Brief spates of snow in the South Sound on Monday were a fitting end to fall and introduction to winter.
Social media documented the rare snow flurries with photos and videos from west Olympia, Tumwater and Lacey. It stuck briefly to some foliage and roofs, and one Twitter photo showed a snowy roadway between Shelton and Elma.
And there is a chance for a white Christmas. The forecast is for a slight chance of rain and snow showers Friday when the snow level will plummet to near sea level. However, there’s not much moisture expected, so amounts will be light. The forecast is for partly sunny, with a high near 39.
A white Christmas — one with at least an inch of snow — happens in the Puget Sound region about 7 percent of the time, according to the Weather Service.
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It also will be a full moon on Christmas, for the first time since 1977. The next one will be in 2034. December’s full moon is known as a “Full Cold Moon.”
The seasons changed at 8:48 p.m. Monday, and days start getting longer. Because of the shape of the Earth’s orbit, however, the days stretch first in the evening. Sunrise doesn’t begin to get earlier until Jan. 5.
The end of fall put a definitive end to the summer drought. Between Dec. 1 and midnight Sunday, the Olympia airport recorded 11.43 inches of precipitation. The monthly average for December is 7.46 — and there’s nearly a third of the month still to go.
“If you look at the drought monitor for Western Washington, we have gone from those ugly orange- and reddish-looking colors to white, which basically means we have caught up,” said Ted Buehner, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Seattle. “Eastern Washington has a ways to go.”
The most dramatic weather is probably over, Buehner said.
“In a typical El Nino, we get very active fall weather, since Halloween weekend. As we get past the first of the year, the jet stream is going to head south and steer south to California and I like to say, we’re going to get the crumbs. We’ll get some, but not like the past six weeks or so.”
He said snow is going to taper off in the Cascades through the week, giving the state Department of Transportation a chance to play catch-up.
Heavy snow in the mountains has been a blessing to skiers and a curse to drivers, with Interstate 90 over Snoqualmie Pass closed frequently in the past week.
The Northwest has been pounded by fierce storms for much of December. The storms have sent rivers bursting from their banks, spilled boulders and trees onto highways, and spawned a rare tornado that snapped power poles and battered homes in Battle Ground. The storms have caused millions of dollars of damage to roads and property.
Moisture from the storms is helping to build snowpack and fill reservoirs earlier, recharging the groundwater in a region that has been plagued by drought. Much of Washington’s water supply depends on mountain snowpack that builds over winter, and melts in spring and summer.
The Climate Prediction Center forecast for January through March is for an increased chance of above-normal temperatures for the entire state and even higher chances — 70 percent — for Western Washington. Precipitation is expected to be below normal.
But if you prefer to rely on the Farmer’s Almanac, look for winter to be cooler and rainier than normal, with above-normal snowfall.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.