SEATTLE – A new storm was looming as Washington state shivered in the aftermath of wind and snow that caused traffic nightmares in much of Western Washington and was linked to two deaths.
The storm, expected to arrive Wednesday night, threatened another round of automotive nightmares and power outages with as much as a foot of snow before being followed by warmer temperatures and possibly a new one-month rainfall record in Seattle.
Overnight temperatures plunged into the low 20s in Western Washington and the single digits in some areas east of the Cascades.
Winter storm warnings were issued for much of the state into Thursday with the heaviest snow in the Cascade Range. One to six inches was predicted for the central Puget Sound area, including Seattle, with the greatest accumulation around Hood Canal before the snow changes to rain Thursday morning.
Freezing rain was predicted through the Columbia River gorge, including Vancouver, Wash., and neighboring Portland, Ore.
With warmer temperatures, the National Weather Service also issued a flood watch for the combined effects of rain and melting snow in Whatcom County, just south of the Canadian border between Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia.
Additional precipitation also could break the one-month record for precipitation in Seattle, 15.33 inches set in December 1933 when the official reporting station was at the old downtown Federal Building. As of early Wednesday the weather service had recorded 15.26 inches at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
On Tuesday two 16-year-old boys were found dead in a garage east of Port Angeles, apparently the victims of carbon monoxide poisoning.
They apparently had been trying to refuel a portable generator to supply electricity for the adjacent home, which lost power after a snowstorm Sunday, said Jim Borte, a spokesman for the Clallam County sheriff's office.
One to 3 inches of snow fell in Seattle, much of it during the Monday evening rush-hour, and as much as 5 or 6 inches in the surrounding suburbs. Hundreds of thousands of students got a snow holiday the next day and for some, including those in Seattle, schools remained closed on Wednesday.
A 60-year-old man who got out of his car following a Monday night crash on State Route 509 south of Seattle lost his legs after being hit by another vehicle that lost control, State Patrol Trooper Jeff Merrill said.
Thousands of others were stuck on virtually gridlocked streets and highways for hours Monday night. Some football fans reported spending eight hours or more getting home the Seattle Seahawks game, while others abandoned their cars on the freeways in frustration.
Jennifer Pack, 33, a loan officer at Seattle Credit Union Center who lives in the northern suburb of Kenmore, said she left work Monday evening for what is, on good days, a 45-minute drive and didn't get home until noon Tuesday.
"It took me 3 1/2 hours to go 10 miles and I didn't even get home," Pack said. "I checked into a hotel. There were buses stranded on the side of the road, a lot of pickup trucks with rear-wheel drive that weren't going anywhere, just spinning their wheels.
"I got to the hotel and they were letting people stay in the lobby and in the dining room where they usually have the continental breakfast."
The State Patrol reported 287 collisions and 166 disabled vehicles on interstate, federal and state highways in Pierce, Thurston and Lewis counties, south of Seattle, from the middle of Monday night to noon Tuesday. In King County, where Seattle is, the State Patrol received 653 calls for assistance, including 242 crashes, most of them fender-benders. In Snohomish, Skagit, Whatcom and Island counties there were 580 collisions Sunday and Monday, Trooper Keith Leary said.
State Transportation Secretary Doug MacDonald said the snow surprised his staff by falling in lower elevations than expected.
"We put the deicer down in the elevations over 500 feet and took a 'wait-and-see' in the other areas," he said. "That seemed a rational decision...
"The consequence was, the heaviest snowfall fell in places where we hadn't expected it to be and it fell at the worst possible time."