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Major winter storm affecting Pacific Northwest, state of emergency declared in Washington


A cold system dropping down the Northwest coast is delivering another round of heavy snow, gusty winds and below normal temperatures. Winter storm warnings remain in effect for Seattle and Portland. The storm has already dumped high amounts of snow and caused major traffic disruptions. Two more winter storms are expected over the next couple of days.

Washington's Governor Jay Inslee declared a statewide state of emergency ahead of this potent winter storm, coming just days after another winter storm swept through the region and dumped 8 to 20 cm (3 to 8 inches) of snow on Seattle. It was the strongest storm the city has seen since February 2017.

This latest winter storm has already dumped 16.2 cm (6.4 inches) at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on February 7, making it Seattle's second snowiest day in 20 years.

The snow continued into February 8 but this is not the end, however, as the system is closely followed by 2 more winter storms, expected to impact the region on Sunday, February 10 and Monday and Tuesday, February 11 and 12.

"It is not rare for snow to fall in Seattle during the winter months, but it is rare to have two separate storms bring high amounts of snow over a short period of time," AccuWeather meteorologist Brett Rathbun notes.

"Typically, Seattle receives 2 to 3 snow events a year, or about 18 cm (7 inches) of snow annually. However, this can vary from little or no snow in some years to more than a foot in snowier winters."

This series of storms may have schools shut down into the middle of next week with a big negative blow to commence in the region. Hundreds of thousands may have to resort to working at home as opposed to attempting to drive on snow-packed and icy roads, Rathbun said.

"Everyone in Washington needs to focus on preparing for the snow and staying safe," Governor Jay Inslee said. "Everyone in our state needs to focus on preparing for the snow and staying safe," Inslee said. "Weather forecasters predict this may be a storm unlike one we've seen in many years. I encourage everyone to stay off the roads if possible and plan ahead if you must travel." "

The Washington Military Department’s Emergency Management Division has activated the State Emergency Operations Center and is instructed to coordinate all event-related assistance.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) limits the number of hours commercial vehicle drivers can be on the road. This proclamation exempts drivers that collect or deliver either bulk milk products from dairy farms to dairy processing facilities and between processing facilities, or de-icing road salt to Washington municipalities from FMCSA limitations.

During and following the storm, Inslee is asking everyone to follow common-sense tips:

  • Stay off roads if at all possible. If trapped in your car, then stay inside.
  • Limit your time outside. If you need to go outside, then wear layers of warm clothing. Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia.
  • Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Only use generators and grills outdoors and away from windows. Never heat your home with a gas stovetop or oven.
  • Reduce the risk of a heart attack. Avoid overexertion when shoveling snow.
  • Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia and begin treatment right away.
  • Check on neighbors. Older adults and young children are more at risk in extreme cold.

"Snow levels will be lower than usual with this event, reaching sea level across western Washington and northwest Oregon," NWS forecaster Hamrick said.

Winter storm warnings are now in effect from the Sierra Nevada to Washington state and northwest Montana, where storm total accumulations are likely to exceed 15 cm (6 inches), and well over 30 cm (12 inches) likely for the higher elevations.

"Conditions around Seattle greatly deteriorated, with major freeways and side roads completely covered in snow," Live Storm Media reports.

"The night crowd seemed to be having a whole lot of fun in the Snowpocalypse. The northerly wind has kicked in, ushering arctic air into the region. Some of the snow bands were the heaviest I have ever seen in this area. I measured 3.1 cm (1.25 inches) of snow at Pike Place, and 5.7 cm (2.25 inches) of snow at the U-district. Live streaming will commence at 01:15 AM."

A 32 km (20 miles) long stretch of Interstate 90 east of Ellensburg was shut down early Saturday morning due to blowing and drifting snow and poor visibility.

As of 19:45 UTC (12:45 MST) there are 74 113 customers without power across the state of Washington.

Featured image credit: LSM

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