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Dec 18, 2008

Winter Storm in Seattle

Snow tapered off Thursday evening across much of central Puget Sound
after snarling the morning commute in the Seattle metro area with
hundreds of spinouts, nightmarish traffic backups and stranded vehicles
on many highways and side streets.
The storm left behind a slick, frozen mess of icy roads and highways
that continued to bedevil the evening commute and threatened more havoc
for Friday morning, as temperatures plunge far below freezing overnight.

Snow continued falling Thursday evening in parts of south Puget Sound
and Tacoma. State Route 167 was shut down in both directions at State
Route 410 between mileposts 8 to 10 around 4 p.m. leaving drivers to
wait several hours in their cars for the road to clear. The road was
not expected to open until after 11 p.m., causing some drivers to panic
in the cold.

Many school districts throughout the region again closed or delayed
classes Thursday due to ice and snow, and a few had already announced
schedule changes for Friday as well.

Dozens of Metro transit routes were disrupted by the snow and by
collisions, leaving many commuters waiting in the subfreezing cold at
stops for buses that often never arrived.

The snowstorm was ushered in at about 5 a.m. by booming thunder that
echoed eerily across the region and sent flashes of lightning piercing
through the early morning darkness.

But as the day wore on, snow showers decreased in intensity and
frequency. Only a few flurries remained in most of the central Puget
Sound as darkness moved in, and the snow was expected to decrease in
the south Sound as well later this evening.

That opened the door for the next act in the wintry drama - a deep
freeze that could push overnight temperatures into the upper teens or
low 20s.

Areas especially hard hit Thursday included parts of State
Route 520 on the Eastside as snow buried the highway and drivers
abandoned their vehicles on the roadway. By Thursday evening,
transportation officials pleaded with motorists to avoid 520 and
Interstate 90 if at all possible.

Seattle-area motorists more accustomed to rainfall did their
level best to battle with the snow, but often the snow came out the

One of those who lost the battle was Mary Prince, who got caught in a 12-car pileup near Kirkland Thursday morning.

Earlier in the day, Bellevue city officials asked people to stay off of
the roads as near white-out conditions brought 3 to 5 inches of snow
throughout the city.

Throughout the region, crews worked all day to clear emergency routes
and primary arterials routes before the forecasted hard freeze settles
in and turns the snow to ice overnight.

State troopers and local law enforcement officers responded to
spinouts and crashes all day Thursday as drivers encountered compact
snow and ice in areas that saw snowfall Wednesday, and new snow showers
were catching many drivers off guard.

On I-405, I-5 and I-90 in King County, traffic was snarled in many
areas. DOT officials have plow and de-icer crews out, but the snow was
coming down faster than it could be cleared earlier in the day.

Throughout the region, side streets and hills continued to pose a
problem for drivers, with a steady stream of collisions being reported.
Those who decided to leave their cars at home and take public
transportation were only a little better off, as many buses could not
reach all roads on the schedule routes, and some were involved in

Despite the large number of collisions Thursday, there were no serious injuries reported.

In Kitsap County officials said freezing weather may have claimed the
life of a man who wandered from his house wearing only light clothing.
The sheriff's office said John Clarence Makepa Basso, 36, had been
suffering from a medical condition and had observed him behaving
erratically recently. He was found dead in a heavily wooded area near
his residence Wednesday afternoon.

In addition, a boy was seriously injured in a sledding accident
in Kent. Officials said the boy was riding on a sled being towed by a
car when the sled went under the back end of a parked vehicle near
226th Street and 127th Avenue.

A WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY will expire at 6 p.m. for the greater
Puget Sound area. In the Strait of Juan de Fuca area, the advisory
expired at 4 p.m.

For South Sound and Southwestern Washington, the advisory has
been extended until midnight, where scattered snow showers will
continue until then, putting down 1-3" in individual cells.

Thursday's snow is just part two of a major snowfall that
dumped 1-2 feet in parts of Skagit, Island and northern Snohomish
County through the day Wednesday. Steady snow fell for most of the day
there as the Convergence Zone stalled over the area. A spotter outside
of Arlington reported 23" as of late Wednesday afternoon.

Snow Totals So Far

Here are some unofficial snow totals with this storm:

  • Arlington (Outskirts): 23"

  • Darrington: 23"

  • Concrete: 21"

  • Elwha: 20"

  • Sedro-Woolley: 18.5"

  • Mount Vernon: 14.5"

  • Randle: 14"

  • Sultan: 13"

  • Bellingham: 13"

  • Monroe: 12.5

  • Port Angeles Outskirts: 10-15"

  • Hamilton: 12"

  • Redmond (Novelty Hill): 10"

  • Hoodsport: 10"

  • Stanwood: 10"

  • Onalaska: 10"

  • Grand Mound: 9"

  • Oak Harbor: 7"

  • Anacortes: 6.5"

  • Hamilton: 6.2"

  • Kirkland (Rose Hill): 6"

  • Beacon Hill: 6"

  • Olympia: 6"

  • Marysville: 6"

  • Woodinville: 6"

  • Rochester: 6"

  • Granite Falls: 5.5"

  • Clearview: 5.5"

  • Sekiu: 5"

  • Mercer Island: 5"

  • Tumwater: 5"

  • Neah Bay: 5"

  • Chimacum: 5"

  • Orcas Isl: 5"

  • Mukilteo: 3"

  • Ferndale: 4.5"

  • Bainbridge Island: 4"

  • Lynnwood: 4"

  • Port Townsend: 4"

  • Port Orchard: 4"

  • West Seattle: 4"

  • Potlatch: 4"

  • Lacey: 4"

  • Arlington: 4"

  • South Everett: 4"

  • Friday Harbor: 4"

  • Mill Creek: 4"

  • Ravensdale: 4"

  • Bellevue: 3-4"

  • Redmond: 3-4"

  • Ferndale: 3.5"

  • Gig Harbor: 3"

  • Lopez Island: 3"

  • Hoodsport: 3"

  • Freeland: 2.5"

  • Shelton: 2"

  • Kingston: 2"

  • Bothell: 2"

  • Seattle (Seattle Center): 2"

  • Tacoma: 1"

  • Mountlake Terrace: 1"

  • Duvall: 11"

  • Sammamish: 5"

  • Bainbridge: 5-6"

  • North Bend: 7"

  • North Tukwila: 7"

  • Graham: 6.5"

  • Bonney Lake: 5"

  • Parkland: 4"