Hurricane Ridge Snow Storm

December 06, 2014


Photographer: Stu Witmer
Summary Authors: Stu Witmer; Jim Foster

Snow Pole 2The heaviest yearly snowfalls in the contiguous U.S. occur in the Pacific Northwest. Here, prevailing westerly winds bring abundant Pacific moisture onshore. Among the first mountains to greet incoming storms is Washington’s Olympic Range. At higher elevations in the Olympics (Mount Olympus reaches 7,962 ft or 2,427 m), several feet of snow may accumulate while Port Angeles sees only rain.

A few winters ago we were visiting family in Port Angeles for the holidays. The weather was mostly rainy, but one day the clouds parted and the Sun came out. The sky became so clear that road crews were able to open the snow-packed highway the entire 17 mi (27 km) through Olympic National Park to Hurricane Ridge, a mile above Port Angeles. We jumped in the car and drove up. At sea level there had been rain, but as we gained altitude the snow along the roadside became deeper and deeper seemingly with every turn. At the road’s end everything was covered with a thick frosting of snow and rime (at left). By the time we arrived the storm had passed and winds were calm and temperatures were pleasant. When it began snowing again we headed back down to sea level.