SEATTLE — The latest winter storm to hit the Pacific Northwest brought a halt to travel across Washington’s Cascade mountains, flood warnings, school closures and icy roads Thursday.
Meanwhile, things aren’t looking any better in the east, where a major winter storm is pressing down hard on the region.
Truckers are feeling the effects in a major way, as truck stops up and down snowy interstates in Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia are overflowing capacity.
“It’s a nightmare right now,” said Kay Stephens, a tanker truck driver based in Kentucky. “There’s no parking, it’s cold, the roads are bad. There are going to be a lot of delays.”
The major route across Washington’s Cascades — Interstate 90 over Snoqualmie Pass — was closed Thursday due to high avalanche danger, heavy snow and low visibility. Stevens Pass on U.S. 2, White Pass on U.S. 12 and Blewett Pass on U.S. 97 were also closed Thursday.
Transportation officials said Thursday evening that the four mountain passes likely would remain closed until Sunday.
“Conditions are too dangerous for crews to be in the pass areas,” Washington Department of Transportation officials said. “Snow and debris continue to slide onto the highways. Crews are working in areas where it is safe to plow, clear catch basins and do other work to have those areas ready when we can reopen.”
It’s unusual — and maybe unprecedented — to have all four passes close simultaneously for more than a few hours, The Seattle Times reported.
The ports of Seattle and Tacoma said exporters from eastern Washington and beyond are not able to get their cargo to the docks.
Puget Sound Energy said Thursday that crews were responding to power outages in mountain pass regions because of heavy snow weighing down trees and branches and that the communities of Hyak, Easton, Greenwater and Skykomish were especially hard hit.
Heavy rain and snowmelt additionally caused flooding concerns in western Washington and Oregon as the latest atmospheric river moved into the region. Flood advisories were in place Thursday with some in effect through Saturday.
In Centralia, Washington, south of Olympia, cars on Thursday evening were driving through water over the road on some streets. Residents in that area near the Chehalis River were told to prepare to evacuate because of expected major flooding starting Thursday afternoon. A shelter opened Thursday at Centralia Middle School.
BNSF Railway reported a landslide south of Centralia that prompted a 48-hour stoppage of Amtrak train service between Portland and Seattle.
Major flooding was also expected along sections of the Newaukum and Skookumchuck rivers in Lewis and Thurston counties, the National Weather Service warned. Mason County was urging residents Thursday in the Skokomish Valley area to either evacuate or shelter-in-place for several days as flooding and road closures were expected.
After days of rain and snow in Oregon, a Thursday morning slide in the Columbia River Gorge forced the closure of Interstate 84 in both directions between exit 17 in Troutdale, Oregon, and exit 62 in Hood River, Oregon.
Both directions of I-84 reopened around 7 p.m. Thursday.
“Smaller slides continue in the #ColumbiaRiverGorge & we’re still monitoring the freeway. Conditions remain volatile w/ continued rains & temps dropping below freezing in many parts of the state,” Oregon Department of Transportation officials said on Twitter.
In Eastern Oregon, OR 334 was closed Thursday by heavily drifting snow.
In Central Washington, Yakima got about 8 inches of snow Thursday, while Ellensburg saw over a foot.
Steve Bodnar, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Spokane, said Wenatchee could receive 20 inches of snow Thursday, with nearby Leavenworth receiving 22.5 inches.
At least 4 inches of snow fell early Thursday in Spokane, and the snow had turned to light freezing rain by late Thursday afternoon, the Weather Service said.
Numerous school districts in Spokane County and other counties around the state canceled classes Thursday, while others delayed the start of classes.
“If you don’t have to go to work or you don’t have to be out on the roads, try not to be,” said Washington State Patrol Trooper Ryan Senger in Spokane.
WINTER STORMS TRACKING EAST
In the east a winter storm that has already left areas of the South with more than 6 inches of snow moved into the Northeast on Friday during the morning commute and prompted many school districts to close for the day.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker urged people to stay off the roads and take public transportation if possible, as the storm was forecast to drop as much as a foot of snow in coastal areas of the state.
There were already 12 inches of snow in Hebron, Connecticut and 10 inches in Burrillville, Rhode Island by 8 a.m., according to National Weather Service spotters.
Schools in Boston closed, and Providence, Rhode Island, public schools switched to distance learning, but New York City kept the nation’s largest public school system open.
“Children need to be in school. We don’t have any more days to waste” after the many closures and remote-learning days of the pandemic, said New York Mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat dealing with his first major storm after taking office Saturday. He said he was also mindful of children who rely on in-school meals and working parents who can’t stay home.
Officials urged caution on the roads and reduced speed limits in some areas.
A commuter bus spun out of control and wound up blocking multiple lanes on the Massachusetts Turnpike just outside Boston early Friday. No injuries were reported, but the bus caused a huge traffic jam.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Thursday night declared a state of emergency for the entire state and delayed opening state offices for nonessential employees until 11 a.m.
Philadelphia and Newark Liberty International airports reported many flights were canceled or delayed. Travelers were advised to check with their airlines.
From late Thursday through Friday afternoon, 4 to 7 inches of snow were expected in parts of central and southern New Hampshire, and south-central and southwest Maine, according to the weather service.
The storm brought record-setting snow to some areas of the South on Thursday.
Nashville saw 6.3 inches of snowfall Thursday, shattering the city’s previous Jan. 6 record of 4 inches that had stood since 1977, the National Weather Service said. Freezing rain and sleet coated areas around the Tennessee-Alabama state border, said Scott Unger, a meteorologist for the service in Nashville.
Tee Perkins, a truck driver from Ontario, said his rig was “slipping and sliding a little bit” along Interstate 40 near Nashville, so he decided to pull off at the nearest truck stop to rest for the night on Thursday.
“It’s too damn bad to drive right now,” he said. “Just park it and wait it out. It ain’t worth a wreck.”
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear closed state offices at noon Thursday and later extended the closure through Friday.
The largest snowfall in Kentucky by Thursday evening was 8 to 9 inches in a swath from Elizabethtown to Bardstown and Nicholasville to Lexington, said meteorologist Brian Schoettmer of the weather service’s Louisville office. Eastern Kentucky recorded 6 to 8 inches, and far western Kentucky had about 3 inches.
The Trucker staff contributed to this report.
The Trucker News Staff produces engaging content for not only TheTrucker.com, but also The Trucker Newspaper, which has been serving the trucking industry for more than 30 years. With a focus on drivers, the Trucker News Staff aims to provide relevant, objective content pertaining to the trucking segment of the transportation industry. The Trucker News Staff is based in Little Rock, Arkansas.