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Drenching rains, gusty winds mark inaugural storm of fall season

Gray storm clouds and rain roll over the Seattle area on Oct. 18, 2017 (Photo: Chancellor Merchant)

NOTE: This story is now archived. Updates to the autumn storm are being posted at this new link.

SEATTLE - Does it look like February outside today? Because it's likely going to be the wettest day around here since Valentine's Day was a thing.

A potent weather system is moving ashore into Western Washington Wednesday, with a double-barreled blast of heavy rain and locally strong winds that could cause power outages and urban flooding.

MORE | Real-Time Western Washington Severe Weather Updates

For most, it'll be the wind that is the most noticeable feature of the storm. A High Wind Warning is in effect for the Everett area, San Juan Islands, Admiralty Inlet, western Whatcom County and western Skagit County until 9 p.m. In these places, wind gusts around 45 to 55 mph are possible, peaking early Wednesday afternoon. Already we've seen a gust to 58 mph at Whatcom County's Sandy Point, while A 47 mph gust was recorded at the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.

Wind advisories are in effect for most other areas around Puget Sound, including Seattle, Bellevue, Tacoma, Olympia and Kitsap County. In these areas, gusts around 35 to 45 mph are possible, peaking late Wednesday afternoon around the time of the commute. And a gale warning is in effect for the waters of Puget Sound and Hood Canal, calling for winds of up to 47 knots (54 mph).

Peak Gusts so far as of 3 p.m.:

  • Sandy Point: 58 mph
  • Lopez Island: 55 mph
  • Bellingham: 53 mph
  • Whidbey Island NAS: 52 mph
  • Ferndale: 50 mph
  • Arlington: 48 mph
  • Hoquiam: 48 mph
  • Friday Harbor: 45 mph

Typically the region handles these kind of wind gusts relatively unscathed, but since it's the first true widespread wind event of the season, we tend to see more tree damage and power outages since the trees are still quite leafy and many of the dead branches from the dry summer have yet to be broken/blown off the trees yet. (Nature's pruning!) As a result, there are typically more power outages with the first storm than subsequent storms of similar strength.

As of 3:30 p.m., about 17,000 people were in the dark. Puget Sound Energy reported about 11,500 -- mostly in Whatcom, Island and Skagit counties. Seattle City Light had about 3,900 in the dark in Magnolia. Snohomish Co. PUD had nearly 500. Grays Harbor had just over 1,000 without power due to a downed tree into power lines (see!)

Still, we're not expecting any widespread or extended outages.

Aside from the wind, it's going to rain quite a bit with this storm. Over the next 24 hours, 4 to 7 inches of rain are forecast for the windward Olympics, 3 to 5 inches for the NStill, we're not expecting any widespread or extended outages.orth Cascades, and 1 to 4 inches for the Central Cascades. A Flood Watch has been issued from noon Wednesday through Thursday morning for essentially the Skokomish, Nooksack, Stillaguamish and Skagit Rivers. Although since the rivers were pretty low before the rains began, any flooding is forecast to be minor.

The heaviest rain over the Puget Sound lowlands will come late Wednesday afternoon and early evening, contributing to 24-hour rain amounts of 1 to 2 inches over the interior lowlands (with the exception of rain-shadowed areas near Port Townsend). At the least, this will cause a sloppy evening commute. Urban flooding is possible in poorly drained areas, especially from Seattle southward where the heaviest lowland rains are expected.

The heavy rainfall rates are accompanied by high snow levels well over 7,000 feet.

The rain and wind will taper off by late Wednesday, and the snow level will drop as the precipitation becomes more showery on Thursday.

But stay tuned, because another potent system is expected on Saturday, bringing a more significant threat of flooding.

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