The long-awaited snow continues to fall across the Puget Sound area and throughout the state.
Some areas were hit with freezing rain and power outages Friday night, including the Grays Harbor County coast, where the National Weather Service issued an ice storm warning. Strong gusts also blew through the Cascades.
And while state and local transportation officials will continue to plow the roads, they’re asking Washingtonians to remember to drive slowly and safely on the icy streets and highways.
We’ll update this page with the latest news about the storm and how it will impact road conditions and public safety in Seattle and throughout Washington state.
Before cold weather
- Locate and insulate pipes most susceptible to freezing—typically those near outer walls in crawl spaces or in the attic. Insulation made for this purpose is available at hardware stores.
- Wrap the pipes in UL-approved heat tape.
- Seal any leaks that allow cold air inside where pipes are located.
- Disconnect garden hoses and shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets. This reduces the chance of freezing in the short span of pipe just inside the house.
When the weather gets cold
- Let cold water trickle at night from the faucet farthest from the hot water tank.
- Open cabinet doors to allow more heat to get to uninsulated pipes under sinks.
- Make sure heat is left on and set no lower than 55 degrees. If you plan to be away, have someone check the house daily to make sure the heat is still on.
If the pipes freeze
- Make sure you and your family know how to shut off the water in case the pipes burst.
- Never try to thaw a pipe with an open flame or torch.
- Always be careful of the potential for electrical shock in and around standing water.
- Call a plumber and contact your insurance agent.
Snow will continue until Sunday afternoon
Another couple inches of snow are expected in the Puget Sound area until temperatures break above freezing Sunday afternoon, the latest forecast says.
So far, between 9 and 12 inches have accumulated in Seattle, with official totals of 8 inches at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, the National Weather Service says. Amounts vary by elevation.
In lowland Snohomish County totals are near 6 inches, while in the Olympia area, where snow began earlier in the week, reports of 12 to 20 inches have poured in, said meteorologist Mary Butwin.
A winter storm warning remains in effect until 4 p.m. Saturday.
“Snow will gradually be tapering off through the area,” Butwin said. “There’s going to be snow in some spots but it will be lightening in intensity.” Another wet weather system will show up late Sunday morning.
Less than 1 1/2 inches will arrive overnight and Sunday morning, with the low near 29 degrees.
Meteorologists are watching for possibly increasing precipitation, as very wet snow or freezing rain, in Snohomish County through Sunday and early Monday. In Seattle, a 90% chance of cold rain is forecast Sunday night.
The Washington State Patrol urges people not to drive. Stalled vehicles get in the way of snowplows.
So far today, there have been 41 spinouts and crashes, plus 156 stalled or abandoned vehicles in King County, according to Trooper Rick Johnson.
Besides the state and city road plows, the Seattle Department of Transportation has deployed three mini-plows to clear bicycle lanes, said SDOT traffic engineer Dongho Chang. Some cyclists are traveling about the city and finding that fat tires grip okay.
Chang tweeted that SDOT has closed Queen Anne Avenue North to vehicle traffic. People have been sliding and skiing there all morning.
Golf courses are for sledding today, Seattle Parks says
Seattle Parks and Recreation invites residents to go sledding on four public golf courses this weekend.
It’s a safe alternative to sliding on streets, where people occasionally are injured hitting parked or moving motor vehicles.
Seattle’s public golf courses are now open for sledding and snow play! Go have some fun at the Jackson Park, Jefferson Park, Interbay and West Seattle courses. (Clearly, they’re all closed for golf, including the driving ranges.) ❄️⛄️???? pic.twitter.com/7uKijxG5tG
— Seattle Parks (@SeattleParks) February 13, 2021
People also flock to hilly school campuses, such as Madison Middle School in West Seattle, or they set cones around neighborhood roads. The steep Queen Anne Avenue North has attracted 100 or more skiers and sliders (a very risky situation), but some car drivers have tried to climb the street and obstructed the area.
When you’re outdoors, doctors in the Seattle area urge people to swap out wet COVID masks for dry masks, in wet conditions like this weekend, KIRO 7 reports. Wet masks clog so air can’t pass, and instead leaks out from the sides, authorities say. And in cold, dry air, masks are encouraged because coronavirus droplets linger longer than usual, reports CTV in Montreal.
Some coronavirus vaccination, testing sites close due to snow
Several Seattle-area coronavirus vaccination sites closed Saturday due to heavy snowfall.
County vaccination sites in Kent and Auburn will also be closed because of severe weather, Public Health – Seattle & King County said on Twitter.
People with scheduled appointments will receive calls to reschedule for next week or can reschedule online using the link in their text or email confirmation, the county said. The county instructed those with appointments to ignore any automated reminders they receive about appointments today. The Kent site is expected to reopen Monday and the Auburn site on Tuesday.
