Icy storm, dicey commute

Snow finally came Wednesday evening, and with cooler temperatures overnight, officials feared that any moisture left on the roads could have turned to ice by this morning.

Many surface roads were already icy Wednesday evening, including in south Everett, where hail fell by 4:30 p.m. A wave of Arctic air finally arrived.

“People should be aware that things could be a little dicey,” said Johnny Burg, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

This morning’s commute will likely be slippery, but road conditions were expected to improve throughout the morning. Temperatures could cool again overnight, making for another slippery commute Friday.

It should stay cold through the weekend, but temperatures likely will warm a little day by day, Burg said. By Sunday, temperatures are expected to be close to normal, with highs in the upper 30s and lows in the upper 20s.

Hail was falling in some locations Wednesday afternoon, pellet snow in others, observers said.

The U.S. 2 trestle resembled a parking lot by 3:30 p.m. Wednesday. Backed-up traffic was crawling on many streets in Everett, too. Traffic was stop-and-go on I-5 south of I-405, and on I-405 east of I-5, according to the Washington Department of Transportation.

By 8:30 p.m., I-5 and I-405 in Snohomish County south of Everett were clear and almost free of traffic. Traffic had also cleared from U.S. 2, and the Washington State Patrol had not been called to any serious injury accidents.

Snow that fell Wednesday afternoon quickly melted from most roads and highways in west Snohomish County. In east county, between 3 and 6 inches of snow remained on roads into the evening, said Meghan Soptich, a state Department of Transportation spokeswoman.

Snow began falling again later Wednesday night.

Work crews were scheduled to spread de-icer on the highways early today. However, de-icer becomes less effective as temperatures fall deeper below freezing, Soptich said.

“We’re expecting an icy commute, and we want people to be prepared for that,” she said.

Lake Roesiger resident Lyle Inman swept away the inch or so of snow that fell on a parking lot he owns to keep it from turning into ice.

“That’ll freeze and then you just got glare glass,” he said.

Anyone who tried to drive on it “would just be in a ditch or in the office – with a car and all.”

Island County seemed to be getting hit even harder, officials there said.

Central and north Whidbey Island and all of Camano Island were blanketed with at least three inches of snow by 3:30 p.m., said Bill Oakes, public works director and engineer for Island County.

“Snow is falling an inch an hour,” he said.

Several roads were impassable with many vehicles snowbound.

“If people could stay off the roads … that would help us,” Oakes said.

The rough weather means that drivers must slow down, said trooper Kirk Rudeen, a spokesman for the Washington State Patrol.

“The biggest thing is slow down and increase following distance,” he said.

If you have to go somewhere, fill up your gas tank first, Rudeen said. If you get stuck in the snow, stay in your vehicle. That’s one way to stay safe, and it makes it much easier for emergency crews to help you get your vehicle off the roadway.

“We will get to you,” Rudeen said.

Herald writers Jeff Switzer and Scott Pesznecker contributed to this report.

Disaster Kit

Snohomish County has been struck by a seemingly endless series of storms recently. If you haven’t already prepared a disaster kit for your home, work and car, click here for a helpful list of the items you should include.

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