SEATTLE, Wash. – Even as snowfall slowed Wednesday in the Pacific Northwest, officials warned that falling temperatures would make roads icy and dangerous for drivers.
“We are seeing multiple spinouts and collisions,” the Washington State Department of Transportation reported on its website, advising drivers to slow down as road conditions worsened.
Some normally busy streets in Seattle looked more like ski runs, as residents with sleds and snowboards took advantage of what could be one of the area’s largest snowfalls in decades.
The National Weather Service canceled a winter storm warning for the area Wednesday afternoon, but said a winter weather advisory would remain in effect until midnight. Light snowfall was expected to continue throughout the evening.
High-wind warnings were in effect along the coast, where winds could gust to hurricane force, knocking down trees and causing power outages, said CNN meteorologist Taylor Ward.
Wednesday’s snowfall in Seattle may equal its annual average, Ward said.
Precipitation moving in from the south and west is combining with cold air moving south from Canada to create the heavy snowfall, said Dustin Guy, a meteorologist at the weather service’s Seattle office.
If snowfall amounts top 7 inches, the winter weather event will rank among Seattle’s 10 worst since the early 1940s, when record-keeping began, he added. A series of severe winter storms and record-breaking cold also hit the region in the 1950s, according to CNN affiliate KOMO.
While that amount of snow is no problem in places that receive snow regularly, heavy snowfall is relatively rare in Seattle, where steep hills can make winter travel treacherous.
“This city shuts down when winter hits. It’s nuts. … This city is just so unprepared for snow,” Derek Stanek, 25, said.
Nevertheless, city officials maintained they were ready for the storm.
Deicing measures were in place on bridges and overpasses, emergency shelters were opened, schools were closed and some flights were canceled.
Using a ruler outside his home near Tacoma, Washington, Joel Pederson measured 6 inches of snow Wednesday. And it was still coming down, Pederson said.
“We have not had this much snow since the 1980s,” he said.
Official snow measurements for the day were not expected until Thursday morning.
But Washington’s capital, Olympia, had already received 13 inches of snow by Wednesday afternoon: the third highest 24-hour snowfall on record and the largest amount of snow that had fallen there since 1972, when 14.2 inches of snow fell in one day.