A new storm system packing more lowland snow is expected to move through our area tonight and tomorrow morning. But high winds could accompany this storm. The strongest gusts will be in areas near shorelines, especially Bellingham, Neah Bay, Port Townsend and Westport.
Port Angeles could see between 8 and 12 inches of snow. Seattle could get between 2 and 3 inches of new accumulation. Less than an inch of new accumulation is expected in Tacoma and points south.
Reid Wolcott with the National Weather Service says the precipitation will move toward Canada overnight, but he expects it to impact the morning commute, because the snow will be dense and fall at a very fast rate.
“It’s going to be that wet concrete kind of stuff. So it takes more effort to plow, and it also is going to be falling at a rate that makes it difficult for the plows to keep up with it,” Wolcott said. “That may not last very long for any one location, but they’re going to have to focus on the main streets.”
So that means the side streets have potential to be neglected more than they have been with lighter snowfalls earlier in the week, he added.
Because it could be a challenge for plows to keep up, city officials around the region are reminding commuters to take extra time and care getting around in the cold weather.
Slick roads can cause pile-ups like the one on the 520 bridge Monday night. Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins says about 30 cars were involved in that incident. He wants drivers to remember it could happen to anyone.
“If you get stuck in a collision like that, you need to make sure you’re prepared for that. Make sure you’re prepared to be sitting on the highway in below-freezing temperatures.”
And, he added, don’t travel if you don’t have to.
Scoggins says even if you’re just on foot or walking to transit, make sure you have the right footwear — and think about wearing reflective clothing to help motorists see you.
Wolcott, with the weather service, says it looks like the heavy snowfall will start sometime between 7 and 9 p.m. It’s then expected to shift northward through the overnight hours, likely ending in the Seattle metro area between midnight and 2 a.m.
Amid the forecast, Seattle officials are spreading the word about how to keep the community safe, including commuters and those who sleep outside.
Mayor Jenny Durkan says the city’s homelessness navigation team and outreach workers are responding to people who are unsheltered. She urges people to call for help if they see someone who needs assistance.
“If you see someone outside and you want to try to get them inside, dial 211,” Durkan said during a news conference. “We can get you a list of the shelters that are open and we can transport people as well.”
Durkan says the city is opening a shelter at the Bitter Lake Community Center. There also are emergency shelters in the Armory at Seattle Center and the King County Administration building downtown.
Officials also say the weather could bring widespread power outages, as tree limbs break and hit power lines. Seattle City Light CEO Debra Smith warns people to stay away from downed power lines.
“If you come in contact with a downed power line, please stay 30 to 35 feet away from the line and immediately call 911,” Smith said. “If by chance you’ve encountered that downed power line while you are in your vehicle, still make the call but stay where you are. That’s the single most important thing you can know.”
Smith says if there are outages, City Light will focus on restoring power to densely populated areas first. She says those in more remote areas should make sure they have blankets, batteries and flashlights, and take time to charge cellphones and other devices.
Separately, officials say drivers should keep their gas tanks full, and carry warm clothes and blankets in their cars in case they get stuck and aren't able to leave their cars.
And, as snow accumulates and people want to get out and enjoy it, Durkan urges people not to sled on city streets. Steep hills have become popular destinations when the city closes them to traffic. But Durkan says sledding on them is dangerous.
“We’ve seen every year there’s been accidents, sometimes fatal and tragic accidents,” she told reporters this week. “So a road closed sign means that road is closed, and you should stay off it because it’s not safe to travel. If you want to enjoy sledding, stay in your parks and yards. But do not sled in the streets. Stay safe.”
Durkan reminded residents that it is homeowners’ responsibility to make sure sidewalks are cleared after snowstorms.