Cold weather across the Olympic Peninsula is expected to turn warm Friday — but that apparent good news is fraught with possible dangers.
“Snow could transition into a freezing rain kind of event as it progresses into a general transition into rain,” said Dev McMillian, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Seattle.
Rain is expected to begin Friday morning and continue through the weekend, bringing anywhere between 0.5 to 1.5 inches of rain, McMillian said.
There are also signs of a potential atmospheric river hitting the area, which would bring additional rainfall next week, McMillian said.
An atmospheric river is essentially a river of moisture traveling thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean, McMillian said, and when that band of moisture reaches land, it can cause moderate to heavy rainfall.
The winter weather system impacting the Pacific Northwest caused fewer disruptions Wednesday, though local officials were still encouraging people to avoid non-essential travel after snow inundated the Peninsula overnight Monday.
Road conditions were icy across the county on Wednesday, though sheriff’s offices in both Clallam and Jefferson counties reported only a few minor collisions and stuck vehicles.
Brian King, Clallam County chief criminal deputy, said deputies hadn’t responded to any injury collisions on Wednesday, and since snowy weather began Monday, they had responded to about 25 weather-related incidents, mostly minor collisions and stuck vehicles.
“We had one more vehicle get stuck in the snow early this morning, but nothing since,” King said Wednesday.
Jefferson County Sheriff’s Detective Derek Allen similarly said deputies had not dealt with any collisions with major injuries.
“If not necessary, it’s a good idea to avoid the roadways,” Allen said.
No power outages were reported.
Warming shelters across the Peninsula were open as temperatures remained below freezing throughout the day and expected to drop during the night.
Keith Ausmus, site manager for Serenity House in Port Angeles, said the shelter had seen a significant uptick in the number of visitors, which he said was typical during cold snaps. The shelter so far had enough beds to accommodate everyone seeking shelter, Ausmus said.
“Our capacity is about 168 (beds),” Ausmus said, “We’re getting very close, but we’re not there yet.”
Serenity House requires all users of the shelter to fill out an intake form, and only people with certain criminal offenses are banned, Ausmus said.
Robin Pangborn — shelter manager for Olympic Community Action Programs (OlyCAP), which runs shelters in Sequim and Port Townsend — said both shelters had seen higher-than-usual numbers in the past few nights.
“In Sequim, we’re averaging now eight to 10 a night,” Pangborn said of the warming shelter housed at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church on Fifth Avenue.
That shelter, which has a capacity of about 20, offers warm drinks and blankets, but due to fire code, it doesn’t offer beds, Pangborn said. People can stay overnight and are allowed to sleep, Pangborn said, but they must be seated.
In Port Townsend, OlyCAP runs an overnight shelter out of the American Legion Hall with about 30 beds and space for extra cots, Pangborn said, and that facility has been almost at capacity the past few nights.
“We make do with what we have, but we’re seeing about capacity,” Pangborn said.
The overnight shelters have limited hours and Pangborn said residents are asked to leave during the day, and many make use of nearby warming shelters run by other organizations.
Pangborn said some users of the overnight shelter have been going to the nearby warming center run by Jefferson Interfaith Action Coalition at the Marine Park Community Building.
The Associated Press reported Wednesday that fewer flights were canceled out of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Wednesday than on Tuesday, when nearly 191 flights were canceled, but that more than 200 flights were experiencing delays.
Several school districts on the Peninsula are on winter break but announced closures of any extra-curricular activities, and the Brinnon School District, which doesn’t start its break until next Monday, announced Wednesday the district was closed with no transportation available to the high school.