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Whatever happened to La Niña? We’re about to find out

It wasn't a lot, but parts of Whatcom County got some Wednesday morning.

The north end of Whatcom County got a little snow Wednesday morning, Feb. 14, 2018.
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The north end of Whatcom County got a little snow Wednesday morning, Feb. 14, 2018.

Old Man Winter finally awakens this Presidents Day weekend, bringing a mixed bag of rain, wind, sun – and snow for both the mountains and the lowlands of Western Washington, forecasts said.

“We’ve got a nice winter storm coming,” said meteorologist Andy Haner at the National Weather Service in Seattle. “The mountains are going to get pounded.”

Up to 2 feet of snow is possible in the North Cascades through Saturday night, and a winter storm watch is in effect through Sunday, Haner said.

It was already snowing about 4:30 a.m. Friday at Mt. Baker Ski Area.

Chains are required on all but four-wheel-drive vehicles, the state Department of Transportation said. Mountain snow levels are around 2,000 feet.

Avalanche conditions were “considerable” near the treeline and at higher elevation of the Mount Baker wilderness, the Northwest Avalanche Center posted. Conditions are expected to worsen as snow accumulates, Haner said.

On Sunday, Bellingham is going to get the dreaded Fraser Outflow. There’s nothing holding it back.

Andy Haner, National Weather Service

Cloudy skies and rain are likely in the Whatcom County lowlands through Saturday, Haner said. Daytime temperatures in the mid- to upper 40s are forecast.

All that changes Sunday, however, as the storm front moves away from Western Washington and allows cold air to blow south from the Fraser River Valley of British Columbia.

“On Sunday, Bellingham is going to get the dreaded Fraser Outflow,” Haner said. “There’s nothing holding it back.”

He said sustained winds of 25-35 mph are expected, with gusts to 50 mph. Power outages are possible in the worst-hit areas of Whatcom County north of Bellingham, he said. Daytime temperatures will be in the low 30s, with overnight lows in the 20s.

Haner said lowland Whatcom County might get an inch to two inches of snow, and it could remain on the ground for several days as daytime temperatures hover in the 30s.

0216 Pres weekend weather (2)
A pair of trumpeter swans sit in a snow covered field off the Markworth Road east of Lynden on Wednesday morning, Feb.14, 2018. Philip A. Dwyer pdwyer@bhamherald.com

Environment Canada forecasts call for 4 to 8 inches of snow around Abbotsford, B.C., just across the border from Lynden and Sumas. Northern Whatcom County lowlands tend to see the worst weather associated with the northeast winds of a Fraser Outflow.

Monday will be clear and cold, Haner said.

“It could be the coldest weather that we’ve had all winter,” he said.

More snow is possible next week if the cold persists and a storm arrives – as is possible Thursday. But Haner said a lot can happen with the weather in a week.

Nevertheless, this weekend’s chill is a reminder that despite a mild January in the Northwest, a La Niña climate pattern persists.

0216 Pres weekend weather2
A light snow made for a slushy drive on the Sweet Road, east of Blaine on Wednesday morning, Feb.14, 2018. Philip A. Dwyer pdwyer@bhamherald.com

It’s a phenomenon that’s known for colder, wetter winters in Western Washington.

There’s high 70 to 80 percent chance of below normal temps and a 40 to 50 percent chance of above-normal precipitation, according to the Climate Prediction Center’s 14-day outlook.

Its one-month forecast map shows a 60 percent chance of below normal temperatures and an equal probability of normal precipitation.

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty

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