An intense cell brought hail, graupel, lightning and snow to the South Sound, dumping a layer of icy precipitation across Tacoma, Lakewood, Fife, Kent, Federal Way, Auburn and Covington just after 7 p.m., making for slippery roads along with near whiteout conditions. (What is graupel? Check out our weather blog for the answer)
A separate cell also brought lightning, graupel and slick roads to the greater Mount Vernon and Arlington areas.
Two people were injured in two crashes involving two state troopers near Kent in the northbound lanes of State Route 167 at South 222nd Street on Wednesday night.
Trooper Julie Startup said a trooper headed to a crash scene was driving in the HOV lane when the car in the next lane lost control. That car swerved in front of the trooper, causing the patrol car to T-bone it at around 10:15 p.m.
The swerving car's driver was seriously injured, and the trooper sustained minor injuries.
Minutes later, a second trooper headed to the first trooper-involved crash was driving in the HOV lane when he, too, ran into trouble.
A semi truck either bumped or cut off the vehicle in the next lane, causing that car to swerve into the HOV lane and crash into the trooper.
No one was injured in the second crash.
The cause of the crashes have not been determined, but investigators believe slick road conditions were likely a factor.
In Lakewood, police say the hail storm and the icy roadways caused three separate incidents involving patrol cars. Lt. Chris Lawler said two patrol cars slid of the roadway, one in the 10600 block of Canyon Road and another in the westbound lanes of State Route 512 at Pacific Avenue.
A third patrol car was rear-ended by a citizen driver in the 4900 block of Steilacoom Road, he said.
No one was injured in the incidents.
Near Shelton, one person died in a crash on State Route 101 at Purdy Canyon. Troopers said two vehicles collided on the roadway at approximately 5:15 p.m. It was not immediately known whether anyone else was injured.
Police haven't said if that crash was weather related.
Up in Mount Vernon, a freight train jackknifed a semi truck on Wednesday night, slamming its tail end into a power pole and causing its load to spill all over the roadway.
No one was injured in the incident, which occurred at the railroad crossing on East College Way at approximately 7:30 p.m.
Investigators said the truck's cab was stopped on the train tracks due to slowed traffic ahead stemming from an unrelated collision on icy roads.
Investigators said the wooden arms at the train stop failed to work properly. They added the arms had been experiencing glitches throughout the day.
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Icy roads will be a region-wide concern as temperatures drop into the 20s by early Thursday morning, freezing any melted snow, hail or graupel that fell during the day Wednesday. Plan on extra time for any commuting.
The Second of a 1-2 Punch
The thunderstorms were the encore from a large Puget Sound Convergence Zone that brought a heavy band of snow to southern Snohomish County Wednesday morning just as most people were getting ready to go work. Snow totals ranged from 2-5" between Bothell and south Everett, instantly causing problems on the roadways.
In Bothell, the southbound lanes of I-405 were shut down at Filbert Road for over half an hour due to numerous spinouts. And shades of November's storm, there were areas where people were just parked along the side of the road. The roadway reopened at 8:30 a.m.
I-5 also had traffic issues around the Lynnwood/Mukilteo area with backups extending at least 3 miles in spots during the peak of the commute. Surface streets were also affected as there were reports of several jack-knifed buses around the Lynnwood/Alderwood Mall area.
The Washington State Patrol said it dealt with over 30 collisions in Snohomish County -- mostly spin-outs and fender-benders. Trooper Keith Leary says troopers also dealt with stuck vehicles unable to gain traction, jump starts, spun out vehicles and vehicles with other mechanical issues. He says there were no serious injuries.
The snow then moved down to the Eastside but fizzled as it did so. A second round of snow moved through the north end in the midday hours, but fizzled a bit and didn't cause any additional problems.
So far we've received reports of 4.5" in Duvall, 3" in Bonney Lake, 2.5" in the Silver Lake neighborhood of south Everett, Puyallup and Eatonville, 2" in Mill Creek, Mukilteo, Duvall and Edgewood. (See all snow totals)
More snow fell in higher elevations. Lake Kaposwin around 1,000 feet near Eatonville reported 5-6" of snow overnight.
We Stay Chilly For A While
Thursday night will be the coldest night of the week and perhaps the month as temperatures plunge well down into the 20s across the region.
Friday and Saturday will remain dry and partly sunny, but still chilly with highs in the upper 30s to near 40 and lows in the 20s to low 30s. We warm closer to normal with more familiar rain returning as we kick off 2011's first workweek.