SEATTLE (AP) — Residents of the Pacific Northwest took to neighborhood hills with skis, sleds or even just laundry baskets Saturday to celebrate an unusual dump of snow in a region more accustomed to winter rain.
Some areas received more than a foot of snow, and meteorologists say more is on the way early next week. Hundreds of flights were canceled in Seattle and Portland, and heavy snow drifts closed major highways in eastern Washington. Around 50,000 people lost power.
Residents cleared out grocery store shelves and left work early Friday afternoon as the storm arrived. More than a foot of snow (30.5 cm) was recorded by Saturday morning in some areas, including on the Olympic Peninsula, in the nation’s latest bout of winter weather.
In Tacoma, hundreds of people turned out for a snowball fight in a park after someone who lives nearby suggested it on Facebook. They took cover behind picnic tables and used sleds as shields.
„This is a perfect morning to bundle up and play in the snow, but stay off the roads if possible,” Gov. Jay Inslee wrote on Twitter.
In central Washington, blowing snow and drifts 3 to 4 feet (0.9 to 1.2 meters) deep forced the closure of U.S. 2 and Interstate 90. The Grant County Sheriff’s Office warned that snow drifts were blocking many roads. Airports in eastern Washington closed, and numerous car crashes were reported.
„Snow conditions are worsening minute to minute, so don’t expect travel conditions to improve,” the sheriff’s office wrote.
The National Weather Service said additional snow could fall Saturday, and another storm was expected early next week.
About 180 people spent the night at an emergency shelter set up at Seattle Center, with officials going out again on Saturday to get other homeless residents to safety. Inslee declared a state of emergency over the storm. The state transportation department said crews had to clear several trees that had fallen across roads in the Tacoma area.
In Portland, a tanker truck slid into a sport-utility vehicle on an interchange between Interstates 5 and 84 on Saturday, blocking the ramp for hours.
Other parts of the country were also wrestling with difficult weather. Residents of Hawaii were bracing for coastal flooding amid extreme surf predictions. A California man died in rough waters off of Maui on Friday, Hawaii News Now reported.
In California, more than 120 visitors and staff members were rescued Thursday after being trapped by up to 7 feet (2 meters) of snow in a Sierra Nevada resort for five days.
Another winter storm was on the way to the region.
In Yosemite National Park, as many as 50 housing structures near Half Dome Village were damaged by trees toppled during a snowstorm earlier this week, displacing more than 160 employees who provide food, lodging and other services for visitors.
Elsewhere, more than 148,000 customers lost power in Michigan following days of freezing rain. The Consumers Energy utility said power would be restored by late Sunday.
In Washington, about 50,000 people lost power. In Seattle, snowfall from Sunday and Monday lingered into the week as below-freezing temperatures gripped the area. A 59-year-old man died Thursday from exposure at a Seattle light rail station.
Residents in Portland and Seattle who are more accustomed to rain than snow waited in long lines to buy shovels and de-icer.
Autumn Sang was at a mobbed grocery store in Tualatin, Oregon, on Friday stocking up for the coming storm for herself and her neighbor, who is disabled and doesn’t have a car.
Sang said she had never seen the store so crowded. She grew up in southern Oregon, where snow is more common, and wasn’t fazed by the forecast.
„I love it. I’m excited about it,” she said of the snow. „I think that Portlanders, most of them are city people and they come from a lot of different places, so they’re not so used to it. It’s like, ‘Use your brain! If you don’t have to go out, don’t go out.’ „
Associated Press journalists Lisa Baumann in Seattle, Amanda Lee Myers in Los Angeles and Gillian Flaccus in Portland, Oregon, contributed to this report.
Forecasters expect 1 to 2 inches of snow in Seattle on Sunday and into early Monday, and slightly more in outlying areas. Monday morning will bring a brief break before the snow is expected to return and continue into Tuesday.
Local and state officials have warned people to stay off the roads whenever possible and bus service has been significantly scaled back. With fewer people commuting over the weekend, the changes have been a manageable setback for many. But the possibility of snowy conditions stretching into Monday and Tuesday threatens to disrupt work and school across the region.
