Power outages. Icy roadways. Falling trees. Downed power lines. Closed schools and businesses. That's life in the South Sound today. The National Weather Service has issued a winter weather advisory for snow and freezing rain. The advisory is in effect till 4 a.m.
The weather service says snow or freezing rain will continue tonight, changing over to all rain early Friday morning.
Accumulations of 1 to 2 inches of new snow or 0.10 inch of ice are possible, according to the National Weather Service.
There are road closures around the area, some because of ice and some because of downed trees. You can read about the latest road closures here.
Emergency crews are responding throughout the region to downed power lines and fallen trees. There have been several reports of trees on cars and across the roadway.
Meanwhile, more than 75,000 homes in Pierce County are without power this morning. Also, Puget Sound Energy reports 200,000 of its customers in Pierce, Thurston and south King counties are without electricity.
OVERNIGHT/EARLY MORNING REPORT:
As the region continues to dig out after a snowstorm that boosted totals to 14 inches and beyond, officials are turning their attention to power outages and icy conditions expected to cause crashes and clog freeways.
More than 24,000 Tacoma Power customers in Eatonville, Graham, Alder, Roy, Parkland, Lakewood and Spanaway alone lacked power late Wednesday. Outages also were reported in Tacoma and other areas.
Temperatures were expected to drop into the 20s overnight and freeze melting snow on roadways, creating dicey conditions for today’s commute.
Washington State Patrol trooper Guy Gill said he hopes Wednesday’s storm taught drivers a lesson or two.
“One, stay home and don’t come out,” Gill said. “And two, if you come out, be prepared for these poor conditions and slow down.”
Crashes have increased more than tenfold. From midnight to 4 p.m. Wednesday, troopers responded to 230 crashes in Pierce and Thurston counties. During the same span last week, there were 22 crashes.
Forecasters said there will be a light mixture of snow and rain this morning, transitioning before noon to rain that will begin washing away snow and putting officials on alert for flooding.
“Some places might see some local urban flooding, depending on how fast the snow melts and how much water piles up,” National Weather Service meteorologist Johnny Burg said.
No snow accumulation is expected today, but de-icer trucks in Tacoma and Pierce County still have their work cut out for them.
The county’s Public Works and Utilities departments had 40 vehicles clearing primary arterial routes Wednesday, the efforts then shifted to 924 miles of secondary arterials and residential roads in the evening.
South of Graham and Eatonville was the hardest-hit area in the county, with 10 to 20 inches of snow, said Bruce Wagner, road operations division manager.
Crews plowed 1,517 lane miles of primary arterial routes linking to residential areas.
Wagner said the county had 166 employees split into working 12-hour shifts.
Winter weather made confetti out of the carefully calculated flight schedules from Sea-Tac Airport on Wednesday.
More than two dozen outgoing flights were canceled, and most of the flights operating from the airport were behind schedule. By late afternoon flights leaving Sea-Tac were averaging nearly 38 minutes late. Some were as much as 2ß hours behind schedule. Only a handful in any given hour were leaving on time.
Those delays came despite airlines’ efforts to proactively cancel some flights in anticipation of weather issues.
Sea-Tac’s biggest airline, Alaska Airlines, said Wednesday it canceled 38 flights to and from the Pacific Northwest, most of them from and to Sea-Tac.
Those traveling by bus also are affected by the snow; Pierce Transit is running on snow routes today. For information, go to www.piercetransit.org.
The storm dropped up to an inch of snow an hour Wednesday morning, and by the time it tapered off in the afternoon, Olympia and some areas of Pierce County saw 14 inches or so.
Officially, Orting registered the highest amount in the county at just over 8 inches, the Weather Service said. Tacoma saw about the same.
Sea-Tac Airport broke its daily snowfall record Wednesday with 6.8 inches, replacing the 1954 record of 2.4 inches.
The Cascades received about two feet of powder, the Weather Service said.
With 15 inches of new snow in the last 24 hours, Crystal Mountain issued a “Powder Alert” Wednesday. While this might sound like a warning, it was more of invitation to what was considered one of the best ski days of the new season.
For those considering venturing into the backcountry, the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center has issued a warning of “extreme” avalanche danger above 5,000 feet.
On Wednesday night, many schools already had announced they would remain closed today.
A cold-weather shelter at Puyallup Nazarene Church said 48 people had come seeking warm food and a hot shower Wednesday. They said they are unsure whether they will remain open tonight given that the forecast held rain and higher temperatures.
Today’s high is expected to be 37 degrees, according to the Weather Service. Temperatures on Friday likely will rise into the mid-40s, accompanied by one-half to 2½ inches of rain.
Staff writers Steve Maynard, John Gillie and Craig Hill contributed to this report.