Residents on the northern end of the Puget Sound region woke up to as much as 9 inches of snow Monday morning — along with school closures and power outages.
Here’s what you need to know on this snowy morning:
What’s on the ground
The amount of accumulation across the region varies widely. Duvall had about 9 inches of snow early Monday morning — the most reported — but very little snow was recorded at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, and about 2 inches was recorded at the weather service station near the University of Washington.
The area between Poulsbo and Suquamish, which was in the convergence zone Sunday night, had 8 to 8.5 inches of snow. The stretch of the Eastside between Redmond and Woodinville got about 5.5 inches overnight, Everett got about 5 inches, Lynnwood got 4 to 6, and Mountlake Terrace had 1 to 3, according to the weather service.
Seattle Public Schools started two hours late. Last year, the district struggled to transport students on snowy days. This year, the district said it changed its procedures, including automatically enrolling all families who rely on busing in snow routes. As of 10:15 a.m., the district reported nine routes that were either delayed or didn’t run, even with schools starting two hours late.
Many other schools in Seattle, north of Seattle and in the eastern suburbs were also scheduled to start late or were closed altogether, according to FlashAlert, which tracks most schools and districts in the region. South King County and Pierce County didn’t get much snow overnight, and most schools at the south end of Puget Sound were open as usual, although some snow began to fall in that area Monday morning. Parents should check their school district’s website for the most up-to-date information.
In Seattle, the city’s maintenance crews — people whose job typically includes filling potholes or fixing roads — have 60 plows available to clear roads, each equipped with “snow-fighting equipment,” Ethan Bergerson, a spokesperson for Seattle Department of Transportation, said Sunday.
Not every Seattle road is cleared when it snows: Narrow roads, steep roads, and roads with speed bumps or roundabouts won’t get any attention, and roads on the steepest hills will stay closed as long as it’s unsafe to drive on them, Bergerson said Sunday. “We’re not Minnesota. We don’t have the number of vehicles and plows to plow every road,” he said.
Black ice posed a problem for morning commuters in some areas, but because daytime highs won’t be “super cold” on Monday, snow on most roads should melt by afternoon and “we will be in pretty good shape” for the evening commute, McFarland said.
Stormy weather battered traffic in the mountain passes much of the weekend, and finally knocked out Stevens Pass on Sunday, when the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) announced on Twitter that the pass was closed due to fallen trees and power lines.
Around 9:30 a.m. scores of travelers, including three charter buses full of middle school students, were led west after being stranded overnight in Skykomish by the snow and fallen trees, according to Trooper Heather Axtman of the Washington State Patrol. The rescued convoy was accompanied by troopers, WSDOT employees and vehicles, and a tree service company.
On the west side of the closure, troopers told occupants of the 30 to 50 cars lined up that they should turn around and go home or find another route; it’s unknown now when the pass will reopen, Axtman said.
The pass first closed at about 2:40 p.m. Sunday between milepost 58 near the town of Scenic and milepost 84 near Leavenworth. As conditions worsened, WSDOT officials closed Highway 2 between Gold Bar and Skykomish.
Snoqualmie Pass is open, but with compact snow and ice on the road, traction tires are required in both directions as of Monday morning. The forecast calls for lighter snow Monday at Snoqualmie.
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The storm caused scattered power outages throughout the region and appears to have left all of Bainbridge Island in the dark. According to Puget Sound Energy’s outage map, more than 10,000 Bainbridge Island residents lost power around 3 a.m. Crews are working to restore power, but the utility company has not listed an expected restoration time.
The 2020 Womxn’s March on Seattle, originally planned for Saturday, Jan. 18, has been “rescheduled due to snow and cold,” its organizers posted on the event website. The rally at Cal Anderson Park and march from Capitol Hill to downtown is now scheduled for Sunday, March 8 — International Womxn’s Day.
More snow is expected to fall Monday and Wednesday nights. But this is not going to be like last February, when the snow piled up for 10 days. Last year, a strong blocking ridge of air, parked off our coast and stretching up to Alaska, prevented warmer air off the Pacific Ocean from reaching land, said Mike McFarland, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Seattle.
“That pattern was locked in for a long time,” he said. “There is very big reservoir of cold air over Canada right now, but we do not have the huge amplitude ridge that we had last year.”
Some scattered snow showers are predicted for Monday night, but the weather service isn’t expecting a lot of accumulation, McFarland said. A hard freeze overnight, however, means the chance for black ice and slick roads will remain for early Tuesday commuters, especially on the northern end of the Puget Sound region.
On Wednesday night, another front will move ashore, said McFarland.
“People will wake up Thursday morning to some snow, but it will warm up,” he said. “To really bring the cold air south and have a repeat of last year, we would have to build a stronger ridge that extends into Canada.”
We took readers’ snow questions to the experts, and here’s what they say about whether that February stretch of snow was a fluke or an event we can expect to see again soon.