Snow, ice make for tricky commute

Snow, ice make for tricky commute
SEATTLE -- Much of the snow and slush that coated parts of Western Washington Monday turned to ice overnight, making for a treacherous commute in many areas.

State troopers and local law enforcement officials were kept busy with spinouts on icy highways and side streets, and many school districts canceled or delayed classes. (See the full school list.)

Abandoned cars could be seen along the sides of ice-covered streets on the Eastside and higher elevations of Snohomish and Pierce counties, but there were no reports of serious injuries.

Meanwhile, drivers face snow and slush in the Cascade mountain passes. The Transportation Department is requiring traction tires on Snoqualmie, Stevens and White passes.

Snow totals overnight ranged from about 1-3 inches in spots like Snoqualmie Ridge, Issaquah Plateau, Sammamish Plateau, and the higher elevations of Bellevue. Meanwhile, reports were from a dusting to 1/2" in the Seattle and Shoreline areas.

Wind Was A Factor Too

It wasn't just the rain, but the wind also caused several problems Monday as a strong cold front moved trough the area, that brought heavy rain and gusty winds to 45-55 mph.

In Port Ludlow, a woman was killed when she was struck by a falling tree as she drove home Monday night the wind on a Jefferson County road.

Sheriff Mike Brasfield says the car driven by 74-year-old Suzanne Charawell was crushed by a large tree that fell across the roadway.

Brasfield says two deputies who happened on the scene and responding fire department aid units could not revive her and she died at the scene.

In the Pierce County areas of Puyallup and Eatonville, there were reports of several trees and power lines down, including one tree into a house.

Pierce County sheriff spokesman Ed Troyer said no one was injured when winds blew through around 3 p.m., but officials were still working to assess the damage.

"We know we have at least one tree through a house, some small fires due to the wires becoming separated from the telephone poles," Troyer said.

The highest wind gust at an official station was 40 mph at Fort Lewis, but it's possible localized gusts were higher that missed a reporting station. Winds were also gusting over 50 mph along Whidbey Island Monday afternoon before tapering off a few hours later.

As to why so icy, it was several factors that came together at just the right time to wreak havoc on the morning commute.

First off, a strong Puget Sound Convergence Zone formed Monday evening in the wake of the potent cold front.

The Zone mixed in with some cold air filtering in behind the front, and that brought a band of moderate to heavy snow that stretched between Mountlake Terrace and Shoreline and then east to the Cascades. The heaviest accumulations were to the east where the elevated areas were a couple of degrees cooler.

The snow ended as the evening progresses, and then the skies cleared, removing our natural "blanket" of clouds and allowing the day's heat to radiate back into space. Temperatures then dropped to just below the freezing mark overnight, allowing the snow and leftover rain to freeze to ice.

The snow is gone, and we're expecting mostly sunny skies the rest of the day. Highs will top out around 40.

Wednesday through Saturday is a dry pattern with generally mostly sunny skies aside from patchy morning fog and frost. Highs will be in the low 40s -- although perhaps warmer toward the foothills -- and lows will be in the 20s to low 30s, so icy roads are again a concern each morning where roads remain wet.