Second winter storm slams Western Washington with several inches of snow
SEATTLE -- Maybe it wasn't quite "Snowmageddon" -- unless you're reading this in Port Angeles or Sequim -- but residents across Western Washington woke up to February snowstorm Version 2.0 Saturday morning, as the potent winter storm blanketed much of the entire region under several inches of snow for the second time in a week, knocking out power to tens of thousands and making road travel difficult to impossible in some spots.
And the snow wasn't done yet, with another 1-3 inches of new snow falling during the day Saturday as the storm continued to swirl offshore and push moisture our way. Winter Storm Warnings were in effect until 4 p.m. Saturday.
At the peak of the storm, nearly 150,000 people had lost power due to sagging or falling trees into power lines -- a vast majority of them in Puget Sound Energy's network.
Olympia firefighters managed to capture video showing the main problem: Snow-covered trees succumbing to the weight of heavy snow and falling onto power lines.
Just about everyone received at least some coating of snow, with Whatcom County being on the low end due to the dry Fraser winds and just in the wrong spot to catch much of the storm's moisture.
On the other hand, about 2.5-3 inches of snow were found in Downtown Seattle and along the waterfront, 4-6 inches of new snow in the North Sound/Everett area, 8-10 inches around Sea-Tac Airport, 10-11 inches around the Puyallup/South Hill area, and the big winner of the Olympic Peninsula which had well over a foot in many places between Port Angeles and Sequim, especially closer to the Olympic Mountain foothills. One public report says there is a spot near Port Angeles that has over 17-21 inches!
"Snowfall on top of the heavy amounts that have already fallen around Port Angeles and Sequim will make roads exceptionally difficult to treat or clear and may make travel impossible today," the National Weather Service wrote.
Increasing wind this morning would only make matters worse. Crews were working to restore service.
Gov. Jay Inslee declared a State of Emergency across the state Friday to deal with the impacts from the winter storm. The declaration directs state agencies and departments to utilize state resources to help those recover from the winter storm.
The snow has kept troopers and emergency responders extremely busy as icy roads defeat intrepid drivers. Trooper Chelsea Hodgson with the division of the Washington State Patrol that covers the Olympic Peninsula and Kitsap Peninsula says their troopers responded to 89 crashes just during Friday's snow. In the North Sound, troopers had another 59 incidents, while the Seattle/King County area had 250 and the South Sound had 194-- luckily no serious injuries.
Statewide calls were nearly triple a normal day (650 vs. 251.)
Currently there are 34 snow vehicles out roving Seattle's major arterials with plows, salt spreaders, and de-icer trucks servicing snow and ice routes, Seattle city officials said. Fourteen hand crews are out responding to sidewalk issues in Downtown and Center City areas.
In Pierce County, where some snow totals neared a foot, plows were having trouble keeping up with the heavy snowfall.
"Conditions have outpaced our ability to keep up with the snow," Pierce County officials tweeted. "We likely won't make much progress clearing roads for several hours or more. If you must travel, you'll likely encounter difficult driving conditions."
Snohomish County says they have crews running 30-40 plows 24/7 right now, working primary routes first, then moving on to secondary and local roads.
Kitsap County is also running plows 24/7 and have provided this link to see real-time road closures.
In King County, Metro buses are now running on their Emergency Snow Network until further notices. "This means bus service will be severely reduced across the county with some areas seeing limited or no bus service because of difficult travel conditions or geography," King County Metro officials wrote. "Even those routes that are part of the (emergency network) may see delays or other issues due to snow."
Video from viewers and KOMO News crews showed some buses having a particularly difficult time on the snowy roads. We saw buses get stuck at 92nd Ave North near Northgate, along Seattle's Queen Anne neighborhood, and even around Tacoma.
Down at Sea-Tac Airport, it was shaping up to be another day of flight delays and cancellations. FlightAware reported 174 cancellations and 42 delays as of early Saturday morning, on the heels of 350 delays and 250 cancellations on Friday. (Check your flight status>>). Snow totals were running officially at 7.2 inches at the airport gauge Saturday morning, but some reports near the airport sat at 8-10 inches with more snow falling. Portland Airport is also having issues.
