Get ready for slippery commute and some snow Friday in Tacoma

Staff writerDecember 19, 2013 

The snow plows will be ready. The de-icer will be set.

While many in Pierce County are snug in their beds.

They won't know what they’ll wake up to Friday morning, though.

You’ll have a better idea looking outside then than meteorologists and road crews did looking at their forecasts Thursday about whether the widespread warning of a treacherous, snowy commute was for naught or an understatement.

Up to the nth hour Thursday, officials weren’t sure how much snow the forecast storm would bring to Pierce County and Western Washington, or where it would fall.

City of Tacoma crews were expecting from zero to 2 inches, though the National Weather Service said the Seattle area and north might see 1 to 3 inches.

Or not.

It was hard to say University of Washington meteorologist Cliff Mass wrote on his weather blog that the snow would be caused by “resident” cold air being “displaced by approaching warm air.” The chances of snow were very high, but its depth was uncertain, he said.

“The battle will be between the warm air and the cold air ... and the warm air will win,” Mass wrote. “But not before the western interior is painted white.”

The City of Tacoma planned to have six snow plows patrolling from midnight through noon Friday, and they have about another six they can call in if needed, said Rae Bailey, the city’s division manager of street operations. Wednesday night, crews put a saltwater brine on the roads to prevent slick driving conditions for several days, he said. 

The city’s 24-hour office number to call in road troubles is 253-591-5495.

The state Department of Transportation planned to double the night crew it has working from November to March. All of Pierce County and part of Thurston had the usual eight plows out for 10 hours starting at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, and that another eight were to start a 10-hour shift at midnight, spokeswoman Claudia Bingham Baker said.

Crews had de-icer to keep freeways from getting slick in the first place, but to work the treatment must be put down before precipitation starts. Crews probably will use it before the Friday morning storm, she said.

Pierce County road operations crews started moving to 12-hour shifts Wednesday to prepare for the storm, said Paul Marsh, superintendent of the Public Works and Utilities Road Operations Division.

They put down anti-icing products Wednesday night, and expected to reapply it as needed and put the product in other areas Thursday night.

St. Frances Cabrini School in Lakewood cancelled Friday classes, according to

One thing seems certain: Any snow that does fall isn’t expected to last long. Meteorologists said it will turn to rain late Friday morning.

“... this is as close as we will come to having a white Christmas this year,” Mass wrote about the Friday forecast, though he said exactly when the snow would turn to rain was hard to say.

The Weather Service predicted a chance of rain through Monday.

Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268


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