Beginning on Friday, April 18, 2008, it snows in parts of the lowlands of western Washington. Accumulations reach 10 inches in one part of southern Snohomish County, though most areas receive less snow and some places do not get any. Snow continues falling intermittently until Monday, April 21. Generally, the snow falls as far south as Olympia, as far north as Mt. Vernon, and west to Port Angeles, but on April 21, Ocean Park, a small beachfront town in Pacific County, receives about three-quarters of an inch of snow. It is the latest snowfall on record for Seattle, but does not quite break the record in Olympia.
April Snows, May, Who Knows
Few were particularly surprised when the weather forecast called for a chance of snow in the Western Washington lowlands on April 18, 2008. Area temperatures had been colder than normal that spring, and just as recently as March 30 more than three inches of snow had fallen in a wide swath of Seattle’s eastside between Redmond and Issaquah. Besides, only an inch was forecast in this latest snow event: “It won’t be very much,” predicted National Weather Service meteorologist Johnny Burg in a brief Seattle Post-Intelligencer interview. Added the P-I, “Don’t pull out the sleds or expect to make snowmen.”So when the snow started falling around 3:30 p.m. on Friday afternoon, April 18, many lowlanders laughed and treated it as a novelty (“It’s snowing in the middle of April!”) until -- at least in the Puget Sound convergence zone in northern King County and southern Snohomish County -- the snow suddenly intensified and people found themselves stuck in rush hour traffic trying to drive in it. Vickie Pederson of Everett saw near whiteout conditions on Interstate 5 at the Eastmont interchange in Everett. Recounted Pederson, "The flakes were so big and coming down so hard we couldn't see where we were going. When we got home I couldn't believe how much snow we saw" (Everett HeraldNet).
Flakes Pile Up
Most of the heavy, wet snow fell Friday evening and night with some lesser accumulation into early Saturday. Clearview (Snohomish County), a tiny unincorporated community about five miles south of Snohomish on Highway 9, took top honors with the most snow: 10.2 inches. South Everett reported 7.7 inches and Mill Creek (Snohomish County) was a flake behind at 7.6 inches. Woodinville was the King County snow champ with 6.5 inches. Shoreline, just north of Seattle, recorded 3.5 inches, but Seattle itself only received scattered dustings, depending on where you were. The storm was capricious as to who got snow and who did not. One video from Seattle’s KING 5 television that Saturday showed a reporter standing ankle-deep in snow in southern Snohomish County -- then the camera panned beyond him and, just a few miles away, the hills were green.
In Seattle’s north end and southern Snohomish County, the snowmen (and at least one snow cat) were soon out in force on Saturday, April 19. Snow continued falling sporadically throughout Western Washington during the day, but it was too warm for any additional accumulation. That changed later in the evening as temperatures dropped, and on Sunday, April 20, residents of Seattle woke up to another dusting in some parts of the city. Snow was heavier on Seattle’s eastside, where Bellevue reported an inch, though the hills in the southern part of the city got slightly more. While snow depth totals on the 20th were considerably less than what was reported on the 19th, the snow was more widespread, with as much as five inches reported in Thurston County near Olympia (though Olympia itself escaped with a trace), and about an inch as far north as Mount Vernon (Skagit County). On the Olympic Peninsula, Port Angeles (Clallam County) measured several inches of snow.
Though weather forecasters expected the snow to end on Sunday, the upper level low pressure system responsible for causing it kept recycling and drifting lazily off of the southwestern Washington coast. Sporadic snow squalls kept blowing through the Seattle area until noon on Sunday. Finally, early on Monday, April 21, the storm sputtered its last hurrah and edged off to the east. Olympia, Mt. Vernon, and Port Angeles all reported snow showers on Monday morning. Residents of Ocean Park (Pacific County) were surprised when about three-quarters of an inch of snow fell on their ocean front community that morning, providing a singular segue of snow, sand, and surf.
It was the latest snowfall on record in Seattle, eclipsing the record of April 17 set in 1972. However, Olympia’s latest snowfall record of April 23, 1955, remained intact. After it was over, Western Washington’s subnormal spring continued; it was one of the coldest springs the area had experienced in years.