Winter weather forecast: Major floods, intense Winds, even shot at decent snow

Recently the Seattle Office of the National Weather Service held a weather workshop t0 give local weather forecasters and emergency management offices more info about what the winter weather forecasts may have in store for the Puget Sound region.

If you live in the Snoqualmie Valley – these forecasts might point toward an interesting upcoming fall/winter. It’s been almost five years since our area has seen a major winter weather event. Remember the snow and ice storm of 2012 that left the area without power for three days?  Well, that’s the last time we’ve had a major brush with snow.

Kind of feels like we’re due, right?

Well, according to KOMO Weather Producer Scott Sistek, we  may not see a pounding of snow (still possible, though) … but it sure looks like there is a good chance for major flooding and even ‘intense’ wind.

Weather forecasters say aLa Niña winter – that tends to bring cooler, wetter weather and is great for skiers – has now disappeared from the longterm, 90 day forecasts that NOAA puts out.

The Puget Sound region it appears will now head into what’s called a Neutral Winter. Sistek explained in a great blog post on the topic, that neutral winters tend to make the area more susceptible to short stretches of major, differing types of weather – like 5-day weather periods of very cold stretches, wet stretches, dry stretches, etc.

Neutral weather years in the past have brought in some major winter weather events – like a lot of the named wind storms. Remember the 2006 Hanukkah Eve wind storm that left the Snoqualmie Valley without power for five days?  Yup –  it was neutral winter year.  Sistek says, “Not all neutral winters have brought historical wind storms, but if one’s going to happen, it’ll likely be in a neutral year such as this.”

As for flooding, and historically speaking, neutral years tend to bring more frequent, strong flooding events – and some of the biggest Snoqualmie River floods have happened in more neutral years –  most recently the 2006 and 2009 historical floods.

Historical flood data in the Snoqualmie Valley. Gray dots correspond with neutral winters.

Historical flood data in the Snoqualmie Valley. Gray dots correspond with neutral winters.

The NWS Seattle Office says there’s a high probability of major floods this year. Sistek said, though, that as far as severe floods go, NWS won’t predict this far out.

What about lowland snow? Well, that one’s up in the air. Typically, La Nina years tend to bring decent lowland snow – and with El Nino it tends to be non-existent. Neutral winters can bring snow events, though. Remember December 2008?  Yup, neutral winter and the Snoqualmie Valley saw a solid week of heavy snow, including a white Christmas.

snowfall

Historical snowfall totals. Gray dots are neutral winters

So while nothing is guaranteed, it does appear, historically speaking, that neutral winters can pack a punch. For the Snoqualmie Valley that means what most longtime residents are used to – wind, floods – but maybe more intense this go ’round.  And for snow fans and kids, maybe better chance of a decent snow event, too.

Weather is unpredictable. Nothing is ever certain. The National Weather Service, though, does like to study historical data and corresponding weather patterns to help prepare better weather forecasters and emergency management offices for weather possibilities/patterns each winter.

For more information about being prepared for winter weather visit www.takewinterbystorm.org

 

 

 

 

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