SEATTLE — A winter storm that blanketed Washington state with snow and forced the cancellation of about 200 flights moved south into Oregon as meteorologists warned Saturday that yet more was on the way.
In Seattle, where heavy snowfall is a rarity, residents cleared out grocery store shelves and left work early Friday afternoon as the storm arrived. They awoke Saturday to find more had fallen overnight, and the National Weather Service said a storm warning remained in effect, with an additional 1 to 3 inches (2.5 to 7.6 cm) possible on Saturday and another storm in the forecast early next week.
“This is a perfect morning to bundle up and play in the snow, but stay off the roads if possible,” Gov. Jay Inslee wrote on Twitter.
More than a foot of snow (30.5 cm) was recorded in some areas, including on the Olympic Peninsula, in the nation’s latest bout of winter weather. In central Washington, blowing snow and drifts 3 to 4 feet (0.9 to 1.2 metres) deep forced the closure of U.S. 2 and Interstate 90. The Grant County Sheriff’s Office warned that snow drifts were blocking many roads, with some that were passable one minute impassable the next.
“Snow conditions are worsening minute to minute, so don’t expect travel conditions to improve,” the sheriff’s office wrote.
About 180 people spent the night at an emergency shelter set up at Seattle Center, with officials going out again on Saturday to get other homeless residents to safety. Inslee declared a state of emergency over the storm, and sliding cars caused crashes on highways, though traffic was light. The state transportation department said crews had to clear several trees that had fallen across roads in the Tacoma area.
In Portland, a tanker truck slid into a sport-utility vehicle on an interchange between Interstates 5 and 84 on Saturday, blocking the ramp for hours.
Other parts of the country were also wrestling with difficult weather. In California, more than 120 visitors and staff members were rescued after being snowbound in a Sierra Nevada resort for five days.
Up to 7 feet (2 metres) of snow had trapped the guests and staff beginning Sunday at Montecito Sequoia Lodge in Kings Canyon National Park, U.S. Forest Service spokesman Alicia Embrey said.
Crews had to travel by snowmobile to get to the lodge in mountains east of Fresno. Heavy equipment and crews then cleared more than 20 fallen trees and 8 miles (13 kilometres) of deep snow on the road leading to the lodge to allow guests and staff to leave the property Thursday night.
Another winter storm was on the way to the region.
In Yosemite National Park, as many as 50 housing structures near Half Dome Village were damaged by trees toppled during a snowstorm earlier this week, displacing more than 160 employees who provide food, lodging and other services for visitors.
Elsewhere, more than 148,000 customers lost power in Michigan following days of freezing rain. The Consumers Energy utility said power would be restored by late Sunday.
In Washington, about 50,000 people lost power. In Seattle, snowfall from Sunday and Monday lingered into the week as below-freezing temperatures gripped the area. A 59-year-old man died Thursday from exposure at a Seattle light rail station.
Residents in Portland and Seattle who are more accustomed to rain than snow waited in long lines to buy shovels and de-icer.
Autumn Sang was at a mobbed grocery store in Tualatin, Oregon on Friday stocking up for the coming storm for herself and her neighbour, who is disabled and doesn’t have a car.
Sang said she had never seen the store so crowded. She grew up in southern Oregon, where snow is more common, and wasn’t fazed by the forecast.
“I love it. I’m excited about it,” she said of the snow. “I think that Portlanders, most of them are city people and they come from a lot of different places, so they’re not so used to it. It’s like, ‘Use your brain! If you don’t have to go out, don’t go out.”‘
AP journalists Lisa Baumann in Seattle, Amanda Lee Myers in Los Angeles and Gillian Flaccus in Portland, Oregon, contributed to this report.