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Puget Sound region returns to ‘regularly scheduled’ rainy winter weather

After several inches of snow blanketed the Puget Sound region and much of western Washington on Saturday and Sunday, a transition to rain is on tap for the rest of the week.

Temperatures in the area have gradually been warming back up into the low-to-mid 40s in the Seattle area. That will bring what the National Weather Service calls “your regularly scheduled Pacific Northwest winter,” with scattered rain and cloudy skies in the forecast for the bulk of the week through Friday.

While some roads looked better Monday morning, it will take more time to get anywhere with ice and snow still on the ground. Drivers should be extra cautious and slow down, roads are still slick.

The National Weather Service issued a Winter Weather Advisory for most of the I-5 corridor from Bellingham to the Oregon border and east to the Cascades, where there is a Winter Storm Warning in effect into Tuesday. The advisory expired at 10 p.m. Sunday.

In the Puget Sound, Saturday saw the most snow recorded in a single day since the 1960s. As that snow begins to turn to slush on Monday, the concern is no longer about the snow coming down but rather the snow that’s on the ground. There’s potential for urban flooding, and storm drains may be clogged.

The NWS says rain and heavy wet snow may result in water accumulating on roadways, and water may channel through the snow from yards onto roads. There will be an increased risk of hydroplaning in areas of standing and flowing water.

“While other parts of the roads are just wet, other spots are so thick with all this snow,” said Claire Anderson, KIRO 7 TV meteorologist. “Then you also get the ponding. You’re seeing puddles in the sidewalks, people having to dodge all of that. So as we continue to melt and temperatures start to warm, we will continue to see the increased urban flooding potential.”

“We’ll continue to warm these next several days, so get ready for all of your areas to be flooded, if you need to make sure to clear your drains, but urban flooding definitely a possibility around your houses,” Anderson continued. “Some of those side streets are definitely going to be dealing with extra water.”

For those that do have to drive early this week, Snohomish County’s Public Works Department reminds drivers to stay 200 feet behind snow crews, and take care to avoid spray and displaced snow if you must pass. The Washington State Department of Transportation warns that passing a plow is dangerous because you never know what their plow blades could be pushing.

While shoveling your driveway, Snohomish County’s Public Works Department says to pile snow to the left side when you face the house and keep it close to the road — that way, a snowplow won’t push it back into the driveway. Don’t shovel snow into the road as that creates traffic hazards.

Side streets and neighborhood roads especially are still slick with snow and ice, and others are now slick with slush.

“The big thing: standing water is becoming more common, slush on the side streets. Traction is still difficult. If you don’t have to go out, sometimes you’re better off staying put today,” said KIRO 7 TV’s Matthew Smith.

NWS Meteorologist Samantha Borth told KIRO Radio over the weekend if you must drive in winter conditions, take it slow and give yourself extra time. Borth says to leave lots of room between your vehicle and the one in front of you. On slick roadways, avoid stomping on your brake so you don’t go into a slide. If you can find an alternate route around a steep hill, take it.

A helpful reminder on safe driving in winter conditions

In the mountain passes, snow is even more of a problem for drivers. WSDOT had closed US 2 Stevens Pass for avalanche control and clean-up. Around 4 p.m. Monday, I-90 was also closed in both directions between North Bend and Ellensburg after multiple collisions, and concerns over potential avalanches.

 

Seattle officials said earlier in the week that the city is prepared for snow and will prioritize clearing roads to places that are giving COVID-19 vaccinations, as well as major roads and bus routes. Homeowners are responsible for shoveling the sidewalks in front of their homes. Mayor Jenny Durkan even offered a reminder that roads can get slick during severe weather.

“To all the people who have moved here in the last few years, and you think you’re a great driver in the snow: You’re not,” Durkan said.

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