STEVENS PASS — Snow caused driving havoc, power outages and transit problems Sunday and Monday.
A winter storm arrived in Snohomish County as predicted, with cold air from Canada cooling rain into snowflakes by Sunday afternoon and into the evening. Snow reached sea level, with 1 to 6 inches falling, depending on elevation and other factors.
As of 5 a.m. Monday, a National Weather Service map of citizen snow reports showed the Cathcart area got 6 inches. Other hard-hit areas were Granite Falls with almost 6; Lake Stevens and Monroe with 5½; and Everett with 5 inches. Snow reports stretched from Seattle north to the Canadian border, but in the lowlands, at least, Snohomish County was uniquely buried.
Snowfall slowed by dawn in many places, but the weather service said there could be occasional flurries through Wednesday. Another round of lowland snow is possible late Wednesday.
Sunday night, the Snohomish County PUD reported as many as 10,000 customers without power. By Monday morning that number was down to about 3,500. Spokesman Aaron Swaney said the utility had 28 crews in the field and expected full power restoration by the end of the day.
“We’re anticipating more snow and wind on Wednesday, so we’re advising customers that power outages could be a concern again later in the week,” Swaney said.
The Cascades also saw unusually heavy snowfall, and U.S. 2 over Stevens Pass was mostly closed for avalanche control or due to vehicle accidents. Monday morning, downed trees and power lines blocked U.S. 2 between Gold Bar and Skykomish, the Washington State Department of Transportation said.
By 10 a.m., state troopers set up a convoy for all the travelers stuck along the highway, including three buses of middle schoolers.
Many schools on Monday were closed, including those in the Everett, Edmonds, Lake Stevens, Monroe and Mukilteo districts, as well as Everett Community College and Washington State University in Everett. Most others were opening late due to hazardous driving conditions.
At Paine Field, the temperature hovered at 30 degrees Sunday night and early Monday. Alaska Airlines and United Airlines canceled most Everett flights late Sunday, and several Monday-morning flights were canceled, as well, according to FlightRadar24.com.
Problems first popped up early Sunday when several collisions and spinouts in both directions of U.S. 2 near Stevens Pass forced a closure much of the day.
Lynnwood began seeing snow around 4:20 p.m., making I-5 driving difficult. Around 5 p.m., Everett was hit and the rest of Snohomish County was close behind.
In Lake Stevens, the hill from the trestle to 20th Street SE became a slick nightmare and led to multiple crashes, the Lake Stevens Police Department said.
Monday, an Arctic front settled over the Snohomish County lowlands.
“It’s not expected to get warm again through Friday,” said Scott North, spokesman for Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management. “We’re talking pretty low temperatures for this part of the world, like teens and 20s, and highs that maybe won’t get above freezing.”
Another round of snow might follow later in the week, as early as Wednesday.
Freezing temperatures are likely to linger Monday and Tuesday, without much of a thaw. The National Weather Service forecast included some lows in the teens.
“There’s a good chance the commute is going to be challenging,” North said. “If you don’t have to drive, park your car.”
City, county and state road crews were at the ready. The state’s top priority in Snohomish County is I-5, followed by stretches (some parts are city responsibility) of U.S. 2 and highways 522, 525 and 526. Crews and equipment across the region were either stationed or ready to mobilize.
“Obviously it’s going to depend on where the snow’s falling,” said WSDOT spokesperson Andrea Petrich. “But we look at the busiest roads.”
The state amassed deicer, salt and sand in thousands of gallons and tons, she said. As the plows push ice and snow off the road, they are spraying something down as well. To prevent that material from spraying up, the plows move slowly.
Drivers should only pass on the left and with caution, and plan on traveling slower than normal.
“Drivers need to do their part by giving themselves plenty of driving time,” she said. “If there’s snow or ice on the roads, it’s going to take longer than normal travel times.”
Online maps show the snow and ice removal priority routes some cities and the county.
Snohomish County’s sprawling road responsibilities, based on public safety needs, traffic volume, transit and school bus routes, terrain and knowledge of problem areas, are mapped out. Emergencies that are not life-threatening can be reported to 425-407-3999, but public calls won’t change those considerations.
County crews can operate 46 plow/sander trucks, four all-wheel drive motor graders and two liquid deicer application trucks. They can staff 12-hour shifts to plow and apply sand if there is continuous snowfall.
The county’s Department of Public Works has enough salt, sand, and mixed products available for at least seven days of snow and ice. That includes 23,000 gallons of liquid deicer, 9,500 tons of sand, 5,500 tons of sand mixed with salt, 925 tons of salt.
“Trucks and sanders are ready to go,” road maintenance division director Steve Flude said in a news release. “Also we added plows to a few of our one-ton trucks to allow for even greater responsiveness in hard-to-reach areas. Steps have been taken to ensure we are able to secure additional abrasives should the need arise.”
Andrea Brown contributed to this report.