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Mid-December winter storm

A winter storm hit Seattle late on Dec. 16. It was expected to cause power outages and bring plenty of snow to the mountains.

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WSDOTSTEVENS PASS- The Washington State Department of Transportation reopened Highway 2 Tuesday from Stevens Pass to the west end of Leavenworth.

The pass has been closed since Saturday after a series of accidents, including a double fatality accident, caused by falling, snow-laden trees made driving treacherous. Compact snow and ice were on the roadway, and traction tires were advised. Oversized vehicles were prohibited.

The pass was closed for more than 48 hours. If the dangerous conditions had continued to exist, WSDOT planed to bring in a large helicopter to attempt blow snow from the trees on Wednesday.

“At least four more large trees crashed to the roadway overnight, and there is no way to estimate a reopening time,” Washington State Department of Transportation regional administrator Dan Sarles said Sunday. “Given what has happened at the pass, this is the right decision to make for the safety of drivers and our workers.”



A view of snow-laden trees bending toward U.S. Highway 2. (Photo: WSDOT)

STEVENS PASS — With dozens of snow-laden trees still slumped over the highway, the Washington State Department of Transportation announced Monday it is keeping U.S. Highway 2 closed from Stevens Pass to the west end of Leavenworth.

Skiers can still get to the summit from the west side, but cannot continue east toward Leavenworth. Through traffic must detour via U.S. 97 Blewett Pass and Interstate 90 Snoqualmie Pass, the WSDOT said.

“At least four more large trees crashed to the roadway overnight, and there is no way to estimate a reopening time,” Washington State Department of Transportation regional administrator Dan Sarles said. “Given what has happened at the pass, this is the right decision to make for the safety of drivers and our workers.”

The forecast Monday night called for clear and cold conditions, which meant snow would freeze to branches and trees would not be able to shed their snow load. Wednesday’s forecast calls for another eight inches of snow at Stevens Pass.

“The snow’s been building up in the trees for the last three or four storms,” said WSDOT technician Mike Moreshead. “Usually it will shed after a foot of snow or so, but it’s all been building up. The conditions were just right that it froze to the limbs.”

Moreshead said he has never seen conditions like these in his career.

“I’ve been in the mountains all my life around here,” Moreshead said.  “I’ve cut timber for 30 years. Once in a while you’ll see places in small areas where it’s done this, but it’s just kind of the perfect-storm type deal.”

Clearing these trees is such a tall task for crews that it’s out of their hands.

“We tried keeping up with it for the first couple of days, but it got to the point where you were putting yourself in danger to cut the one that you knew was bad, because there was another one behind it coming,” Moreshead said.

“You don’t want to be up here,” Moreshead said.  “It’s a mountain pass and people can get hurt bad.”

If the dangerous conditions continue, WSDOT plans to bring in a large helicopter to attempt blow snow from the trees on Wednesday.

Elsewhere in the state, crews were preparing for a snowy Christmas Day morning. In Mason County, weather forecasters predicted up to six inches of snowfall in the Hood Canal area. The west side of Hood Canal is more likely to see snow accumulation. WSDOT maintenance crews were to be out treating the roads and plowing snow as necessary.

Conditions at Snoqualmie Pass were good Monday; however, up to 10 inches of new snow was forecast for Christmas Day. Extra crews are standing by to ensure I-90 remains open and ready for heavier-than-usual traffic.

WSDOT hyperlinks:

 U.S. 2 Stevens Pass conditions:

Snoqualmie Pass conditions:

Winter driving:

WSDOT flickr photos:

Local News

Up to 7 feet of snow on Snoqualmie Pass

passSNOQUALMIE PASS — Families on both sides of the Cascades are already prepping for holiday trips over Snoqualmie Pass, where about seven feet of snow fell over the past several days.

Snow was moving at or near highway speeds Thursday and Thursday night, but drivers were being urged to use extreme caution.

Watch the video.

Local News

Olympic Peninsula walloped by December storm

roadHOOD CANAL — People many parts of this state are digging out, especially on the Olympic Peninsula, where heavy snow, rain and high winds created problems.

Crews were busy Thursday to clear highways of downed trees and branches.  U.S. 101 and State Route 106 in the Hood Canal area were closed. And an avalanche warning was issued early Thursday for the Olympic Mountains.  On Thursday night, the state Department of Transportation announced that U.S. 101 was once again open to traffic.

“Once the snow hits, boy, I tell you, they’re out buying wood,” said Mark Lingen, who was delivering wood for fireplaces.

According to the National Weather Service, Poulsbo saw up to 10 inches of snow, Seabeck had 7 inches and other Hood Canal areas were getting 4 to 6 inches.

The heavy snow, coupled with high winds, caused trees to snap and knocked out power to hundreds of customers.

Meteorologists predict warmer temperatures, with rain predicted for the coming days.

blizzardDES MOINES, Iowa — A blizzard struck the Plains and Midwest, cutting power to tens of thousands of homes, canceling scores of flights and forcing schools to close from Nebraska to southern Wisconsin Thursday — one day ahead of the official arrival of winter.

