Snow, wind, ice make for hours-long commutes

Snow, wind, ice make for hours-long commutes
SEATTLE -- Another round of snow and wind barreled into the Seattle area Monday evening, covering Puget Sound roads with a sheen of ice and bringing roads and freeways to a standstill for the Monday evening commute. For some unlucky commuters, their trip home extended well into Tuesday morning as freeway closures stretched several hours long.

One person was killed in a crash on I-5 near the Tacoma Dome late Monday evening when he was hit while outside of his vehicle. Washington State Trooper Brandy Kessler said it was not clear if the man was chaining up his car or pushing it when he was hit just before 7 p.m.

For all of Monday evening, every major freeway except for I-90 had major problems for those trying to leave Seattle.

Perhaps the worst was on the southbound lanes of I-5, where a jackknifed bus and several spinouts shut down the freeway for two hours around 5:30 p.m. and creating a backup miles long.

The DOT was able to reopen the freeway for about 15 minutes before several new spin-outs of buses and semi trucks forced the freeway to shutdown again. It reopened just before 11 p.m. but DOT officials warned it could take quite a while to clear the backup, and cars were still parked on the freeway at 1 a.m. Tuesday. Some people were still stuck in the original backup, facing over a 8-hour wait parked on the freeway in the snow and cold.

On I-5 North, a disabled bus was blocking most of the freeway at NE 71st Street. Then about two hours later, two buses jackknifed in the northbound lanes at Mercer, causing new backups. Traffic was parked all the way south through Downtown Seattle to Albro Place for most of the night.

Spun out cars blocked all lanes of Eastbound 520 at 84th Ave NE and westbound traffic was parked to the west highrise for several hours. Even at 1 a.m., Eastbound lanes of 520 remained closed at 84th with traffic being forced to exit there. Stories of being stuck in cars for 3-6 hours were common across the Puget Sound area.

Anywhere from 1-3" of snow had fallen in the greater Seattle Metro area by the evening, accompanied by strong north winds that sent temperatures plummeting into the low-mid 20s with wind chills into single digits.

The strong winds knocked out power to thousands. Tacoma Power reported 9,200 outages while Puget Sound Energy had 7,000 in the dark, mainly in Kitsap County. Seattle City Light had just under 1,500 without power as of 8 p.m. Some schools are already delaying classes for Tuesday. Get the See full school delay list.)

Aside from the I-5 problems late Monday evening, snow has caused several other traffic problems around the Puget Sound area:

* The Seattle Department of Transportation has shut down the Alaskan Way Viaduct due to treacherous conditions.
*A semi jackknifed across I-5 South at S.188th in Tukwila around 3:30 p.m., briefly closing all lanes.
* A bus lost control and slid across the lanes of the Battery Street tunnel, closing the southbound lanes there for a time.
*SR-518 had to be closed near SR-99 to clear multiple spin-outs.
*The West Seattle Bridge was also a virtual parking lot as slick roads made it difficult to get over the bridge.
* Side streets around Seattle were jammed as people tried to reach the freeways to get home.
* I-5 traffic was snarled around Northgate late Monday evening as two semi trucks became disabled, while a bus got stuck in the southbound lanes.

Also, a Boeing 747 cargo plane slid off the end off the end of the runway at Sea-Tac Airport Monday evening, causing delays there.

Earlier in the day in Pierce County the eastbound lanes of SR-16 were closed just west of the Narrows Bridge due to numerous crashes, and a Pierce Transit bus rolled over on the UW Tacoma campus, injuring several passengers.

Multiple Weather Events In Play This Evening

A very complex weather situation set up as a very cold area of low pressure slid through Western Washington, with several major factors contributing to snow in the Seattle Metro area.

