Index residents make their way westbound Monday on the closed U.S. 2, in Gold Bar. The highway was closed at milepost 32 to everyone except Index residents, who were required to have a State Patrol escort to travel east into Index. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Index residents make their way westbound Monday on the closed U.S. 2, in Gold Bar. The highway was closed at milepost 32 to everyone except Index residents, who were required to have a State Patrol escort to travel east into Index. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Purchase Photo

Skykomish residents open homes to snowbound drivers on US 2

The snow is mostly done falling in Snohomish County, but the chill lingers on.

SKYKOMISH — When the road was closed and the inn was full in Skykomish, some townspeople rallied to offer their homes to commuters stranded by a winter storm along U.S. 2.

Heavy snowfall caused power lines and trees to fall across the highway, and prompted the Washington State Department of Transportation to close the key route Sunday evening between Gold Bar and Skykomish.

Hundreds of vehicles were stuck. Drivers wondered if they should wait it out or turn around. Then, reversing course was no longer an option, and people either stayed put or tried to find somewhere to spend the night.

Skykomish offered what it could to help the stranded, but the town already had a few feet of snow and had been without power for a couple of days, Mayor Henry Sladek said.

“We sort of became this island,” he said.

It’s likely to stay that way a while, with the highway indefinitely closed as of Monday.

Over the rest of the week, the weather should improve for much of Snohomish County, according to the National Weather Service in Seattle. Earlier forecasts had suggested a snowiest-case scenario that no longer seems as likely, with warmer temperatures and less precipitation on the way.

However, snow showers are still in the forecast for the rest of the week. According to the weather service, what falls could total an inch or less in most places.

Washington State Patrol Trooper Heather Axtman talks to local residents hoping to get an escort into Index on Monday because U.S. 2 was closed to traffic. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Washington State Patrol Trooper Heather Axtman talks to local residents hoping to get an escort into Index on Monday because U.S. 2 was closed to traffic. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald) Purchase Photo

Temperatures in the lowlands were expected to rise above freezing during daytime hours all week, allowing for some melting.

“We’re not expecting that long duration of temperatures below freezing like we were a week ago,” said Reid Wolcott, a meteorologist with the weather service.

But it will still be cold, and overnight freezes could create morning commute problems. Possible strong winds Wednesday or Thursday also were predicted.

For the rest of the week, cold weather shelters are expected to stay open and busy.

Open cold-weather shelters in Snohomish County

CityLocationAddressContact
SnohomishEvangelical Free Church210 Ave. B425-512-7599
MonroeNew Hope Fellowship1015 W Main St.360-453-7622, 425-512-7599
MarysvilleSalvation Army1108 State St.530-913-0995
EverettUnited Church of Christ2624 Rockefeller Ave.425-259-8129
LynnwoodMaple Park Church17620 60th Ave.206-743-9843

SOURCE: Snohomish County

The Snohomish County Health District website has a list of local cold weather shelters with locations and contact information.

In Marysville, the Salvation Army shelter was nearly full Sunday night and was expected to reach capacity in coming days as temperatures continue to drop at night. The shelter on State Avenue will be open through at least Thursday.

Back in Skykomish, the 14 rooms at the Cascadia Inn were claimed in a flurry Sunday evening after U.S. 2 was closed. As the snow persisted, reservation requests poured in.

“Even after those were booked, I got probably a hundred calls for rooms,” said Sladek, who owns the inn. “I was basically on the phone telling people ‘no’ all day.”

He referred callers to other lodging, but those places filled up quickly, as well. Then residents began contacting the mayor, saying they had a home or room to offer, information Sladek relayed to callers.

Semitrailer trucks that had been waiting at the U.S. 2 closure turn around on Monday in Gold Bar. The highway was closed indefinitely because of heavy snow accumulation and power lines and trees falling over the road. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Semitrailer trucks that had been waiting at the U.S. 2 closure turn around on Monday in Gold Bar. The highway was closed indefinitely because of heavy snow accumulation and power lines and trees falling over the road. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald) Purchase Photo

“There’s only a hundred or so homes in Skykomish,” he said.

Without power, the only businesses in town still operating, with generators, were the inn and the pub. Even the Sky Gas pumps and mini-mart were closed. The closest gas stations outside of Skykomish are 20 miles west or 40 miles east — assuming the highway is usable.

On Monday morning, Sladek opened the inn’s cafe a few hours earlier than usual, allowing people to pull in from the road, warm up with coffee and use the bathrooms.

The winter storm caused problems all across Snohomish County as roads became slick and fallen trees knocked down power lines. At sea level in Edmonds, less than 2 inches stuck. In the Cascade foothills near Monroe, 9 inches fell.

Audrey Boucock, 3, gets pulled in a makeshift unicorn blowup sled up the hill by her mother Laura Boucock on Monday in Everett. School was cancelled in the city because of at least a few inches of snow overnight. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Audrey Boucock, 3, gets pulled in a makeshift unicorn blowup sled up the hill by her mother Laura Boucock on Monday in Everett. School was cancelled in the city because of at least a few inches of snow overnight. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald) Purchase Photo

Early Monday morning, the Snohomish County Public Utility District sent 30 crews out to restore power to more than 10,000 customers, PUD spokesperson Aaron Swaney said.

“It’s almost all south county and then east,” on U.S. 2, he said. “We had the all-hands call at 3 a.m. They’re making progress, but it’s slow going.”

By Monday afternoon, the number of customers without power was nearly halved to about 5,200. There was no estimate for when service would be fully restored.

With more snow on the way, the PUD is encouraging people to prepare for another round of outages.

If you lose power, do not try to heat your home by using an oven, gas stove or charcoal grill, Swaney said.

A map of outages in the county can be found at the PUD’s website.

On Monday, the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office responded to reports of crashes, including cars sliding off the road and hitting trees and fences.

In Gold Bar, some residents left their cars in their driveways, opting for other forms of transportation.

“I’ve seen a few quads out and about,” Mayor Bill Clem said. “They’re helpful to have on days like this when they’re street legal.”

In summer, the city put together a plan to prioritize clearing certain routes when it snows, and crews were keeping roads clear, he said.

“If we get hit with a couple more of these, we could be in trouble,” he said.

Some unorthodox means of transportation were hampered by the weather.

In Sultan, a man traveling over the Skykomish River became stuck when ice stopped his cable car from making it across. Assistant chief Ernie Walters said crews from Snohomish County Fire District 26 responded and pulled the car to the other side.

Ben Watanabe: bwatanabe@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3037. Twitter: @benwatanabe.

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