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Snowstorm buries US Northwest, more on the way

/ 07:51 AM February 10, 2019
Snowstorm buries Northwest, more on the way

A US Secret Service officer guards the White House as snow falls in Washington, DC, on February 1, 2019. Brutally cold temperatures gripped the US Midwest on January 31, freezing water mains, causing power outages, canceling flights and straining natural gas supplies. AFP

SEATTLE, United States — A winter storm that blanketed Washington state with snow and forced the cancelation of more than 200 flights moved south into Oregon as meteorologists warned Saturday that yet more was on the way.

In Seattle, where heavy snowfall is a rarity, residents cleared out grocery store shelves and left work early Friday afternoon as the storm arrived. On Saturday, many got out ski gear and sleds and took to neighborhood hills or even streets that were too steep for cars to navigate.

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In Tacoma, hundreds of people turned out for a snowball fight in a park after someone who lives nearby suggested it on Facebook. They took cover behind picnic tables and used sleds as shields.

“This is a perfect morning to bundle up and play in the snow, but stay off the roads if possible,” Gov. Jay Inslee wrote on Twitter.

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More than a foot of snow (30.5 cm) was recorded in some areas, including on the Olympic Peninsula, in the nation’s latest bout of winter weather. In central Washington, blowing snow and drifts 3 to 4 feet (0.9 to 1.2 meters) deep forced the closure of U.S. 2 and Interstate 90. The Grant County Sheriff’s Office warned that snow drifts were blocking many roads.

“Snow conditions are worsening minute to minute, so don’t expect travel conditions to improve,” the sheriff’s office wrote.

The National Weather Service said additional snow could fall Saturday, and another storm was expected early next week.

About 180 people spent the night at an emergency shelter set up at Seattle Center, with officials going out again on Saturday to get other homeless residents to safety. Inslee declared a state of emergency over the storm, and sliding cars caused crashes on highways, though traffic was light. The state transportation department said crews had to clear several trees that had fallen across roads in the Tacoma area.

In Portland, a tanker truck slid into a sport-utility vehicle on an interchange between Interstates 5 and 84 on Saturday, blocking the ramp for hours.

Other parts of the country were also wrestling with difficult weather. Residents of Hawaii were bracing for coastal flooding amid extreme surf predictions. A California man died in rough waters off of Maui on Friday, Hawaii News Now reported.

In California, more than 120 visitors and staff members were rescued Thursday after being trapped by up to 7 feet (2 meters) of snow in a Sierra Nevada resort for five days.

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Another winter storm was on the way to the region.

In Yosemite National Park, as many as 50 housing structures near Half Dome Village were damaged by trees toppled during a snowstorm earlier this week, displacing more than 160 employees who provide food, lodging and other services for visitors.

Elsewhere, more than 148,000 customers lost power in Michigan following days of freezing rain. The Consumers Energy utility said power would be restored by late Sunday.

In Washington, about 50,000 people lost power. In Seattle, snowfall from Sunday and Monday lingered into the week as below-freezing temperatures gripped the area. A 59-year-old man died Thursday from exposure at a Seattle light rail station.

Residents in Portland and Seattle who are more accustomed to rain than snow waited in long lines to buy shovels and de-icer.

Autumn Sang was at a mobbed grocery store in Tualatin, Oregon, on Friday stocking up for the coming storm for herself and her neighbor, who is disabled and doesn’t have a car.

Sang said she had never seen the store so crowded. She grew up in southern Oregon, where snow is more common, and wasn’t fazed by the forecast.

“I love it. I’m excited about it,” she said of the snow. “I think that Portlanders, most of them are city people and they come from a lot of different places, so they’re not so used to it. It’s like, ‘Use your brain! If you don’t have to go out, don’t go out.’ ” /cbb

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