The Washington Post

Slippery in Seattle: surprise ice storm cripples city

Ground crews spray de-icer onto a United Airlines jet ready for take-off at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012. (Mike Siegel/AP)

Sea-Tac airport closed for a time and a number of runways remain out of commission. 95 flights have been canceled at the airport.

Although forecasters predicted rising temperatures and snow transitioning to rain in the low elevations of western Washington, temperatures have failed to budge, holding in the upper 20s.

In Seattle, freezing rain has fallen continuously since around 4 a.m. local time at a temperature of 28 degrees, forming a crusty layer on top of the snow, while weighing down tree limbs and power lines.

The National Weather Service has issued an ice storm warning from Seattle to Tacoma through 2 p.m. local time.

Here’s what I’ve learned via Twitter:

* “Mason and King Counties reporting between .25 and .5” of ice accumulation. More than enough to take down limbs/cause outages” - @EricTWC

* As of 8:48 a.m. local time: “SEATAC has 1 runway open for arrivals/departures.” - @robmarcianoCNN

* “SR 18 shut down for 22 miles, between I-90 and I-50, because of falling trees & branches.” - @weatherchannel

* “DOZENS of accidents and shut downs across the Puget Sound.” @jimcantore

From Oregon: “Due to the most severe storm in years, Mt. Bachelor will be CLOSED today. No in-bounds hiking allowed due to extreme avy [avalanche] risk.” - @mtbachelor

West Seattle Blog video during freezing rain on January 19, 2012.

Ice and/or snow is forecast in Seattle through tonight, before temperature rise to near 40 degrees by Friday morning, with rainy weather through the weekend.

Also of note, regarding yesterday’s weather in the Pacific Northwest:

* On Wednesday, Seattle set a record low of 27 degrees and daily snowfall record of 6.8” at Seattle Tacoma airport. (Source: National Weather Service)

* Olympia Washington also set a daily snowfall record, tallying 11 inches. (Source: National Weather Service)

* Snow totals in the mountains of Oregon have reached 30-50” since Monday, including 50” at Mt. Hood (Source: National Weather Service)

Jason is the Washington Post’s weather editor and Capital Weather Gang's chief meteorologist. He earned a master's degree in atmospheric science, and spent 10 years as a climate change science analyst for the U.S. government. He holds the Digital Seal of Approval from the National Weather Association.


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