Winter storms blast the Snoqualmie Valley

Terry O’Brien of Snoqualmie scoops out his sidewalk after a snowy night on Thursday, Dec. 17. “This is awesome,” O’Brien said of the previous night’s powdery delivery. Snowstorms dumped more than seven inches of snow on the Valley late last week. - Seth Truscott / Snoqualmie Valley Record
Terry O’Brien of Snoqualmie scoops out his sidewalk after a snowy night on Thursday, Dec. 17. “This is awesome,” O’Brien said of the previous night’s powdery delivery. Snowstorms dumped more than seven inches of snow on the Valley late last week.
— image credit: Seth Truscott / Snoqualmie Valley Record

The Snoqualmie Valley got an early and aggressive visit from Old Man Winter last week.

Days of snowfall dumped more than seven inches of snow, and some residents lost power Saturday, Dec. 20, when high winds blew through the area. Following the weekend, drifts several feet high could be seen around the Valley.

In Snoqualmie, Reinig and Mill Pond Roads remained closed early Monday, Dec. 22. King County DOT Spokeswoman Linda Thielke said the county was unable to clear some Valley roads because it had to continually respond to major arterials, where falling snow and wind debris kept blocking the roadway.

Snoqualmie Pass closed due to snow, but was reopened to all vehicles except oversize loads by early Monday. Snow tires were required.

Winds clocking about 40 miles per hour, with gusts above 60 miles per hour, swept into the Valley on Saturday afternoon. Some residents briefly lost power, with Snoqualmie Ridge residents going without electricity for several hours.

Power outages at some residential and business neighborhoods in North Bend lasted as long as 12 hours.

The snow gave students in Snoqualmie Valley School District a three-day jump start to their winter break. The extended vacation started Wednesday, Dec. 17, after predictions of snow. Some snow began to fall that afternoon, with several inches on the ground by Thursday morning. The snow also shut down mid-week high school sports events.

The cities of Snoqualmie and North Bend put out a joint emergency radio broadcast Thursday, Dec. 18, telling residents where to call with their snow concerns.

Public works crews in Snoqualmie and North Bend were on rotating shifts, pushing snow. City teams worked day and night to plow, sand and de-ice the main roads in city limits. This year, Snoqualmie tried out a new mineral de-icer, which seemed to work well at keeping important routes such as Snoqualmie Parkway open.

“People just need to take care out there, and drive slow,” said North Bend Public Works Director Ron Garrow. “Everything seems to be going OK,” he said. “No major spin-outs.”

Auto parts stores and the Les Schwab tire store in North Bend were doing a brisk business in snow tires and chains. On average, the wait was two and a half hours for tires at Les Schwab.

Jerry Gardner, an assistant manager at Schuck’s Auto Supply in North Bend, said the business was selling plenty of winter driving items, including buckets of sand to help weigh down pickup trucks.

“Everybody waits until the last minute,” Gardner said. “We always anticipate it every year.”

The area hasn’t had a winter storm like this one since 1990, according to Gardner, who remembers several days of below-20-degree temperatures.

Snoqualmie firefighters responded to several broken water pipes early in the week, caused by the frigid temperatures. Most of the frozen pipes were in garages or other exposed areas.

The fire department advised residents to let their faucet drip during cold temperatures, so that water flows instead of freezing. If possible, homeowners should wrap or insulate pipes in garages or exposed areas, and cover up outside hose bibs.

The snow didn’t keep one important fellow from his appointed duties. The Santa Train ran on its final weekend of the year at the Northwest Railway Museum. Ice can’t stop a train, but the museum warned ticket holders on its Web site to plan ahead and leave early to make in to North Bend in time.

In 40 years, only one weekend of Santa Train has ever been canceled, after the track was damaged in a flood. Museum volunteers do their best to plan for every contingency.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Andy Haner said that normal conditions would begin to return by Monday, with daytime temperatures above freezing. Snow would be likely to stick around on the hills until Christmas.

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