Columbia Basin Snow Report

Columbia Basin Snow Report

Winter is making an early appearance today in the Tri-Cities, as several places woke up to a dusting of snow. Winter Weather Advisories are in place for the Blue Mountains as well as in Yakima. The Tri-Cities will likely see off and on rain and snow showers as this system continues to move through the region. Some of that snow may stick briefly in town, but don’t expect much and don’t expect it to last too long.

Snowfall forecast through Monday morning from the National Weather Service. (Source: NWS Pendleton)

If you’re traveling over to the Puget Sound Region, good luck crossing the pass. As of writing (12:15 pm), Snoqualmie Pass is closed. You can check pass conditions for several mountain passes in Washington by going to WSDOT’s website.

Not everyone woke up to snow on the ground in the area. When I was looking at traffic cameras around the area, it looked like many places adjacent to the Columbia didn’t have any of their snow stick. Here is the list of snow totals from the National Weather Service:

MEACHAM – 3.0″
RICHLAND (SOUTH) – 1.5″
KENNEWICK – 0.5″
RICHLAND – 0.5″
BENTON CITY – 0.2″

While those numbers certainly don’t amount to much, this is just the start of the season. The NOAA reports that the average first snowfall for the Tri-Cities is November 23rd or 24th, depending on where you live in the area and your elevation. This data is averaged out from 1981-2010.

For this, the “first snow” is essentially the first date by which there is a 50% chance of 0.1″ of snow on the ground. By this standard, many of those areas listed above (even Benton City) could count today as their first snowfall. If you want to count your first snow as an inch or more, that date would likely be much later. Some other first snowfall dates for the Mid Columbia are as follows:

BOARDMAN – OCTOBER 23
DAYTON – OCTOBER 25
ADAMS – OCTOBER 27
PENDLETON – OCTOBER 27
WALLA WALLA (AIRPORT) – OCTOBER 27
CONNELL – NOVEMBER 7
COLLEGE PLACE – NOVEMBER 16
MILTON-FREEWATER – NOVEMBER 17
PROSSER – NOVEMBER 17
MATTAWA – NOVEMBER 19
PLYMOUTH – DECEMBER 16

How Boardman came out the winner with October 23? I have no idea. I tried accessing the data from climate.gov, but their website wasn’t working for me. Maybe I’ll try it again tomorrow.

Anyway, back to our little bit of snow. Here are some pictures from around the Tri-Cities that I received! If you have a picture of the snow from anywhere in eastern Washington or eastern Oregon, feel free to share it with me through our Facebook page.

 

About 7 am near Clearwater and Columbia Center, Kennewick. (Credit: Angie Schwartz)

 

At 9:40 am where I-82 and I-182 meet near West Richland. (Source: WSDOT)

 

About 10am near 240 and Swift, Richland. (Credit: Kayla McIntosh)

 

About 10 am from Kennewick Park neighborhood, Kennewick. (Credit: Lindsey Smith)

 

Snow falling around noon near 395 and Kennewick Ave, Kennewick. (Credit: Ryan Stewart)

This certainly wasn’t any sort of record-setting event by any stretch of the imagination. My dad can remember one Halloween where they went trick-or-treating in Finley in the snow many years ago. That being said, if you’re at all interested in the weather, or just a child at heart, the first snowfall is always an exciting one.

Why didn’t places like Hermiston or Walla Walla see snow? A center of circulation located near Ritzville is making it so that cold air from Canada surges south from the Okanogan Highlands over Moses Lake and directly into the Tri-Cities, but this same center is bringing warmer air from western Oregon across the state and up through Walla Walla on its way to the Idaho Panhandle.

Ventusky map showing freezing levels, with lines drawn to demonstrate wind patterns. (Source: Ventusky)

This warmer air is bringing with it higher freezing levels, but as Pullman and Coeur d’Alene are both farther north and higher in elevation, they are still seeing snow.

Going into this upcoming week, we’re looking at a pretty good chance of rain around Wednesday. Lows in town are expected to remain above freezing right now, giving us a chance for up to a quarter inch of rain.

GFS modeled rainfall for a 24-hour period ending 10 am Thursday. (Source: Pivotal Weather)

Rainfall totals with that storm system are expected to be higher farther south and, of course, west of the mountains as this incoming low slams the remnants of another one into northern California. If you’re looking to head west of the Cascades later in the week, keep an eye on the weather as passes such as Snoqualmie are expecting another couple of inches of snow.

If you love repeated rainstorms, this is definitely the time of year for you. I’m not going to try to make any guess as to whether this early snow is an indicator of another above-average year, but I will leave you with a map showing the low that’s expected to bring rain in the middle of the week.

Pacific Ocean forecast for Wednesday night, showing a moderately strong low-pressure system approaching the Pacific Northwest. (Source: Ocean Prediction Center)

If you’re interested in how much snow fell west of the Cascades, check out Charlie’s latest update.

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