WASHINGTON, USA — While not as widespread as expected, wintery weather did impact travel across western Washington on Tuesday. By the evening, hundreds of flights had been canceled or delayed and the two major passes -- Snoqualmie and Stevens -- were closed to travelers for hours on Tuesday.
Snoqualmie closed just after 11 a.m. and reopened just before 9 p.m. on Tuesday. Stevens Pass reopened just after 6 p.m.
Both mountain passes were closed due to treacherous conditions as well as for avalanche prevention work.
The Washington Department of Transportation said clearing crashes is complex, especially with limited tow trucks. The agency said that plus at least 14 inches of new snow made it an all day challenge to keep the highways open.
WSDOT warned drivers to be prepared especially as we approach Christmas, one of the busiest travel days of the year, and said it’s had more issues this year than in the past two.
“I've never seen driver behavior as bad as it is right now. People don't have chains in their cars, they don't know how to put them on, they refuse to put them on. They're driving too fast. For conditions, this is a mountain pass they need to slow down and be prepared,” said Summer Derrey, spokesperson for WSDOT.
Washington State Patrol said troopers responded to 150 spinouts or snow-related incidents in King County alone Tuesday. No major injuries were reported.
A portion of Inglewood Hill Road was closed Tuesday after 17 cars slid off of it, according to authorities. It has been cleared since then and crews have de-iced it, but one man shared his unfortunate experience with KING 5.
"There were a couple cars in front of me, so I started braking, but the braking wasn’t doing anything," said Clayton Wong. "I just kept going. I kinda pumped-- just kept pumping-- and as I got to the end I said, ‘I ain’t gonna stop!’ so I tried to turn to the ditch. And as I was turning to the ditch, I slid and I hit her on the right side of her back [of her car]... if I’d just waited a little while, maybe I'd have been okay.”
King County Road Services Divisions' spokesperson said working from home-- or staying off the roads in general-- is a good idea heading into the rest of the week.
"Temperatures are going to drop, in fact temperatures are dropping as we speak," said Brent Champaco, public information officer with King County Local Services.
Champaco said the Roads Division is fully staffed up and stocked up on salt, equipment and other treatments to clear the roads, but does advise patience as they work to primarily tackle the busiest roads in their jurisdiction of unincorporated King County.
Other street closures were reported throughout the afternoon, particularly on the east side of King County. State Route 18 between Issaquah Hobart road and I-90 closed to traffic, as well as a number of other surface streets as conditions worsened.
In Bellevue, an officer was minorly injured after stopping to help with a collision when another car slammed into the officer's patrol car. The officer was struck in the head by the tailgate, according to the Bellevue Police Department.
The Bellevue Police Department said in a tweet just after 11:30 a.m. that Lakemont Boulevard is closed between Newport Way SE and 171st Ave SE because of the snow and icy conditions. There were at least 10 vehicles stuck in the snow, police said.
That road has since reopened, but officials warn that roadways could still be slick.
Tips for driving in snow and ice:
- Give yourself extra time to get to your destination
- Increase your following distance between you and the car in front of you
- Go as slow as is safe when snow, and potentially black ice, are on the roadway
- When braking, take your foot off the gas before braking slowly and gently
- Be sure to let windows defrost before departing
- Make sure your tires have proper traction and are inflated
- Replace your windshield wiper blades
- Drive with your lights on, even in the daytime
- Make sure you have proper supplies in case you get stuck on the roadway, including extra clothes, food, water and a first aid kit
Flight cancellations at Sea-Tac Airport
By the afternoon, airlines had canceled 205 flights scheduled to take off on Tuesday from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. There had also been 400 delays reported at the airport due to the winter weather conditions, according to Flight Aware.
Airlines made the call to cancel flights early in hopes of stopping a domino effect across the country. Work is underway to make sure other flights can depart as normal after the winter storm system passes.
"We've got up to 46 different pieces of equipment that are set to go from snow plows to sand trucks," said a Sea-Tac spokesperson. "Then the airlines from their standpoint are working with their deicing equipment."
The snow is coming right before the busiest days for holiday travel, which are expected to be Thursday and Friday.
Low temperatures prompt cold weather shelter openings throughout the Puget Sound Region
Snow isn't the only concern for many across the Puget Sound region. Forecasted low temperatures prompted several counties to open cold weather shelters for anyone looking to warm up, and provide extra beds for people who are homeless.
Find links to cold weather shelter information below: