Officials to drivers: Stay home

Officials to drivers: Stay home
SEATTLE -- After a nightmare commute that left drivers stuck on area highways for up to 10 hours, officials had a clear message for commuters on Tuesday: if you don't absolutely need to drive, stay home.

Cars, trucks and buses still litter many roads throughout the area after drivers abandoned them during Monday's nightmare evening commute, and a bitter cold setting in has turned many areas into sheets of ice. (Live traffic cams)

In Seattle, parts of I-5 were shut down down due for hours due to vehicles spun out in the middle of the freeway, many Eastside highways were still iced over, and Metro bus service was hit and miss due to many impassable roads. (See Metro transit alerts.) Many schools were also closed or delayed (Full school list).

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn said SDOT crews will be out all day working to clear roads.

"We're treating the priority routes," McGinn said. "We don't have the resources to treat every street in the city."

The city has maps online identifying which roads are priority routes for snow and ice removal.

McGinn said crews treated the roads with deicer before stared falling Monday, but crews couldn't keep up as the heaviest part of the storm moved into the city.

"We couldn't melt off the ice and snow as fast as it was forming and falling," he said.

Drivers who abandoned their vehicles on city streets will not be ticketed, but McGinn said if their vehicles are blocking lanes of traffic they will be towed.

Alaska Airlines warned that a number of its flights were being delayed or canceled because crews couldn't get to Sea-Tac Airport.

"Our customers and our employees both are just having a bad time because the roads are really bad," Alaska spokesman Paul McElroy said. A record 2.7 inches of snow fell at the airport on Monday. The old record for the date was 1.5 inches set in 1977.

- See list of snow totals from around Western Washington.

City and county road crews have been out in force applying deicer and sand to roads, but most side roads remain treacherous and many arterials are still covered with ice and snow. The State Department of Transportation said its sanding trucks were blocked overnight in may parts of the Seattle area by cars that were abandoned or wrecked in the Monday night commute.

The State Patrol said it launched an aircraft equipped with an infra-red camera to search for people who may still by stuck in disabled vehicles in King, Pierce and Thurston counties.

"Our aircraft can cover large areas much faster than ground based troopers," Sergeant Jim Nobach said in a news release. "We can also check those sections of road that troopers can't get to because of downed trees or power lines."

The Patrol said the FLIR camera can detect heat from occupants in the vehicle and can also determine if a vehicle's engine is running or still warm.

Monday evening's snow brought traffic to a standstill, and some drivers were still trying to get home early Tuesday morning.

Anywhere from 1-3 inches 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. (See statistics below)

Thousands of people were also without electricity because of trees and branches being blown into power lines.

Waste Management announced that no residential garbage collection would take place in King, Snohomish or Kitsap Counties due to ice and snow. Customers will be allowed to put out a double load for their next regularly scheduled pickup.

Temperatures were starting early Tuesday in the teens and low 20s and expected to stay in the 20s through the day, meaning roads that were turned into skating rinks during Monday's snowstorm had little hope of improvement Tuesday, despite promises of sunshine and dry conditions.

The record for coldest November 23rd in Seattle was 26 degrees during the infamous Thanksgiving snowstorm of 1985, and that record is in jeopardy.

Those who do brave the roads Tuesday should be warned that icy roads could be a factor through the day and temperatures will plummet again as night falls.

Temperatures Tuesday night will range from single digits in the outlying areas to mid teens in Seattle. The record low in Seattle on Wednesday is 16 degrees and that too is in jeopardy

Another very cold day on tap for Wednesday, but we begin a slow moderation with highs climbing up to near 30.

Long range forecast models show a return to rain by Thanksgiving, although there could be a period of brief snow before it changes to rain. We'll keep an eye on it.

If you have pictures or video of the snow at home or on the road you can submit them to YouNews. You can also browse all of the great photos already sent in.

Low Temperatures Tuesday Morning:

  • Shelton: 10
  • Olympia: 11
  • North Bend: 13
  • Bellingham: 15
  • Mount Vernon: 15
  • Port Angeles: 17
  • Oak Harbor: 18
  • Seattle: 18
  • Everett: 18
  • Forks: 19
  • Friday Harbor: 20
  • Seattle/UW: 20
  • Gig Harbor: 20
  • Tacoma: 20
  • Hoquaim: 22
  • Seattle(Boeing): 23