snow in seattle

Does it Snow in Seattle? What You Need to Know to Visit Western Washington in the Winter

posted in: Washington State | 0

The quick answer to does it snow in Seattle is – yes, it sure does! However, a quick caveat to that is that Seattle’s snow is not at all like, say, Salt Lake City’s or cities in other parts of the country. Snow in Western Washington is a little less predictable and a little more problematic.

Where many areas of the world get snow every winter (my husband always likes to tell me that growing up in Salt Lake City, the first snow always showed up before Thanksgiving), you never really know if snow is going to show up in the Seattle area. Even if it’s in the forecast, sometimes you’ll see a lonely flake or two wander by outside of your window and wonder if that was the snow predicted to hit (and sometimes it is). Some years, the area literally gets a flake or two, other years we get dumped on for a week, other years all the snow melts and turns into ice…which brings me to the biggest issues with snow in Seattle.

snow on the puget sound

Why Snow is a Problem in Seattle

Ice! And hills! Seattle, Tacoma, and several other Western Washington-area cities are extremely hilly. Temperatures also tend to hover right around freezing so it’s not uncommon for the snow to melt when the weather warms up, leave some water on the roadways, and then for that water to freeze when the temps dip again. This is why you can find videos of cars sliding down hills if you look up snow in Seattle on YouTube. 

When Does it Usually Snow in Seattle?

If we do get snow in the Seattle area, it’s generally in January, February, or even March. That’s not to say it doesn’t snow earlier or later, but usually it’s after Christmas. Not a lot of white Christmases around here. Soggy Christmasses are far more common.

What to Know

  • Usually when the Seattle area gets snow, it’s a dusting to an inch or two. It’s rare that we get more, but again, that doesn’t mean never. 
  • In fact, Seattle averages about five inches of snow in the winter, but that’s the average. Some years, the area gets 20+ inches of snow, other years it barely gets anything. You can see a history of recorded snow falls here
  • If you’re traveling to the Seattle-Tacoma area in the winter, check the forecast and if there’s going to be snow, be prepared. If you’re staying in downtown Seattle or Tacoma or an area with a lot of hills, be aware that it may get icy whether you’re walking or driving. 
  • If you’re from out of town, don’t be surprised if driving slows way down when snow shows up. Drivers here aren’t always expert snow drivers since it doesn’t happen every year. 
  • If more than a few inches fall, bus schedules change and some businesses may close.