By Eric Stevick Herald writer
The curtain of snow that unfurled across Snohomish County Tuesday could be just the warm-up act for the main event.
A winter storm packing heavy and wet snow is expected to dump up to 10 inches on parts of Snohomish County on Wednesday and leave behind a mix of treacherous roads, closed schools and threats of power outages and potential urban flooding.
“This is a widespread, major impact type event,” Ted Beuhner, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Seattle, said Tuesday.
Tuesday was a snow day for students in nearly every district in the county. School officials in Edmonds as well as Everett, Marysville, Snohomish, Arlington, Lake Stevens, Stanwood and Granite Falls all announced that classes were also canceled for Wednesday.
Forecasters predict a storm from the Pacific Ocean will hover over Western Washington beginning early morning Wednesday, moving north. The weather service was predicting the serious snowfall to begin about 6 a.m. in Snohomish County, just in time to gum up the commute.
Anywhere from five to 10 inches of snowfall is expected in and around Everett on Wednesday. Temperatures aren’t expected to warm up until Friday, meaning roads could be slick on Thursday when the snow is expected to stop.
“The question is how far north will the heavy snow spread,” Beuhner said.
So far, weather forecasters have been getting it right for Snohomish County. As anticipated, the area saw up to 10 inches of fresh snow on Tuesday, leading up to an afternoon lull.
The Snohomish County Public Utility District had crews ready to deploy to any outages caused by snow-laden branches hitting power lines, utility spokesman Neil Neroutsos said.
At Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, arrangements were in place to make sure employees in critical jobs could get to work or have a place to stay, regardless of the weather.
That means some employees could be shuttled to work and some will stay in a limited number of in-house rooms at the medical center, hospital spokeswoman Cheri Russum said.
Beuhner at the weather service said some secondary roads in the county could become “treacherous to impassable” because of the heavy snow.
The state Department of Transportation has 1,250 maintenance workers using nearly 500 pieces of equipment statewide to treat and plow roadways. Roads are cleared on a priority basis, with interstate highways and major arterials first in line, followed by more rural roads.
Because there was little snow in Seattle and King County on Tuesday, much of the fleet spent their day focused on roadways in Snohomish County.
That extra attention to the north is unlikely Wednesday.
“When it’s a widespread event, we have to spread out our resources,” said Mike Murphy, a state transportation department spokesman.
Snohomish County’s road crews also are working 12-hour shifts around the clock to clear roads of ice and snow. On Tuesday, there were 37 plow and sander trucks and three graders clearing paths for drivers. Top priorities are major arterials, such as 164th Street near Lynnwood and 132nd Street SE south of Everett. Other priorities are roads connecting to state highways, transit and school bus routes. Click here for snow plowing updates.
In Everett, public works crews plowed 33 miles of city streets between Monday night and Tuesday morning, They spread 136 yards of sand, covered 40 lane miles with salt brine and used 1,800 gallons of salt brine.
South County cities have established plowing priority maps to triage roads. City websites have those maps available along with updated information about driving conditions (Edmonds | Lynnwood | Mountlake Terrace).
Snoqualmie Pass was closed from North Bend to Ellensburg for more than seven hours Tuesday for avalanche control work. Chains are required except for all-wheel drive vehicles.
County Emergency Management crews will be keeping an eye on possible urban flooding as the week wears on, director John Pennington said.
For now, they are asking people who live in mobile homes or other flat-roofed structures to monitor the weight of snow in case of collapse.
No river flooding is expected.
Tuesday brought plenty of snow to some parts of the county. The National Weather Service reported that a convergence zone set up over Snohomish County near Everett. It snowed heavily well into the afternoon.
Doug Stevens, owner of Woodinville Saws and Mowers in Clearview, estimated he had about nine inches of snow in his parking lot Tuesday morning.
“It has been coming down solid,” Stevens said.
The weather didn’t stop customers from stopping in. He sold a generator in the morning and expects to sell more with the freezing weather.
“If I don’t come in to work, I can’t serve my customers,” he said.
Nearby, slippery conditions led to a car sliding into the Clearview Cafe off of Highway 9.
The vehicle crossed the center line, hit another car, went off the road, hit a parked car and then struck the building, Washington State Patrol trooper Keith Leary said. There were no injuries.
It was one of 52 accidents reported to the state patrol in Snohomish County between midnight and 3 p.m. Tuesday.
“Drivers who venture out should be prepared for very poor driving conditions,” Leary said.
Cheol Kang, a Mukilteo police officer, said the main arterials in his city were fairly clear Tuesday morning but side streets were getting covered by the snow.
“We are bracing for the worst just in case we get the Snowmaggeden they are talking about,” he said.
Snow canceled classes in nearly every school district in Snohomish County on Tuesday. The lone exceptions were Darrington, which had a late start, and Edmonds, which had the day reserved for teachers to work without students. Classes in all three school districts in Island County also were canceled.
Slippery conditions were blamed for two rollover accidents on I-5 in Snohomish County on Tuesday morning.
Herald reporter Rikki King contributed to this story.