First up, a Convergence Zone set up shop right over the Seattle metro area. This is due to strong north winds from the Fraser Valley colliding with southerly winds being brought up by the passing storm. As the winds collide, it causes the air to rise and condense into clouds and, in this case, snow. Although it wasn't a classic Puget Sound Convergence Zone, which is when winds come west down the Strait of Juan de Fuca and turn south toward Everett as southerly winds collide. But the fact that winds are colliding were enough in this case, no matter where the northerly component is coming from. Convergence Zones can be great snow-makers and this one was no different.

Second, the storm's center is bringing its own moisture along for the ride, enhancing snowfall for other areas outside of the Seattle Metro through the evening.

Third, cold winds continued to blast out of the Fraser River Valley, gusting as high as 60-70 mph. At 6 p.m. Bellingham was 21 degrees with a 64 mph wind gust for a wind chill of -3. Lummi Island reported a gust to 72 mph while Ferndale had a gust to 61 mph. Blowing snow was an issue in several locations.

These winds were running across the Salish Sea and into the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca where they ran into the Olympic Mountains, making for incredible snow totals. This is the inverse rain shadow, per se, and this rising air is squeezing out all sorts of moisture along the northern Olympic Peninsula, where snow totals from Joyce to Port Townsend are reaching 6-18".

Fourth, strong winds continued to filter south into the Puget Sound region.

Watch the snow accumulate

Dr. Dale Ireland out in Silverdale had his camera rolling and, as tradition, used his original 2001 Ichiro bobblehead as a snow measuring device. Watch the snow accumulate today!

Seattle Colder Than Barrow, Alaska

Just how cold is it in Seattle? Afternoon temperatures were around 28 degrees. Meanwhile, up in the northern reaches of Alaska, Barrow reported a high of 34 degrees Monday. But that is all related. A very large ridge of high pressure has built into Alaska, shoving the jet stream way to the northern arctic reaches. The jet is then diving back down the east side of that ridge into the Pacific Northwest -- in essence creating a conduit for air from the Arctic Circle to channel south into our area.

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Steve Pool -- @StevePoolKOMO
Paul Deanno -- @PaulDeannoKOMO
Scott Sistek -- @ScottSKOMO

Snow totals from the storm:

Here are some snow reports that have come into the KOMO News room and National Weather Service.

  • Elwha: 11.0"
  • West Port Angeles: 10.0"
  • Elbe: 10.0"
  • North Bend: 10.0"
  • Enumclaw: 9.0"
  • Port Angeles: 8.5"
  • Enumclaw: 8.0"
  • Mount Pleasant: 7.6"
  • Coville (Clallam Co) 7.0"
  • Sequim: 7.0"
  • Port Townsend: 6.0"
  • Frederickson: 6.0"
  • Bremerton: 5.0"
  • Tacoma: 4.5"
  • Newport: 4.5"
  • Kingston: 4.0"
  • Potlatch: 4.0"
  • Federal Way: 3.9"
  • Covington: 3.5"
  • Seattle/View Ridge: 3.5"
  • Marysville: 3.0"
  • Hoodsport: 3"
  • Roy 3.0"
  • Bethel: 2.8"
  • Monroe: 2.5"
  • Puyallup: 2.5"
  • Coupeville: 2.1"
  • Madison Park: 2.0"
  • Port Orchard: 2.0"
  • Vashon: 2.0"
  • Edmonds: 2.0"
  • Renton (East Hill): 2.0"
  • Freeland: 2.0"
  • Oak Harbor: 2.0"

Peak Wind Gusts

Here are some peak wind gusts from the storm, as of Monday evening:

  • Lummi Island: 72 mph
  • Bellingham: 64 mph
  • Ferndale (Sandy Point): 61 mph
  • Friday Harbor: 56 mph
  • Port Angeles out in water: 55 mph
  • Everson: 52 mph
  • Port Townsend: 52 mph
  • Port Angeles in town: 45 mph
  • Gig Harbor: 45 mph
  • Sea-Tac Airport: 38 mph
  • Renton: 32 mph
  • Boeing Field: 31 mph