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Shut down by ice storm, Valley power may not come back for days

Electricity may not be restored to the Snoqualmie Valley for several days, according to reports from Puget Sound Energy.

As residents lined up for gas or searched out warm food at some of the few open stores, city plows continued to battle Thursday's ice storm. The Washington State Department of Transportation is waiting for better conditions to reopen State Highway 202, closed this morning due to fallen trees and a landslide.

As of 1 p.m. Wednesday, about 200,000 Puget Sound Energy customers in Western Washington are without power, with outages occurring in more than 500 locations due to ice-encrusting tree limbs crashing on lines. Even with 140 extra power line crews called in from other parts of the country, PSE estimates that repairs could take three to four days for repairs, possibly longer.Roads also remain dangerous due to weather conditions. The Preston-Fall City Road closed Thursday morning, and Snoqualmie Parkway remains closed due to downed power lines at Fisher Avenue. Snoqualmie Police are waiting for Puget Sound Energy crews to determine when the road will open. Residents are asked not to touch power lines.

At the North Bend QFC, baristas Mary Gregory and Laura Hames worked in dim light, serving up coffees percolated by generator power. Customers were grateful.

"It's nice seeing their reaction: 'You have coffee!'" Gregory said. "They need to have something warm in their hands."

The QFC was one of the few businesses open during outages, which have blacked out 4,900 customers in North Bend, 5,100 in Snoqualmie, 620 in Carnation, 1,200 in Duvall and 600 in Fall City.

As long as the generator works, "we'll be here," Gregory said.

Outside the supermarket, Wilderness Rim resident Dale Draper pulled up in an ice-encrusted truck with wife Rena and grandson Robert, looking for something warm for breakfast.

"We were hoping the power would be on in town," said Draper. No such luck. "Cell phones aren't working," either.

Fellow North Bend resident John Webb also came to stock up.

"I hear trees popping in the woods," said Webb, who woke up to a blackout. "It's icy. I've got branches hanging on all my power cords."

Armed with Presto logs, "I'm gonna push everything to the side and make a fire," Webb said.

It was the ice that followed days of snow that created so many problems in Puget Sound. Tree limbs loaded with snow are snapping and falling onto roads and power lines.

On Highway 202, Jamie Holter, spokeswoman for WSDOT, said many trees fell between mileposts 20 and 25.

"It's really bad out there," she said. "We've pulled all of our crews out of there. It's dangerous. We don't know when we're going to get to it."

Holter said one DOT worker was injured by a falling tree today.

“We haven’t seen trees come down like this in years,” said Chris Johnson, maintenance manager for the Washington State Department of Transportation, who’s been with the agency for 28 years.

Crews will cut and remove trees elsewhere as they're able, but "Safety is priority one for our workers and the public," Holter said.

Holter said WSDOT is waiting for several milestones. At 2 p.m. today, the ice storm watch in Western Washington is set to expire. Following that, the snow watch in nearby south Snohomish County is supposed to end at 4 p.m.

"Then, we just have to start watching temperatures," Holter said. "It's warming up very gradually."

"Even though people will have turned the corner on the storm, we're still in the middle of it," she added. "There's so much cleanup to be done."

"If it warms up quickly, we've got flooding," Holter said.

On Thursday morning, the Floodzilla website had already collected data prediction low-level floods starting next week. Rising water was expected to near flood stage Wednesday and Thursday of next week.

Road alerts are available on the Regional Public Information Network website at www.RPIN.org and on the WSDOT website at www.wsdot.gov.

You can follow real-time updates from Puget Sound Energy at http://pse.com/accountsandservices/ServiceAlert/Pages/Real-time-Updates.aspx

Warming shelter at Snoqualmie City Hall

Due to the power outage, some homes are losing heat. Snoqualmie City Hall is open as a temporary warming shelter today. Residents may bring food and beverages with them. City employees are attempting to contact low-income and elderly residents to ensure their safety and well-being. Please check on your neighbors and offer help as  needed.

If someone needs assistance in getting to Snoqualmie City Hall, please call the Snoqualmie Emergency Operations Center at 425-888-5911.

Specific and updated information is available on the local radio station at AM 1650.

 

 

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