Winter blankets region in snow

January 2, 2009

By Jim Feehan

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Traffic snarled, school districts closed

Karina and Lucas Fluegge, of Newcastle, sled on a hill in Lake Boren Park last month. By Dan Hubbell

Karina and Lucas Fluegge, of Newcastle, sled on a hill in Lake Boren Park last month. By Dan Hubbell

A fierce winter storm struck Newcastle and Western Washington with a blast of snow Dec. 18, causing an icy commute that snarled morning rush hour traffic and gave students a few extra days off leading up to their winter break.

Motorists sledded around streets transformed into ice rinks by snow and bone-chilling temperatures. Dozens of abandoned vehicles littered Coal Creek Parkway north of the city limits, said Newcastle Police Chief Melina Irvine.

“The combination of snow and ice caused a lot of bad spin outs,” said Irvine, who urged motorists to avoid traveling if at all possible in the days following the storm. 

Garbage wasn’t collected for almost two weeks and postal service was disrupted for about a week, as letter carriers couldn’t reach the Terrace and Crest neighborhoods. The storm kept many residents homebound, because they couldn’t get out of their driveways with all of the snow. 

“It was just an excuse for us to stay indoors and play lots of card games,” said Deputy Mayor Dan Hubbell, who spent a few days working from a downtown business featuring free Wi-Fi, rather than driving to his Microsoft office in Redmond. “I was amazed at the number of folks walking around downtown. It made me realize how many people really do call this place home.”

While a barrage of snow storms slammed the city in the week leading up to Christmas, residents did not lose power as they did following the windstorm of 2006. Motorists who did venture out on the snowy roads had a difficult time finding gas, though. Tanker trucks were unable to deliver gas to many Eastside gas stations, said Dennis Yarnell, manager of Newcastle Shell.

“We had two deliveries of gas between Dec. 22 and Dec. 28,” he said. “Normally, we get about one per day. Transport companies leave it up to the drivers’ discretion with safety being a big issue.”

By Dec. 29, business was largely back to normal, he said.

“We’re not used to this much snow for such a long period of time,” he said. “We’re good for one to two days. Midwesterners are used to it every year. For us, we get this much snow every 10 to 12 years.”

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