Weather Eye: Deep freeze may have missed N.W., but rain poised for a big hit

By Patrick Timm, Columbian weather columnist

Published:

 
photoPatrick Timm

I heard on the evening news Monday that 1.87 million people would be affected by the bitter cold wave gripping much of the nation before all is said and done. That is a lot of zeros in that statistic and plenty of zero degree weather to go with it.

The good news is that we escaped winter's wrath this time around. As the week wears on, the really cold air will move off to the north and east. Still, it's the coldest weather in many years across much of the nation.

When I look at the many cities with below-zero temperatures, I think of the coldest temperature I have recorded here, 2 degrees below zero on Dec. 31, 1979. We had a good shot of arctic air and nearly a foot of snow on the ground. Radiational cooling and dead calm winds overnight did the rest. But goodness, that was 34 years ago.

Our dry weather will change to wet through the weekend as a series of storms break down the persistent ridge of high pressure. Each storm will be wetter than the previous. Freezing levels will be high but the mountains above 5,000 to 6,000 feet should get some snow — maybe a couple of feet.

Forecast models hint we may go back under high pressure next week, with a return of dry weather. We'll see. At least things warmed up enough Monday afternoon that temperatures were above freezing when the sprinkles and spotty light rain began. We could have had a brief spell of snow and sleet. That was reserved for the Columbia River Gorge.

There were some indications late Monday that the rain for Saturday could be very heavy, similar to that of a pineapple express. I noticed there sure wasn't much snow on Mount St. Helens on Monday afternoon. It was only on the top 2,000 feet or so and even then rocky crags could be seen. Let's hope freezing levels get lower than forecast locally. The northern Cascades were forecast to receive as much as 2 feet of snow out of this wet system. Bottom line: Rain.

Patrick Timm is a local weather specialist. His column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. Reach him at http://patricktimm.com.