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Originally published November 27, 2006 at 12:00 AM | Page modified November 27, 2006 at 10:42 PM

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Snow and ice snarl highways

Drivers inching their way through the evening commute cursed the snow that returned to the Puget Sound region this afternoon, shutting down at least one highway and essentially turning others into parking lots for several hours.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Drivers inching their way through the evening commute cursed the snow that returned to the Puget Sound region this afternoon, shutting down at least one highway and essentially turning others into parking lots for several hours.

Police couldn't keep up with cars careening across freeways, chain-reaction fender benders and motorists abandoning their vehicles on suburban roads. For the first time in at least a decade, Highway 9, a major thoroughfare in Snohomish County, was shut down much of the night because it became "a complete sheet of ice," said Trooper Keith Leary.

All Seattle Public Schools will be closed Tuesday, district officials announced late tonight. Schools also are closed today in the Federal Way and Snohomish districts, among others, and classes will start up to two hours late in some other districts.

King, Pierce and Snohomish counties didn't see heavy accumulations, but the light flakes and icy roads created a dangerous and time-consuming commute. Many downtown Seattle streets were gridlocked during the evening because of an accident involving a police officer near Highway 99 and Qwest Field, where the Seahawks were hosting the Green Bay Packers for Monday Night Football.

The snow is expected to be done falling in most of the Puget Sound region by Tuesday morning. But the icy conditions and freezing temperatures will continue through Tuesday night. Another snow storm is predicted to hit Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.

Since the storm hit Sunday, the heaviest snowfall blanketed many of the small towns still recovering from catastrophic record-breaking rain storms earlier this month.

In Skagit County, the tiny town of Concrete had about two feet of snow by tonight, according to the National Weather Service. About three weeks ago, many Concrete residents were evacuated from their houses because of rising floodwaters.

"We had the flood, then we had the windstorm, then we had the snow. What's next? Is it going to be an earthquake?" said Judd Wilson, a Concrete town council member. Wilson said about 28 inches of snow fell at his home since Sunday.

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In Blaine, near the northernmost tip of the state, there were reports of nearly 14 inches of snow. Port Angeles had about a foot of snow, the weather service said.

Dennis D'Amico, a meteorologist with the weather service, said the storm passed from Whatcom County all the way south through Thurston County. He said several more snow storms are likely to hit the region before spring.

State patrol troopers in King and Snohomish counties said this is some of the worst snow they've seen in about five years.

Trooper Jeff Merrill, who works in King County, said it took him about an hour to drive the 13 miles from Bellevue to Bothell during evening rush hour. He said people in Totem Lake were abandoning their cars and walking home.

About a half-dozen Snohomish County troopers were called in on overtime to handle the crashes and ice-related traffic woes, Leary said. In addition to Highway 9, Interstate 405, through Bothell, was problematic much of the night. So was Highway 522 through Woodinville.

"If you don't have to go out don't go out whatsoever," Leary suggested. "If you do go out, have chains."

The snow and ice makes Leary, a trooper of nine-years, look over his shoulder.

While investigating a snow-related crash in 2001, his cruiser was plowed into by a motorist who lost control on an icy road. After being hit on a Mountlake Terrace freeway onramp, by the car traveling nearly 50 mph, Leary underwent five months of physical therapy.

While the snow and ice was greeted unhappily by motorists, the cold didn't stop people from attending the Seahawks game. At 34 degrees, the kickoff temperature was the coldest the Hawks have seen since they started playing at Qwest Field in 2002.

"My toes are pretty frozen," said Reed Miller, 22, of Renton. "I didn't notice until I started walking."

Another fan, dressed in a chicken costume and going by the name "The Rooster," realized after the first half that the reason he was wet had nothing to do with the snow.

"He turned to me and said, 'Honey, I'm sweating,'" said his girlfriend, Jen Pearson.

Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or jensullivan@seattletimes.com

Seattle Times staff reporters Danny O'Neil contributed to this report.

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