Traffic skids to a halt
Drivers inching their way through the Monday evening commute cursed the snow that returned to the Puget Sound region and shut down at least...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Drivers inching their way through the Monday evening commute cursed the snow that returned to the Puget Sound region and shut down at least two highways while 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. Jackknifed and stuck semi trucks blocked some highways, turning typical 20- to 30-minute commutes into several-hour affairs. For the first time in at least a decade, Highway 9, a major thoroughfare in Snohomish County, was shut down much of the evening because it became "a complete sheet of ice," Trooper Keith Leary said. Highway 522 also was closed off and on throughout the night north of Woodinville.
All Seattle Public Schools will be closed today, district officials announced late Monday. 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 snow accumulations, but the light flakes and icy roads created a dangerous and time-consuming commute Monday evening. 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 beat the Green Bay Packers 34-24 in Monday Night Football.
King County Metro spokeswoman Linda Thielke said the snow was causing buses to be rerouted Monday evening in some neighborhoods and to run on schedules drafted for snowy weather.
The snow is expected to be done falling in most of the Puget Sound region by this morning. But the icy conditions and freezing temperatures will continue through tonight. Another snowstorm is predicted to hit Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.
Since Sunday's storm, the heaviest snowfall has 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 2 feet of snow by Monday night, according to the 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 had fallen at his home since Sunday.
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 snowstorms 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 Monday's evening rush hour. He said people in Totem Lake were abandoning 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 North King County and South Snohomish County.
"If you don't have to go out, don't go out whatsoever," Leary suggested. "If you do go out, have chains."
Some of those who stayed at home were left in the dark, as thousands of Snohomish County homes were without power for much of the day because of downed lines.
The snow and ice make Leary, a trooper for 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 on-ramp by the car, which was traveling nearly 50 mph, Leary underwent five months of physical therapy.
In addition to the snow, a lightning storm swept through King County Monday night.
At Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, two aircraft belonging to British Airways and Alaska Airlines were struck by lightning, said Bob Parker, airport spokesman. At least one of the planes was diverted to land in Portland.
The lightning forced the airport to briefly stop fueling aircraft, Parker said.
About a half-inch of snow accumulated there. The cold weather brought poor visibility, forcing flights bound for Seattle to be delayed, Parker said.
While the snow and ice were greeted unhappily by motorists and other travelers, the cold didn't stop more than 65,000 people from attending the Seahawks game. At 34 degrees, the kickoff temperature was the coldest the Hawks have seen at home 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."
Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or email@example.com
Seattle Times staff reporter Danny O'Neil contributed to this report.
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