Public Utility District crews battled to keep on the heat and lights in homes and businesses Sunday as outages fluctuated during a winter storm that plunged the North Olympic Peninsula into bitter cold with snow and ice coating the roads.
Port Angeles and Sequim bore the brunt of the lowland snow accumulation as moisture mixed with the arctic air blasting the Peninsula from the Fraser Outflow in British Columbia, especially in higher elevations.
Snowfall totals ranged from 3 to 4 inches in Port Townsend and Forks to 5 to 12 inches in Sequim and a foot of snow at 50-foot elevations in Port Angeles and more at higher elevations.
The National Weather Service said areas close to the Olympics in the central part of the Peninsula reported 16 inches of snow by early afternoon Sunday.
Michele Lefebvre, Serenity House shelter director, estimated 18 inches of snow at the organization’s overnight shelter on 18th Street in Port Angeles.
A 10-inch average throughout Clallam County was reported to Undersheriff Ron Cameron by the county engineer on Sunday morning, with more falling throughout the day.
The snow began to die down Sunday afternoon due to drier air, according to the National Weather Service, but the bitter cold — highs in the 20s and lows in the teens — will continue to grip the region this week.
On Thursday, temperatures may rise above freezing briefly before another storm system blows in and a new round of snow falls, according to the weather service.
Crews worked all day Sunday to fix electrical outages, with the numbers fluctuating constantly.
“They continue to pop up,” said Nicole Hartman, Clallam Public Utility District spokesperson, as accumulated snow and tree branches fell onto power lines.
In addition, in Clallam County, a Bonneville Power Administration breaker opened in Happy Valley at 5:30 a.m. Sunday and crews had to bring substations on one by one as they tested them.
The substation serving Sunland kept tripping the breaker as workers attempted to re-energize it, so power restoration was delayed there, Hartman said.
Also, Diamond Point’s restoration was delayed because of lines that had fallen into the roadway, she said.
At the peak of the outages, Clallam PUD reported 13,442 customers were without electricity.
Jefferson PUD reported 1,600 customers cut off from electricity at an overnight peak.
Agency personnel in both counties hoped to have all customers back online by this morning, but it was unknown what would happen overnight.
“We don’t know how many more will keep coming,” said Hartman, echoing earlier concerns from her counterpart at Jefferson PUD, Will O’Donnell.
For information about electrical outages, see www.jeffpud.org or https://clallampud.net.
The National Weather Service, which earlier on Sunday had predicted another 6 inches of snow in Port Angeles and Sequim, changed its forecast later in the day to 1 inch to 3 inches more because of the drier air over the Peninsula.
Snow levels generally were not as deep on both east and west ends of the Peninsula as in Port Angeles and Sequim.
In East Jefferson County, Port Townsend and an area near Port Ludlow both reported 3 to 4 inches of snow to the weather service.
Nicole Witham, operations manager at the Chimacum Corner Farmstand, reported about 4 inches of snow before 11 a.m. Sunday.
“We’re taking it hour by hour,” she said, adding she was considering closing up early.
As she watched snow-plow trucks lining up outside, Witham said the highway would be plowed — but many of her employees live on back roads. She added that she checked on an elderly neighbor on Van Trojen Road to make sure she was all right and had firewood.
As for the corner store, Witham predicted the snowstorm would affect deliveries of produce and other goods.
“I think today will be easy compared with what the rest of the week will hold,” she said.
The large outage overnight in Jefferson County peaked at 11 p.m. Saturday night, O’Donnell said.
It affected customers in the Port Townsend and Cape George areas, he said, all of whom were back online by 2 a.m. Sunday.
At 8 a.m., another 400 customers lost power in the Port Townsend and Marrowstone Island areas.
By about 11 a.m., all but 154 had power restored. By 11:30 a.m., that number was back up to 172, and by 4:45 p.m., it had dropped again to 89.
Turbulent weather stretched from San Diego to Seattle, The Associated Press reported.
Between 3 and 5 inches of snow fell in Seattle overnight. Another 2 to 5 inches of snow was expected to fall in parts of northwest and west central Washington during the day, the National Weather Service said.
Delays were to be expected in the state’s mountain passes, the state Department of Transportation warned.
Portland, Ore., received a dusting, but the city was expected to get another 2.5 inches by this morning, according to the weather service.
Whiteout conditions closed key highways in mountains of Northern California and Nevada.
Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at email@example.com.
Jefferson County Senior Reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz contributed to this story.