Most areas of Seattle woke up to at least 4 inches of snow Saturday morning, with more in some parts of north and south Seattle. Outside the city, about 8 inches of snow piled up at Sea-Tac International Airport and the storm hammered the Olympic Peninsula with more than a foot of snow near Sequim.
Snow tapered off in much of the region Saturday afternoon and is expected to restart Sunday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service. Temperatures in the teens overnight Saturday could cause black ice on roads.
Forecasters expect 1 to 2 inches of snow in Seattle on Sunday and into early Monday and slightly more in outlying areas. Monday morning will bring a brief break before the snow returns and continues into Tuesday, the National Weather Service predicts. Forecasters say it’s too soon to say just how much snow may arrive Monday and Tuesday.
The snowfall at Sea-Tac alone has already exceeded Seattle’s annual average, and this has been the city’s snowiest February since 1949. That year, 13.1 inches of snow were recorded in February. As of Saturday morning, Seattle had more than 10 inches of snow this month, the Weather Service said.
Kids and adults alike took advantage of the snow to sled and ski down neighborhood streets and build snowmen Saturday.On the Alki waterfront, Heather Moir and her husband Brandon Stogsdill attracted a lot of attention — and photographers — with a more unusual snow sculpture: a life-size sea lion.“What do you think?” Stogsdill asked, standing back to survey the creation as a sharp wind blew in off the water. “Should we have bigger flippers on the front?”It was meant to be a dinosaur, he explained. But Moir pointed out that it looked more like a seal, so they decided to run with the pinniped theme. With its arched back, rock eyes and twigs for whiskers, the finished product looked remarkably true to form — except for the color.Baltimore natives Ian and Colleen Robbins spent much of their Saturday walking around West Seattle, stopping for coffee and taking pictures of snowmen and other wintry figures.“We joked that the population increased because of all the snowmen,” Colleen said.On Northeast 70th Street, young people made the most of a road closure.“It’s really fun. You can go super fast,” 14-year-old Gunnar Rindil said as he held his sled. He was looking forward to more opportunities, with more snow in the forecast and the possibility of school closures.The prospect of makeup days in June didn’t bother him.“It’s more fun sledding,” he said.Meanwhile, officials worked to clear roads and prepare for more snow.Gov. Jay Inslee expanded an emergency declaration he issued Friday to exempt more drivers delivering emergency supplies from certain rules about how many hours they can be on the road.
Seattle Public Schools hadn’t indicated Saturday whether schools would be closed Monday.
Bus riders faced significant route reductions that will continue at least through Sunday, possibly longer.
King County Metro is running just 60 core routes and shuttles on its Emergency Snow Network. Overnight Friday, dozens of buses got stuck, the agency said. Other buses are being repaired due to damage caused by snow chains and other issues.
Metro spokesman Jeff Switzer said it was too soon to speculate what service will look like for the Monday morning commute, but ongoing reduced service is possible.
“We’re seeing a string of days ahead of us where freezing temperatures are going to persist” and road conditions may not improve, Switzer said. “That signals we are looking at reduced service for a while. What level of service that is, we’re going to have to take it day to day.”
The county will review conditions at 10 a.m. each day to plan for the following day.
Sound Transit’s Link light rail operated on its usual schedule Saturday, as crews worked to keep stations clear of snow and several trains ran overnight to keep tracks clear, spokesman Scott Thompson said. ST Express buses are running on snow routes with some delays.
Sounder commuter trains are expected to run Monday morning, Thompson said. That could change if conditions worsen, particularly if freezing temperatures interfere with switches on the tracks. Thompson said the agency won’t know with certainty whether Sounder service can continue until the early morning hours of Monday.
“You’re trying to plan as best you can, but you really don’t know until you get there,” Thompson said.
The storm has also strained the agencies that provide services for the more than a thousand people in King County who live outside. A 59-year-old man who may have been homeless died from exposure at the Sodo light-rail station this week.
More than 170 people stayed at the city’s overnight shelter in Seattle Center on Friday night, “well above capacity,” said Will Lemke, spokesman for the city’s Navigation Team, which does outreach to people living outside. Along with existing shelters, the city has opened Garfield Community Center as a shelter for adults, families with children and people living in vehicles.
“If you want to be inside, we will make it work,” Lemke said.
