After surviving holiday snow, crawling up icy streets on ill-advised dog walks, and enduring frigid temperatures, Western Washington faces a new wave of weather warnings Tuesday: winds gusting to 70 mph along the coast, gale warnings in Puget Sound and Hood Canal, heavy snow forecast in the mountains, significant rainfall in the lowlands, and the threat of flooding and landslides.
The National Weather Service map for Seattle/Tacoma Tuesday afternoon looked like a rainbow snow cone, with various colors designating an assortment of weather-related dangers.
Dark purple storm warnings stretched up and down the Pacific Coast and into Strait of Juan de Fuca. Gale warnings carved through Puget Sound in a sickly pink. The coastline was mustard yellow with high-wind warnings that included a wide swath from Snohomish County south to Olympia and into Oregon. Bright green flood warnings spread from the Canadian border, through Bellingham and Everett. A lavender winter weather advisory colored the Cascades and dark green flood watch fanned out from the Olympics.
There's a lot to keep track of today. Stay weather-aware! For our latest forecast and watches/warnings, visit: https://t.co/2jFgCIJKic #WAwx pic.twitter.com/2Pr1tGkeow
In Gig Harbor, fire crews were responding to flood-related emergencies, including electrical fires, according to a tweet published by the fire department. Photos from their efforts show neighborhoods and stores with thigh-high water in the streets and partially submerged cars.
Our crews are responding to many flooding-related emergencies within the district, some including electrical fires. pic.twitter.com/zJe8N53LvD
Meanwhile, photos from the West Seattle Blog show the morning’s king tide lapping against shoreline businesses, and a tweet from Olympia shows a jellyfish swimming along a partially flooded city street.
Jellyfish on the streets of downtown Olympia this morning. #wawx pic.twitter.com/37hY9AaZH0
Another tweet from the South Park neighborhood of Seattle shows a lone paddler working his way down a flooded street lined with cars and toppled orange emergency cones.
We’ve got a canoe on flooded streets through the South Park neighborhood of Seattle. About a half a foot of water flooding out machinery biz. Manager hasn’t seen flooding like this in 30 years. #wawx pic.twitter.com/WgzqXX872A
Maddie Kristell, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Seattle, said winds out of the southwest would increase Tuesday afternoon, with sustained speeds of 30-40 mph and gusts from 55-60 mph.
“Considering how saturated we’ve been here recently, we’re a little concerned about trees being a little less secure than they would otherwise be,” Kristell said. That could lead to more downed trees and more widespread power outages overnight Tuesday.
Winds increasing currently along the coast with gusts of 50-65MPH there now. Stronger gusts will continue to spread inland over the next few hours. Look for winds to pick up primarily after 6 PM in the Seattle metro area. #wawx pic.twitter.com/LeskS8tTvE
Kristell encouraged residents to keep devices charged, stay indoors if possible, and avoid downed power lines. She said people should call authorities if they encounter damaged power lines or see other dangerous situations resulting from the severe weather.
Power outages were reported late Tuesday morning affecting 3,500 Seattle City Light customers in the North Queen Anne and Magnolia areas of Seattle. However, it was not immediately clear if those outages were weather-related.
According to the King County Library System, both the North Bend and Skykomish libraries are closed. In North Bend, the library’s pipes froze over the weekend. The Skykomish Library lost power as a result of wind and rain, according to a tweet from King County Library.
High-wind warnings remain in effect along the Washington and Oregon coast through Tuesday evening and, in some spots, into Wednesday morning. The highest gusts, 60 to 80 mph, are forecast on exposed beaches and headlands on the south Washington coast. In the southwest interior, including Olympia, Tacoma, Seattle, and Bremerton, southwest winds are expected to top out at 55 mph, but that warning lasts until 1 a.m. Wednesday. Port Townsend could see gusts up to 50 mph from 1 p.m. Tuesday until 1 a.m. Wednesday.
Meanwhile, gale warnings with winds at 40 to 50 knots and seas at 21 to 26 feet remain in effect through Tuesday night along the Washington coast, and a small craft advisory and storm warnings remain in effect in the Strait of Juan De Fuca.
Coastal flood warnings are in effect for the Washington coast until 10 p.m. Tuesday night. Tides are expected to be 1 to 2 feet higher than expected and high surf could compound the risk of coastal flooding. A flood warning remains in effect for the Skokomish River at Potlatch with flooding expected to close roads and inundate farmland in the Skokomish Valley. As of late this morning, the Skokomish was more than a foot above flood stage, but it’s expected to go down Tuesday afternoon and evening.
Meanwhile, the Cowlitz River at Randle was also at flood stage Tuesday afternoon. It’s expected to crest Tuesday evening at more than a foot above flood stage. Flood watches remain in effect through Wednesday morning for portions of northwest and west central Washington, including Skagit, Whatcom, and Island counties in the north and King, Lewis, Pierce, Snohomish, and Thurston counties in west central Washington.
In the passes, expect winter driving conditions through Wednesday, with accumulations of a foot or more expected in Stehekin, Stevens Pass, and Holden Village. In the Cascades, snow is expected above 2,500 feet with accumulations of 8 to 12 inches and wind gusts up to 50 mph.
Finally, Western Washington faces an increased threat of landslides due to heavy rainfall and recent snowmelt. Lowlands are expected to receive an additional 1 to 3 inches of rain through Tuesday, which will put extra pressure on already saturated soil.
Editors Note: This story has been updated to include information from NWS Seattle Meteorologist Maddie Kristell.
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