⚠️Kent and Auburn vaccination sites closed on Sat. (2/13) due to severe cold weather! If you had an appointment, please disregard the automatic text message reminders. You will receive a call to reschedule for next week.
— Public Health – Seattle & King County (@KCPubHealth) February 13, 2021
In Seattle, the Swedish vaccine clinic at Seattle University is canceled Saturday. Those planning to get the Moderna vaccine should go to the clinic Monday or Tuesday. No Pfizer vaccines will be given those days, the clinic said.
Some testing sites will also be closed. King County’s testing sites in Auburn, Tukwila, Federal Way, Enumclaw, Renton, Bellevue and at Highline College will be closed Saturday.
Virginia Mason announced on its COVID-19 vaccination helpline Saturday morning that it will be closing its vaccination clinic located on its main campus at 3 p.m. Saturday. In order for people to receive their scheduled vaccine, they must arrive to the main campus’ Health Resources Building, located at 909 University St., by 2:30 p.m. today, according to the helpline.
If the weather conditions prohibit patients from making their appointment today, Virginia Mason said that it will automatically reschedule the appointment to a future date.
It has yet to announce if the regularly scheduled vaccinations for Sunday, Feb. 14 will take place. Spokesperson Gale Robinette said Virginia Mason would continue monitoring snow conditions to determine whether to host clinics planned for Sunday.
The hospital encouraged people to keep monitoring its helpline — 203-341-0985 — for future updates.
If this weekend’s weather prohibits people from obtaining their second dose of vaccine, Virginia Mason’s website told people not to worry. The second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine can be “administered up to six weeks, or 42 days, after the first dose.”
Testing and vaccination sites are still open at UW Medicine. If you need to cancel or change your testing or vaccination appointment, find ways to contact UW Medicine here.
—Heidi Groover and Anna Patrick
Highways still slick, and so is the Queen Anne ski slope
Nearly four hours after sunrise, it’s still road roulette on Seattle-area highways where some spots are clear enough to drive, while in other places vehicles are sliding out of control.
Snoqualmie Pass remains open as of 10:30 a.m., with chains required except all-wheel drive vehicle. A trickle of motorists are making it through, with the I-90 lanes covered in white at the summit, but bare pavement showing from Lake Keechelus east to Cle Elum.
WSDOT reports a collision at the junction of I-90 with I-405 in Bellevue, and a truck spinout near Northgate on southbound I-5.
In Seattle, about 100 skiers and sliders are enjoying the snowy Queen Anne Hill counterbalance, said resident and safe-streets activist Mark Ostrow.
Skiers and snowboarders tend to glide all the way down to Roy Street, while children are bailing out after a couple blocks, he said.
“It’s mostly people sliding on whatever they can find — laundry hampers, cardboard boxes covered in duct tape, inner tubes, and some people in ’70s European ski outfits,” said Ostrow, standing on a streetcorner.
So far, the snow is new and crunchy, so most are zigzagging or sliding at casual speeds, he said.
A few drivers tried to climb the hill with what he called “50-50” success — a serious breach of etiquette in rare Seattle snowstorms. Safer detours are available, using Olympic Drive West past Kerry Park west of the counterbalance.
Washington State Ferries will soon cut back to “severe weather” schedules because crews are having difficulty reaching the docks for the mid-day shift change, said spokesman Ian Sterling. And few people are traveling, he said.
“Why put people in danger to get to work and keep operating the system, when there’s nobody aboard the boats?” he said.
Check for ferry updates here. Sailings are being reduced by nearly half on some corridors. WSF expects to continue on reduced service Sunday.
Watch for detours as buses shift to snow routes
Bus and car drivers struggled to maintain friction with the roads Saturday morning, after six to eight inches of snow fell overnight, and a steady dusting continues.
King County Metro Transit says it’s following snow routes on all service. Generally that means bus drivers detour around steep hills, and that slide-prone trolleybuses either shorten their paths or are replaced by diesel-hybrid vehicles. Metro also deploys chain-up teams and chained buses are limited to 30 mph.
Go here to look up service advisories for your bus line.
For instance, Route 2 trolleybuses are skipping Queen Anne and First Hill, with similar reductions to Routes 3 near Seattle Pacific University and the Route 4 at First Hill. Riders from Seattle Center to First Hill are directed to routes like the diesel-powered Route 8, which itself will take Pine Street rather than the steeper Denny Way/I-5 overpass.
Riders on the sidewalks should look around for other kinds of brief detours.
In past storms, the RapidRide C Line in West Seattle skips a three-block descent on 35th Avenue Southwest, instead cruising along Fauntleroy Way to Avalon Way, which former streetcar routes with gentler grades — but transit drivers either miss or improvise two passenger bus-boarding stops, a common source of frustration.
Metro hasn’t taken the more severe step to an Emergency Snow Network, when many routes are canceled outright to focus limited buses on a smaller core.
