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Record snow cuts off Seattle from Washington state, U.S.


Washington State Governor declared a State of Emergency on Friday, January 7, 2022, after a series of severe winter storms struck Washington State beginning on December 17, 2021, producing extensive rain and snow and causing hazardous driving conditions, flooding, and extended road closures on mountain passes and other roadways throughout the lowlands and high elevations statewide.

Rain and snow hit the state in historic proportions again this week, setting the stage for swollen rivers and avalanche concerns Friday, the Seattle Times reports.1

As a result, nearly all of the major road and train routes connecting Seattle the rest of the state and country were shut down, cutting off the city from Portland and Western Washington from Eastern Washington.

The last time the region was cut off so much was in 1996 after an atmospheric river closed mountain passes and Interstate 5, NWS meteorologist Ted Buehner said.

This time, the culprit was a warm front that stalled over Western Washington from Wednesday, January 5 to Friday, January 7, rather than moving past quickly, like usual, said NWS meteorologist Samantha Borth.

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) reported 66 cm (26 inches) of snow at Snoqualmie Pass, a major route across Washington's Cascades, from Thursday to mid-Friday, on top of 726 cm (286 inches) earlier this winter. The 5-year average season snowfall to January 7 is 376.4 cm (148.2 inches).

"We are setting records," officials at WSDOT for I-90/Snoqualmie Pass traffic said.

Low visibility, heavy snow and high avalanche danger forced officials to close the pass on Thursday, as well as Stevens Pass on U.S. 2, White Pass on U.S. 12, and Blewett Pass on U.S. 97.

It's unusual – and maybe unprecedented – to have all four passes close simultaneously for more than a few hours, The Seattle Times reported.2

WSDOT said the passes are unlikely to reopen until Sunday.

"Conditions are too dangerous for crews to be in the pass areas. Snow and debris continue to slide onto the highways. Crews are working in areas where it is safe to plow, clear catch basins and do other work to have those areas ready when we can reopen."

"It's a pretty unique situation," Borth said.

"We've had so much snow on the mountains and also rivers flooding in the lowlands, plus landslides and strong wind in spots."

There were disruptions at every level of commerce this week, as international shipments loitered in warehouses, produce waited on trucks and residents delayed supermarket trips. Travel plans were scuttled, hospital operations were complicated and schools closed.

Hoquiam accumulated nearly 15.4 cm (6 inches) on January 6, setting a record for the Grays Harbor County city, while Shelton in Mason County accumulated 11.4 cm (4.5 inches). A record 250 mm (10 inches) of rain were recorded over a period of 24 hours in the tiny city of Rainier, near Olympia.

A State of Emergency was declared by Governor Jay Inslee on Friday afternoon throughout the state.3

The Washington State Military Department has activated the State Emergency Operations Center and implemented emergency response procedures.

The department is coordinating resources to support local officials in alleviating the immediate social and economic impacts to people, property, and infrastructure, and is continuing to assess the magnitude of the event.

Furthermore, as a result of this incident, Inslee ordered into active state service the organized militia of Washington State to include the National Guard and the State Guard.


1 Record snow, serious flooding left Seattle area cut off from Washington state, country – Seattle Times

2 PNW Storm: WA mountain passes likely closed until Sunday – AP

3 EMERGENCY PROCLAMATION BY THE GOVERNOR – 22-01 Winter Weather and Flooding (WA.GOV)

Featured image credit: Trooper Jacob Kennett

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