Snow snarls W. Wash. traffic as winter weather continues

Snow snarls W. Wash. traffic as winter weather continues »Play Video
Cars and a bus sit stuck on a hill on 24th Avenue East during a snowstorm in Seattle, Sunday, Jan. 15, 2012. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Snow resumed falling over much of the Western Washington lowlands on Sunday, creating traffic mayhem in some areas as the region entered its second day of wintry weather - with at least two or three more days to go.

The snowfall appeared to be more widespread than on Saturday as nearly every county of Western Washington reported snowfall in some areas Sunday, creating dangerous conditions on many roadways.

By Sunday afternoon, spinouts and disabled vehicles were creating headaches for emergency crews and blocking lanes on some major arterials. Scores of collisions were reported in Pierce, King, Snohomish and Thurston counties.

Some on-ramps and off-ramps were temporarily blocked by disabled vehicles by Sunday afternoon as well, including the James Street off-ramp from I-5 in downtown Seattle and the Spokane Street off-ramp from I-5 to West Seattle, where a bus was stalled. All later reopened.

Eastbound Interstate 90 also was temporarily closed east of North Bend due to multiple collisions and spinouts as of 1:30 p.m. It had reopened by 3 p.m.

All King County Metro buses switched to snow routes as multiple streets were closed, including the Denny Way hill.

As on Saturday, the snow was scattered in showers, but was more frequent and hit more areas.

Winter weather advisories posted for much of Western Washington expired at 4 p.m. Sunday, but remained in effect until 10 p.m. for the greater Seattle area, Cascade foothills, southwestern Washington and the coast.

Snow showers generally brought 1-3 inches of new snow in spots Sunday region wide, with local amounts to 4 inches in the greater Whatcom County area, and up to 5 inches locally along the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Snohomish County area, and the Cascade foothills.

Snow also was reported along the coast.

Snow also was falling farther south in Tacoma and Federal Way - two other areas that were spared Saturday when cool air blew into the area behind a cold front.

In addition, some areas that got snow on Saturday woke up Sunday to find a layer of ice where slush hardened overnight in subfreezing temperatures.

Slick exit ramps and bridges were a problem throughout the region Sunday morning, and trucks were out dumping salt on trouble spots. But road crews were not making it to some residential streets and neighborhoods.

We should get a snow lull Sunday night into the first part of Monday as we go in between disturbances. But snow will increase again Monday afternoon as another wave of moisture moves through. This could bring another 1-3 inches of new snow in spots.

Showers linger into Tuesday morning but then the forecast gets really tricky. A stronger, wetter Pacific Storm will move in late Tuesday into Wednesday. Typically, this would make for a widespread rainy day around here but with the cold air in place, this will instead begin as snow for everyone for eventually changing to rain.

Forecast models are still very inconsistent on the path and behavior of this storm, which will make a great difference in when the changeover occurs. There is potential for several inches of snow to fall before the changeover, and amounts will vary depending on the storm's track.

Those further north have the greatest chance of staying in the snow the longest, but will also have less moisture than points to the south. But everyone should prepare for at least possibility for 3-6 inches of snow Tuesday night into Wednesday morning's commute and we'll see if the models get into agreement as we get closer.

Beyond Wednesday, we look warm and wet through the end of the week but some models indicate we could cool back to snow chances again for next weekend.

Snow Total Reports

24 hour snow total reports from CoCoRahs volunteer weather spotter network, valid from Saturday morning through Sunday morning:

Forks (7 mi SW): 6.8"
Oak Harbor: 5"
Montesano: 4.9"
Port Angeles (8 miles SW in foothills): 4.9"
Concrete: 4.7"
Mount Vernon: 3.6"
Lake Stevens: 3.0"
Olympia: 2.7"
Bothell: 2.0"
Sequim: 1.9:
Aberdeen: 1.7"
Stanwood: 1.3"
Camano Island: 1"
Sammamish: 0.8"
Sedro-Wooley: 0.7"
Ocean Shores: 0.6"
Everett: 0.5"

Viewer reports as of 10 a.m.:

Elma: 5"
Snohomish: 5"
W. Olympia: 4.0"
Everett: 2.5"
Woodinville: 2.0"
Redmond: 2"
Bothell: 2"
Mukilteo: 1.5"
Shoreline: 1.5"
Bonney Lake 1.0"
Federal Way: 0.5"