Heavy rains moved into Western Washington on Thursday, kicking off the first in a series of storms set to bring high winds and possible minor flooding to the region.
A high wind warning remained in effect until 7 a.m. Friday with 20 to 35 mph winds and gusts up to 55 mph, according to the National Weather Service.
Officials warned about scattered power outages, downed tree branches and clogged roads and gutters.
And that’s just the first wallop.
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The biggest storm is expected to strike Saturday, though forecasters have said there is still much they don’t know about how severe the impact will be.
“Models beginning to have stronger agreement on worst-case scenario for Saturday storm,” the Weather Service tweeted about 11:30 a.m.
Thursday afternoon, the Weather Service added a high wind watch from Saturday afternoon through late Saturday evening.
In a special weather statement, forecasters talked about a 1-in-3 chance the storms would cross part of the central or north coast of Western Washington.
“This would be a worst-case scenario leading to a historical windstorm for nearly all of Western Washington that would be long remembered,” the statement says.
Some models show wind gusts up to 80 mph over Puget Sound, with sustained winds of 25 to 35 mph.
“That is serious,” Cliff Mass, a meteorologist with the University of Washington, wrote on his blog Thursday. “The Saturday storm is the big windstorm threat and has the potential to be one of the strongest windstorms we have seen in a few years.”
There is still a possibility of saltwater flooding Saturday evening with the second storm, Weather Service meteorologist Steve Reedy said Thursday night.
Trees stand a greater chance of falling in a storm if winds blow in a direction different from the prevailing wind pattern, said Dick Canzler, owner of a Tacoma-based tree service.
In Tacoma and Olympia winds blow usually from the south, according to data from the Western Regional Climate Center.
Although wind is the attention grabber with this pair of storms, they will come with plenty of rain.
By Friday morning, 1 to 2 inches could fall in the lowlands. The Cascade Mountains and coast could see 2 to 5 inches, and the Olympic Mountains could be inundated with 4 to 8 inches.
The snow level, which was about 7,000 feet Thursday, is expected to drop as low as 5,000 feet by Friday.
At Joint Base Lewis-McChord, many soldiers, airmen and civilians at got off work early Thursday and can report late to work Friday, according to a news release.
Anyone who is not “mission critical” could leave at 3 p.m. Thursday and didn’t have to report Friday until two hours later than normal or 10 a.m., whichever is earlier, the release said.
The late arrival is because base officials expect poor driving conditions after heavy wind and rain hit overnight.
Hurricane Ridge Road, Hoh Road and many campgrounds in the Olympics closed at noon Thursday in anticipation of the weather.
A scheduled closure of Interstate 90 at Snoqualmie Pass on Thursday was suspended.
Lakewood postponed its 10th annual Truck and Tractor Day set for Saturday in Fort Steilacoom Park and organizers canceled Eatonville’s annual Salmon Fest.
Pierce County had no big power outages.
Because of the predicted wind and rain, CHI Franciscan Health canceled Saturday’s street fair to commemorate the 125th anniversary of St. Joseph Medical Center.
The street fair will be rescheduled for next summer.
Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653
Staff writers Jeffrey P. Mayor, Kenny Ocker, Kate Martin and Craig Sailor contributed to this report.