Skiers always get excited when we weather forecasters talk about "boatloads of snow coming to the Cascades" but the forecast for this upcoming week is so promising, simple "boatloads" is an understatement.
How about "tens of thousands of boatloads"?
Just for fun, I wanted to see a rough guesstimate (emphasis on "rough"...and "guess" for that matter) of just how many boatloads of snow it would take to match the expected snow totals through the weekend.
First, let's start with the forecast. Knowing it snows more in the higher elevations than the lower elevations, I took a rough middle-of-the-road note of the forecasted snow total forecast in the mountains, using the European model as a guide. The estimate I came up with was 68-75" of snow (wow!) from Monday through Sunday so I called it 6 feet for ease of sanity. (It won't snow 6 feet at Snoqualmie Pass as they're lower in elevation, but they'll still get quite a bit.)
Then, using Google Earth and and some help from Wikipedia and tracing some rough outlines of the geographic area of the Cascades, I came up with 10,628 square miles of mountains, or about 296 billion square feet.
Add in 6 feet of snow depth, and we're talking roughly 1.77 trillion cubic feet of snow across the Washington Cascades -- plenty for skiers to have fun with.
As for the "boatloads", if you want to fill those standard 20 foot containers you see on the container ships at the Port of Seattle or on a semi truck near you (at 1,360 cubic feet of room per container), it'd take 1.3 billion containers to haul all that snow.
And according to the Port of Seattle, an average large container ship you see out there docked south of the city's waterfront carries 10,000 of those containers. (Wow! Had no idea.)
So how many boatloads of snow is coming to the Cascades this week? About 130,000*. (Good thing it comes via clouds because I'd hate to see that overtime bill for the Longshoremen to get all that snow off all those ships!)
*Actual snowfall may vary. Calculations may be rounded off and factor in several assumptions to get rough estimates needed for equations. No purchase necessary. Calculations void where prohibited. Mountain snowfall not valid in OK, NE, KS, IL, IA, MO or ND.
Snowfall is badly needed
No matter how the snow gets onto the mountainsides, ski resorts and water planners will take it. As it stands as of Friday, snowpack totals were running about 50-65 percent of normal -- not catastrophic like California's paltry numbers, but not exactly music to our ears.
This series of storms will be sure to push those numbers much closer to normal and get ski resorts on solid footing to get them through the rest of the season. And there is even better news in the long-range forecast as the rainy pattern looks to continue for a second week, adding even more "boatloads" of snow the mountains.