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Originally published October 2, 2011 at 7:30 PM | Page modified October 3, 2011 at 5:44 PM

Best to prepare for another La Niña winter

Commas and curlicues of clouds swirl and spin on the 6-foot sphere at the Pacific Science Center. The pretty patterns tell a story of storms. Bad ones. They slam repeatedly into the Pacific Northwest — a reminder that bad weather, as sure as the Earth spins, is on the way.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Information

Take Winter by Storm: takewinterbystorm.org

Pacific Science Center's Science on a Sphere: seati.ms/orQ2pZ

3 days / 3 ways to prepare: 3days3ways.org

Social media: Facebook.com/TakeWinterByStorm, Youtube.com/TakeWinterByStorm, Twitter: @WinterByStorm, #stormready, #winterprep

quotes Looking forward to video's of car's sliding down hills yet again. Read more
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Commas and curlicues of clouds swirl and spin on the 6-foot sphere at the Pacific Science Center.

The pretty patterns tell a story of storms. Bad ones.

They slam repeatedly into the Pacific Northwest — a reminder that bad weather, as sure as the Earth spins, is on the way.

"The indicators are this will be another La Niña — with colder, stormier weather than normal," said Andy Wappler, a former TV meteorologist and now spokesman for Puget Sound Energy.

Wappler was showing time-elapsed images last week of previous La Niña weather patterns on the Science Center's year-old "Science on a Sphere" exhibit.

Remember last November's brutal snowstorm? he asked.

"It was the earliest snow in 15 years," Wappler said. Many people were trapped for hours in their cars.

Remember the floods in Chehalis? The ones that closed Interstate 5?

Could happen again. Sooner than you think.

"The point is: Get ready now, be confident, and know that you and your family are safe," Wappler said.

PSE, the National Weather Service, local governments and other agencies Monday were expected to launch a "Take Winter by Storm" campaign to raise awareness about severe weather and how to prepare for emergencies.

The four-county effort (King, Pierce, Snohomish and Kitsap) urges families to create an emergency-preparedness kit with at least three days' worth of nonperishable food and water. The kits should include flashlights and extra batteries, thermal-energy blankets, rain ponchos and copies of important documents, among other things.

The campaign also suggests making an emergency plan and practicing it with family members.

More tips for what to put in the kit and how else to prepare for emergencies are available at takewinterbystorm.org.

The campaign, which will run through Nov. 21, will feature tips from how to drive in snow to how to stay safe when power lines are knocked down. Wappler, spokesman for the campaign, says you don't have to go out and do everything on the checklist in one day. But do something, anything, to get started.

Weather experts predict the Northwest will experience a second consecutive La Niña this year, based on cooler-than-normal sea-surface temperatures in the eastern and central Pacific tropical waters. That affects the movement of the jet stream, and means wetter conditions in the Northwest, but drier conditions in the southern tier of the country.

Ted Buehner, of the National Weather Service, said La Niña may not be quite as strong as last winter's, which was one of the worst in 60 years. But computer projections indicate the Northwest will see wetter and colder weather, he said.

Residents, he said, can expect:

• at least one major flood, based on heavy rains, most likely in November or December.

• one major windstorm, probably in October, November or December

• and one low-lying snowfall, probably in January, but possibly in February or March, or even earlier.

The new Doppler radar station near Copalis Beach on the Washington coast — which was inaugurated Thursday — will provide more accurate short-term predictions of how much precipitation is likely, Buehner said.

But that doesn't mean everything can be predicted, or that six hours is enough time to go out and buy snow tires and stock up on the items you need.

"Folks," Buehner said, "we need to get ready for these kinds of events now."

Jeff Hodson: 206-464-2109 or jhodson@seattletimes.com

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