Warmer weather on the way as crews scramble to restore power

Warmer weather on the way as crews scramble to restore power
Crews clear fallen trees from Highway 18. The highway is expected to reopen at noon Friday. (WSDOT photo)
SEATTLE - Winter-weary Western Washington residents woke up to another day of icy roads and widespread power outages Friday morning, but relief from the cold is in sight as milder air arrives with a series of wet weather systems.

Temperatures should rise into the mid 40s Friday throughout most of the region, followed by rain that will not only help clear ice-coated trees and streets - but could cause localized flooding in some areas.

And while we are coming to the end of a full week of wintry weather, it may be days before power is restored to all of those still in the dark.

Icy branches and power lines came down all day Thursday and overnight into Friday, knocking out electricity to more than 300,000 customers across the region.

Puget Sound Energy initially reported more than 270,000 customers without power early Friday morning, and crews whittled that number down to 253,000 by 8:15 a.m. However, the hardest-hit areas may not get electricity back until next week.

Tacoma Power worked to restore service to 20,000 customers, and by 8:15 a.m. only 1,100 were still without power.

Snohomish PUD has 17,000 without power, and Peninsula Light and Grays Harbor PUD were dealing with scattered outages.

Crews worked through the night and hundreds of linemen from out of state are helping with restoration efforts.

Meanwhile, ice and slippery slush still covers many area roads, making for another morning of difficult driving.

School districts throughout the region canceled classes for another day, and King County Metro, Pierce County Transit and Sound Transit were still operating on snow routes.

But the end is near for the icy cold that has gripped the region since last weekend.

A winter weather advisory for the central Puget Sound, including Seattle, Tacoma and Everett, expired at 10 a.m. Friday.

Areas farther north, such as Bellingham and the San Juans, may have to wait a bit longer for relief. The cold is expected to stick around there until about Friday afternoon, with up to 3 more inches of snow expected before the winter weather advisory expires at 4 p.m. there.

And the snow will keep going in the mountains, with up to 2 feet possible over the weekend in the Cascades.

But in the Puget Sound lowlands, abundant rain is expected in the coming days as a series of wet weather systems approach from the Pacific.

With lots of snow and ice expected to begin melting today, a flood watch has been issued for Friday afternoon for several counties of Western Washington, including Grays Harbor, Clallam, Island, Jefferson, San Juan, Skagit, Whatcom, King, Kitsap, Lewis, Mason, Pierce, Snohomish, Thurston. The flood watch will continue through Saturday afternoon.

The Skokomish and Chehalis rivers are expected to rise above flood stage between Friday night and Saturday evening. All areas could see excessive surface runoff with ponding of water, ponding around clogged drains or culverts and small streams going over their banks.

The hardest-hit spots will be in the areas of deep lowland snow and heavier rain, such as the Southwest Interior.

Officials urged residents to help keep storm drains clear to prevent water from pooling up along streets, as we're definitely in for a slushy mess the next few days.