EVERETT — It’s been more than a decade since Skykomish Mayor Henry Sladek has seen a winter storm this big.
About 3 feet of snow walloped the town. Main roads have been closed. Power and phone lines have been out for days.
Those who live in Skykomish are typically prepared to survive at least a week without electricity. They also have ways to communicate. Cellphone service seems to be working and a walk to the community center can be doable.
But hundreds of others live outside of Skykomish, in the mountains of unincorporated King County.
“If you are OK — especially if you are OK — think about your neighbors or people who might not have resources,” Sladek said. “They can’t communicate with us, and we can’t communicate with them.”
If it’s safe to do so, he suggests walking between houses. He expects another three days without power, “and maybe more.”
“If you don’t think you can survive through that, then by all means make plans to leave,” he said. “And if you can’t leave, let our first responders know.”
Many have used Facebook to reach out to Sky Valley Fire, serving the rural corridor around Gold Bar and Index. Those who need help and also have phone access should call 911.
Sladek spoke on the phone with Gov. Jay Inslee Wednesday morning, and state leaders have offered to help those in the area.
“We will work to provide whatever these communities need,” Inslee later wrote on Twitter. “The safety of Washingtonians in this region is paramount.”
State Rep. Carolyn Eslick of the 39th Legislative District also is keeping track of the situation.
“I’ve reached out to local and county government officials to ensure that supplies such as gas for generators, food, door-to-door welfare checks, and medical assistance are provided to people who need it,” the Sultan Republican said.
Skykomish is along U.S. 2, just outside of Snohomish County. That highway has been closed since Sunday afternoon, stranding people who live between Gold Bar and Stevens Pass — in Baring, Index and Skykomish.
A stretch of U.S. 2 to Money Creek, west of Skykomish, opened Wednesday around 10 a.m. About four hours later, the state Department of Transportation opened the road from Money Creek to Skykomish for local access. It remained closed to Stevens Pass.
Downed power lines across the roadway made the commute unsafe. Between Sunday night and Tuesday afternoon, an estimated 40 trees fell on the roadway, DOT spokeswoman Lisa Van Cise said.
Those were cleaned up in most places, but strong winds were in the forecast Wednesday night.
“It could re-close again if trees or wires come down,” she said. “We just want people to be safe, and our crews to be safe, too.”
It’s not clear when the road will completely reopen.
“The public and our crews’ safety is our No. 1 concern,” she said. “Life safety is not anything we take lightly.”
Snow started to drift in again Wednesday afternoon, and it could stick around for the rest of the work week.
The snow is coming down & sticking in downtown Everett right now. pic.twitter.com/20qMA9Ix08
— Olivia Vanni (@ogvanniphoto) January 15, 2020
The National Weather Service in Seattle also issued a high wind warning in effect in Snohomish County into Wednesday night. Gusts were anticipated to reach 60 mph and cause power outages.
Temperatures were expected to rise late Wednesday, with a chance of rain and snow until Friday, meteorologist Johnny Burg said.
“Looking at the forecast, I don’t see a day without rain or snow in the next seven days,” he said. “Except by Saturday, then it’s just rain.”
In the Everett area, winds were expected to reach 35 mph with gusts up to 45 mph until about 1 a.m. Thursday.
Eastern parts of the county were expected to see 40 mph winds, with gusts of 60 mph, until about 10 p.m. Wednesday. Those breezes were expected to cause heavy, wet snow to blow down power lines or branches and create power outages, Burg said.
As of Wednesday evening, about 12,000 homes were without power in Snohomish County.
PUD crews have responded to nearly 44,000 outages since Sunday as snow stressed branches and toppled trees into power lines. The PUD declared a major emergency, which allows it to call in help from contractors and other utilities.
“This is not a good day for a walk in the woods,” said Scott North, a spokesperson for the Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management.
In preparation for further power outages, the PUD recommended charging cell phones and other devices, as well as stockpiling blankets, food, warm clothes and water.
Outages can be reported to 425-783-1001 or online at outagemap.snopud.com/ReportOutage/SearchAddress.
As temperatures rise and the ice and snow melt, North said, people should consider clearing storm drains near their homes to help channel it and prevent road flooding.
Temperatures rose above freezing Tuesday night and hovered around 34 degrees early Wednesday. That helped improve road conditions, but not everywhere.
Many awoke to roads coated with ice, forcing another day of school closures and making for a dicey commute. Freezing weather suspended operations at Boeing in Everett on Tuesday and part of Wednesday, but work continued that afternoon.
Over a period of 24 hours, county crews plowed 1,400 miles of snow and applied 1,389 tons of salt and sand to roads.
This week they have removed fallen trees from about 70 places along county roads.
On Wednesday, they expected to work into the night.
Reporter Jerry Cornfield contributed to this story.