a little bit of action,” said Mass, who teaches atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington and confesses he likes the challenge of forecasting a good storm.

“And I’ve been a little bit bored with this winter so far,” he said. “We only had that one wind event in November and we really haven’t had strong wind storms and snow storms or rain storms, so it’s been a pretty blah winter so far.”

Mass says that will change Friday night.  A low pressure center in the atmosphere  – known as a Pacific cyclone – will be approaching Vancouver Island. It will bring some considerable weather with it.

Big Weather Approaching

“This is not the strongest cyclone in the world, but it’s pretty good,” Mass said. “And so this low center is tracking right towards the Southern part of Vancouver Island.”

Mass says it will cross Vancouver Island sometime late Friday or early Saturday morning and then pass north of Washington State on Saturday. Still, its effects will be felt here, Mass said.

“What that’s going to do is bring substantial winds, first to the Oregon Coast, where the winds could gust to 50-60 miles per hour, then the Washington coast,” on Friday Mass said. Then he says on Saturday,  around noon or 1 p.m., the biggest gusts will hit here as the low goes north of us.

“I expect the winds to really crank up here in Puget Sound: gusts to at least 30-40 miles per hour, maybe some higher gusts near the water,” Mass said.

Mass says the winds will be strong enough to down trees in places, but it shouldn’t be too bad because most of the leaves are off the trees and the weakest limbs are down already at this point in winter.  

“I don’t expect a huge number of power outages, but there could be a few. So that’s the big action that we’re going to get on Saturday: some wind,” he said.

Much Warmer Sunday

Mass says late on Saturday into Sunday morning, a warm front will move through the region.

“So our temperatures, which have been in the mid-40s, are going to zoom up into the 50s on Sunday,” he said. “I would expect 55-57, something like that on Sunday, with rain in the morning and showers in the afternoon.”

He says expect that warm air to be hanging over us at least until Monday.

Mass says the warm front is associated with a moderate atmospheric river, or plume of moisture that comes in from the south Pacific and can dump large amounts of temperate rain on the region. But the rain from this one is going to land mostly north of the Puget Sound region, he said.

“So, from the very Northern part of the Olympic mountains into Southern B.C., that’s where they’re going to get 2-5 inches of rain,” Mass said. “It’ll be pretty wet up there if you’re going north.”

He says expect more wet weather later on Monday and Tuesday, with colder temps returning to Puget Sound.

“The moisture’s going to come back towards us as a cold front,” Mass said. “So I expect some rain on late Monday and Tuesday as that front comes back.”

Snowy Mountains

Mass says all the action this weekend adds up to a dynamic weekend for weather watchers. And he adds the precipitation will add to the 1-2 feet of snow that have fallen in the mountains over the last few days.

“We have a great snow pack right now,” Mass said. “We really have recovered from somewhat of a snow drought, earlier...a wonderful refresh of the snow in the Cascades. So get up there!”

To hear the full conversation – including a discussion of why certain areas in western Washington seem to always get hit harder than others in most windstorms here – 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