A visitor to Hurricane Ridge pauses to take in the expanse of mountain peaks apparently floating above the lowland clouds. (John Gussman)

A visitor to Hurricane Ridge pauses to take in the expanse of mountain peaks apparently floating above the lowland clouds. (John Gussman)

Snowstorm fuels Hurricane Ridge winter sports

Shift to more normal winter temperatures expected this weekend

PORT ANGELES — Bitterly cold but awesomely beautiful, Hurricane Ridge’s appeal has grown with its snowpack.

On Tuesday, the Waterhole Snotel site at Hurricane Ridge, 5,242 feet above sea level, showed a snow depth of 52 inches — or a little more than 4 feet, 4 inches — which was 17 inches more than it had on Dec. 22.

The rope tow and tube run are open, announced the Hurricane Ridge Winter Sports Club, which operates the ski and snowboard area, but the Poma lift won’t be available “until we get a lot more snow,” according to its Facebook page.

While lowland temperatures stayed at highs in the 20s, the temperature at the Ridge was 12 degrees by noon Wednesday, up from its reported Tuesday morning temperature of 3 degrees.

The winter sports center, 17 miles from Port Angeles in Olympic National Park, is open daily through Sunday, weather permitting. The road is scheduled to be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with hours dependent upon weather conditions. Motorists are required to carry chains.

Elsewhere in the Olympic Mountains, 73 inches of snow were measured at the Buckinghorse Snotel and 43 inches at the Mt. Craig Snotel, both in East Jefferson County.

The Dungeness Snotel in Clallam County reported 17 inches of snow.

Snotel is short for snowpack telemetry at a backcountry weather station.

On Wednesday, the National Weather Service forecast more snow overnight on the North Olympic Peninsula into this morning, but it backed its lowlands snow level prediction down from the previous 4 to 6 inches to just 1 to 3 inches.

Snowfall is expected to begin after midnight and will probably be a very noticeable factor in the morning commute, said meteorologist Carly Kovacik at the National Weather Service in Seattle.

The additional snowfall is likely to make already slick roads more icy.

Today “will be comparatively the warmest day of the week” with a high in the mid-30s, Kovacik said. But that will be short-lived as temperatures again drop to the low to mid-20s.

The real relief from the bitter cold in the lowlands will be on New Year’s Day, when the region finally breaks loose from the Fraser Outflow, which has been spewing arctic air over the Peninsula since Christmas.

Winds will be off the Pacific by this weekend, Kovacik said, and that means that, although Saturday likely will begin with a low in the 20s, the temperature eventually will reach a high in the 40s.

And Sunday “is a sure bet” for ice-melting temperatures in the 40s, Kovacik said.

Shelter from cold

Warming centers and overnight shelters on the Peninsula are in use during the rare cold snap.

To see an updated list of the shelters and warming centers in Clallam and Jefferson counties, go to www.peninsuladailynews.com.

In Clallam County, public libraries, which are open Monday through Friday, have begun shifting hours each day due to weather conditions, officials said.

To see the hours for each day on that day, check the North Olympic Library System website at www.nols.org or call a specific library for daily updates.

Overnight accommodations are available in Port Townsend, which was not reported in Sunday’s story.

The Jefferson County Emergency Shelter, in the basement of the American Legion hall, 209 Monroe St., offers overnight accommodations from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m. In addition, it serves as an emergency warming center from noon to 4 p.m., at least until temperatures rise and stay above freezing.

“People can get a warm beverage and a blanket” and spend the afternoon in a warm, safe place, said Robin Pangborn, the Olympic Community Action Programs shelter manager.

Overnight guests also receive dinner and breakfast thanks to the team of volunteers from local churches, she added.

Across Water Street in the Pope Marine Building, the Winter Welcoming Center is also open. Its hours are 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. daily — to fill the gap between the times when the shelter operates.

________

Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at [email protected].

Jefferson County Senior Reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz contributed to this story.

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