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'Snowmageddon' in Seattle...or not

John Brecher / msnbc.com

Two stitched composite images of downtown Seattle as seen from the Jose Rizal Bridge, on Jan. 17 and 18.

Snowmageddon. Snowpocalypse. The Pacific Northwest, known for its rain, was instead forecast to get dumped on by snow. Here in Seattle, they were calling for 8-16 inches. Our forecast went national, then international when the BBC picked up the story. Grocery store shelves were stripped of their milk and eggs. Schools were preventively cancelled. Some metropolitan buses ran on chains Tuesday, even though few roads had snow on the ground. To borrow a phrase from my colleague Allison Linn, the “snowspense” was mounting.

Jim Seida / msnbc.com

Totem pole at the Rotary Viewpoint Park on 35th Ave. SW and SW Alaska St. photographed Jan. 17 and 18 in Seattle.

And for good reason. Our region isn’t very prepared for snow. Most of us own rain boots, not snow boots, let alone a snow shovel. Seattle didn’t even use salt on its roads until after a snowstorm hobbled our city for almost two weeks during the holidays in 2008. During that storm, I saw something here that I’d never seen when living in cold places like Chicago or the Northeast. Drivers stopped their cars – on the interstate - and walked away. For days, our road shoulders were parking lots.

This time around, it wasn’t totally a false alarm, but it didn’t happen at the scale previously advertised. It is snowing here in Seattle this morning, but so far it’s a fine, lazy blanket (as seen in this time-lapse video), not accumulating much more than two inches. You can see from the before and after images photographed by John Brecher and Jim Seida that the streets are quiet as people avoid the snowy roads.

John Brecher / msnbc.com

A snowman from an earlier storm sits slowly melting in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Seattle on Jan. 17. But it was bolstered by a return of snow on Jan. 18.

We aren’t new to these wildly veering forecasts. Here, you can’t really blame the meteorologists. We have such a swirl of forces influencing our weather – two mountain ranges, a giant volcano or two, sounds and lakes –how’s a weather system to navigate that? It can be pouring rain at my Mom’s house 30 miles away, and here in Seattle, we’re having a sunny day.

Our time with the snow will be brief. It’s forecast to be near 50 by Friday. But, as we all know, that could change. In the meantime, steep hills will be closed around the city and will become sledders’ playgrounds. The cross country skis, usually reserved for our nearby mountains, will get a rare lowland workout (mine too. Don’t tell my boss).  We will “work from home” if we can. We’ll take pictures of our houses, children and dogs in the snow – because well, it’s a beautiful and rare backdrop for us. Facebook will be busy with snow commentary.

Then the rain will return. Cross that “Seattle gets an average of six inches of snow a year” off the list.

Jim Seida / msnbc.com

Looking across 35th ave SW toward downtown Seattle from the roof of the Merrill Gardens Retirement Community in West Seattle, photographed Jan. 17 and 18, in Seattle.

See more of the before and after images from Seattle

Northwest snow hits areas outside of Seattle hardest

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