Ice storm adds to weather woes in Pacific Northwest

SEATTLE Thu Jan 19, 2012 5:32pm EST

1 of 4. Vehicles ignore a road closure on a hill in Kirkland, Washington as the northeast was hit with a snowstorm January 18, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Cliff DesPeaux

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SEATTLE (Reuters) - A deadly ice storm swept across the Pacific Northwest on Thursday, adding to the misery of residents struggling with power outages and treacherous roads since an earlier record snowfall.

Washington's governor declared a state of emergency and the storm was blamed for at least two deaths, including that of a 20-month-old boy in Albany, Oregon, who police said was sitting in a car that was swept into a rain-swollen creek.

In Seattle, which normally sees mild temperatures and wet weather but not heavy snow, the storm has resulted in airport and school closures, car crashes, downed trees and lost power to at least 90,000 households. Overall, some 150,000 homes across the state were without power, officials said.

Nicknamed "Snowmageddon," the storm first walloped Seattle and other parts of Washington state with snow on Tuesday night. On Thursday, officials mainly expressed concern about icy rain and its potential to down power lines and cause car crashes.

The icy roads led to crashes in many parts of Washington state on Thursday. On Interstate 90 near the town of Cle Elum, about 80 miles inland from Seattle, six semi-trailer trucks were involved in a collision that blocked the state's major thoroughfare through the Cascade Range of mountains, said Kandi Patrick of the Washington State Patrol.

The emergency proclamation by Washington Governor Chris Gregoire allows for the activation of the Washington National Guard if needed but the governor has not asked for the guard to assist, said her spokeswoman, Karina Shagren.

Record-setting daily snowfall of 6.8 inches was measured early Thursday at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, shattering the 1954 record of 2.9 inches, said meteorologist Dan DePodwin on Accuweather.com.

One of three Sea-Tac runways remains shuts, said airport spokeswoman Charla Skaggs. The airport was conducting de-icing operations and at one point all runways were shut, she said.

Few passengers were stranded because the airport is not a major hub for flight connections, Skaggs said.

In the greater Seattle area, downed trees blocked lanes on at least three state highways, Washington State Patrol spokeswoman Julie Startup said. She said there were many collisions on the icy roads.

BLOWN TRANSFORMERS

Power outages kept residents in the dark but blown-out transformers put on a spectacular show.

"Skies just keep lighting up," Startup said.

Puget Sound Energy warned power outages in some areas may not be restored until Saturday.

Streets also were a mess as frigid temperatures and freezing rain in the Tacoma area, 35 miles south of Seattle, coated roads with ice.

Near Issaquah, a suburb of Seattle, a 60-year-old man was killed when a snow-laden tree fell on him as he drove an all-terrain vehicle, said King County sheriff's spokeswoman Sergeant Cindi West.

In Albany, Oregon, rescuers were still looking for the mother of Aiden McLaughlin, the toddler who was killed when the car he was in was swept from a grocery store parking lot into a creek, the city's police department said in a statement.

The National Weather Service has issued flood warnings and advisories for most of western Oregon, where rivers and streams are swelling, causing pockets of flooding to roads and homes.

Authorities called for voluntary evacuations of the town of Mapleton, Oregon, which has about 1,000 residents, and some nearby areas because expected flooding, said Amber Fossen, spokeswoman for Lane County.

(Additional reporting by Teresa Carson in Portland: Writing By Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Paul Thomasch and Bill Trott)

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Comments (2)
SRuth wrote:
Except for emergency workers, who HAS to go out in a blizzard?

Jan 19, 2012 1:12pm EST  --  Report as abuse
to SRuth who asked who has to go out in a blizzard, hospital staff is REQUIRED to go and there is absolutely no excuse not to be at work.

Jan 19, 2012 7:11pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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