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Up to 3 feet of snow to fall on passes east of Seattle as winter rears its head

Seattle Post-Intelligencer logo Seattle Post-Intelligencer 12/12/2018 By Daniel DeMay, SeattlePI

a truck that is driving down the road: A tractor trailer jackknifed on U.S. 2 Tuesday morning, closing down the highway near Skykomish. Officials said drivers could detour through the town, but expected long delays.

A tractor trailer jackknifed on U.S. 2 Tuesday morning, closing down the highway near Skykomish. Officials said drivers could detour through the town, but expected long delays.
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Seattle saw a slog of a commute Tuesday morning as rain started up again in the city, but it was only the beginning of a weeklong precipitation pattern expected to drench the lowlands and cover the mountains in feet of new snow.

The National Weather Service expected 1 to 2 feet and up to 3 feet of snow in some areas above 2,500 feet in elevation north and south along the Cascade range, falling throughout Tuesday and into Wednesday. A winter storm warning was in effect for the higher elevations of every county from Whatcom south to Thurston.

In response, the state Department of Transportation (WSDOT) warned that travelers should plan to go slow or not go at all, and the slow going started up early Tuesday.

Interstate 90 over Snoqualmie Pass required chains throughout the morning as snow piled up on the highway, but WSDOT eased it to only a traction tire requirement eastbound (and advisory westbound) after noon. Also this week, WSDOT got busy alerting drivers to the $500 fine they could face if they fail to carry and use chains when required.

RELATED: Southbound I-5 in Tacoma blocked after crash involving 2 trucks

On U.S. 2 over Stevens Pass, a chain requirement was in effect after noon, but the highway was blocked in both directions farther west, where a tractor trailer had jacknifed near Skykomish. Washington State Patrol Trooper H. Axtman tweeted that drivers could detour through Skykomish to get around the wreck.

North of Snohomish County and along the Washington coast, a wind advisory was in effect with gusts expected to reach up to 50 mph.

NWS forecast maps showed Seattle set to record a third of an inch of rain throughout the day Tuesday, with more coming during the night.

While Tuesday and early Wednesday were expected to bring the brunt of the week's rain and snow, the rest of the week and into the weekend showed signs of ongoing precipitation. Several more inches of snow was forecast through Sunday at local ski areas, according to snow-forecast.com, while rain was in every day's forecast through Monday for Seattle, per the NWS.

All the snowfall in the mountains was welcome news for skiers, boarders and perhaps most of all, the ski resorts patiently waiting to open for the season.

Stevens Pass Resort and Mt. Baker Ski Area both announced Wednesday openings, while the Summit At Snoqualmie announced it would open on Friday. All three expected only partial openings, though heavier than expected snowfall could change that.

Crystal Mountain managed to open Nov. 23 thanks to hefty snowmaking efforts, but looked likely to open more terrain if Tuesday's snowfall proved as heavy as expected.

Drivers heading over mountain passes should be prepared for unexpected closures, or just slow going. They should carry chains, (although chain requirements don't usually apply to all-wheel-drive vehicles), as well as a first aid kit, warm clothes and blankets, water, snacks, a phone charger, spare tire and necessary tools to change it, a flashlight and spare batteries, ice scraper, jumper cables and flares (usually included in roadside emergency kits), WSDOT advised.

You can find more winter driving tips and information here, and check pass travel conditions here.

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