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Updated Monday, November 19, 2012 at 05:37 PM

Wet, blustery storms headed for Western Washington

By Sandi Doughton
Seattle Times science reporter

A series of wet, blustery storms will blow through Western Washington over the next several days, with at least one river predicted to spill its banks.

The National Weather Service issued a warning Sunday for the Skokomish River in Mason County. The river was expected to rise above flood stage early Monday, dropping back down by Tuesday morning.

The level of rain forecast through Thursday across Western Washington shouldn't be enough to trigger flooding in other areas. "There's no major concerns," said National Weather Service meteorologist Jay Neher.

The agency will keep a close watch on the Chehalis, Satsop, Nooksack and Stillaguamish rivers, where the possibility of minor flooding can't be ruled out.

Monday's front is likely to bring the heaviest rainfall before Thanksgiving, especially in Southwestern Washington. The storm will also deliver a significant amount of snow to the mountains.

If the forecast holds and freezing levels remain low enough, Mount Baker Ski Area is aiming for a limited opening Wednesday. The outlook for the state's other ski areas is iffier, said University of Washington meteorologist Cliff Mass.

"It's very doubtful at Stevens," Mass said Sunday. "At Crystal, there's a chance." Snoqualmie Pass, at an elevation of 3,022 feet, is likely to see more rain than snow.

Lowland temperatures over the next several days will range between the mid-40s at night to the mid-50s during the day.

A National Weather Service winter-storm warning for the Cascades estimates the possibility of 9 to 30 inches of snow above 4,500 feet. But the freezing level is expected to rise to 5,000 feet later on Monday.

"The mountains will keep getting pounded with snow at higher elevations and a mix of snow, rain and freezing rain at times in the main passes," according to the weather service's forecast discussion.

A brief respite from the rain is likely early on Tuesday before another system moves in, with rain continuing through Wednesday morning. Thanksgiving Day could bring another break, with showers instead of steady rain. By Thursday evening, the rain should be back, Mass said.

It's too early to be definitive, but at least one leading climate model is suggesting very heavy rain could lash the region for several days, beginning Friday. Conditions seem to be setting up for what's called an atmospheric river — a fierce band of precipitation that could unleash 5 to 10 inches of rain in the mountains, Mass said.

But the National Weather Service forecast noted that another model is forecasting wet, but not drenching, conditions for the weekend.

"There's going to be something that happens, but it's a question of how intense," Mass said. "We've got to wait to know for sure."

Sandi Doughton: 206-464-2491 or sdoughton@seattletimes.com


ERIKA SCHULTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES
Maeve Urban, 6, walks through Pike Place Market on Sunday with her family, of Vancouver, B.C. It sprinkled throughout the day. Heavier rain is expected this week.




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