The National Weather Service expects Seattle to receive several additional inches of snowfall by Tuesday. School districts around Puget Sound have canceled classes for Monday, and public transportation remains limited. The state's House and Senate have canceled all their hearings.
While Seattle continues to dig out of one of the heaviest snowfalls to hit the city in three decades, Sunday saw the arrival of the first of several storm systems moving in from the Pacific over the coming week. The weather is compounding disruptions to public transportation and schools.
It’s now the snowiest February on record, thanks to the additional flakes that fell at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Sunday evening, bringing the snowfall total for the month to 14.1 inches, according to the National Weather Service. The airport has seen more snowfall over the past week than it typically does in an entire winter season.
Forecasters expect two more weather systems to hit the Puget Sound area by Tuesday, dumping as much as an additional 6 inches to 8 inches of snow in downtown Seattle.
Puget Sound winter weather is often on the border between rain and snow, but it’s rare for all the right ingredients to converge. That’s what’s happening now, and what took place in Seattle’s last major snowfall in 2012. That storm brought 7.1 inches of snow to Sea-Tac Airport. We’re up to a total of 10.6 inches in the past week alone.
“What’s causing this is an east-northeast wind, funneling cool air down from Canada, plus a little lift and moisture off the Pacific and a big trough (an extended zone of low air pressure) over the whole Pacific Northwest right now,” Jeff Michalski, a meteorologist with NWS in Seattle, said in a phone interview Sunday. “To make it even more complex, we may get some interactions with the mountains, some convergence zones. So we might not get uniform snowfall totals across the area. Some places could get hammered, and some areas could see much less.”
Ahead of the arrival of potentially significant snowfall on Monday, school districts around Puget Sound have canceled classes and public transportation remains limited. The state’s House and Senate have canceled all their hearings for the day.
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As of 7 p.m., the first round of snowfall was underway in Seattle. The system is expected to bring up to 2 inches of snow to the downtown area, said Jacob DeFlitch, another NWS meteorologist. Farther north along the Interstate 5 corridor, Everett and surrounding communities may get up to 4 inches of additional snowfall. The low temperature in the Seattle area tonight will dip into the upper 20s, with a windchill dropping into the teens.
“Don’t overlook that first system,” DeFlitch said. “But the second one will arrive right on its heels and looks to be more substantial. Between them, there’s not much time to spare.”
That second system is expected to arrive Monday and could drop 6 inches to 8 inches in downtown Seattle by Tuesday morning, with a possibility for slightly warmer air bringing sleet or even a little rain to the mix.
“Anything is in the cards at the moment,” DeFlitch said. “It depends on how the system tracks. We still have details to iron out.”
King County Metro announced it would operate only 60 core routes until at least Tuesday. See the King County Metro blog and the Seattle winter weather map for updated transit and traffic information. Cellphone apps that track bus movements may not be reliable because they may show routes that aren’t operating under Metro’s snow-route plan, according to Jeff Switzer, a Metro spokesman.
All northbound and southbound Sounder trains are scheduled to run Monday, but riders should expect delays, Sound Transit said.
Seattle Department of Transportation crews, both outdoors and at the agency nerve center, are working 12-hour shifts around the clock to keep roads as clear as possible. SDOT spokesperson Dawn Schellenberg said their top priorities are downtown roads, key arterials, such as Aurora Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Way, and streets leading to hospitals.
“It’s looking OK right now,” Schellenberg said. “But we don’t want to get too cocky. It’s just a race between us and the snow to beat Mother Nature.”
She requested the public to help SDOT by minimizing driving, taking it slow and obeying signs for road closures.
“People say ‘I think I could make that,’ but we don’t want you to get stuck, get hurt, or run into another person’s vehicle or home.”
Schellenberg also acknowledged some public frustration that more sidewalks haven’t been cleared. SDOT’s foot crews are focused on overpasses, which freeze more quickly, and bus stops, she said.
Major freeways were open on Sunday afternoon, but the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is urging people to drive as if the roads were covered in ice.
“It might not look bad, but there are still slick spots and we’ve got a couple of more snowstorms coming,” said Lisa Van Cise, a spokeswoman for WSDOT. Drivers have hit four snowplows in the past few days, putting them out of commission until they can get repaired. “I-5 might not look too bad, but there are some lesser traveled roads with snow and ice. It’s important to know what you’re getting into before you leave.”
“We’ve had all hands on deck for days now working 12-hour sifts,” Van Cise said. “I was born and raised here; we don’t get these kinds of systems often. This is one for the books.”
As of early Sunday afternoon, the runways at Sea-Tac Airport were wet and clear. By 6 p.m., 198 flights were delayed and 134 were canceled, according to flight-tracking website FlightAware.
Alaska Airlines spokeswoman Ann Johnson said some flights had been canceled early, thinning out the schedule so remaining flights could depart on time.
Around 10,800 Puget Sound Energy (PSE) customers were without power Sunday evening, with the majority of the 254 outages concentrated in Olympia and the South Sound. Seattle City Light reported scattered power outages in West Seattle, South Seattle and Madrona.
“We’ve got 90-plus crews working today and we’ll be working throughout the night trying to restore power to everyone,” said Andrew Padula of PSE. “We also have issues in Whatcom County, parts of Kitsap County and Vashon Island. It’s not as bad as the Christmas holiday storm, which had 100,000-plus people without power at its peak, but we’ll be working throughout the night.”
Seattle Public Schools will be closed Monday due to the weather. Other districts that have announced Monday closures include: Auburn, Bainbridge Island, Bellevue, Edmonds, Federal Way, Highline, Mercer Island, Olympia, Shoreline, Tacoma and Vashon Island. Check local school district websites for more details.
The University of Washington said it will suspend campus operations on Monday. Other schools that are canceling classes include: The Evergreen State College, Pacific Lutheran University, Seattle University, Seattle Central Community College, and Shoreline Community College, University of Puget Sound.
“It’s tough out there,” said Noah Fay, director of housing programs at the Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC). “Demand is significantly up. We’re making an extra effort to go out of the building, looking for people sleeping in doorways.”
Several emergency shelters will remain open through Sunday night and beyond, and most still have space for those needing somewhere to stay, said Seattle Human Services Department Interim Director Jason Johnson.
The severe-weather shelter at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall reached capacity with 184 people Saturday night, and some will be taken to other shelters where there is more space for Sunday night.
The city has opened Garfield Community Center as a shelter for adults, families with children and people living in vehicles. The center has space for up to 140 people, and 56 people stayed there Saturday night, Johnson said. The 24-hour facility will be open through Tuesday.
Johnson said there is also space at Seattle’s City Hall shelter, King County Administration Building shelter and Day Center at Fourth Avenue and Jefferson Street. Mary’s Place will keep its 24/7 extreme-weather shelter open in the coming week. Families with children and pets can drop in at 312 Dexter Ave. N., or call the family intake line at 206-245-1026.
The Navigation Team conducted checks on people who were found living without shelter and helped more than 50 travel to an inside location Saturday night. The team planned to work until midnight Sunday to help more move to a shelter.
City staff are also checking in with Aging and Disability Services clients who are home-bound or have mobility issues and may require additional help during the storm, Johnson said.
Fay said people looking for resources, whether for themselves or others, should call 211, the King County Crisis Line for the most-up-do-date information.
“This is about as dire a time as it gets for people in crisis,” Fay added. “We just do whatever we can. If people stay out in this weather, they’ll die.”
This story will be updated though out the day with information about traffic, school closures and power outages as it becomes available.