Get ready for another blast of winter tonight
Another arctic blast will sweep the Puget Sound region tonight, dropping a "wintry mix" of sleet, freezing rain and up to 3 inches of new...
Seattle Times staff reporters
Another arctic blast will sweep the Puget Sound region tonight, dropping a "wintry mix" of sleet, freezing rain and up to 3 inches of new snow in Seattle and other metropolitan areas, forecasters predict.
And with it November will likely become the wettest month in Seattle history.
Temperatures should rise enough by Thursday that rain will wash away the accumulated snow, but officials hope the lessons learned by local drivers — many stuck on highways for hours and some forced to abandon their cars — will linger.
"The motoring public has received a pretty harsh education in how rough it can be in a harsh winter storm," State Patrol Trooper Jeff Merrill said. "I think the message has been received."
On the bright side, the skies will be clear most of the day and the morning commute should be fairly light.
Merrill said he thinks the slew of crashes on icy roadways in Skagit, Snohomish, King and Pierce counties Monday night and Tuesday has terrified drivers — and will cause them to stay home from work today.
But the dry weather won't last long and the city needs less than 0.1 inch of rain at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to beat the mark of 15.33 inches measured in December 1933 at the Federal Building in Seattle, where records span the 1890s to 1960s. The National Weather Service began measuring rainfall at the airport in 1945.
"I think we'll definitely break the record," said Johnny Burg, a weather-service meteorologist.
Seattle's cold spell — not just its rainfall — has its sights set on the record books.
The city's forecast low of 18 degrees overnight was expected to shatter a 31-year-old record of 22 degrees, making it the coldest Nov. 29 in Seattle history.
Low number of incidents
Though the storm that started Sunday and wrapped up Tuesday trapped some rural residents in their homes and caused traffic backups nearly everywhere, authorities were surprised by the low number of serious weather-related incidents.
Near Port Angeles on Tuesday, two 16-year-old boys died of apparent carbon-monoxide poisoning. The teens were inside a garage that was being heated by a gas combustion generator, according to the Clallam County Sheriff's Office. The boys' names were not released Tuesday.
In SeaTac, a 60-year-old Federal Way man was critically hurt Monday night after a van struck him while he was stopped on Highway 509, Merrill said. The driver of the van apparently lost control and the man was pinned between his car and the van. He had both legs amputated at Harborview Medical Center, Merrill said.
Between Monday night and Tuesday morning, King County troopers responded to 653 calls for assistance, 242 of those because of collisions. Troopers impounded more than 40 abandoned cars, Merrill said.
In Snohomish, Skagit and Whatcom counties, troopers responded to 687 collisions between Sunday and Tuesday, said Trooper Keith Leary.
In Pierce County, a man was pinned against a guardrail Tuesday after another car slid into him on Highway 16, said Trooper Bill Ashcraft.
Motorists were seething Tuesday over the previous night's rush-hour delays — lasting eight hours for some drivers.
Doug MacDonald, state transportation secretary, said officials handled the weather appropriately.
The state Department of Transportation had been expecting a typical Puget Sound snowfall, where snow is often melted by heavy auto traffic and mild temperatures. Instead, it was caught by surprise when temperatures plummeted into the 20s while traffic was at its heaviest.
Traffic made it tough for state plows and sanders to reach Interstate 405, the site of some of the worst backups in King County. Compounding the problem, crews also had to clear Highway 512 in South King County and Highway 9 in East Snohomish County, both hit by deep snow, while Monday Night Football fans added traffic to I-405 and I-5.
The state owns 45 pieces of winter equipment to handle King and Snohomish counties, a couple of which were sent north to snowier Skagit and Whatcom counties, MacDonald said. Plows at Snoqualmie Pass and points east remained there because the state can't leave passes unprotected, he said.
Schools still closed
In response to the expected record-low temperatures, the city of Seattle made homeless shelter space at Seattle Center, City Hall and the Frye Hotel. Overflow space was available at the Compass Center near downtown, according to the mayor's office.
Numerous school districts — including Seattle, Shoreline, Everett, Bellevue, Federal Way, Lake Washington and Issaquah — were closed Tuesday. Most of those, including Seattle, Bellevue, Lake Washington and Issaquah, were expected to be closed again today.
As of late Tuesday, about 21,500 homes in northern Puget Sound counties remained without power.
Snohomish County PUD had at least 50 crews working on mostly small and scattered outages throughout the north end of the county, said spokesman Neil Neroutsos.
Farther north, about 7,000 customers of Puget Sound Energy customers were in the dark, said spokesman Roger Thompson.
Power was restored late Tuesday to part of Concrete. Thompson said crews hoped to restore power to most other customers by early this morning, but some could remain dark through today.
Tom Sheehan, Skagit County's emergency-management director, said he was worried about Lake Cavanaugh, east of Mount Vernon, and Lake Tyee, near Concrete. Roads were closed to both isolated communities, and neither had power as temperatures were expected to drop into the teens.
Medicines were driven in by snowmobiles to the communities, and at least one resident was taken out for a dialysis treatment, he said.
Times staff reporter Mike Lindblom contributed to this report.
Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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