Snow storm wallops Seattle, people rescued in Sierra Nevada
SEATTLE (AP) — A winter storm pounded Washington state Friday, forcing the cancellation of 200 flights in Seattle as officials worked to get people off the streets and into shelters during the nation’s latest bout with winter weather.
Snow began falling north of Seattle with some areas recording 8 inches (20 centimeters) of snow before it made its way south and enveloped the city.
Many businesses closed early so workers could get home.
Gov. Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency, saying everyone in the state should focus on staying safe.
“Forecasters predict this may be a storm unlike one we’ve seen in many years,” he said.
In California, more than 120 visitors and staff members were rescued after being snowbound in a Sierra Nevada resort for five days.
Up to 7 feet (2 meters) of snow had trapped the guests and staff beginning Sunday at Montecito Sequoia Lodge in Kings Canyon National Park, U.S. Forest Service spokesman Alicia Embrey said.
Crews had to travel by snowmobile to get to the lodge in mountains east of Fresno. 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 leave the property Thursday night.
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 were without electricity in Michigan following days of freezing rain. The Consumers Energy utility said power would be restored by late Sunday.
In Seattle, officials urged people to stay off the roads as traffic slowed to a standstill in some places because of the snow.
“Doesn’t matter where you’re going, expect it to take a very. long. time,” the Washington Department of Transportation said on Twitter.
Schools and colleges had canceled classes ahead of the storm expected to bring 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 centimeters) of snow. Scores of flights were cancelled or delayed at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
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.
Additional shelter space opened by city and county officials was filling up. The city was focused on people who are willing to come inside, Will Lemke, spokesman for the Seattle Human Services Department, told the Seattle Times.
“This is an extreme weather event, and offering shelter is the most important thing we can do right now,” he said.
Forecasters said Portland, Oregon, could get up to 4 inches (10 centimeters) of snow later in the day, with two more snowstorms expected to hit the city next week.
Residents in Portland and Seattle, two cities where rain is more common than snow in the winter, emptied grocery store shelves and 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.'”
AP journalists Amanda Lee Myers in Los Angeles and Gillian Flaccus in Portland, Oregon, contributed to this report.
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