It was no picnic trying to get over the passes either as heavy snow didn't forget about them. Snoqualmie Pass was reporting chains required on all vehicles except all-wheel drive and to expect at least 30 minutes additional travel time between North Bend and Ellensburg.
And Ellensburg was as far as you could get Saturday morning.I-90 was closed in both directions between Kittitas and Vantage due to multiple semitruck spinouts and blowing snow. Blizzard Warnings were in effect for parts of Eastern Washington and Eastern Oregon for heavy snow and gusts to 50 mph.
Of course, there is no snow on Puget Sound, which luckily would take some sort of extended ice age much longer than a week in the 20s to freeze over, meaning ferries can still make their runs. Getting to the ferry docks? That's another story.
"All terminals are reporting heavy ice and snow," ferry officials wrote. "Drivers are advised to proceed with caution while driving onto the terminals, surrounding roads and parking lots."
Seattle has opened three severe weather shelters for those without a home to weather the snowstorm. One is at Seattle Center Exhibition Hall, another is at Garfield Community Center, and the Seattle Center Armory will open as a warming center through the late evenings. (More Details>>)
Heavy snow in Tacoma already forced the postponement of an appearance by former First Lady Michelle Obama at the Tacoma Dome and a performance by Bob Seger for Saturday night was on the bubble. (The Justin Timberlake concerts on Sunday and Monday were still a go as of early Saturday morning.)
The Seattle Center Armory was open was a warming center, but the Seattle Monorial and MoPop are closed. All Seattle Public Libraries and golf courses are closed, and all garbage collection is suspended for Saturday. The Woodland Park Zoo also announced Saturday that they would be closed Saturday.
In Edgewood, a teen girl was rescued after she fell through an icy pond while walking her dog Friday afternoon. The woman managed to get out of the ice, onto a log and call for help. A neighbor heard the pleas and called 911.
King County Sheriff's deputies, including the Edgewood Chief of Police, made it to the scene on 18th Street East where the chief went onto the ice with a backboard and pulled the woman to safety.
Traffic around Seattle Friday was light through about midday, but became instant gridlock when the snow began to fall around 12:30 p.m. Travel times doubled or even tripled normal commutes for a few hours, topped by over 160 minutes between Lynnwood and Tukwila. But roads remained mainly bare and wet in the metro main arterials.
Not so in the outlying areas above a few hundred feet, where snow most certainly stuck to the roads, making for tricky driving, especially any kind of hill. In Newcastle, roads were slick, leaving some drivers stuck.
"I thought I was avoiding the high commute traffic mess so I left a little bit early today and I made it all the way from Downtown Seattle to (Newcastle) and I got two blocks from my house and that's where I got stuck," said Sylvia Cavazos. "And AAA said it would be three hours until they could get here."
A Winter Storm Warning remains in effect for much of the interior of Western Washington, including the greater Seattle/Puget Sound region, until 4 p.m. Saturday for continued snow showers through the morning and early afternoon, especially south of Seattle, that can add 1-3 inches of additional snow.
In addition, a High Wind Warning remains in effect into Saturday night for Whatcom County and the San Juan Islands for gusts to 50-60 mph, with northerly gusts of 30-45 mph likely in the Puget Sound region toward dawn, making for potential blowing snow.
Snow will taper off from north to south as the day progresses and the low pressure center moves off to the south. Expect maybe even some partial clearing late in the day from the north leaving us cold and dry. Saturday night will be another very hard freeze with lows in the teens.
Sunday will be a brief break with highs in the low-mid 30s.
We're then watching a quick 1-2 punch of moisture late Sunday night into Monday with the second shot on Tuesday. The Monday storm is weaker and will focus its energy from Seattle southward, leaving the far North Interior likely dry. But charts do show a few inches of snow possible in the Seattle Metro area up to perhaps Skagit County. Better odds for a bit heavier snow totals are in play for Southwestern Washington.
The second storm on Tuesday appears to have potential of a more widespread event again with initial spit-balling snow totals in the 2-6 inch range though this storm may steal from the current storm's playbook and start as rain or mix in some spots. Details are still sketchy there but plan ahead now. Yet another snow storm is still lurking in the long range models for the end of the week.
With freezing weather not going anywhere anytime soon, neither is all the snow on the ground.