The Seattle area saw its first significant blast of winter as residents woke up Monday to anywhere from a dusting to 9 inches of snow. The National Weather Service (NWS) says more is on the way.
The snow stranded travelers on Highway 2, which officials said Monday would be shut down “indefinitely” between Gold Bar and Stevens Pass. Snowy and slippery conditions led to some crashes, including in Bellevue, where a driver slid down a street and rolled several times off an embankment, and along the Highway 520 floating bridge, where more than 30 cars crashed Monday evening. No one was seriously injured in either incident.
Low overnight temperatures could make the Tuesday morning commute challenging, especially in areas north of Seattle, which saw several inches of snow. Most of Western Washington can expect wind chill in the teens or lower and could see light snow flurries Tuesday. Another system could bring a few more inches of snow to the lowlands Wednesday.
Officials are warning people to bundle up against the cold. Wind-chill factor will be in the teens in the Seattle area through Tuesday morning, but places like Whatcom County will likely see wind chill below zero.
The cold will be dangerous for people sleeping outdoors, and the city of Seattle said no one will be turned away from a shelter in severe weather. Severe-weather shelters have opened across the region, including at Seattle Center’s Exhibition Hall for adults, and shelters such as the one at City Hall have extended hours.
In King County, people can get information about shelters by calling 211 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday. Outside of that time, people can call King County’s Crisis Line at 866-427-4747.
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Seattle’s Navigation Team of police officers and outreach workers is pausing its schedule of encampment cleanups and is instead focusing on getting people inside, said Human Services Department spokesperson Will Lemke.
Temperatures should rise later this week and may reach the 40s on Friday, according to the NWS in Seattle. The warmup could bring a threat of flooding this weekend.
With more snowflakes in the forecast, some residents may be having flashbacks to February, when the snow piled up for 10 days. However, the weather service says we won’t see a repeat of last year. That record snowstorm was the result of of strong ridge of air that parked off our coast and stretched up to Alaska, which blocked warmer air off the Pacific Ocean from reaching land.
“People will wake up Thursday morning to some snow, but it will warm up,” said Mike McFarland, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “To really bring the cold air south and have a repeat of last year, we would have to build a stronger ridge that extends into Canada.”
Even the small amount of snow Seattle saw Monday caused disruptions. Seattle Public Schools started two hours late, and district staff will make the call for Tuesday based on early morning road conditions. This week could be a test for the school district, which said it changed its procedures after struggling last year to transport students on snowy days. Nine bus routes were delayed or didn’t run Monday morning, and three routes were down in the afternoon.
Many other school districts in King County, north of Seattle and in the Eastside suburbs, were also scheduled to start late or were closed Monday, according to flashalert.net, which tracks most schools and districts in the region.
As of Monday evening, other school districts in the Seattle area had not decided whether schedules would change.
Some King County Metro buses chained up, and those in north and east King County were rerouted Monday. You can check for the latest updates on your route at metrowinter.com.
Not every road in Seattle is cleared when it snows: Roads that are narrow, steep, or have speed bumps or roundabouts won’t get any attention, and roads on the steepest hills will stay closed as long as it’s unsafe to drive on them, Ethan Bergerson, Seattle Department of Transportation spokesperson, said Sunday.
“We’re not Minnesota. We don’t have the number of vehicles and plows to plow every road,” he said.
More help navigating the snow and its effects
- Who’s responsible for clearing that snow and ice off the sidewalks? You, most likely.
- Will your street be plowed? Here’s how Seattle road crews decide which ones to clear.
- Driving in the snow can be a Northwest nightmare. Know how to do it safely.
- If the power is out, here’s what you should do.
- Keep your pets safe by taking these steps.
- Now for the fun part! Here’s where to ski and sled in Seattle.
Seattle Times Project Homeless reporter Sydney Brownstone and engagement editor Anna Patrick contributed to this report.