Much of the Pacific Northwest has endured relentless cold and several helpings of snow since Christmas. The frigid air is forecast to stick around into the new year, but AccuWeather forecasters say that a reprieve from the snow is on the way. The question is: how long will it last?
Seattle, Washington, and Portland, Oregon, have both received snow every day since Dec. 26. The monthly total of 9.2 inches in Seattle is above the 6.3 inches typically observed in an entire winter. Portland had measurable snow on Dec. 26, Dec. 27 and Dec. 28, with only a trace observed on Dec. 29 and Dec. 30. The city has recorded nearly 4 inches in the month of December. A normal December snowfall total in Portland is 1.3 inches.
Slightly higher temperatures were recorded in parts of the region Thursday. Highs reached the middle 40s F in Portland, allowing precipitation to fall in the form of rain during the afternoon.
No additional precipitation is expected on the final day of 2021, but colder air will again move into the Pacific Northwest and make for a chilly start to the new year.
"Low temperatures usually only fall into the upper 30s in late December, but New Year's Eve night could have temperatures dropping into the upper teens in Seattle," said AccuWeather meteorologist Jessica Storm.
Even though this is well below normal, the forecast low of 19 degrees will be nowhere near the record of 10 degrees set in 1952.
Storm noted that Portland will not fare much better, with a forecast low temperature of 21 degrees. Normally, Portland only falls to a low temperature of 36 degrees on the last night of December and first night of January.
"Those celebrating the new year outdoors will want to bundle up with plenty of winter gear," advised Storm.
A few flurries or some very light snow cannot be completely ruled out in northwestern Washington state Saturday, but the break in precipitation will continue in most locations.
A warm front will approach Saturday night and move ashore by Sunday, reintroducing the likelihood of precipitation. However, since warmer air will accompany this system, snow levels will rise, meaning precipitation is likely to fall in the form of rain in Seattle and Portland.
Precipitation will continue to spread inland across Washington and southward into Oregon Sunday night. Moderate to locally heavy rain is expected along the coast, with snow in the Cascades. Washington, Oregon, Northern California and Idaho are all expected to receive precipitation by Monday or Monday night.
Only rain is forecast to fall in Portland. Snow may occasionally mix in with the rain in Seattle, but temperatures above freezing will prevent any accumulation.
It will be a different story in the mountains, with 2-4 feet of snow likely to accumulate in the Cascades by the middle of next week. Less snow is expected in California, but up to another foot is possible in the Sierra Nevada.
Additional systems are likely to move in from the Pacific through much of next week, with a potentially stronger storm Thursday delivering heavy rain for the coastal areas and snow in the mountains. Farther south, much of central and Southern California are expected to remain dry.