Peninsula prepares for cold, possible snow Sunday evening

PORT TOWNSEND — The National Weather Service is expecting freezing temperatures to hit the North Olympic Peninsula late this weekend with a possibility of snow arriving in the lowlands Sunday evening.

“It’s still too early to give any exact accumulations,” said NWS meteorologist Jacob DeFlitch in Seattle.

DeFlitch said while there isn’t much certainty as to how much — if any — snow could fall in the North Olympic Peninsula lowlands, there is a high-degree of certainty that this will be the coldest weather the area has seen this season.

Currently the National Weather Service is forecasting a high of 31 degrees on Sunday with temperatures dipping into the low 20s in the Port Angeles area.

The forecast shows less of a chance of snow in East Jefferson County, but temperatures are still expected to dip into the 20s.

DeFlitch said he expects the area to see rain Friday as a frontal system pushes through and that Saturday should be dry.

On Sunday a low pressure system will “sink to the south of us” while cold air pushes down from the north.

He said the high-pressure system pushing from Canada is not a part of the polar vortex that has caused dangerously low temperatures across the Midwest.

Ross Tyler, Clallam County Public Works Director, said crews are getting ready now for the possibility of snow and freezing temperatures.

“We obviously are keeping an eye on that,” he said.

Tyler said that while it doesn’t look like a significant weather event, Clallam County road crews are preparing for worse weather just in case.

He said sanders are being prepped now so that they are ready to go Sunday evening and early morning and crews are on call.

“We don’t really anticipate much, but this time of year you have to be ready,” he said.

He said if the snow hits late Sunday, like it is currently forecasted to, crews would be ready early Monday morning to get roads sanded, focusing on school routes first.

Tyler said road crews work closely with school officials to have the roads ready in the event that there is school.

In Jefferson County road crews are concerned about the ice that could be coming, said Matt Stewart, road maintenance superintendent.

“We’re fully stocked up with salt, sand and de-icing fluid,” Stewart said. “We have trucks getting converted from their other work … to be back in snow and ice mode.”

He said the county already has scheduled a couple of overtime shifts Sunday evening into the morning and people are on call.

“Everyone knows it’s coming and we’re ready to skip watching the Super bowl and get the roads clean,” he said.

Stewart said that crews right now are not expecting a lot of snow, but they are concerned about the transition from rain to freezing temperatures.

Temperatures early next week are expected to be below freezing and he is concerned that the moisture could lead to icy roads.

“We want to treat and melt before the temperatures drop,” he said. “Whether it snows or not, that’s less of a concern than just getting the roads clear of skating rink conditions.”

Port Townsend Public Works Director Greg Lanning said crews will be ready to deploy four dump trucks and one smaller truck with plows on the front and sanding equipment on the back in the event of snow.

“We do look at the weather (forecast) and stay in tune with it,” Lanning said Thursday.

“It helps us prepare and to make sure we have plows ready to go and trucks rigged up.”

The Port Townsend snow plan calls for priority plowing on main roads and streets that serve schools and Jefferson Healthcare.

“We also have a couple of steep areas in town to make sure we get to early,” Lanning added.

Port Angeles Public Works Director James Burke said the city will have crews available to plow and sand the roads if weather conditions deteriorate.

The city’s snow plan was prepared in October.

“We’re ready for it,” Burke said of a possible snowstorm.

The Port Angeles snow removal crew is responsible for plowing 144 miles of roads in the city. The top priorities are the main arterials.

Sequim public works crews will be on call throughout the weekend to clear snow from 54 miles of city streets and alleyways if necessary, operations manager Ty Brown said.

“During snow storms, the city crew concentrates on clearing the main arterial first,” Brown said in a Thursday news release.

“Washington Street, Sequim Avenue, Fifth Avenue, Third Avenue, overpasses and school routes (when schools are in session) are the top priorities.”

Forks Public Works Director Paul Hampton was not immediately available for comment Thursday.

“I think we all want to get the message out to the driving public to know the conditions and think about your route and drive safely,” Lanning said in a telephone interview.

“Slow down.”

________

Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at jmajor@peninsuladailynews.com.

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