UPDATE 11:05 a.m.: | Here comes the rain.
This morning’s snowfall has turned to rain in Seattle and much of western King County, a pattern that is expected to sweep the region in the coming hours, according to the National Weather Service.
It is still snowing in parts of eastern King County, the San Juan Islands and north Snohomish County all the way up to Bellingham., said Weather Service Meteorologist Kirby Cook. But , he said, those snowflakes are expected to turn to rain, too later today.
“The air mass is warming up and as it does the snow level is moving up,” Cook said, adding that it the snow currently falling at Snoqualmie Pass is expected to turn to rain later today.
The snow is not expected to return anytime soon. Expect temperatures in the 40s starting tomorrow with rain showers through Monday. Forecasters predict dry weather on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Snow is falling in several areas around Puget Sound this morning, with the heaviest snowfall as you head north of Seattle, particularly in Snohomish County.
By 8 a.m., the snow had turned to rain over parts of the Olympic Peninsula, signaling a change expected to spread through the Puget Sound area in the next couple of hours, said Kirby Cook of the National Weather Service.
Cook said the heaviest reports of snow were in Snohomish and Skagit counties, with more than 3 inches reported in Arlington.
In North Snohomish County, State Patrol Trooper Inci Yarkut watched the snow dump and listened to her colleagues over the police radio try to handle an overwhelming number of 911 calls.
“It’s pretty dicey out there actually. We’ve been going to crashes nonstop,” Yarkut said.
Yarkut said traffic is slow heading south on Interstate 5 into King County. From Arlington to the north up to Bellingham the roads remain snowy and treacherous. While troopers hadn’t seen any major crashes they were responding to one spin-out crash after the next.
“People are driving too fast. The roads are plowed better south than they are north,” Yarkut said.
Trooper Chris Webb, in King County, said they too have spent the morning responding to minor crashes. But, he said things are far worse in Snohomish County.
Seattle Public Schools are running two hours late; some districts, including Bellevue, Everett and Edmonds, are closed for the day.
Metro buses are using chains and following snow routes, said King County Department of Transportation spokeswoman Rochelle Ogershok. “We’re getting reports that things are getting slick out there,” said Ogershok, adding that riders should dress warmly and expect delays.
The transit service’s articulated trolley buses are not being used today, and are being replaced by regular buses that do better in the snow. For updates, riders can check metro.kingcounty.gov.
Ogershok said about 10 county snowplows were at work early today, and that snow accumulations were greater at higher elevations.
By 7:30 a.m., WSDOT snow plows and de-icer trucks were at work around the Central Puget Sound area: eight near the King/Snohomish county line, 11 in Everett and six in Seattle, said agency spokeswoman Broch Bender.
“We are focusing our efforts where the snow is the heaviest,” she said. “We’ve seen a few spin-outs and a few collisions, but for the most part people are taking it slow and we need them to continue that trend.”
She said crews had been out all night putting down de-icer on curves, bridges and overpasses.
Seattle DOT spokesman Rick Sheridan said the city had 21 trucks at work plowing snow and spreading rock salt early today, and five more trucks were being added about 8 a.m. In the city, snowfall was heaviest in the north end and in West Seattle.
“We’re still on track to get anywhere from a skiff to 3 inches in most areas,” said Ted Buehner of the National Weather Service.
By 6 a.m., the temperature at Seattle-Tacoma International was slightly above freezing, at 33 degrees. Buehner said the snow is expected to change to rain probably after the morning commute, but before noon. “This is a short-lived event,” he said.
The interstates in Snohomish County and on the Eastside are getting a bit tricky because snow has started to accumulate on the roadways. South of there, the roads are wet and clear for the most part as of 5 a.m., but as the morning progresses there could be some accumulation, according to the state Department of Transportation. Drivers are cautioned to take it easy.
Side streets in areas where snow is falling heaviest are probably going to be the problem you’ll first see this morning so beware.
For the latest on school closures and delayed starts, go to flashalert.net/.