Power out, snowfall records smashed in Seattle

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 19, 2012 11:43 AM
Power out, snowfall records smashed in Seattle

By Laura L. Myers

SEATTLE (Reuters) - A historic snow and ice storm paralyzed Seattle on Thursday, shutting the airport and schools, causing car crashes, downing trees and cutting power to at least 90,000 households as blown-out transformers lit up the skies.

The National Weather Service declared an ice storm warning early on Thursday through noon local time for eight western Washington counties.

Record-setting daily snowfall of 6.8 inches was measured early Thursday at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, shattering the previous record of 2.9 inches in 1954, said meteorologist Dan DePodwin on Accuweather.com.

As a result of the storm which arrived on Tuesday evening and was nicknamed "Snowmageddon," the airport remained closed with its three runways and ramps coated with ice.

"We're still not seeing departures at this point," airport spokesman Perry Cooper said.

The airport was stocked up on de-icing supplies, but "the best we can hope for is a warming situation," he said.

Streets were also a mess as frigid temperatures and freezing rain in the Tacoma area, 35 miles south of Seattle, coated roads with ice and played havoc with traffic.

In the greater Seattle area, downed trees blocked lanes on at least three state highways, Washington State Patrol spokeswoman Julie Startup told Reuters at 6:30 a.m. local time. She said there were many collisions on the icy roads.

Power outages kept residents in the dark but blown-out transformers put on a spectacular show.

"Skies just keep lighting up," Startup said.

Charles Tomala, spokesman at the Washington Emergency Operations Center, said that 24,000 residents in the Tacoma area were without power at 7 a.m. local time on Thursday.

An additional 70,000 people in southern King County, Thurston and Pierce counties were without power at 7:15 a.m. local time, Puget Sound Energy spokesman Roger Thompson said.

"Ice is really the big issue right now," Thompson said.

Puget Sound Energy warned that power outages in some areas may not be restored until Saturday.

Mark Clemens, a spokesman with the state's Emergency Operations Center, said Governor Christine Gregoire issued an unannounced "proclamation of emergency" late on Wednesday that would officially extend the hours that truck drivers could legally transport milk and other dairy products throughout the state.

Gregoire spokeswoman Karina Shagren, however, said she was unable to confirm that Gregoire had signed the proclamation.

(Writing By Barbara Goldberg; editing by Paul Thomasch)