Forecast calls for a little snow and a lot of talk and preparation
Snow this weekend will be a big event — and not only for drivers, homeowners and pet owners. Weather scientists are excited about new equipment that will give them where, and how much, snow is falling.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Cliff Mass Weather Blog: cliffmass.blogspot.com
Seattle's SnowWatch website:
With snow almost certain to fall Saturday, it's not just the kids doing back flips.
Check out meteorologists such as Cliff Mass, who, for the first time, will be watching a snow event using new and enhanced radar that can distinguish raindrops from snowflakes, allowing for a detailed view of where, when and how much snow is falling.
"This is going to be a very special snowstorm for many of us," Mass said excitedly on Friday. "For the first time, we'll be able to see what's happening in the coastal zone."
And then there are the government agencies that responded to the words "chance of snow" with warnings about winter preparedness, snow routes and the safety of pets, pipes and drains.
Suffice to say that Seattle is as prepared as it can be to predict, respond and analyze the first snow of the year, even if it amounts to just a dusting in a few neighborhoods.
The National Weather Service is predicting snow in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties Saturday morning, with a 60 percent chance it will continue into the afternoon, and a 50 percent chance on Sunday.
Mass said snow showers would continue for most of Western Washington on Sunday and Monday. Bellingham and the "convergence zone" between North Seattle and Everett are almost certain to get snow, he said. Where else it might fall is guesswork.
"We could get several inches before it turns to rain on Tuesday," said Mass, a University of Washington professor of atmospheric sciences who writes a popular weather blog.
In addition to the Pacific Coast radar, Mass will be using new "dual polarization" radar, which provides a more complex picture of the atmosphere, and new software at UW that provides real-time information showing which Seattle-area neighborhoods are likely to get snow based on precise temperature measurements around the city.
That's good news for Seattle, known for its snow-related angst and microclimates — variations in temperature, humidity and wind that simultaneously can create conditions for snow in one neighborhood and rain in another.
The Seattle Department of Transportation will be using UW's system to help it deploy its snow-removal equipment more efficiently by providing more accurate predictions about where the snow is falling or likely to fall, said department spokesman Rick Sheridan.
The department also will be keeping a close watch on the Alaskan Way Viaduct, especially in the area of the new downtown ramp, which snakes along inside concrete barriers that leave no room to push snow aside.
Sheridan said a front loader that can scoop up snow will be available to clear the ramp, and that chemical de-icer should keep the road clear, even in temperatures as low as 5 degrees Fahrenheit. Still, Sheridan urged drivers to be on alert for black ice on bridges and raised roadways.
If nature pulls a fast one and dumps snow throughout the city, or if you want to be prepared just in case, here are some helpful sites:
• General tips on preparing/troubleshooting during winter storms: seati.ms/eGkxxB.
• Virtually every bus route offered by King County Metro has a snow route. You can check any changes to schedules at their website: seati.ms/cdDrZR.
• Seattle Transportation Department's snow-clearing map and winter weather plan: seati.ms/zSqka9.
• Seattle Public Utilities offers tips on flood prevention: seati.ms/yTNX6B.
• Weather aficionados can get their geek on at the UW's website: seati.ms/xAzkyQ.
• National Weather Service forecast map: www.wrh.noaa.gov/sew
For the rest of us, there's always soup.
Susan Kelleher: 206-464-2508 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @susankelleher.