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News & Music Contributors
Fri January 20, 2012
250,000+ out of power; transportation disrupted; but storm is over ... for now
More than 250,000 people are without power and all modes of transportation are still a mess, but “this snow/sleet/freezing rain event is basically done,” reports KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass.
However, Mass said on his weather blog, “Now I hate to bring this up ... but the forecast models for the next week indicate some intense weather in store for us. Heavy rains, strong windstorms.”
Things still a mess
Sea-Tac Airport is open Friday, and airlines are still trying to accommodate passengers whose flights were canceled Thursday.
The largest carrier at the airport, Alaska Airlines, planned to operate about 60 percent of its Seattle schedule. Spokeswoman Bobbie Egan says it expects to be fully operational Saturday, and the last passengers whose flights were canceled should be traveling by Sunday.
On Thursday, Alaska and sister airline Horizon canceled 310 flights to and from Seattle, affecting 29,000 passengers.
Amtrak trains aren't running Friday between Seattle and Portland, because of trees and other debris that fell on the tracks.
Fallen trees still close most of Highway 18 between Federal Way and North Bend. Transportation Department spokeswoman Kris Olsen says it's uncertain when crews will have it reopen. Highway 410 also is closed, cutting off the Crystal Mountain ski resort.
Out of power
Most out-of-power customers are with Puget Sound Energy.
The utility company used three helicopters Friday to check its transmission lines as crews repair damage from Thursday's ice storm. Utility spokeswoman Terri-Ann Betancourt says it had about 254,000 customers out of service at mid-day, mostly around Seattle, Tacoma and Olympia.
The utility it could take into the weekend or later to get the power back on.
Now worry about flooding
Besides the outages, the big concern now is more flooding with warmer temperatures and rain. The city of Seattle is asking residents to help keep street drains clear.
The National Weather Service says warming on Friday should melt snow and ice in Western Washington lowlands as the forecast promises the usual rain into next week.
Forecasters say the melting could cause urban and small stream flooding and fill the Skokomish and Chehalis rivers above flood stage by Saturday evening.
It's still snowing in the Cascades, with up to 2 feet possible in the mountains over the weekend. In Eastern Washington, forecasters expect more snow Friday or freezing rain. Warming on Saturday raises the snow level above the valley floors in some areas.