Blinding snow also is blamed for a 30-car pileup on Interstate 35 near Fort Dodge, Iowa, in which two people died, including a 43-year-old Arkansas woman, Sgt. Scott Bright of the Iowa State Patrol said.

As much as another foot of wet, heavy snow is expected in places, accompanied by winds gusting to 50 mph and blowing snow that could reduce visibility to just about zero, forecasters warn.

The storm — the first blizzard of the season — made travel treacherous throughout the region. Nebraska authorities closed much of snow-packed Interstate 80 through the state Thursday morning as blowing snow dangerously reduced visibility.

I-80 also was closed around Des Moines, Iowa, Bright said.


T0 read the entire CNN article and see a video, click here.


Local News

Heavy mountain snow treacherous for drivers

SnowSNOQUALMIE PASS — Rain, wind and a lot snow slammed Washington state Wednesday.

The mountain passes saw the brunt of the stormy weather, with as much as two feet of snow dumping in the mountains within a 24-hour period.

And while the snow is great for die-hard skiers, it’s not always a welcomed sight for those driving over the pass.

Driver Calvin Ainley preferred to sing his blues to the tune of the famous Sammy Cahn Christmas jingle.

“Oh, the weather outside is frightful and the snow is surely falling,” Ainley said, laughing. “But we are not that scared, because we have chains, we have chains, we have chains.”

Interstate 90 at Snoqualmie pass was closed intermittently throughout Wednesday because of snow. It opened again at 10 p.m. Wednesday. Chains were mandatory on all vehicles without all-wheel drive.

“I guess they had a whole bunch of crashes over here,” said one driver headed over the pass. “That’s why it was closed.”

Heavy snow and trees over the roadway closed State Route 542, the Mount Baker Highway, through Thursday. Stevens Pass on U.S. Highway 2 had compact snow and slush on the roadway, and traction tires were required. State Route 12 White Pass also had restrictions on heavy vehicles and required traction tires.

If your heading out to the Snoqualmie Pass area expect to see a lot of cars and trucks on the side of I-90 waiting out the heavy snow.  There are also a lot of stranded and abandoned cars. Washington State’s Department of Transportation encouraged drivers to bring chains, pack an emergency kit, and always have an extra blanket in case the car gets stranded.

To keep up to date with the latest road restrictions around Western Washington, visit the WSDOT website.

Tree down Mt Baker HwySEATTLE — The Washington State Department of Transportation announced multiple road closures across Western Washington in response to snowy roads and wind-blown trees Wednesday.

More than 100 trees came down on State Route 542, the Mount Baker Highway, during the storm. Jamie Holter with the Washington State Department of Transportation said the roadway would be closed in both direction at Milepost 44 until Friday.

Highway 101 south of Hoodsport also had poor driving conditions caused by overnight snow. A mudslide blocked both directions of the road near the Potlatch city limits, officials said.  Highway 101 and State Route 106 in Hood Canal area in Mason County were closed overnight Wednesday due to hazardous driving conditions.

Officals said a 41-mile segment between SR 3 near Shelton and Brinnon and SR 106 along a five mile segment extending from the Purdy Cutoff Road were closed.

The mountain passes have received feet of snow since Sunday. Interstate 90 eastbound was closed for avalanche control at 4:00 p.m. Tuesday. Chains were required on all vehicles except all-wheel drive travelling westbound. Compact snow and ice is on the roadway.

To keep up to date with the latest road restrictions around Western Washington, visit the WSDOT website.


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Local News

Snow and ice could snarl morning commute

photoEVERETT — The possibility of more snow, and more ice, could mean major problems for the Tuesday morning commute.

Marble-sized hail falling during Monday evening’s rush-hour backed up traffic in Everett for nearly an hour. For many, the hail served as a reminder that winter was nearly here.

“I think about if I have good tires I mean that’s very important,” said driver Diana Roe, who was caught in the hail Monday night. “The more traction you have in your tires the better you’re going to be able to go around the road.”

Washington state’s Department of Transportation and other local agencies around Western Washington are on high alert for bad driving conditions. In Snohomish County, were the convergence zone could bring up to three inches of snow, 30 plows are on standby and crews are ready to hit the road as soon as needed.

The state DOT is also ready to start plowing at a moment’s notice, said Dave McCormick, an official with WSDOT. More than 100 plows are on standby, and crews are ready to dispense salt and sand as needed.

“Temperatures are going to be going down tonight,” McCormick said. “We’re going to have areas that have frozen roadways, especially overnight into the morning.”

In Seattle, new sensors to detect ice on area bridges will be put to the test. The sensors were installed on the West Seattle Bridge, the Alaskan Way Viaduct, the Aurora Bridge and five other places for a total of $9,000. They are embedded into the surface, and were purchased to provide minute-to-minute updates for drivers, said Rick Sheridan of the Seattle Department of Transportation.

“These sensors give us the ability to understand what’s happening to the roadway surface and so we get a constant live update about the actual temperature of the roadway ” Sheridan said. “So when it starts to freeze, or when the temperature drops below freezing, we can see that and we can respond to it as needed.”

For more information on weather conditions around Seattle, visit the Snow Watch page.