Seattle Courant Archive

Overnight freeze makes a slick commute

Overnight freeze makes a slick commute

By Steve Barker
December 19, 2008

"The roads are pretty quiet and no one is going to work today," Trooper Curt Boyle of the Washington State Patrol's King County office, said around 7 a.m.

As compacted snow turned the area into a colossal ice rink, temperatures in the Seattle metro area remained in the teens and low 20s early Friday, with partly sunny skies and highs predicted near 27 for the day.

Some bus commuters had to rethink how they got to work Friday morning, as Metro, continued its second day of focusing bus service on cleared highways and arterial roads, and to major transit centers and park-and-ride lots.

There was little -- if any -- service on side streets and in smaller neighborhoods.

"Passengers should be prepared to board buses at major transit centers, flat arterials, or at the top or bottom of hills. Please dress warmly, wear appropriate footwear, and be prepared to wait. The buses that are running are expected to be significantly delayed," a Metro bulletin for Friday said.

Like the day before, buses operated at a greatly reduced capacity Friday morning, with over 100 routes around King County suspended indefinitely until roadway conditions improved.

And routes that were still being serviced had been largely revised to avoid treacherous areas.

Information about bus status is available on Metro's Ice & Snow page, though conditions were said to be rapidly changing, or, despite high call volumes, chance ringing up Metro Customer Information Office at 206-553-3000.

Just before 9 a.m. Seattle Department of Transportation officials announced their snow plows were shifting their focus to icy "secondary arterials," since larger roads had been tended to while crews worked through the night.

First priority roads tend to be ones such as Northeast Northgate Way, Lake Washington Boulevard South and 15th Avenue Northwest in Ballard. Secondary arterials include streets such as 15th Avenue Northwest in Ballard, North 50th Street in Wallingford and 10th Avenue West on Capitol Hill.

Two plows have been assigned to continuously monitor and treat the high level West Seattle Bridge, while another truck was assigned exclusively to the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

The on-ramp at Chelan Street to the eastbound lanes of the high level West Seattle Bridge was reopened by 9 a.m. Friday.

The agency posted a map of "ice routes" online at The map shows which roads have first priority for plowing and deicing.

SDOT crews anticipate that with more snow and cold temperatures forecasted for the weekend, they'll have to revisit major arterials once again.

In Bellevue, all top-priority arterials were "passable" Friday morning, and the city was working on clearing icy secondary and neighborhood routes, said Mike Jackman, assistant director of utilities operations and maintenance.

The major arterial cleared included the steepest section of Northeast Eighth Street leading to and from downtown Bellevue.

Bellevue officials held a meeting Friday morning to discuss its response to forecasts of storms this weekend and beyond.

"We're not going to predict the worst-case scenario, but we have to keep an eye on it... so that when and if we get more snow, our routes are not compromised more than they need to be," Jackman said.

A number of roads around King County were closed for the Friday commute, including NE 50th St between Sahalee Way Northeast and State Route 202 in Sammamish, where water covered the roadway. Southeast Lake Holm Road between Auburn Black Diamond Road & 129th Way Southeast was closed due to hazardous ice, as was Southwest 108th Street between 4th Ave. Southwest & 12th Avenue Southwest in White Center.

Other King County closures can be viewed at

On the state's highways, icy patches proved to be problematic for drivers Friday morning. State Route 169 near Tacoma was closed in both directions between the Green River and Southeast Green Valley Road.

In King County, the highway commute went fairly smoothly Friday morning, the Washington State Patrol reported. A spokesman said that unlike Thursday, there were no major pileups or closures -- maybe due to all-night work from road crews, or maybe because many drivers opted to stay home.

Attention Friday was turning to act three in the Seattle area's weeklong weather drama, which has featured two snow storms since last Sunday.

The National Weather Service said another, bigger snow storm packing potentially dangerous high winds continues to track our way. It could hit late Saturday carrying winds that could grow by Sunday and cause damage, when snow showers through Sunday.

Rain and snow showers are also listed as likely for Monday and Tuesday, while temperatures will climb above freezing and could hit the 40s again by Wednesday, bringing a chance of showers.

The Christmas Day forecast for Seattle is "showers likely. Cloudy, with a high near 44."

Meanwhile, Seattle agencies were dealing with the aftereffects of the last bout of winter weather.

The Seattle Public Library branches will open two hours later at noon Friday. The Central library is expected to open on schedule at 10 a.m.

No residential garbage or recycling will be collected on Friday, according to Seattle Public Utilities. Trucks will attempt to make the rounds on Saturday, weather permitting.

Garbage that isn't collected this week can be set out next week, at no extra charge. Garbage pickups will be made as usual at most businesses.
P-I reporter John Iwasaki contributed to this report. P-I reporter Mike Barber can be reached at 206-448-8018 or