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Stormy start to 2019 continues in the Northwest, despite predicted El Niño winter

Elaine Thompson
The Associated Press
Sunshine briefly touches a few peaks in the Olympic mountains, dusted in a fresh coat of snow, as seen from Seattle, Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019.

Blustery, wet weather blanketed the region overnight into Friday. KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass says you can expect the generally stormy pattern to continue for several weeks, despite a break on Saturday.


Friday morning he said the showery weather would continue throughout the day, with temperatures hitting a mild 50 degrees.    

Saturday will offer a gap between storms, with temperatures in the upper 40s and “maybe a few sprinkles,” but not many. “So that’s the day to get out,” Mass says.


But then things start happening. Mass says another weather system starts approaching and bringing rain with it, beginning sometime Saturday night.

Sunday morning, the situation gets really interesting. Mass says he’ll be keeping a close eye on it.

“There’s the potential for a fairly significant wind event, somewhere between 3 a.m. and 6 o‘clock in the morning on Sunday,” Mass says. “There’s a lot of uncertainty with it, but some of the models are suggesting some pretty good winds, maybe gusting to 50 miles-per-hour or so here in Puget Sound. So we’ve got to watch that carefully.”

He says the system will move through very quickly and be through the region by lunchtime on Sunday, leaving only a few residual showers in its wake — and highs in the upper 40s.

After that, expect a mix of stormy weather and lulls in the action. Monday should be calm, but Mass says he expects another storm to come through Tuesday and potentially another one on Thursday as well.


The stormy pattern goes against expectations for a winter influenced by the warmer than normal surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean, known as El Niño. That would normally bring warmer, calmer and dryer conditions to the Northwest.

Mass says this year’s prediction is just for a weak or moderate El Niño, which is a far less reliable correlation than with a strong one.

“When we talk about an El Niño winter, it’s just weighing the dice a little bit more towards warmth, dryness and less storminess,” he says. “So maybe it’s a little bit higher probability, but that doesn’t mean things can’t happen.”  

He says the stormy weather is good news for the region’s water supply. Many reservoirs are already back to normal levels, snow pack is recovering after being as low as 20 percent of normal in places less than two months ago. And Mass expects a full recovery with all the storms predicted in the weeks ahead.

To hear the full conversation, including Cliff’s description of the energy source that is driving the line-up of storms along the West Coast, 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 iTunes or Google Play.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment beat for KNKX, where she has worked since 1999. From 2000-2012, she covered the business and labor beat. Bellamy has a deep interest in Indigenous affairs and the Salish Sea. She has a masters in journalism from Columbia University.