With snow over, freezing rain poses next challenge

SEATTLE -- After a day of steady snows and blustery winds, weary Puget Sound area residents are facing a new challenge Wednesday evening: freezing rain.

Freezing rain a super-cooled rain droplet that freezes to surfaces on contact, creating ice accumulations on roads, cars, trees, power lines -- whatever it lands on.

While it makes for pretty pictures, it makes for dangerous conditions on roads and creates power outages as the weight of accumulating ice can topple power lines or knock tree branches into power lines.

As of late Wednesday evening, power outages were reported in Puyallup, Spanaway, Edmonds, Graham and Duvall. In addition, Snohomish PUD says about 7,500 without power in northern and eastern Snohomish County.

Temperatures in the 20s combined with a light, freezing rain to add a coating of ice to the several inches of snow that fell across the Puget Sound region Wednesday.

Many schools throughout the area have already announced they've cancelled or delayed the start of classes Thursday, including Seattle, which announced they'll be closed.

Icy roads will continue to pose challenges to mass transit as well, and and buses in King and Pierce Counties said they will continue to run on snow routes Thursday.

City, county and state road crews were plowing main roads and highways and dropping de-icer, but officials urged drivers to use extreme caution throughout the day.

The chilly night is on the heels of the largest snow event to strike the Pacific Northwest since at least 2008 with some cities having to go back decades to find a snowier period. Olympia Airport reported 11 inches of new snow Wednesday, making it the third snowiest day on record. Chehalis reported 17 inches, while, snow totals of 2-6 inches were common across the central Puget Sound area. Sea-Tac Airport officially reported a 5 inch snow total.

Many courts and government offices and libraries closed. Garbage collection was postponed. Sen. Patty Murray canceled her event at a Tacoma company where she planned to talk about employing veterans.

The mix of snow, freezing rain and rain will continue through about midnight with temperatures hovering in the mid-upper 20s. A Winter Weather Advisory is in effect for the greater Puget Sound area until midnight for little, if any accumulations.

Another weather system -- albeit considerably weaker than Wednesday's -- will bring another mix of precipitation from Seattle south to Portland but little if any accumulations were expected.

The temperature climb continues into Friday and the weekend where we get back to "winter normal" for Seattle: Rainy and breezy as an active weather pattern remains. Rain is forecast each day Friday through Tuesday with gusty winds at times of 30-40 mph. Highs will reach the mid 40s with lows in the mid 30s.

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