'Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow' ... and it did!
Click here for snowstorm pictures.
The first of two major snowstorms hit the area last week. The first, on the day after Christmas, left between six and sixteen inches of snow on the ground throughout the Northshore and Lower Snoqualmie areas. A second storm hit last Saturday night, adding another layer of snow to the already white landscape.
The mix of snow, sleet, rain, and freezing rain that fell throughout the region turned the community into a virtual fairyland--and shut down much of the normal activities.
Predicted a day in advance, the snowfall was not a surprise, and some people were well prepared with snow tires, chains, and adequate supplies. However, many others stood in line at stores for new tires, chains, groceries, and other goods.
With employees unable to get to work, many businesses were closed or had shortened hours Thursday afternoon, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Local banks shut their offices early on Friday, leaving those who had journeyed out wondering how to cash their checks. Several of the ATM machines were not operating, compounding the problem of getting cash. The grocery stores and a few shops that stayed open reported doubling their business. Other businesses suffered greatly with no customers and the inability to deliver goods.
Families with out-of-town guests found that stays were extended with cancellations of air flights, buses, and trains last week.
It was an adventure for those who did venture out--especially just getting out of their own driveways and side streets. King County road crews worked 24-hour shifts to plow and sand, but were unable to clear many of the compacted snow-and-iced roads. While many of the main roads were passable, huge ruts developed, rattling vehicles unmercifully. Many motorists were also faced with dodging cars left abandoned on the side of roads. "It looks like a war zone," reported one driver who travelled SR-522.
Good Samaritans were everywhere, as neighbors helped others clear walkways and get groceries. Even Woodinville Fire and Life Safety District Headquarters benefitted from help when Dan Miller of Mechanical Services drove his front-end loader across the street and cleared the bays and exit area so that the fire and emergency vehicles could get out.
"We want to thank him," said Ed Nelson, Deputy Fire Chief who reported that all the fire vehicles were chained and ready to go, but that fortunately, by Saturday, there were no major fire or medical service calls related to the snow.
Standing in the snow outside of his shop, John Coughlin of Woodinville Ski Rentals extolled this winter as one of the best ever for skiers. "My customers say this is the most snow accumlulation that they have ever seen or remembered in the area. It is the greatest winter we've had!"
Skiers and snowboarders weren't so lucky on Thursday and Friday. The closest ski areas, Alpental Ski Areas, Snoqualmie Pass, and Stevens Pass were inaccesible. The State Patrol closed down U.S. Hwy. 2 and Interstate 90 because of avalanche danger and snow removal.
King County patrolman Darien Holliwell said he'd seen "many wrecks, many slide-outs." He added that people should just stay home, as he glanced wistfully into the velvet-like blanket of snow and said, "But it sure is beautiful!"
Greg Olenik, who lives near Cottage Lake, needed to put on chains to creep out of his driveway. That was just half the battle. Olenik said of the road conditions, "It was like driving on ball bearings and Crisco!"
"Fifty percent of our staff couldn't make it in, but the customer count is double our normal number," said John Gillespie, manager of Woodinville Albertson's. Employee Paul McBride noted that it had been crazy at the store, as panic shoppers waded in and purchased loads of groceries. But that was okay with him. "I'm on overtime," he said with a smile.
Many people walked to shops and restaurants. "I had the day off," said Shawn Unruh, a UPS worker, who walked two miles to go out for lunch and to shop. "I noticed that everyone who was walking was friendlier than normal. It was cold and clear, and the snow was fresh. It was a very nice and relaxing experience."
"We don't have enough snow toys, sleds, and saucers--400 went out the door," said Ben Thomas at Woodinville Payless, who was wishing for more merchandise.
There was so much snow and ice that even the U.S. Post Office fudged on their committment to "neither wind, nor sleet, nor snow," with road conditions preventing the delivery of the mail to many addresses on Friday. An employee chaining his vehicle said, "We're not going to get it all out until Saturday."
Other concerns surfaced. "We noticed that the birds were searching for food. After putting out several small trays of bird food, we enjoyed watching more than 20 birds visit the trays," said Mary Freal, a local CPA working from home.
As the area dealt with this snowy end of December, a billboard near the Woodinville south bypass reminded everyone, "Smile--pass it on!"