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Water levels back to normal (and a little above) after a wet, wet, wet January

A pedestrian makes his way along a waterfront as downtown Seattle is partially hidden in a steady rain beyond Monday, Nov. 18, 2019.
Elaine Thompson
The Associated Press
A pedestrian makes his way along a waterfront as downtown Seattle is partially hidden in a steady rain beyond Monday, Nov. 18, 2019.

It’s been a wet month in Western Washington, with few breaks from steady, and sometimes heavy, rain.

“We’ve just tied the record for number of rainy days at Seattle and at this point, Seattle got about eight inches of rain so far this month,” KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass said on Friday morning. “Typically, we only have about five and a half. So, it’s been a wet period.”

All the precipitation has brought the region back into the realm of normal for the amount of water that recharges aquifers and snowpack, meaning there should be enough to provide for agriculture and to bring river levels needed by flora and fauna.


“We started with a relatively moist initial fall, then it got dry in November and early December. And then we got hit hard late December, into January,” Mass said. “Adding it all up for the water year – which starts October first – we are a little bit above normal. Everything has kind of evened itself out. We’re really in a ‘normal’ water year right now in terms of rain. And the snowpack over the entire region is near normal.”

With the longer-term outlook still appearing to be a neutral El Niño year, Mass says there is no reason to worry about getting enough precipitation for the rest of the winter. Plenty of rain and snow will fall.

“That’s pretty much guaranteed,” he said.


It will be another rainy weekend, with some periods of heavy precipitation and some showers. There’s potential for high winds that could topple trees or break branches and, along with that, take out power lines. And in areas that experience regular winter flooding, high water is likely this weekend, especially on rivers that drain off the western slopes of the Cascades.

“Some of them will be quite high. The rivers will surge today (Friday) and Saturday – probably peaking late Saturday into Sunday,” he said.  

The main feature driving this is a big shift in the temperature. A brief warmup Friday will be followed by a cool-down.  

“A cold front will come barreling in late tonight (Friday) and Saturday morning. And that’s going to have big effects,” Mass said.  

Above all, this will mean strong winds, especially over the ocean and over Northwest Washington. In some places, the winds will gust as high as 40-60 mph, Mass says. And as the front moves through Saturday morning, it will bring a burst of rain, followed by a drop in temperatures later in the day.   

As the front moves through, the lowlands will see rain that could be mixed with some snow showers, especially if a convergence zone forms, north of Seattle.  


Mass says any snow that falls will likely melt as it hits warm roads, so he’s not worried about accumulation. But he says the mountains will get a lot of snow, “inches to feet up in the Cascades – especially above 3,500 feet.”

Mass says Sunday will continue with the wet, cool pattern. And Monday he says will be “relatively dry.”

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.
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