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Originally published January 16, 2012 at 12:47 PM | Page modified January 17, 2012 at 10:38 AM

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Storm looms, with up to 14 inches of snow Wednesday

Wednesday's predicted snowfall of 6 to 14 inches in the Seattle area could be the heaviest in decades.

Seattle Times staff reporters

What Seattle-area commuters can expect over the next 3 days

Tuesday morning

Slippery roads with 1 to 3 inches of new snow, temperatures around freezing

Tuesday afternoon

Snow tapering off in the afternoon; temperatures in the mid- to upper 30s, dropping after sunset

Wednesday morning

Snow, heavy at times, continuing through the day; mostly freezing temperatures, with accumulations of 6 to 14 inches of snow in places

Wednesday afternoon

Continuation of heavy snow; mostly freezing temperatures during daylight hours, rising late in the evening

Thursday morning

An eventual change to rain as temperatures climb; potential for heavy slush on the roads


School closures and delays:

If you must drive ...

• Before leaving home, check traffic and weather reports. Statewide travel alerts and road conditions:

• Clear snow and ice from car surfaces before driving. Snow on the hood can blow toward the windshield and block your view.

• Keep safety equipment, spare parts, and food and water in the car. Keep your cellphone fully charged.

• Keep your fuel tank at least half full. Make sure your wiper-fluid reservoir isn't running low.

• Drive with headlights on.

• Slow down.

• Even when roads are dry, watch out for icy bridges.

• Stay at least 15 car-lengths (200 feet) behind maintenance vehicles and plows, and don't pass them on the right.

• Don't use cruise control.

• Use brakes sparingly to avoid skidding.

• Don't pump anti-lock brakes to stop.

• If you need to pull over, the State Patrol asks that you to stay with your vehicle, where you'll be safer. Call for help or hang a colorful piece of cloth from your window or antenna.

More winter driving tips:

Snow conditions according to readers

Let us know what the weather looks like in your area on Facebook.

View Seattle snow conditions: January 17, 2012 in a larger map

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UPDATES: The forecast has changed since this story was published 9:17 p.m. Monday. We are blogging about today’s weather system in the Weather Beat blog. Go to this link for latest updates on the snow forecast, school closures, road conditions and all other things weather related.

ORIGINAL STORY: The Puget Sound area could be in for its heaviest snowfall in decades, as a daylong snowstorm Wednesday is forecast to drop 6 to 14 inches in the Seattle area, on top of several inches that fell over the weekend and into Tuesday.

"It will be snowing everywhere on Wednesday. Not showers, but heavy, widespread snowfall all day," said Chris Burke of the National Weather Service.

If Wednesday's snowfall hits at the high end of the forecast range, it would be the biggest single-day snowfall in Seattle since 14.9 inches fell on Jan. 27, 1969, Burke said. The area also had more than 14 inches of snow in November 1985, but it fell over two successive storms.

A more immediate concern facing Puget Sound commuters was the cold and snow forecast early Tuesday, likely to create slick conditions on many roads and highways. Metro buses will be operating on snow routes Tuesday.

Public-school closures also are almost inevitable for the next couple of days. By 7 p.m. Monday, several districts, including Snohomish and Northshore, already had announced they would be closed Tuesday. Seattle Public Schools said it would operate on a two-hour delay.

On Monday, while snow fell on and off throughout the day, there was little accumulation and Seattle largely was spared.

Seattle Department of Transportation crews worked around the clock to remove ice from major roads. Many streets had been closed Sunday night, but most were open by early Monday.

Tuesday's snow is expected to taper off by afternoon, with the major storm arriving after nightfall.

Wednesday's heavy snow is expected to come to a messy, slushy conclusion. By late Wednesday or early Thursday, a warming trend is expected to change the snow to steady rain. High temperatures in the 40s are forecast.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn on Monday urged residents to be prepared and make sure they have the necessary supplies to deal with the severe weather. Officials recommended that people minimize travel, move their cars off the street, if possible, to help snowplows and check on neighbors, especially the vulnerable.

Even though the weekend snows were spotty, they still contributed to about 10 times the normal number of collisions on Washington's highways, according to the State Patrol.

"The lesson is to slow down," said Julie Startup, a spokeswoman for the Patrol. "The best way to reduce your chances of being in one of these collisions is to reduce your speed and increase that following distance so you have more time to react."

Jack Broom: 206-464-2222


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