Without much warning the Upper Snoqualmie Valley was quickly buried in snow the evening of Monday, Feb. 27.
It started in Snoqualmie, where snow had been falling most of the day, but began to stick to the roads around 4 p.m. The city already had two snowplows out, said spokeswoman Joan Pliego, but sent a third as the snowfall began to increase. In North Bend, where temperatures stayed warmer, the snowplows started working around 5:30 p.m., said Public Works Director Mark Rigos.
Snoqualmie Parkway was closed for most of the evening, Pliego said.
“With the snowfall and rush hour, it was the perfect storm,” she said. “The closure was mainly because the plows couldn’t get through because of so many cars. It was like a big traffic jam.”
No roads were closed within the city limits of North Bend, Rigos noted, and there were no plow breakdowns, which had caused problems during another “surprise snowstorm” Dec. 9 in the city.
“The snow came at the worst time, after all our (city maintenance) guys left,” Rigos said, but they were quickly brought back to work. Overall, he said, “This was our best snowstorm response this year. All our equipment was working, and we had a full crew.”
The flatter North Bend had few problems from the snow, as opposed to Snoqualmie, but Rigos said plows ran most of the night.
Pliego said Snoqualmie crews cleared the Parkway in chunks, opening the road in sections while police controlled the traffic.
No traffic collisions or injuries were reported from the storm, however, Police Capt. Nick Almquist estimated that 20 cars had been abandoned on the Parkway during the storm.
Those abandoned cars, cleared out the next day with the help of Snoqualmie Police, caused problems during the storm for plows trying to clear the road, before the city decided to close the Parkway.
“It’s important than when people hear weather forecasts of snow that they move vehicles off of public streets, even if that means doubling them up in garages and driveways so the plow can get through effectively,” Pliego said in a follow up email.
While the Parkway was closed, the Snoqualmie Valley YMCA and Snoqualmie City Hall were open for anyone to come in, get out of the cold and wait until the roads were clear.
By the next morning, most of the snow had been cleared and the roads were open as usual.
“We did really well, I think for the most part, we only had to tow a couple of cars,” said Almquist. “The guys did a really good job of contacting the registered owners, picking them up, bringing them to their cars, helping to get them loose if they were stuck, and sending them on their way.”
Almquist added that the owners would not be fined.
According to Pliego, the city of Snoqualmie is now planning an “after action meeting” in which city employees discuss what went right, wrong, and how to do better in future weather events like a snow storm or a flood.
Pliego also suggested that residents who drive create vehicle emergency kits, in case they get stuck or need to abandon their cars.
While the weather affected travel in and out of the city for only one night, Pliego said that citizens can follow the city’s official Facebook and Twitter accounts for up to date information during similar events in the future.
Prepare a Car Kit
In severe weather, when driving becomes hazardous, it’s important to have an emergency kit in your vehicle, both for your safety and peace of mind.
The Take Winter by Storm website has easy-to-use checklists in many different languages for preparing for storms, including one for putting together a car kit.
Following are the bare minimum items on the Take Winter by Storm “Get Ready for Winter Weather Driving” checklist:
- Non-perishable food
- bottled water
- ice scraper
- AM radio
- extra batteries
- First-Aid kit
- hand warmers and
- winter clothing (boots, hat, gloves, and raingear).
The list also has safe driving tips and information about winter vehicle maintenance, tire chains, car tool kits, and basic safety.