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December Snow: Snow falling across Western Washington

photoSEATTLE — With the region’s first widespread snow Friday morning, state and local crews had plows and salt brine ready to go.

“I think I’ll call work and see if they don’t need me maybe,” Seattle resident Jaclyn Capouilliez said Thursday night.

As commuters consider contingency plans, state and local snow crews were hunkering down and waiting. Snow flurries began falling in Bellingham at about 10:30 p.m. The snowstorm moved south toward Seattle overnight and beyond.

“You never really know, the Weather Service always says this is the most difficult place to forecast in the United States,” said Chris Johnson, maintenance and operations manager for the Washington State Department of Transportation.

WSDOT has 120 snowplows hitting the highways for Friday morning’s commute.

They are also watching trouble spots with their network of cameras — 450 of them that can capture crashes, stranded motorists and traffic backups in real time.

As for Seattle roads, the Seattle Department of Transportation says they have thousands of gallons of salt brine in their arsenal.

“In the early morning, prior to the commute, we will deploy two-thirds of our snowplow fleet to treat the roads with salt as needed,” SDOT spokesman Rick Sheridan said.

“You might still want to avoid the big hills downtown,” Seattle resident Brad O’Connell said.

“It’s definitely a challenge coming from Ballard; you have to come up and down so many hills, I just try to avoid it if we can,” Capouilliez said.

Crews are hoping to prevent what happened during a snowstorm in the winter of 2012. Cars swerved, stalled and slammed into each other. The hilly terrain was just too difficult to maneuver.

But it’s not just hills crews are worried about this year.

Rural roads could be especially dangerous.

“We are concerned that there will be neighborhoods that will be isolated that weren’t previously isolated, that it will take longer to clear the roads,” King County Director of Road Services Brenda Bauer said.

All because of budget cuts, King County Road Services says its funding has been cut by 40%.

“If we have a big storm that affects the entire county, that’s when we will get in trouble. We can’t move resources around,” Bauer said.

So the message for drivers is to be prepared.

“More than anything else, they need to give themselves plenty of time and make sure their cars are ready,” Johnson said.

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