After a weekend of snow, the Puget Sound region is seeing the coldest temperatures in more than a decade this week.
Seattle’s high of 23 degrees Monday was actually the coldest day in 31 years, according to the National Weather Service.
Another fun fact for you all:
Seattle’s high of 23 today was the coldest day in 31 years. Last time there was a colder high temperature in Seattle: December 29, 1990 when it was 22 out.
Hope all those who wanted winter back in June are having fun now!
— NWS Seattle (@NWSSeattle) December 28, 2021
Freezing temperatures settled in over Western Washington to start the week, after a day of several inches of snow for most locations Sunday, creating an ice rink for commuters Monday. Drivers are advised to adjust speeds relative to road conditions, and increase the following distance between vehicles.
Monday brought the potential for a chance of additional light snow in southern areas of Western Washington, with highs sitting in the mid-20s to low-30s, and lows dipping into the teens, and there is another chance for a dusting of snow Tuesday. The better chance for snow, however, is expected to be Wednesday evening into Thursday.
There will also be a chance of a dusting of snow for the greater Puget Sound region tonight and Tuesday night (1-2″ along the coast). #wawx
— NWS Seattle (@NWSSeattle) December 27, 2021
As local meteorologist Michael Snyder points out to KIRO Radio’s Charlie Harger, this run of frigid weather is far from ordinary.
“It’s pretty unusual — the last time we were in the mid-teens was 2010,” Snyder noted.
According to the National Weather Service, record low temperatures for Dec. 26 were set at Sea-Tac Airport, Quillayute, Bellingham, and Hoquiam. On Monday, temperatures in the Seattle area dipped all the way down to 17 degrees Fahrenheit, marking the coldest day since November 2010.
Snyder says that’s largely due to arctic air arriving in the Northwest all the way from Siberia, which has parked itself over the region. Moving forward, he agrees that the next major weather system to look out for will be Thursday.
“There’s another system sliding down out of the Northwest,” Snyder described. “It’s probably going to be a messy transition, and some models have it staying all snow on Thursday, so that’s definitely a storm we’ll need to watch.”
Mostly dry & cold through WED. Chance for light snow each day, but no significant accumulations expected. Another system WED Nite/THU will bring slightly warmer air, but also a mix of rain & snow. Keep an eye on the latest forecasts towards the end of the week. #wawx pic.twitter.com/GD6mlEykvJ
— NWS Seattle (@NWSSeattle) December 27, 2021
The latest forecast from the NWS notes that “exact amounts are hard to pin down this far out,” but current models suggest the region will could see another 1 to 3 inches of snow starting Thursday. A wetter, warmer system will arrive by Sunday, “finally ending the lowland snow threat” to close out the weekend.
Travel and transportation
Freeways across the region have been treated with anti-icer to “reduce snow and ice build-up as much as possible,” according to the Washington State Department of Transportation. And while salting roads can help remove layers of ice and snow, “salt isn’t effective once temperatures drop to about 15-20 degrees.”
WSDOT crews have also been applying sand to help traction, although high traffic areas will wear that away quickly.
“While we’re working to treat highways, in freezing temperatures there will still be compact snow and ice out there, so it’s important to slow down and give each other room,” WSDOT said Monday on Twitter.
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport wasn’t without its flight cancellations due to snow over the weekend, with crews working to de-ice, sweep, and plow runways since Saturday evening.
As of Monday, the airport is “open and operational,” describing visibility for incoming and outgoing flights as “good.”
SEA is open and operational. Visibility is good today with an expected high of 25°F and possibility of snow this evening. Stay in touch with your airline on anticipated delays or cancellations. FlightAware shares live flight delay statistics: https://t.co/Wf5diTNBXj
— Seattle-Tacoma Intl. Airport (@flySEA) December 27, 2021
Because it’s up to each airline to de-ice their own planes, though, the average flight delay has been roughly an hour. Travelers are urged to check with their respective airlines for details on delays or cancellations. It’s estimated that over 600 flights departing Sea-Tac Airport were either delayed or cancelled on Sunday.
It’s also not just Washington state that has been impacted by snow — most of the Western U.S. has seen winter storms, which is adding to the travel impacts.
Meanwhile, crews with the Washington State Ferries are busy keeping loading ramps clear, but are reminding travelers that every terminal is dealing with similar weather-related issues.
Emergency in Seattle
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan signed an emergency proclamation last Friday in anticipation of the snow and freezing temperatures.
“After a year of unprecedented challenges, Seattle is facing a long duration of dangerously cold temperatures and snow. At the City, our city employees are starting 24/7 shifts to prepare for ice, snow, and freezing temperatures. For this winter weather emergency, our crews and employees are available to keep our community safe and warm, but if you don’t need to travel or gather, please don’t as we’re facing dual emergencies of COVID-19 and freezing temperatures,” Mayor Durkan said in a written release.
A number of day centers and warming centers are open across the city. Find a list here.
Seattle Public Utilities announced that there will be no residential or commercial garbage, recycling, or food and waste pickup Monday due to significant snow and ice on streets. Provided the weather cooperates, Monday customers will have their waste collected Tuesday when SPU hopes to resume services.
Monday is being treated as a holiday for parking for similar reasons, in hopes of discouraging residents from driving in icy conditions.
Find an update on city operations and winter weather response here.