Snowstorm pounds North Olympic Peninsula — and there's more to come [**GALLERY**]
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Rod Cicelski of Sequim, a driver for Waldron Trucking Co., puts chains on his log truck at the top of snow-covered Tumwater Truck Route in Port Angeles on Wednesday. -- Photo by Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
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Rachel Gail Jenkins is one of the few Port Townsend residents to brave snowy conditions Wednesday afternoon. – Photo by Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News
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Helen Fox uses a push broom to sweep a thin layer of snow off the walkway to her Port Angeles home Wednesday. -- Photo by Chris Tucker/Peninsula Daily News
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Snow slowed traffic to a crawl on U.S. Highway 101 at Happy Valley Road near Sequim shortly after 2:30 p.m. A number of vehicles were reported as sliding off 101 into ditches between Gardiner and Sequim after the storm dropped heavy snow over less than an hour. – Photo by Jeff Chew/Peninsula Daily News
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A lone jogger doesn’t let a little snow interrupt his exercise routine. -- Photo by Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

A late-season snowstorm that snarled traffic, blocked roads and highways and dumped several inches of powder on the North Olympic Peninsula on Wednesday will continue though this afternoon, forecasters say.

The National Weather Service's winter storm warning is in effect until 10 a.m. today.

Danny Mercer, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Seattle, said the Strait of Juan de Fuca region would get another 3 inches to 6 inches of snow overnight, followed by 2 inches to 3 inches this morning.

“The heaviest snow will be in the central and eastern part of the Strait,” Mercer said. “But it's snowing pretty much everywhere.”

Heavy bursts of snow came in localized bands Wednesday, resulting in variable accumulations.

Weather Service spotters reported 6 inches of snow on the ground in Freshwater Bay and 4 inches at the Elwha Dam as of 4 p.m.

A spotter in Port Townsend reported 5 inches of snowfall in a three-hour period that ended at 3:30 p.m.

Another spotter said it snowed 5 inches in a span of 2 hours and 15 minutes four miles west of Sequim.

Olympic National Park reported 97 inches of snow at the Hurricane Ridge sensor with another 6 inches to 12 inches of accumulation forecast today.

Cold air from Canada collided with moisture from the Pacific on Wednesday to produce large amounts of snow in places, especially on the slopes of the Olympic Mountains.

Power outage

About 500 city of Port Angeles customers lost power for about one hour Wednesday afternoon south of Lauridsen Boulevard and east of Race Street, city spokeswoman Teresa Pierce said.

The outage was caused by heavy snow on power lines.

Clallam County Public Utility District spokesman Mike Howe said there were no widespread power outages Wednesday afternoon.

“So far so good,” Howe said. “We're obviously prepared for the worst. Hopefully we don't get the worst.”

Puget Sound Energy, which provides electricity to most of East Jefferson County, reported no widespread power outages.

Snowplowing

Clallam County had several plows working in each of its three districts Wednesday.

“We've been keeping up pretty well so far,” said Ross Tyler, Clallam County engineer.

Plows and road graders will be back at work before 6 a.m. today to clear new snow off county roads, Tyler said.

Glenn Cutler, Port Angeles public works and utilities director, said city plows will work through the night clearing the main arterials.

Sequim road crews started ahead of the snowstorm that blew into the Sequim and Dungeness Valley at about 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, dumping close to 3 inches in less than an hour, and are removing snow around the clock, said City Public Works Director Paul Haines.

“We only have two plowers, and we're keeping them on the road for 12-hour shifts, 24 hours,” Haines said.

Bus service

Jefferson Transit was operating its regular bus and dial-a-ride service as of 3 p.m.

“We really are not deviating at all,” said Tammi Rubert, Jefferson Transit operations manager.

The No. 2 Mountain View Connector and No. 11 shuttle moved to snow routes later Wednesday.

Jefferson Transit will post rider alerts to its website, www.jeffersontransit.com, as conditions change.

Clallam Transit cut back Port Angeles bus service to an hourly, rather than half-hourly, schedule Wednesday. It plans to run regular routes and schedules as much as possible today.

Visit the Clallam Transit website, www.clallamtransit.com, for updates this morning after 6 a.m.

The Clallam County Courthouse closed at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday. It will open at 10 a.m. today, said Jamye Wisecup, Clallam County Emergency Management program coordinator.

Schools

Port Angeles School District released students early Wednesday.

Quillayute Valley School District canceled all classes Wednesday because of snow limiting the bus routes, said Superintendent Diana Reaume.

All other North Olympic Peninsula school districts held classes as scheduled.

All districts will decide in the early-morning hours whether classes will be held today. Contact local school districts for more information.

Port Angeles City Hall closed early Wednesday and will reopen at 10 a.m. today.

Port Angeles, Clallam Bay, Sequim and Forks libraries closed early Wednesday.

The Port of Port Angeles spent the day plowing the runway at the William R. Fairchild International Airport, which had short periodic closures, said Executive Director Jeff Robb.

Kenmore Air managed two round-trip flights Wednesday before canceling the remainder for the day, said Kenmore spokesman Craig O'Neill.

Today's 5:30 a.m. flight has been canceled, but the airline hopes to make other flights as scheduled, O'Neill said.

________

Reporters Jeff Chew, Paige Dickerson and Tom Callis contributed to this report.



Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-417-3537 or at rob.ollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: February 23. 2011 11:38PM
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