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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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Concern turns from wind to lowland snow

snowSEATTLE — The first major storm of the season brought high sustained winds with dangerous gusts early Monday morning.

Winds downed a number of trees and power lines throughout the region Sunday night and into Monday. Strong winds also combined with an unusually high tide to flood the streets and damaged a pier in Des Moines.

Larry Bridenbach is a long time Des Moines resident. He said couldn’t remember a time when the flooding came up so high.

“I don’t think I’ve seen it this bad with that much water coming around the house since, well ever,” Bridenbach said. “Since 1939.”

Now the threat shifts from wind to snow. A convergence zone formed near the Everett area late Monday night. Isolated thunderstorms, snow showers and gusty winds were expected. Snohomish County could see as much as three inches of snow.

Even though winter doesn’t officially arrive until Dec. 21, the Washington State Department of Transportation has been preparing for winter conditions all year long.

“We’re going to have frozen roadways especially overnight into the morning,” said Dave McCormick, a spokesman for WSDOT. “Snow in areas throughout the lowlands.”

Energy companies also have a warning for Washington residents, said Grant Ringel, a representative from Puget Sound Energy.

“The number one thing to remember is anytime you see a downed power line assume it’s live,” Ringel said. “Don’t go anywhere near it. Call Puget Sound energy or call 911 and get help there immediately.”

Typically wind and rain are the major problems for utility companies but snow presents another threat for outages, officials said.

kirkland sunken boat

Two boats sunk in a Kirkland marina during the Dec. 17 storm

west seattle waves

Waves crash into homes in West Seattle on Dec. 17. (Photo courtesy of David Rosen/West Seattle Herald.)

The winter weather storm that rolled into the Puget Sound early Monday morning caused numerous issues around the region, including flooding, downed power lines and sunken boats.

In Kirkland, firefighters responded shortly before 6 a.m. to a marina at 25 Lakeshore Plaza. When they arrived on the scene, they found two boats that had sunk. A couple that was sleeping on one of the boats were awaken by a passersby.

Shortly before 10 a.m., a 5- to 6-foot breach was reported in the Sea Dike near Stanwood, threatening one home. High tides and an extreme low pressure system is believed to have caused the water level to reach higher than normal levels.

High winds in the Puget Sound caused the cancellation of a number of ferries, impacting area residents’ Monday morning commute. High winds also impacted commuters trying to travel on the 520 bridge and the Department of Transportation closely monitored wind speeds to determine if they need to close the bridge. The bridge remained open.

Throughout the area, more than 20,000 residents were without power — the bulk of the outages were in south King County and the Auburn and Kent areas. Downed trees and tree limbs were to blame for most of the outages; crews are working to restore power to those affected.

There is the possibility that there will be some snowfall in the Seattle area overnight — the areas that will see snow include higher elevations such as Queen Anne Hill.


New dock overcome with water in Seabeck.


House flooded in West Seattle.




snapped telephone pole dec 17

High winds snapped a telephone pole in south Seattle on Dec. 17.

bridgeway grocery

The Bridgeway Grocery in Gig Harbor, Dec. 17.

whidbey island storm

Whidbey Island, Dec. 17

west seattle water storm

West Seattle, Dec. 17

snowSNOQUALMIE PASS — A tow-truck driver was struck and killed Sunday afternoon on Interstate 90 while trying to tow away a car in near whiteout conditions.

Just before night fell, a driver lost control of his vehicle on the roadway, running into a tow-truck driver that had stopped to help tow a different vehicle. One witness said the crash was caused by the slick, snow-covered roadway.

“He got out of control and slid sideways and basically went broadside right into the back of the tow truck,” Allen Henley said. “I think the tow-truck guy was standing back there behind the truck.”

Chief Jay Wiseman of Snoqualmie Pass Fire and Rescue said the victim, who hasn’t been identified, died instantly at the scene.

Wiseman said he sees a lot of accidents over the pass in snowy weather. Most of them are caused by drivers going too fast for the conditions, he said.

“The roads are really slippery and people really need to be watching their speed out here on the interstate,” Wiseman said. “A lot of people think they got 4-wheel-drive and they can drive really fast but that’s not the case. It’s slippery.”

Throughout the evening snow continued to fall over I-90. Both directions of the pass were closed at times, and drivers who hadn’t prepared for the winter conditions found treacherous travel.

“I wasn’t prepared for the trip over,” said driver Julio Morales. “I came over this morning and I was heading back after spending the day in Seattle and tried to push it a little too hard and kind of got stranded because of the conditions of the roadway.”

I-90 was closed in both directions at 9:20 p.m due to high winds and limited visibilty. Extra Washington State Department of Transportation crews worked hard to open the pass, said WSDOT crewman Kevin Nicholson.

“Twenty-one operators and we have 14 snow plows and some of those have wings on them,” Nicholson said. “We also have four graders and snow blowers as well.”

Drivers are encouraged to check the Washington State Department of Transportation’s winter weather page for closures and restrictions before heading over the passes.


Major storm could mean power outages, lowland snow

photoSEATTLE– Get out the blankets and the candles.

A major winter storm is headed to the Puget Sound, with high winds, mountain snowfall and a snow level around 500 feet forecasted through Monday morning. Tidal overflows are also a possibility.

The full force of the storm is expected to hit Sunday evening through Monday morning. The National Weather Service issued a high wind warning for the central coast from 12 a.m. Monday through 10 a.m. Monday. Gusts for the coasts will be around 70 mph. Wind in Seattle and Tacoma could be as fast as 60 MPH.

Puget Sound Energy has geared up in preparation of the incoming storm, and extra power crews are on standby, officials said. Energy officials encouraged residents to prep for a major storm by keeping emergency kits handy, unplugging sensitive electronic equipment and knowing what natural gas appliances will continue to operate during a power outage.

Seattle City Light encouraged its customers to plan ahead for power outages.

“Strong winds are predicted to blow through the Puget Sound area late Sunday night and into Monday morning, which could cause power outages,” officials said. “Seattle City Light encourages its customers to prepare for this possibility. Have flashlights with fresh batteries available, charge cell phones and have extra layers of warm clothing or blankets handy.”

High wind also has officials worried about vital transportation infrastructure in the area. Winds over Lake Washington are projected to be between 25 and 35 MPH, with gusts as high as 50 MPH.

“While every state highway is important, in Puget Sound, this particular wind storm has us paying special attention to the State Route 520 floating bridge,” said Dave McCormick, assistant regional administrator for maintenance and operation.

The National Weather Service also issued a Winter Storm Warning for the Cascades. Heavy snow is expected above 1000 feet. The warning was effective from 6 p.m. Sunday through 6 p.m. Monday, and included possible blizzard conditions, with heavy snow and gusts of wind up to 70 MPH. The mountain passes are expected to receive one to three feet of snow by Monday evening. Hazardous winter driving conditions were already present early Sunday afternoon. Chains were required over Snoqualmie Pass for all vehicles that weren’t four-wheel drive at 5 p.m. Sunday. The pass closed eastbound at Milepost 47 at 5:30 p.m., due to multiple accidents and cars slipping out on the snow.

Drivers are encouraged to check the Washington State Department of Transportation’s winter weather page before heading over the passes.

With snow levels around 500 feet, places such as Hood Canal, Lake Stevens, Enumclaw and others near the Puget Sound Convergence Zone could see spotty areas of lowland snow. Areas like Shelton reported wet snow Sunday afternoon.

Temperatures in Seattle should hover in the upper 30s, and snow is not expected to stick. Still, a slick commute Monday morning is possible, with areas of standing water slowing down drivers all over the Puget Sound.