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Snow slows Snoqualmie holiday travel

Sloppy raindrops turned to snow in parts of the Eastside and south King County and Snoqualmie Pass got several inches Sunday afternoon, creating some slushy road conditions that slowed holiday travelers heading back to Western Washington over the passes.

A section of eastbound Interstate 90 over Snoqualmie Pass was closed Sunday afternoon to allow state troopers to clear stuck and spun-out vehicles. All lanes reopened by 4:30 p.m., but drivers were told to expect up to two-hour delays because of congestion.

"The weather-related accidents we're seeing, 90 percent are related to people driving too fast," state trooper Jeff Merrill said.

Traffic on westbound I-90 was heavy between Cle Elum and North Bend, with drivers crawling along at less than 10 miles per hour, according to the state Department of Transportation, which was out in force with snow plows and graders clearing snow from the pass.

The National Weather Service predicted up to 9 inches of snow at Snoqualmie Pass for Sunday, and up to another 6 inches by Monday night. Snow snarled evening traffic Monday in the Seattle area. Snoqualmie Valley School District closed schools Nov. 28 becasue of icy roads.

Merrill said Sunday afternoon that there hadn't been any serious snow-related wrecks. Snowfall in the pass and the Eastside started in the late afternoon Sunday.

The snow that fell on the Eastside was light compared to the blizzard that blanketed areas near Bellingham and the Strait of Juan de Fuca near Port Angeles Sunday, causing numerous accidents and congestion.

Bond noted that the current mess may have upsides, at least in the short term. A moist winter, he said, could deepen the snow pack in the Cascade Mountains, improving skiing, the water supply, power generation from rivers and potentially smoothing the journey of salmon smolts that will ride the rivers to sea next year. Then again, the area is entering an El Nino weather pattern, potentially reducing precipitation this winter.

The Summit At Snoqualmie reported the fresh snowfall improved skiing conditions that resulted in a busy holiday weekend.

There was a fatal accident partially attributed to weather conditions on Snoqualmie Pass Friday, Nov. 24. Two Puyallup men died about 7 a.m. when the pickup they were in was struck by a 100-foot tree that fell on the freeway 12 miles east of the summit. The Washington State Patrol said the accident killed the driver, 49-year-old Joseph Kerns, and passenger Alex Minneman, 22. Two other passengers were not injured. Trooper Jeff Merrill said heavy rain and snow may have weakened the tree.

Leif Nesheim contributed to this report.

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