Puget Sound residents woke up to anywhere from a dusting to 9 inches of snow Monday morning, along with school closures and power outages.
The snow shut down Stevens Pass, leaving some travelers stranded overnight, and fallen trees closed some roads in eastern King County. Conditions were less extreme in Seattle, where residents saw flurries throughout the day. But more snow is likely on the way this week, and most of Western Washington is expected to get wind chills in the teens or colder Monday night and Tuesday morning.
Here’s what you need to know about the snow. We’ll keep this post updated all day as weather-related news develops.
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.
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There’s a chance of snow in the Puget Sound region through Friday, particularly Monday and Wednesday nights. But with only light accumulations expected, it’s 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 Monday night and Tuesday morning, wind chills are expected to reach the teens throughout much of Western Washington, and could be below zero degrees in Whatcom County.
Another front will move ashore Wednesday night, and Puget Sound residents could see accumulation of half-an-inch to an inch of snow. Temperatures should start warming up Thursday and should approach the 40s Friday.
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. As of 4:45 p.m., four afternoon routes were down.
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.
King County Metro buses were outfitted in chains in areas with challenging roadway conditions, and buses in north and east King County were rerouted Monday due to snow. You can check for the latest updates on your route at metrowinter.com.
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 weren’t “super cold” Monday, most roads should be in “pretty good shape” for the evening commute, McFarland said.
Traffic was snarled coming into Seattle from Bellevue after multiple cars collided on the Highway 520 floating bridge around 6 p.m. The cause of the crash wasn’t immediately available, but Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) warned that roads in the area may be slick. Crews were treating the bridge Monday night, and WSDOT did not have an estimate for when lanes would reopen.
In areas hit harder by the snow, drivers faced hazardous conditions. In Bellevue, one driver lost control on a snow-covered hill and slid backwards and rolled multiple times down an embankment, but was not seriously injured, according to police.
Stormy weather battered traffic in the mountain passes much of the weekend, and finally knocked out Stevens Pass on Sunday, when WSDOT announced the pass was closed due to fallen trees and power lines.
Highway 2 is closed between Gold Bar and Stevens Pass indefinitely, Washington State Patrol Trooper Heather Axtman said Monday afternoon.
Around 9:30 a.m. Monday, 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, Axtman said. The rescued convoy was accompanied by troopers, WSDOT employees and vehicles, and a tree service company. The State Patrol planned to take a last eastbound convoy through to Index on Monday afternoon.
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 were advised in both directions as of Monday afternoon. The forecast calls for lighter snow Monday at Snoqualmie.
Washington State University advised students traveling across the state to stay put and contact their instructors if it’s unsafe to travel.
The city of Seattle has opened a severe weather shelter at Seattle Center’s Exhibition Hall for people who are at least 18 years old. It has also extended hours at its City Hall shelter, where 171 people stayed Sunday night. Eighteen people stayed at the King County Administration Building, which has also opened as a severe weather shelter.
No one will be turned away from shelter in the severe weather, according to the city.
Seattle’s Navigation Team, a group made up of police officers and outreach workers, is deploying across the city to get people inside. It’s focusing on areas where large numbers of people typically camp outside, like along the Interstate 90 corridor in South Seattle.
“Our primary focus is outreach, outreach, outreach,” Lemke said.
The Navigation Team will also pause its usual schedule of homeless encampment cleanups, Human Services Department spokesperson Will Lemke said, unless a tent or structure is completely blocking the sidewalk downtown or causing accessibility issues for people in wheelchairs.
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. A little more than 1,000 residents were still without power by 3:30 p.m., as crews continued to work to restore power.
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 help navigating the snow and its possible effects
We recently took more of 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.
Seattle Times Project Homeless reporter Sydney Brownstone contributed to this report.