Daniel Malone, executive director of the Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC), was preparing Saturday afternoon to drive around picking up DESC employees who were having trouble reaching work at shelters and other programs.
As housing costs have increased in Seattle, DESC’s hundreds of employees live farther from the core of the city, he said.
If conditions don’t let up in coming days, the agency may seek public help transporting its employees to work, Malone said. “These are folks who are really dedicated to their jobs, but you wonder how long people will be able to sustain that extraordinary effort.”
Malone encouraged people who are concerned about someone they see sleeping outside to ask if the person is OK or needs help, and to call 211 to find out about available shelters.
Seattle Times staff reporters Sandi Doughton and Steve Miletich contributed to this story.
The biggest snowstorm since February 2017 slammed Seattle at the start of the weekend.
Snow totals ranged from 6-10 inches in the area, including 7.9 inches of snowfall recorded at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, as the storm dumped heavy snow along the coast of Washington and Oregon since Friday afternoon.
Around 4 inches covered Portland, Oregon.
The last snowstorm of this magnitude slammed Seattle early in February two years prior, when the airport recorded 7.1 inches.
More than 60,000 people lost power during the blizzard, which triggered major travel disruptions including hundreds of canceled flights and the closure of a 20-mile stretch of Interstate 90 in central Washington due to spin-outs and poor visibility.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency on Friday ahead of the snowstorm.
„A powerful storm system diving southward brought heavy snow to much of Seattle over the past 24 hours,” said AccuWeather Meteorologist Brett Rossio.
„The storm is drifting away and will continue to unload heavy snow on the Sierra Nevada in California into Sunday, but left the Seattle area with 6-10 inches of snow in its wake,” Rossio said.
This storm pushed the February snowfall total at the airport to 10.6 inches, making this February Seattle’s snowiest since 1949. A total of 13.1 inches fell that month.
The Seattle area faces another one-two punch of snowstorms from late Sunday into Tuesday of next week.
Snow coats tree branches in the Pinehurst neighborhood of Seattle on Feb. 9, 2019. (Instagram photo/Shannon Pitton/@shantwin55)
Snow in Seattle on Feb. 9, 2019. (Twitter photo/Peter Billing@PBillingMD)
A Seattle resident captures an image of snow covering trees on Feb. 9, 2019. (Instagram photo/Hannah Schnabel @hannielynn1)
„We have about 8 inches of snow here. More problematic is the ice – cable lines are down all over the neighborhood,” a resident of Thurston County, Washington, wrote on social media on Feb 9, 2019. (Instagram photo/@Robin Bond/@diyrobin)
LOS ANGELES (AP) — More than 120 visitors and staff who were snowbound in a Sierra Nevada resort for five days have been freed, authorities said Friday.
Up to 7 feet (2 meters) of snow trapped the guests and staff at Montecito Sequoia Lodge in Sequoia National Forest starting Sunday following a storm, U.S. Forest Service spokesman Alicia Embrey said.
Crews had to travel by snowmobile to get to the lodge in the mountains east of Fresno on Wednesday morning, when they ensured everyone was safe. They returned Thursday with additional supplies, she said.
Heavy equipment and crews then cleared more than 20 fallen trees and 8 miles (13 kilometers) of deep snow on the road leading to the lodge to allow guests and staff to finally leave the property on Thursday night.
Though some got bored during the snow-in, Embrey said the lodge had enough food, fuel and general supplies to keep everyone comfortable.
„Physically they were fine,” Embrey said. „They were obviously happy to go home.”
Joel Keeler posted several videos of his experience at the lodge on Twitter starting Tuesday, when the snow was still coming down and guests learned they still weren’t going to be able to leave.
The next day, he posted: „It’s cold, clear and beautiful, but we’re still snowed in!”
„They are working hard to clear the road … Still a lot of driveway left tho!” he wrote.
On Thursday, he posted that guests were finally going to go home, sharing video of the cleared roadway and a caravan of dozens of snow-capped vehicles snaking their way out next to towering snowbanks.
The snow that trapped the guests began falling Friday, blanketing the area with between 4 to 7 feet (1 to 2 meters) by Saturday night, Embrey said, adding that roads to the lodge were closed by Saturday afternoon.
