Winter blast hits Puget Sound

Traffic was snarled and schools closed as the biggest snowstorm since 1996 walloped the region. Urban flooding is expected as...

To the consternation of drivers and the delight of school children, the biggest winter storm since 1996 dumped several inches of snow on the Puget Sound region on Tuesday. Five to 10 ten inches of snow fell throughout Pierce County, weather officials reported.

The white stuff wreaked havoc with traffic throughout the day and into the next morning, with several streets in Tacoma closed by public work crews.

Even on major highways, speeds were reduced to a crawl, including Highway 16 over the Narrows Bridge and Interstate 5 southbound near the Tacoma Dome, where accumulated snow and ice, as well as reduced visibility due to heavy snowfall, made driving a white-knuckle activity.

As the snow turned into freezing rain Tuesday night, roads were coated in a sheet of ice that made driving all the more treacherous.

On a lighter note, a lot of students got the day off to enjoy sledding, snowball fights and the building of snowmen, as all K-12 schools throughout Pierce County were closed. Several school districts planned to be closed today as well.

The inclement weather also closed many colleges in the county, including the University of Washington Tacoma, Tacoma Community College, University of Puget Sound, Pacific Lutheran University, Bates Technical College, Clover Park Technical College and Pierce College (Fort Steilacoom and Puyallup campuses).

Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg ordered all county government offices closed in anticipation of the heavy snowfall.

In Tacoma, city services were affected. The first City Council meeting of the new year – including the swearing in of new members Julie Anderson, Spiro Manthou and Tom Stenger – was cancelled. All items on the agenda will be moved to the Jan. 13 meeting, city officials reported. The Tacoma Municipal Court was also closed and was scheduled to reopen today.

For the latest snow information from the city, visit www.cityoftacoma.org/snow.

The storm knocked out power to some in the region, although there were few reports of outages in Tacoma.

With weather forecasters predicting warmer temperatures and rain over the next several days, drivers and pedestrians will have to muck through slush.
Another concern is possible sewer/stormwater flooding.

Tuesday’s heavy snowfall could be just the tip of the iceberg for Tacoma residents. The combination of rapid snow melt and rainfall this week could cause sewer and stormwater flooding in low-lying residential areas.

Tacoma Wastewater Management encourages residents who live in low-lying areas or who have experienced floods in the past to clear nearby storm grates of leaves and debris to prevent possible flooding.

If your house floods:
– move valuables to high ground;

– plug floor drains;

– use sandbags;

– divert water from your house with ditches or berms;

– divert downspouts away from the house; and

– if water has reached your outlets or appliance connections and you can safely reach the electrical panel, turn off power to flooded areas.

For more information on handling flooding, visit www.cityoftacoma.org/flood, or call 591-5588. To report stormwater flooding and sewage backups, call 591-5585 during the day or 591-5595 in the evening.

Street and ground crews are on alert with 14 sanding trucks, six of them with snow plows. To help crews keep the roads clear and safe for traffic, please give city vehicles plenty of room. To report slides, street flooding or for more information on road closures, call 491-5495.

Scientists have been saying for a few months that this year a so-called Pineapple Express could bring finicky winter weather – a prediction that came true with a vengeance Tuesday.

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