The weather is warming up on the North Olympic Peninsula as rain and temperatures in the mid-40s replace snow and several days of sub-freezing temperatures.
Saturday and Sunday are expected to see highs of 50 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the National Weather Service (NWS), up from the temperatures in the mid-teens experienced during the week.
NWS has issued warnings about the potential for urban flooding higher as temperatures and rain melt several inches of snow and ice.
Intermittent rain is expected into next week and is expected to hit coastal communities in the West End hardest. NWS meteorologist Jacob DeFlitch said rainy conditions likely will impact the western coastal areas of the county more than those in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains.
An atmospheric river is expected to bring several days’ worth of rain to the Olympic Peninsula, DeFlitch said, but Eastern Clallam and Jefferson counties are expected to get less rain than communities on the open coast.
“They were likely rain-shadowed for a good portion of the system,” DeFlitch said of the area’s major population centers like Port Angeles, Sequim and Port Townsend.
Saturday is predicted to see the heaviest rain, DeFlitch said, but rain-shadowed areas would likely see less than an inch of precipitation.
Friday afternoon, NWS issued a Coastal Flood Advisory for the Strait of Juan de Fuca for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, as unusually high tides were expected, as were breezy to windy conditions.
Hundreds of people lost power on the West End Friday morning as freezing rain — rain that turns to ice upon contact with a cold surface — brought down tree branches and clumps of snow upon power lines.
Crews were able to restore power to more than 200 households near the intersection of U.S. Highway 101 and state Highway 112 in less than two hours Friday morning, according to Nicole Hartman, Clallam County Public Utility District (PUD) spokesperson.
A tree branch had fallen on the line but there was no damage to the equipment, Hartman said.
Hartman said crews were on their way at noon Friday to address a 154-household outage in the Forks area, and that there were smaller isolated outages in other parts of West Clallam County.
By 4:45 p.m., only 10 homes lacked power on the West End.
“Fingers crossed, it’s been pretty mild,” Hartman said of the weather.
Jefferson County PUD reported only a few isolated outages, according to spokesperson Will O’Donnell, who said in an email the utility hadn’t experienced any issues from freezing rain. By 4:45 p.m., no outages were reported online.
Friday afternoon, the Jefferson County Department of Emergency Management — which Thursday issued a statement strongly urging residents to avoid non-essential travel — released an update saying the freezing rain event was largely over but that dangerous conditions remained on the roadways.
“Many roadways may continue to be slick over the next 24 hours, as ice and compacted snow may still be present,” the update said. “Continue to exercise caution when traveling.”
Road crews had been able to plow only so many roads before sub-freezing temperatures turned packed snow to ice mid-week, and local officials asked people to avoid non-essential travel.
Traffic was briefly blocked on Peabody Street in Port Angeles between Front and First streets early Friday morning due to a jack-knifed truck, according to Chief Brian Smith of the Port Angeles Police Department, who said that officers directed traffic there.
“Everybody that was out this morning described it as very slippery,” Smith said.
Because of the Christmas holiday there was less traffic during the week than usual, Smith said, and many events were canceled earlier in the week when cold weather set in.
Smith said people should avoid discretionary travel if possible and should be prepared for driving in hazardous conditions and carry such equipment as snow shovels in their vehicles.
“We think we’ve been pretty good about getting weather situational awareness out,” Smith said. “We’ve done pretty well in terms of accidents and winter weather.”
According to the Associated Press, severe winter weather was impacting large portions of Oregon and Western Washington and air traffic website FlightAware showed delays of an hour and increasing at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
Drastic winter weather impacted large portions of the U.S., mainly the Midwest and East Coast. The New York Times reported Friday afternoon that more than 1.4 million customers were without power across multiple states.