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Snowstorm blasts Auburn; some roads treacherous; schools close

Auburn was dressed in an all-white blanket Thursday.

A major snowstorm swept through the Puget Sound area, dumping several inches of snow and causing dangerous driving conditions, affecting many side streets and highways in the Auburn area.

Several businesses shut down for the day. The Auburn School District cancelled classes. Green River Community College cancelled all afternoon and evening classes. All King County Library System libraries closed at 3 p.m.

Auburn’s street crews began sanding, plowing and de-icing efforts at approximately 12:30 a.m. Thursday, with priorities to Auburn’s hillside areas – Lakeland Hills, Lea Hill and West Hill.)

Lea Hill was reported to get the most snow, and all hillsides had been plowed, sanded and de-iced throughout the night and into Thursday morning. Crews will continue to monitor road conditions throughout the day and night and remain on 24-hour shifts throughout this current cold weather pattern.

Auburn appeared to have weathered the storm well.

“We’re doing OK,” said Mayor Pete Lewis, who has closely monitored the roads situation. “I have the best roads crew in the world. So far they have kept up with the main arterials, but the side streets remain slippery.”

Lewis pointed out his limited but dedicated crew has performed extremely well, considering Auburn has 212 miles of roads with more than 83 miles of arterial streets.

Elsewhere

The heavy snowstorm paralyzed traffic on major highways and roadways in Seattle and the Eastside, where it continues to be a mess on I-405, SR 520, I-5 and the West Seattle Bridge.

Highway 18 also felt the force of the storm, turning treacherous during the heart of the snowfall from late morning to early afternoon.

WSDOT reported no major problems affecting highways 18 and 167 prior to the evening commute period.

Snow showers gradually were letting up and moving from central to south Puget Sound as freezing Arctic air from Canada spread into Western Washington.

Drivers were facing an icy evening commute on roads not cleared of snow by crews from the Washington State Department of Transportation.

The heavy snow shut down downtown Seattle streets and Metro bus schedules were significantly delayed.

Forecasts predict temperatures below freezing for most of the state through the Christmas holiday, with heavy snow and winds in the mountain passes and throughout Eastern Washington.

High pressure is moving in from British Columbia, bringing colder, drier air into the area.

Sunshine and frigid temperatures will continue on Friday and early Saturday with highs only in the mid-to-upper 20s and lows in the teens and single digits.

Another storm system is expected to move in Saturday night for another blast of snow and gusty winds in the northern counties and near the Cascade foothills. Sunday could see a mix of snow, rain and freezing rain along with strong winds near the foothills.

Prepare for conditions

Drivers in most areas of Washington have been dealing with severe winter weather since Wednesday, with compact snow and ice reported on highways across Washington.

WSDOT will have trucks out treating and clearing roadways during this winter blast.

Drivers who are ready for the weather and drive safely help WSDOT and themselves. One spin-out can block traffic for hours and cause additional incidents. And, clearing incidents also can take crews away from road-clearing activities.

“We have all of our trucks on the road and appreciate all the drivers who made the decision to limit trips,” said WSDOT Secretary Paula Hammond. “This helps us clear the roads faster and get them ready for those who do need to travel.”

The WSDOT Web site and 511 travel information hotline have experienced significant use. The 511 system can currently handle 192 simultaneous callers so users are encouraged to keep trying.

WSDOT will switch to a more basic Web site if usage remains high, maintaining the travel information, roadway cameras, WSDOT blog and Twitter updates. Visit www.wsdot.wa.gov/news to sign up for the WSDOT blog and Twitter updates.

Drivers should be prepared, carry chains, slow down and give yourself extra time to reach your destination safely. Slow down when approaching intersections, off-ramps, bridges or shady spots. These all have potential to develop black ice that makes driving hazardous.

Know before you go

• Get information from our Web site at www.wsdot.wa.gov before you leave your home or office.

• 511 - This driver information phone line provides current traffic, incident and closure information. TTY users can call 1-800-833-6388. Out-of-state callers can access the information at call 1-800-695-ROAD (7623).

• Mountain pass conditions are available at www.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/passes/.

• At www.wsdot.wa.gov/winter, drivers can find WSDOT’s winter driving-related information, including preparing a vehicle for winter driving, safe driving tips and mountain pass travel advisories. The WSDOT winter site also offers information about chains, winter tires and how WSDOT maintenance crews work in winter weather.

• On WSDOT’s Web site, www.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/weather, drivers can look roadway temperatures and see camera images from across the state.

• At www.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/trafficalerts, a map shows highway incidents and closures.

• Sign up for news. WSDOT offers subscribers more than 25 specialized e-mail alerts, including news and information for freight haulers, construction related traffic revisions, project updates from all around the state, and timely updates on pass conditions. Visit www.wsdot.wa.gov and click the link for “E-mail updates.”

• Twitter users can add WSDOT to their personal accounts at: http://twitter.com/wsdot/. Go to www.wsdot.wa.gov/inform/twitter for more details.

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