In the Columbia City neighborhood, a nurse waited for a ride-hailing car to take her to work — and then the driver spun out on the slippery road, Times photographer Bettina Hansen noticed.
Seattle Department of Transportation truck crews have plowed or salted all Ship Canal bridges within the 8 a.m. hour, the city real-time map says.
SDOT has declared several street closures, notably Swift Avenue South from south Beacon Hill to the I-5 interchange; Yesler Way between First Hill and downtown, where sledders have shown up; a busy stretch of Rainier Avenue South just east of Little Saigon; and West Dravus Street that climbs into Magnolia.
See whether streets near you have been plowed
To see which streets in your neighborhood the city or county has plowed, check these online maps:
- To see roads in King County, check the county’s Winter Weather Response map. Look for blue lines indicating routes that have been plowed and sanded.
- In Snohomish County, see the county’s map here. Look for blue lines to see where streets have been plowed and brown and pink lines to show sanding and anti-icing treatment.
UW suspends on-campus operations due to snow
University of Washington campuses are suspending normal operations today because of the snow.
UW’s Seattle campus expects to resume normal operations Sunday. UW Bothell and UW Tacoma will suspend operations through the holiday weekend.
Because many university employees are already working remotely, “the potential effect of this temporary suspension of nonessential operations due to weather conditions may be minimized,” the UW said in a statement Saturday.
Employees, instructors and students who telework should continue doing so if they can, the university said. Essential campus employees are required to continue working. UW’s Medical Center and essential services like housing remain active, said spokesperson Victor Balta. Find more information on UW’s website.
Ferry trips reduced during snowstorm
Washington State Ferries has canceled a few sailings this snowy Saturday morning and warned customers to prepare for reductions.
Two departures on the Seattle-Bremerton route were already skipped, and the agency has announced the possibility of a “severe weather schedule” for other routes.
Sailings are more than two hours apart, leaving Seattle at 10 a.m., 12:20 p.m., 2:50 p.m., 5:30 pm., 7:50 p.m., and 10:30 p.m., with similar infrequency returning from Bremerton where the last trip back to Seattle is 9 p.m.
As of 8:38 a.m., WSF hasn’t curtailed other routes yet.
Slick roads hinder the ability of boat crews to reach the docks, and Coast Guard rules require a certain number of deckhands per passenger. Ferry employees sometimes sleep overnight in simple beds in crew quarters mid-vessel to assure they can make the morning shift.
For that reason, WSF announced “reduced vessel capacity” at 7:32 a.m. for the M/V Kittitas on the Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth triangle, and encouraged travelers to arrive early to assure a space.
The ferry service said it developed severe weather schedules based on experience in the February 2019 snowstorm, and also says it expects fewer drivers at the docks.
Early reports of 6 to 8 inches of snow overnight
Roughly 6 to 8 inches of snow fell overnight throughout the Seattle area, according to preliminary reports to the National Weather Service in Seattle.
The NWS received reports of 6 inches of snow near Bellevue and Kirkland, 7.5 inches in Greenlake, 7 to 7.5 inches near the University of Washington and 6 to 8 inches throughout areas to the south like Olympia, said meteorologist Samantha Borth.
The snowfall reports are still preliminary and the NWS expects to release more information later Saturday morning. “We’re still getting a lot of reports once everyone started waking up,” Borth said.
On Friday, 2.2 inches of snow fell at SeaTac International Airport, shattering the previous record for that day of 0.2 inches in 1995, according to the NWS.
Saturday morning is expected to bring another 2 to 4 inches across the Puget Sound region, Borth said. The NWS expects snow to taper off in the afternoon, stopping first to the south then to the north. The last places to see flakes stop falling are likely to be areas in Whatcom and Skagit counties, Borth said.
Map tracks power outages
There are scattered power outages in the Puget Sound area, but with more snow and wind expected Saturday, conditions may worsen.
Check Puget Sound Energy’s map for an update on outages and expected restoration times.
—Seattle Times staff
SDOT warns of delays on roads
If you must drive somewhere, check traffic cams first.
We’re waking up to a very snowy day. Crews are working to treat & plow roads but with more snow falling, expect very challenging conditions. Take it slow, give each other room, be prepared for delays/closures. Check traffic cams here: https://t.co/DbNs8oqXFB pic.twitter.com/qtLZgG9qZq
— Washington State DOT (@wsdot) February 13, 2021
—Seattle Times staff
Brace for a stormy Saturday
A winter storm warning remains in effect until 4 p.m. Saturday.
The National Weather Service says to prepare for heavy snow (2-5 inches) and winds up to 40 miles per hour in portions of west central Washington.
Avoid travel if possible.
—Seattle Times staff
10:26 pm, Feb. 12, 2021
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Seattle Times staff & news services