Northwest Nor'easter

Snow on South Fidalgo, November 22, 2010
Nor'easters are large windstorms that blow in from the northeast.  They occur in the northeastern US and Atlantic Canada.  In the Pacific Northwest, we have our own special version of a nor'easter occurring right now.  When conditions are right, cold air masses from the Canadian Arctic move down the Fraser River Valley and into the Strait of Georgia.  They continue down the Puget Sound Basin bringing uncharacteristically cold weather to western Washington.  The process will be enhanced by a low pressure system to our south.  This will add to the draw on the cold air.  Conditions can be similar to those that produce "lake-effect" snow in the east, basically cold air moving over warm water.  These events can affect the weather all the way into California.

South Fidalgo, December 22, 2008
Snow is rare here and we consider 40° F (4° C) cold.  Today it is 25° F (-3° C) and snowing lightly.  I have experienced temperatures down to 11° F (-12° C) here in such an event.  In 1996, it started snowing the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and it didn't stop until early January.  In December, 2008 we ended up with fourteen inches (36 cm) of snow over three days.  Western Washington was shut down by icy, snow-packed roads.

Four Wheel Drive Country, December, 2008
I lived in eastern Iowa during the decade of the 1970's and this is probably where my interest in weather was born.  The same arctic air masses dominate Iowa winter weather, unencumbered by mountains or ocean.  I am going to speak to my friends in the Midwest now, so the rest of you can tune out for a moment:

The people here have no idea what real weather is like.  They cannot appreciate 34 below zero, a minus 70 wind chill or when the high for the day might be 5 below.  They are naive to the joy that can come from getting your car started.  They don't have any idea what an ice storm can do.  They have never experienced a severe thunderstorm or a tornado.  Remember the April blizzard of 1973?  If it gets above 80 or down to freezing here, you cannot imagine the whining and bellyaching that goes on.

OK, I'm back now.  It looks like this winter could be shaping up like the one in 1996-97.  If that is the case, today is only a hint of what is yet to come.  There is an inch of snow now on South Fidalgo.  It should be gone by Wednesday, but there is still a lot of winter to go.

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