Forecasters predict this could be the wettest December on record

Early morning traffic on Tacoma Avenue on a rainy and blustery Monday Dec. 21, 2015.
Early morning traffic on Tacoma Avenue on a rainy and blustery Monday Dec. 21, 2015.

Although it’s the rain that keeps breaking records in Western Washington, it’s the snow that has people talking.

Forecasters initially predicted light snow could fall in the lowlands Christmas Day but said it probably wouldn’t stick.

Now, it’s more likely Christmas will bring a bit of sunshine and highs in the upper 30s.

There have only been five “White Christmases” in Seattle in the last 120 years, most recently in 2008. The National Weather Service defines a White Christmas as having at least 1 inch of snow.

The other years were 1990, 1965, 1924 and 1909.

Although snow might not make an appearance this week, rain most certainly will.

It’s expected to stay wet through Thursday before possibly picking back up Sunday.

On Monday, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport marked its sixth-wettest December with 10.03 inches of precipitation. It’s likely to bump into fourth place by late Wednesday, the Weather Service said.

“To live through the wettest December in Portland or Seattle is really saying something,” said Cliff Mass, a University of Washington meteorologist.

Mass said he believes Seattle could break the all-time record for wettest December by the end of the month, which he lists as 11.85 inches in 1979.

The Weather Service documents the wettest December as 15.33 inches in 1933. They list 1979 as the second wettest December.

The summit of Mount Rainier was -18 degrees on Monday night, colder than the South Pole, which was at -14

Portland on Monday surpassed its record with 13.52 inches, squeaking past its previous record of 13.35.

Forecasters said it’s the second-wettest period since Nov. 1, with 18.43 inches falling at Sea-Tac. Only 2006 had more rain in the same span of time.

“The last few weeks have been amazingly wet,” Mass wrote in his blog.

Many areas in southern Washington are 200 to 400 percent over the average rainfall, forecasters said.

Most of the state also is at more than 100 percent of its normal snowpack.

The snow depth at Paradise in Mount Rainier National Park is now nine feet. Crystal Mountain Ski Resort has received more than 15 feet this season, 21 inches of which fell in the last two days, and all lifts are open across the 2,600-acre resort.

About 26 inches of snow fell at Snoqualmie Pass on Monday, causing multiple spin-outs and temporarily shutting down the freeway.

The snow level is expected to drop to 1,500 feet, and a winter storm warning remains in the Cascade mountains through 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Longmire and Paradise could see eight to 14 inches Tuesday night and another eight to 12 inches Wednesday, the Weather Service said.

Due to staffing shortages, Mount Rainier National Park did not open the gate to Paradise on Tuesday.

U.S. 12 at White Pass is scheduled to open around 5 p.m. Tuesday. Sections of the highway closed Dec. 9 after a deluge of rain washed out the road.

With all the fresh powder and continued rain, the Northwest Avalanche Center is warning that avalanche danger in the Cascades is “considerable.”

Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653

Christmas Day weather statistics for Sea-Tac Airport

▪ 1980 had the highest temperature at 60 degrees

▪ 1995 had the lowest temperature at 24 degrees

▪ 1998 had the most rain with 1.06 inches

▪ 1965 had the most snow with 1 inch

▪ 2008 had the greatest snow depth at 4 inches