The cold has been blamed for the death of a homeless man, the first weather-related exposure death the Medical Examiner’s Office has reported this week.
Snow began to fall in Seattle Friday afternoon as the second snowstorm in less than a week gears up to smack the region.
Local officials are pleading for residents to stay off the roads.
At a Friday morning press conference, which ended just minutes before flakes began to fall, leaders stressed the severity of the storm.
King County Executive Dow Constantine called it a “once every decade or two occurrence.”
Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan called it a “potentially very dangerous storm.”
“The evening commute is going to be incredibly difficult,” Durkan said. “Our number one goal is to keep people safe.”
Gov. Jay Inslee has declared a state of emergency throughout Washington in response to the snowstorm.
Stay home if at all possible, officials said. Check on your neighbors. If you have to drive, go slow, don’t ignore street closures and give snow plows a wide berth.
The National Weather Service in Seattle predicted as much as 6 to 8 inches of snow to fall in the lowlands. Meteorologist Logan Johnson urged people Friday morning to stay home or be back at home before the evening commute.
Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins urged people to be careful with home heating devices – don’t ever run generators or grills indoors, and even indoor space heaters often aren’t designed to run around the clock.
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King County Metro will be putting chains on all its buses Friday afternoon, but with a bus system still recovering from snow earlier this week, service will be reduced, waits will be longer and buses will be crowded, officials said.
“Metro will do everything within its power to maintain safe service levels,” Metro General Manager Rob Gannon said.
The agency canceled all trips on 20 routes Friday morning. Gannon said they would make a decision late Friday on whether to switch to their “emergency snow network” for Saturday service.
Johnson, at the weather service, says it would be best to get somewhere safe and cozy in the early afternoon, when the area’s second snowstorm of the season could “fall pretty heavily.”
“What we want to avoid is having the snow move in when the roads are packed,” said Johnson.
By late morning, several inches of snow had been reported in Snohomish, Skagit and Island counties, with 4 inches in Port Angeles and 2 inches in Arlington and Oak Harbor.
Johnson said the forecast calls for snow to continue through the night and into Saturday morning.
And with the highs on Saturday, Sunday and early next week predicted to remain in the low to mid-30s and the overnight lows in the teens or 20s, the snow is expected to last.
“It’s not going to melt any time soon,” he said.
The recent cold weather has been blamed in the death of one man.
Derek C. Johnson, 59, died Thursday morning from exposure, the King County Medical Examiner’s Office reported. He was found sometime before 5:30 a.m. at the Sodo light-rail and transit station. He had no known address.
This is the first weather-related exposure death the Medical Examiner’s Office has reported this week.
King County Metro urged people to make alternate travel plans and canceled all trips on 20 bus routes Friday morning ahead of the storm. It plans to shift buses to snow routes at 2 p.m. Friday.
Unlike last week’s snow, which began late afternoon Sunday, this storm is being greeted with excitement by people who don’t have to work this weekend.
“A lot of people have stocked up on supplies at this point and are looking forward to it,” Johnson said.
In addition to groceries, folks are looking — often in vain — for sleds, ice melt, salt, firewood and snow shovels.
Many area offices, delivery businesses and schools, including the Seattle, Tacoma and Edmonds school districts, the University of Washington in Seattle and Seattle University, indicated they are closing early in preparation for the snow.
The storm appears likely to impact airline travel as well, with 165 cancellations at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport listed by 8 a.m. Friday.
Johnson was reluctant to discuss the timing and potential ferocity of two other snowstorms that could be in line to hit the region next week, explaining that forecasts become less certain the further away they are.
However, he said, it appears at this point that the snow predicted to hit on Monday may primarily affect Olympia and areas south of the capital.
A fourth snowstorm, which could fall late Tuesday or Wednesday, also may affect areas south of Seattle rather than the city, he said.
“I wouldn’t bet the farm on the timing,” he said. “That can change and sometimes what looks like several separate storms turns out to be just one. The timing is fluid and we’re going to have to play it by ear.”