Meanwhile, another winter storm is on the way to the region.
Meteorologists issued a winter storm warning for the southern Sierra Nevada starting Friday afternoon, predicting more snow, high winds and potentially hazardous conditions including falling trees and slick roads.
The Forest Service urged visitors to travel with extreme caution.
„The most recent storm has left very little room to maneuver and nowhere to put new snow,” Ned Kelleher, chief ranger for Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks, said in a statement.
He added: „The trees are snow and ice laden and the accumulating new snow will cause failures.”
Follow Amanda Lee Myers on Twitter at https://twitter.com/AmandaLeeAP
New Zealand Defence Force firefighters combat the Richmond fire near Nelson, New Zealand
By Alison Bevege
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Strong winds on Sunday are expected to fan forest fires that have been burning for a week through New Zealand’s South Island, forcing thousands of people from their homes, with more residents expected to flee, officials said.
The Pigeon Valley fire covers 2,300 ha (5,700 acres) with a 25 km (15 mile) perimeter, NZ Civil Defence said in a statement on its website.
No deaths have been reported and only one home destroyed.
„There is some concern about predicted high winds this afternoon, which are expected to test the control lines,” the agency said.
Early on Sunday, 155 firefighters were battling the blaze on the ground with air support from 23 helicopters and 3 fixed wing planes, the agency said, making it the largest aerial firefight on record in New Zealand.
Up to 3,000 people have been forced to leave the Wakefield and Pigeon Valley areas, NZ Civil Defence Controller Roger Ball told a Saturday news conference on Saturday.
More people were likely to be forced from their homes on Sunday.
New Zealand Red Cross Communications Manager Ellie van Baaren said evacuees were tired and frustrated.
„When you have to leave your home and in some cases your livestock and animals and you don’t know what’s become of them, and you’re staying with friends and family, then it’s an uncertain situation for everybody,” she told Reuters by telephone.
Much of the affected area south of Nelson was used for forestry but it also has many small farms. Some livestock has also been moved to safety.
Fires started on Monday and Tuesday and quickly spread. On Wednesday, authorities declared a state of emergency.
Hundreds of volunteer and professional firefighters, police, civil defense and military personnel are battling the fires.
(Reporting by Alison Bevege; Editing by Robert Birsel)
Astronomers have long suspected that the colossal Andromeda galaxy would, in billions years, collide with our humble Milky Way.
The collision was forecast to happen in some 3.9 billion years. But after astronomers analyzed new data captured by the European Space Agency’s star-surveying satellite Gaia, they now put the imminent date at 4.5 billion years — so 600 million years later than initially expected.
The event, detailed in The Astrophysical Journal, is characterized as a „swipe” rather than a direct collision. The end result would be a merger of the galaxies into one, monstrous galaxy.
„This finding is crucial to our understanding of how galaxies evolve and interact,” Timo Prusti, ESA Gaia Project Scientist who had no role in the study, said in a statement.
Image: ESA/Gaia (star motions); NASA/Galex (background image); R. van der Marel, M. Fardal, J. Sahlmann (STScI)
While of immense importance to our corner of the universe, this event will be of little importance to Earth: By then, our aging sun will have grown brighter and likely have boiled the oceans while burning away our protective atmosphere.
To arrive at their conclusions about the future galactic meeting, scientists observed how stars moved within two „nearby” galaxies that are passing each other — the Andromeda and Triangulum galaxies — to forecast how Andromeda will ultimately travel through intergalactic space.
„We combed through the Gaia data to identify thousands of individual stars in both galaxies, and studied how these stars moved within their galactic homes,” said study coauthor Mark Fardal in a statement. „While Gaia primarily aims to study the Milky Way, it’s powerful enough to spot especially massive and bright stars within nearby star-forming regions – even in galaxies beyond our own.”
Image: E. Patel, G. Besla (University of Arizona), R. van der Marel (STScI)
When Andromeda does eventually meet, or „swipe,” the Milky Way, it doesn’t mean chaos and destruction will ensue.
„That event will be less dramatic than it sounds, however,” noted The New Timescosmos reporter Dennis Overbye. „Because galaxies are mostly empty space, they will pass through each other like ghosts.”