Snow turns to frigid temperatures in the Pacific Northwest
SEATTLE (AP) — Emergency warming shelters were open throughout western Washington and Oregon as temperatures plunged into the teens and forecasters said an arctic blast would last for several days.
Sunday’s snow showers blew into the Pacific Northwest from the Gulf of Alaska, dumping up to 6 inches (15 centimeters) across the Seattle area. More than a foot (0.3 meters) was reported near Port Angeles across the Puget Sound on the Olympic Peninsula. Portland, Oregon, also received snowfall. Icy roads will make the commute challenging in Seattle, Portland and elsewhere.
Forecasters said more snow was likely for the Portland metro area, with up to 3 inches (7.6 centimeters) possible by Tuesday morning.
But officials were especially worried about the extreme cold.
Temperatures in western Washington and Oregon aren’t forecast to rise above freezing until at least Thursday, and possibly not until the weekend. Several days of below freezing temperature is rare for the region, which typically has mild, rainy winters.
“It’s just, you know, they’re talking right now like it’s going to be, you know, four or five days before we get above freezing again. So, you know, this is not a short event,” said Keith Hughes, of West Seattle American Legion Hall Post 160, where a warming center was set up up to a dozen people.
Hughes said capacity was limited by a lack of volunteers.
“Volunteers, this is a problem for myself as well as everyone else in town, it’s really hard to get with COVID going on,” he said.
Multiple daily cold records were broken. The National Weather Service said Seattle’s low Sunday was 20 degrees F (-6.7 C), breaking a mark set in 1948. Bellingham was 9 degrees F (-12. 8C), three degrees colder than the previous record set in 1971.
In Portland in the early part of the week, overnight temperatures will get down to the low teens.
State officials in Oregon have declared an emergency.
In Multnomah County — home to Portland — six severe weather shelters are open with plans to open additional sites, including at the Oregon Convention Center.
“We expect many more people to need a warm place to sleep as temperatures drop and more snow is forecast,” said Julie Sullivan-Springhetti, the county communications director.
On Sunday night officials said the shelters were at 63% capacity with 248 people — most of whom are experiencing homelessness.
Seattle city leaders also opened at least six severe weather shelters that will remain open through the new year, city officials said Monday. Nearly 200 people stayed at the shelters overnight on Sunday, officials said, and they were expecting the numbers to grow.
Kaety West took refuge at the center in West Seattle, leaving her tent just a few blocks from it.
“I’m not even willing to stay in it right now. It’s just so difficult,” she said.
Associated Press writers Sara Cline and Lisa Baumann contributed.