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Thursday morning's headlines

This morning's headlines are a roundup of the winter snowstorm and cold temperatures affecting Western Washington communities today:

Updated 8:58 a.m.

Driving Conditions Tough, Dangerous

Stay off the roads if at all possible. That advisory is from state transportation leaders, who are dealing with snow and ice clogged sections of freeways, overpasses, and ramps. While many main arterials are passable, the approaches are tough, especially in south King County, Snohomish, Skagit, Thurston and parts of Pierce County, according to KING-TV:

Drivers stuck on Sahalee Way in Redmond were abandoning their cars. Drivers on southbound Interstate 5 near Sea-Tac were crawling along.

As of 9 a.m., WSDOT cameras show that Thurston and Pierce county roads - including I-5 - are heavily impacted by heavy snow, freezing fog and ice. Accidents have caused backups.

The Olympian's Nate Hulings reports driving conditions are expected to worsen today, as National Weather Service forecasts for Thurston County show accumulations could be significant  through this morning:

Periods of heavy snowfall were expected to continue through this morning, with 2 to 6 inches of snow forecast, meteorologist Carl Cerniglia said.

Schools Closed or Opening Late

Dangerous driving conditions have prompted dozens of school districts to close today. Many public schools are on mid-winter break, including Seattle. Still, some ongoing student support programs have also been canceled. Colleges and universities are starting late (10 a.m.), as well, including Pacific Lutheran University, the UW campuses and Seattle University, as well as community colleges.

Snow Still Falling, Accumulations Vary

Snowfall continues this morning in parts of Western Washington, heavy in some places and light in others. Forecasters expect snow to taper off today, then give way to frigid temperatures.  While most all areas received snowfall, it's impact varied greatly from county to county. Skagit, Clallam, Island and Snohomish counties got heavy accumulations. 

Mount Vernon and other Skagit County communities have deep snow of up to 10 inches or more. The Skagit Valley Herald reports officials are asking people there to stay put:

“In Skagit County, don’t go out if you don’t have to,” said (State) Transportation spokeswoman Bronlea Mishler. “If you absolutely must go out, bring chains or have all-wheel drive because if you don’t, you won’t make it.”

I-5 through the county was a mess yesterday, according to the Herald, becoming a 'parking lot' as plows could not get past cars. WSDOT is giving the same advice to all areas with heavy snowfall. 

How much snow fell?

Totals are still coming in, but here's a sampling:

  • Concrete, Skagit County   10"
  • Oak Harbor, Island County,  9"
  • Port Angeles and the Strait   5" to 10"
  • Grayland, Grays Harbor County,  6.5"
  • Duvall, King County   5"
  • Sea-Tac Airport   3"

In Clallam County, forecasts are for up to another 2 to 3 inches this morning.  Port Angeles-area traffic was snarled by the heavy snowfall yesterday, according to Rob Ollikainen of the Peninsula Daily News:

A spotter in Port Townsend reported 5 inches of snowfall in a three-hour period that ended at 3:30 p.m. Another spotter said it snowed 5 inches in a span of 2 hours and 15 minutes four miles west of Sequim.

In Darrington, in the Cascade foothills of Snohomish County, nearly two feet of snow fell, according to The Seattle Times. The unofficial tally was reported by a local grocery store manager, who tells The Times 12" fell overnight, adding to already large amounts on the ground.

Frigidly Cold Temperatures for the Weekend

Highs today will only reach freezing levels, or slightly above, according to the Weather Service. Then overnight lows will dive into the teens and upper 20's in the urban areas, and even into the single digits in more outlying areas. That's expected to be the case through the weekend.