Batten down your '12' flags as heavy rains, gusty winds approach

SEATTLE -- It's been a pretty dry autumn and start to winter, and the mountains have been screaming for snow so we're due for some decent-sized storms to start to make up for it.

Just the timing could have been a little better with our big football party on Saturday.

Rain is increasing this evening and will fall, heavy at times through the early night as the storm's warm front pushes through.

The trailing cold front will then sweep in late Friday night and early Saturday morning, bringing another burst of heavy rain. Those heavy rains will decrease in intensity for Saturday afternoon, but the rain is expected to remain falling through the day, tapering to showers Saturday night.

Gusty winds will also develop overnight Friday, then a strong punch of wind comes in with the frontal passage on Saturday, peaking twice early Saturday morning, then again late in the afternoon. Gusts in Seattle/Puget Sound area are expected to reach 40-45 mph during the morning hours, then 35-40 mph during the game, perhaps increasing again to 45 mph late in the day. So pregame tailgating: Very wet and windy. During the game: Lighter rain, still blustery.

During the warm front period Friday night into early Saturday, it'll be raining in the passes with potential for some river flooding. But the storm will also bring heavy snows to the mountains once the cold front passes midday Saturday and snow levels crash to well below pass levels.

While this all sounds like a pretty routine game plan for a winter storm around here, there is one unusual twist to this storm in that the gusty winds will hang around longer than normal. A typical storm will have peak winds for a good 3-4 hours but models indicate we'll maintain the sustained 20-30 mph with gusts to 35-45 mph through Saturday evening and even through much of Sunday as high pressure building well to our southwest keeps a large pressure difference over Washington.

We'll have a brief break in the rain Saturday night then periods of light rain on Sunday.

Now that you have the gist of the weather, here are the official watches and advisories:

A High Wind Warning is in effect for the coast and Admiralty Inlet/Whidbey Island/Port Townsend areas from 4 p.m. Friday through 4 a.m. Saturday for potential southerly gusts to 60 mph. A second High Wind Watch is in effect for these areas for late Saturday afternoon through Saturday night for a westerly surge of wind behind the storm that could again reach 60 mph. (Remember, a "warning" means imminent or occurring; a "watch" means potential.)

A Wind Advisory is in effect until 6 a.m. Saturday for much of the rest of Western Washington, including the Seattle/Puget Sound area for gusts of 40-45 mph. Gusts will remain in the 30-40 mph range during the day -- just under advisory criteria -- but may increase a little later in the day again.

A Winter Storm Warning is in effect for the mountains from 4 a.m. Saturday through 4 a.m. Sunday. Snow levels will be up around 6,000 feet until Saturday morning, meaning all rain until then at the passes, but snow levels will fall to 3,000 feet Saturday afternoon and then 2,000 feet Saturday night. As much as a foot of snow could fall Saturday afternoon with an additional foot Saturday night. Keep that in mind if crossing the passes -- coming over early Saturday will be a different world than going back that evening. It'll also be quite windy up there for blowing snow issues.

In the greater Puget Sound region, a Flood Watch is in effect for all mountain-fed rivers in King, Snohomish, Pierce and Mason Counties for minor flooding, particularly the Skokomish, Stillaguamish, Tolt and Puyallup rivers. A Flood Watch is also in effect for all rivers in Grays Harbor, Clallam, Jefferson and Lewis Counties.

A Coastal Flood Watch is in effect Saturday afternoon through late Saturday night for swells of 26-29 feet that could overtop levies in Ocean Shores and Westport.

We all begin to calm down Sunday and by Monday, we just have a few scattered showers remain. We then usher in a relatively tranquil pattern for the rest of the week-- hopefully we'll have to worry about a game forecast next weekend as well!