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The Today File

Your guide to the latest news from around the Northwest

November 21, 2014 at 11:26 AM

Looking back at memorable Seattle-area snows

The recent historic snow dump experienced by Buffalo, N.Y., got us thinking about our own memorable Seattle-area “snow events.” Everyone knows that snow here is  infrequent, but apparently that’s what makes it so traumatic for us when it does happen. Heaven forbid we try to drive to work with more than an inch of snow on the roads.

Here’s a look back at a few of the biggest winter headaches from the last 30 years or so, in reverse chronology. As you read, keep in mind three things:

1) It’s interesting how often these storms happened in November.

2) Although many of us remember how these snows rendered the city helpless, aside from the 1985 storm, none of these rank among the deepest snows recorded in Seattle history.

3) Snowfall accumulations vary widely from city to city. It’s not uncommon for Sea-Tac Airport to record a dusting while downtown Seattle gets 6 inches and Everett gets 2 feet.

If you have memories to share of these or other storms, share them in the comments thread.

Jan. 18, 2012

In the days leading up to this storm, it was predicted to be the largest storm in decades. But it didn’t pan out that way.

Will Greer, center, tries to clear ice from outside his home and around his family's car on Jan. 19, 2012 in Skyway, Wash. The family's power had been out most of the day, and they were charging their cell phones inside their cars.  (Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)

Will Greer, center, tries to clear ice from outside his home and around his family’s car on Jan. 19, 2012 in Skyway. The family’s power had been out most of the day, and they were charging their cell phones inside their cars. (Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)

Nov. 22, 2010

This was a classic example of how snow here causes immediate paralysis. This storm struck in the late afternoon/early evening, and while it may not have delivered more than 6 inches, the rush-hour timing turned some commutes into hours-long ordeals.

Traffic inches along Mercer Street headed for I-5 on Nov. 22, 2010. Sometimes the smartest thing a person could do was just give up on motor transportation and hoof it.  (Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times)

Traffic inches along Mercer Street headed for I-5 on Nov. 22, 2010. Some drivers just gave up. (Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times)

On the lighter side, this snow prompted folks in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood to make the best of the situation:

Dec. 19, 2008

It was a scary situation when a tour bus slid down a steep Capitol Hill street and ended up hanging out over the I-5 freeway.

A bus that slid and crashed into a guardrail, hangs over northbound I-5 in Seattle.   (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)

A bus that slid and crashed into a guardrail, hangs over northbound I-5 in Seattle. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)

Dec. 26, 1996

This storm caused a holiday mess. After up to a foot of snow fell on the day after Christmas, heavy rains came a few days later that caused epic slush and flooded roads.

Passengers help driver Kim Cranford move her car through heavy slush onto Bothell Way at 61st Avenue N.E. in Kenmore on Dec. 29, 1996. (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)

Passengers help driver Kim Cranford move her car through heavy slush onto Bothell Way at 61st Avenue N.E. in Kenmore on Dec. 29, 1996. (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)

Dec. 18, 1990

How the Seattle Weather blog describes this storm: “Heavy, wet snow fell in droves as the Convergence Zone roared south into Seattle in the early afternoon, blanketing freeways and blinding motorists. Accompanied by howling northerly winds, the Zone peaked in intensity right over downtown — dumping a foot of snow in the heart of the city. As if that weren’t enough, lightning flashed overhead as peals of thunder boomed from the sky — treating stunned Seattleites to a spectacular display of thundersnow.”

Passing motorists try to help a stranded driver up the northbound on-ramp at Northeast 50th Street and Interstate 5 on Dec. 19, 1990. (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)

Passing motorists try to help a stranded driver up the northbound on-ramp at Northeast 50th Street and Interstate 5 on Dec. 18, 1990. (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)

Feb. 3, 1989

This mid-winter storm was memorable because it was followed by a week of sub-freezing temperatures, including some record lows, so the snow stayed around a while.

The steep incline of West McGraw Street on Magnolia was busy with people riding sleds and other devices on Feb. 3, 1989. (David M. Handa / The Seattle Times)

The steep incline of West McGraw Street on Magnolia was busy with people riding sleds and other devices on Feb. 3, 1989. Hours later, Karen Maleng, the daughter of former King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng, died in a sledding accident on the hill. Her death prompted calls for an end to sledding on city streets. (David M. Handa / The Seattle Times)

Nov. 21 and 27, 1985

These two storms combined for a total of 17.5 inches of snow in Seattle.

University of Washington fraternity and sorority members turn Northeast 45th Street into a fun run on Nov. 22, 1985. (Craig Fujii / The Seattle Times)

University of Washington fraternity and sorority members turn Northeast 45th Street into a fun run on Nov. 22, 1985. (Craig Fujii / The Seattle Times)

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