Seattle slides into second day of icy winter mayhem
The storm that covered Seattle in snow Wednesday, transforming the city into a lovely winter wonderland, turned ugly Thursday morning -- blanketing much of western Washington in slick sheets of ice.
Gov. Christine Gregoire declared a winter storm emergency, allowing for the National Guard to be called up quickly if needed.
Roads and highways became ice rinks, and Seattle Tacoma International Airport for the first time in a decade was forced to close all three runways overnight -- getting one runway open Thursday morning to handle dozens of cancelled flights.
A second runway was expected to open, but airport officials said it would be hours before backed-up planes could be loaded, de-iced, and channeled into the air traffic control system.
"We had a situation about 4:00 this morning where we just had kind of an ice fall," Sea-Tac spokesman Perry Cooper told the Los Angeles Times. "It was sleety, freezing rain that just turned into ice instantly. That's more problematic than snow, because as soon as it gets down to the concrete and adheres to that, it's more difficult to snowplow off than snow."
The highways were no better, with crews battling not only sheets of ice, but trees loaded with ice and snow that had tumbled onto roadways. A big section of Highway 18 near Auburn and most of Highway 900 between Issiquah and Renton -- key suburbs of Seattle -- were closed.
Interstate 90, the main east-west thoroughfare across Washington state, was closed Thursday morning so crews could perform precautionary avalanche work.
"All of the roadways are very slushy and very slick, and cars are just sliding around," Julie Startup, Washington State Patrol spokeswoman for the Seattle area, said in an interview.
Unlike Wednesday, though, when overly confident commuters braved the roads and proceeded to sail into multiple collisions, traffic was relatively light. "This morning, I think people said, 'Forget it,' and stayed home," Startup said.
The main electrical utility, Puget Sound Energy, reported that about 90,000 homes were without power -- mostly because of fallen trees -- and said that some could expect to remain that way until the weekend.
The National Weather Service said the ice storm warning could be expected to stay in effect until noon, with temperatures after midday, finally, creeping above freezing.
-- Kim Murphy in Seattle
Video: Sledders in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood take on an SUV -- and win. Credit: Garth Knutson / YouTube