Snowstorm, ice cause problems for Washington state drivers, as Seattle edges close to record

Tuesday, November 28th 2006, 5:50 am
By: News On 6

SEATTLE (AP) A storm that dumped as much as 2 feet of snow on some parts of Washington state turned freeways and city streets into icy gridlock and left thousands of people without power.

The snowfall was capping off a month of heavy rain in Seattle, which was edging closer to a wettest-single-month record. As of 10 p.m. Monday, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, where official measurements are kept, had received 15.26 inches of precipitation, just .07 inches short of the 15.33 inches recorded in downtown Seattle in December 1933.

"It's kind of ironic that after all that rain we could be breaking the record with snow,'' said National Weather Service meteorologist Danny Mercer in Seattle. "It doesn't happen this way very often.''

In central Washington, which received as much as 7 inches of snow, a Bridgeport woman and her two sons died in a two-vehicle crash near Orondo on Sunday evening.

Roads were a mess by the Monday evening commute in Everett, north Seattle and Seattle's eastern suburbs, with cars sliding off Interstate 405.

"There's cars in the ditches all up and down the road,'' said Don Bowman, who drove 20 miles to buy tire chains after he was unable to find any still available in his hometown of Blaine.

Over the weekend, much of the heaviest snowfall had been in northwest Washington, with more than a foot falling in Ferndale by Monday morning. But later Monday, a low pressure system moved in over Island, Skagit and Snohomish counties, accompanied by an arctic front that pushed more snow south into Seattle and King County.

North of Seattle in Snohomish County, a total of about 40,000 customers were left without power, said Snohomish Public Utility District spokesman Neil Neroutsos.

Rural parts of Skagit County, near the town of Concrete, reported 24 inches of snow Monday. Puget Sound Energy spokeswoman Dorothy Bracken said crews were working to restore about 100 small outages, each affecting one to seven customers, in Skagit, Whatcom, Island and Kitsap counties.

In Seattle, Qwest Field, the home of the Seattle Seahawks, turned into a winter wonderland just in time for their Monday night game against the Green Bay Packers, no strangers to harsh winter conditions. Steady snow began falling 20 minutes before kickoff.

In southwestern Washington, a tractor-trailer jackknifed on Interstate 5, causing a 14-car accident with no major injuries, said State Patrol Sgt. Monica Hunter.