Several more feet of snow is predicted to fall by Friday in the mountains of Western Washington, a stark contrast to the lack of powder seen across the state this time last year.
Nearly every mountain snowfall reporting location in the area could have 100 percent of its normal snowfall amount by the weekend, according to the National Weather Service.
Snowfall in inches on Mount Baker could end up in triple digits within the next few days. The mountain boasted 80 inches of snow Wednesday, the most in North America. This time last year, the mountain had 6 inches.
Forecasters issued a winter storm watch that said heavy snow was to hit Wednesday night and continue through at least Thursday (Dec. 17). Up to 3 feet is expected to fall.
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The snow level, which was about 1,500 feet Wednesday, is expected to rise to 6,000 feet in Mount Rainier National Park and to 3,000 feet in the North Cascades by late Thursday.
It will drop back to about 3,000 feet Friday.
Most areas will receive 1 to 3 feet of snow, the Weather Service said. Mount Rainier’s summit at 14,411 feet was expected to get more than 4 feet of snow within a day.
The snowpack at Paradise is at 76 inches, thanks in part to 8 new inches that fell Tuesday.
The snowplay area at Paradise typically opens once the snowpack reaches 60 inches, but park superintendent Randy King said it’s still not time yet.
Park managers are monitoring changes in conditions daily.
“There’s not yet enough consistent snow depth in the designated sledding area to permit grooming and cover some exposed trees,” King said.
While the snowplay area has yet to open, there’s plenty of snow on the ground for skiing and snowboarding, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
The Northwest Avalanche Center on Wednesday reported moderate avalanche conditions in the Cascades and Olympic Mountains.
All the snow is certainly good news for ski areas in the region.
Crystal Mountain Resort was operating 10 out of its 13 lifts.
At White Pass, managers are waiting for crews to repair damage to U.S. 12 on both sides of the pass.
In a report Wednesday, the ski area said the highway could reopen next week. Most of the eastbound lane was washed away in two spots during the last round of heavy rainstorms.
Summit Central is the only area of The Summit at Snoqualmie operating daily.
Staff writer Jeffrey P. Mayor contributed to this report.
Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653
AND THE RAIN IS COMING BACK
In the lowlands of Western Washington, rain is back in the forecast for Thursday (Dec 17) with showers expected to continue through at least Tuesday.
The lightest day of precipitation is expected to be Saturday.
So far this month, 7.21 inches of rain have fallen at Sea-Tac Airport. That already breaks the average December rainfall of 5.35 inches and makes it the wettest start to the month since records started being kept in 1894.
There’s a chance this month could place the region on the Top 10 list of highest December rainfall. With 15 days left, Sea-Tac Airport needs 1.77 inches to at least tie last place at 8.98 inches, a record set in 1972 and 1998.
Meteorologists also say it’s the warmest first 12 days in December with the average temp at Sea-Tac Airport being 48 degrees.
Stacia Glenn, staff writer