More than 70,000 customers across Washington and Oregon were still without power on Wednesday after strong winds and a winter storm slammed parts of the Pacific Northwest, meteorologists said.
Some flights at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport were canceled early Wednesday and others were delayed, but the airport said it had removed snow from runways, taxiways and ramps and was open for business. Officials warned that roads and other travel in some areas, especially in high elevations, could be dangerous.
Nearly four million people — in central and Northern California; parts of Idaho, Montana and Oregon; and most of Washington — were under a winter storm warning as of Wednesday morning, according to the National Weather Service. But as the storm moved toward the southeast, most of the warnings dropped. Still, forecasters in Seattle warned that any rain or slush that remained would most likely freeze as temperatures dropped below freezing across the region Wednesday night.
Portions of the region were also under a high wind warning, and by late Tuesday night, the Weather Service office in Seattle had reported winds of 78 miles per hour on Crystal Mountain, a ski area southeast of Seattle, and winds of 61 m.p.h. on Smith Island, northwest of Seattle.
Meteorologists in Seattle also noted there was a sharp difference across the region, with only wet roads and no snow just a few miles south of areas with many inches of snow. Dana Felton, a senior meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Seattle, said “it was an interesting storm,” with a band about 60 miles wide that largely spared Seattle while areas just north or south of the city saw between four and five inches of snow and hazardous road conditions.
A winter weather advisory remains in effect for the Northern Cascades, which is forecast to receive 10 to 20 inches of snow through the night with wind gusts as high as 45 m.p.h.
“With this heavy, wet snow, along with the gusty winds, expect additional tree limbs and power lines to potentially be impacted with additional outages around the region,” forecasters said.
Forecasters predicted that a front, producing coastal rain and snow in the higher elevations, would move onshore over the region on Wednesday and move east to the Rockies by Friday. Heavy snow was also expected to develop over parts of the Southern Cascades, Northern California and parts of the Northern Intermountain Region.
Overnight into Thursday, snow levels will lower over parts of California and heavy snow will pick up over the Sierra Nevada Mountains and parts of the Northern Rockies. About three inches of snow per hour were expected at the peak of the storm, forecasters said, and the snowfall will weaken across the West Coast by Friday.
The Weather Service said that widespread travel disruptions were expected, particularly at higher elevations and in mountain passes.
At Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, at least 26 flights were canceled by early Wednesday, with Alaska Airlines making up the bulk of the cancellations, according to the flight-tracking site FlightAware. Nearly 200 flights were canceled at that airport on Tuesday.
On the roads, the Washington State Department of Transportation warned of an “extremely challenging day,” and Washington State Police on Twitter urged residents to travel with caution, reminding them to slow down, to increase their following distance and to be patient. The Federal Emergency Management Agency office serving the region also asked residents to prepare their homes, cars and families for the winter season.
Other messages about weather preparedness echoed around the region. The Weather Service office in Sacramento urged residents to secure their holiday decorations ahead of strong winds and said that mountain travel was “highly discouraged” because of heavy mountain and upper foothill snow. In Medford, Ore., near the border of Northern California, officials opened a severe weather shelter through the end of the week.