Forecasters warn of blizzard in Washington state
At least three deaths have already been blamed on the storm.
Tue, Nov 23, 2010 at 08:53 AM
WINTRY WASHINGTON: An unidentified woman stands at a bus stop along South 9th Street in downtown Tacoma, Wash., as snow falls Monday morning, Nov. 22, 2010. (Photo: /AP)
A nasty storm was expected to dump heavy snow Tuesday across Washington while low temperatures chilled parts of Oregon as travelers prepared to drive and fly ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.
Most of Eastern Washington braced for a rare blizzard, and the National Weather Service posted a winter weather advisory for most of Western Washington and warned of hazardous conditions throughout the rest of the state.
At least three deaths have already been blamed on the storm, including a man struck and killed outside his car Monday night on snowy Interstate 5 in Tacoma. Washington State Patrol Trooper Brandy Kessler said it wasn't clear whether the man was chaining up his car or pushing it when he was hit.
Blowing snow, slick roads and temperatures in the mid-20s turned the Monday evening commute in the Puget Sound region into an hours-long slog — for those who made it home. Some commuters gave up after more than four hours and returned to their Seattle offices; others reported they were still stuck in traffic more than five hours after leaving work.
Elsewhere in the West, the National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning for Utah amid forecasts of strong winds, heavy snow and possible whiteout conditions Tuesday night.
Temperatures dipped to freezing in the Portland, Ore., area on Monday as homeless people lined up at emergency warming shelters.
Portland got a dusting of snow Monday evening but the outlook for Tuesday was just chilly — with a forecast high of 30 degrees, National Weather Service meteorologist Russ Willis said.
Oregon State Police said heavy snow, high winds and limited visibility caused numerous commercial trucks to jackknife Monday in the area around Mount Hood. KGW-TV said sections of Oregon Highway 26 were closed intermittently.
Troopers also reported at least a dozen crashes Monday on Santiam Pass in Oregon's central Cascades.
The weather service issued storm warnings across Idaho on Tuesday, warning of more than a foot of snow in some areas and winds gusting up to 45 mph. In northcentral Idaho, the storm was expected to dump up to 14 inches in a region that includes Clearwater and Idaho counties. Forecasters predicted up to 20 inches would blanket Lolo Pass.
At Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, a China Airlines Boeing 747 cargo plane landing in snowy conditions Monday afternoon overshot its runway stopping point. No injuries were reported, airport spokeswoman Terri-Ann Betancourt said. The plane overshot the runway's designated stopping point by about 100 feet but still stopped on concrete in the runway's safety area, she said.
The 2 inches of snow that fell by 5 p.m. Monday at the airport was a record for Nov. 22, besting the previous mark of 1.5 inches. Records there have been kept since 1945, said meteorologist Jay Neher.
Sea-Tac Airport was keeping runways and taxiways clear, said spokesman Perry Cooper.
"It's nothing we can't handle," he said. "We've been through this before."
The Washington Department of Transportation said it planned to shift snowplowing resources from northwest Washington's Whatcom County, which took the early brunt of the icy storm, to Snohomish and King counties — the greater Seattle area.
Tens of thousands of people in the Puget Sound area lost power as the storm barreled through Washington, said Puget Sound Energy spokeswoman Dorothy Bracken. She said of the 66,000 customers without power early Tuesday, 56,000 are in Kitsap County.
Bracken said tree branches being blown into power lines by strong winds are to blame for the outages that peaked at 90,000. She says if the winds continue to be a problem through Tuesday, more power outages are possible.
Many school districts, including Seattle, announced classes would be canceled Tuesday. The Weather Service in Spokane posted a rare blizzard warning until 10 a.m. Tuesday — the first such warning the office had issued since it opened in the mid-1990s.
Blowing and drifting snow was been reported across much of Eastern Washington's Columbia Basin, with numerous road closures.
Two people were killed earlier Monday when the car they were in slid on a snowy road at Cowiche near Yakima and collided with another car, the State Patrol said.
The National Weather Service says frigid air will drop Tuesday night lows into single digits in Western Washington and as low as 15 degrees below zero in Eastern Washington.
Forecasters say temperatures should start to moderate Wednesday and there's a chance of rain on Thanksgiving Day in Western Washington, although it could start as snow. Eastern Washington temperatures are forecast to remain well below freezing into the weekend.
Associated Press photographer Ted Warren in Tacoma and writers Phuong Le and Donna Gordon Blankinship in Seattle and Nicholas K. Geranios in Spokane contributed to this report.
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