North Olympic Peninsula residents are looking forward to a thaw.
The first day of the new year on Saturday is expected to start off cold, in the 20s with possible light snow, but warm up to above freezing, perhaps as high as the low 40s, later in the day after temperatures dip below freezing today on New Year’s Eve.
This weekend’s expected return to the Peninsula’s more normal winter climes — rainy with highs in the 40s — will break the deep freeze that has iced roads and made warm shelter imperative since Christmas Day.
Next week’s forecast is for continued seasonal weather, with highs in the 40s and a chance for some incursions of colder air. Peninsula weather will be created by airflow from the Pacific rather than by arctic air barreling through the Fraser River Valley in British Columbia.
“Like most of our weather systems,” the storm system that dropped up to two feet of snow in some areas of the Peninsula “is heading east,” according to Mary Butwin, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Seattle.
Snowfall halted travel on 80 miles of Interstate 90 over the Cascade Mountains for about eight hours on Thursday “due to near zero visibility and adverse road conditions,” according to The Associated Press.
The highway was closed from about 4:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Snoqualmie Pass saw more than 9 inches of new snow, according to the state Department of Transportation.
The storm also dumped up to 3 inches in parts of Seattle and up to 4 inches in parts of southwest Washington state.
Heavy snow was expected Thursday from the Cascades to the Rockies.
Despite a week of sub-freezing temperatures and icy roads, the Clallam and Jefferson County sheriff’s offices reported no major wrecks or cases of fatal hypothermia.
All said it seemed that those who needed shelter found it. A variety of agencies across the Peninsula have been operating shelters.
“Thank God, there haven’t been any injury collisions,” said Cpt. Ben Stamper of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.
Leah Speser, public information officer with East Jefferson Fire Rescue, said all major roads had been cleared by snowplows and sanding.
Clallam County Chief Criminal Deputy Brian King estimated the unincorporated area had about 16 vehicle wrecks since Christmas, but none with major injuries.
“The tow trucks are working overtime,” King said. “It’s busy, but nothing serious.”
Most of the calls the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office had received were from people requesting welfare checks of friends and family members.
“We had several unattended deaths,” nine since Christmas, which is slightly above the norm, King said.
“We can’t say if any were directly related to COVID or the weather,” King added.
Port Angeles Officer Kyle Cooper, patrol supervisor, said the city experienced a handful of minor wrecks.
All hoped the trend of nothing major happening would continue through New Year’s Eve, urging all to be careful out there.
Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at [email protected].