Freezing rain adds to winter storm woes

Freezing rain adds to winter storm woes
Pedestrians walk near the Macy's store in downtown Seattle as heavy snow falls late at night Saturday.
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Widespread freezing rain fell on top of heavy snow across a wide area of Western Washington on Sunday morning after a winter storm sent ferocious winds howling through the Cascade foothills. And now, more snow was expected on Sunday as a second weather system moves through the region.

Heavy snow and strong winds made whiteout conditions in the mountains, and the dangerous weather forced the DOT to shut down I-90 across Snoqualmie Pass late Saturday evening. The highway remained closed Sunday morning, and there is no estimate when it would reopen. Check this link for the latest conditions.

The snow and wind has caused several flight delays and cancellations at Sea-Tac Airport.

Sea-Tac officials say the airport is open and they have two runways working, but there is a large backlog of stranded passengers awaiting rebooking. There are no local hotels available and many people spent the night sleeping at the airport.

Metro and Community Transit are reporting limited service for Sunday for Sunday, with Metro operating only about half its normal bus schedule. It will run three Seahawks shuttles to Qwest Field. More info on Metro's service at rpin.org

Amtrak also reported several cancellations of service to Seattle.

More information about travel problems can be found at this link.

Blizzard conditions were reported overnight in Enumclaw, where wind gusts as high as 70 mph are combining with snow to make for near whiteout conditions and heavy snow drifts. Over in the tiny foothill town of Cumberland, an unofficial gust of 100 mph was recorded, knocking a large tree over onto a main road that just missed the town's fire station. Snoqualmie reported a gust of 61 mph, Buckley hit 60 and North Bend had a gust of 57 mph.

The North Coast also reported blizzard conditions overnight with wind gusts to 55 mph combining with a foot of snow to make 4-5 foot drifts around Clallam Bay.

In the lowlands, heavy snow, ice and freezing rain were the main headaches.

By Sunday morning, widespread freezing rain was falling across the Puget Sound area. The heaviest accumulations were in the South Sound area, including Olympia, Shelton and Fort Lewis.

About 4,700 Puget Sound Energy customers were without power with most in the Olympia-Tumwater area as of 9 a.m. Sunday. (Click here for the latest information about PSE outages.)

Along the coast, freezing rain was also becoming a problem as warmer air moved in. A spotter in Ocean Shores reported ice coatings as thick as 1/4" to 1/2". Grays Harbor PUD says 2,300 people lost power due to ice and freezing rain, while about 1,500 people lost power from Snohomish PUD -- mostly in the Canyon Park area north of Redmond.

Crews in all areas expected to have power restored during the day.

Snow covered roads and treacherous driving conditions were reported across the region, worsened by the coating of ice from freezing rain. Seattle streets were littered with spun out cars.

Here are some unofficial snow totals: (Some of these might include snow already on the ground from previous snows.)

  • Bainbridge Island: 12"
  • Sekiu: 12", 55 mph winds, 4-5 foot snow drifts.
  • Port Orchard: 12"
  • Bremerton: 10"
  • Anacortes: 9"
  • West Seattle: 8"
  • Federal Way: 8" (1/8" ice)
  • Shelton: 8"
  • Kenmore: 8"
  • Bothell: 7"
  • Lacey: 7"
  • Green Lake (Seattle): 6"
  • Grand Mound: 6" (3/8" ice)
  • Redmond: 6"
  • Lynnwood: 6"
  • Snohomish: 5" (8" on ground)
  • Bethel: 5"
  • Kirkland: 5"
  • Forks: 5"
  • Mukilteo: 5"
  • Seattle Downtown: 4-6"
  • Vaughn: 4"
  • Woodinville: 4"
  • Issaquah: 4"
  • Mill Creek: 4"
  • Camano Island: 3"
  • Renton: 3"

Scores of churches across the region cancelled Sunday morning services due to the hazardous conditions.

Where do we go from here?

All Blizzard and Winter Storm Warnings expired and were replaced with lesser winter weather advisories as conditions were expected to briefly improve later Sunday morning while the storm passed into Eastern Washington, including an end to the freezing rain.

But before it ends, freezing rain/ice accumulations could reach as much as 1/4-1/3" from Seattle south, with higher accumulations the farther south you go.

However, another band of moisture was forecast to move through Western Washington again around late morning Sunday and linger through the night, possibly putting down another 2-4" of new snow in areas away from the Washington coast as this system drops temperatures back under freezing.

Tonight will feature hit-and-miss snow showers as more cold air pools in. Lows will drop into the upper 20s. Additional accumulations could reach 1" in these showers.

There may be some lingering snow showers early Monday, but they should taper off in the afternoon.

Another weak system is forecast to come in mainly to Oregon on Tuesday afternoon or evening, but we might get clipped with the northern fringe of moisture. This would likely be a little more snow since that's the cooler side of the storm.

A warmer system is due in on Christmas Eve Wednesday, and this might briefly begin as snow but will feature a much quicker change to rain since the cold air here will be much less intense. Could be rain for Santa, but showers on Christmas Day may switch back to snow late in the day as some more cooler air moves in. This is still highly uncertain and by then we may just stay rain.

Long range models keep us wet and...warmer in the sense that we'll begin our climb out of this arctic pattern and into a more normal December pattern of highs in the 40s.

Other areas:

Conditions were much worse in Portland, where heavy snow combined with strong winds and a major ice storm.

I-84 was closed through the Columbia Gorge and into Portland, while chains were required to drive on any state highway in the Portland area.

Several flights were canceled in at Portland International Airport and more snow and ice was in the forecast for them today. You can find more from our sister station KATU.

More snow fell in Eastern Washington as well, dropping as much as 9-18" of new snow across the area.

Overall, travel across the entire Pacific Northwest will be incredibly difficult this weekend, and should be put off until Monday or Tuesday if possible.