Weekend snowstorm leaves city deep in it
December 22, 2008
By Chantelle Lusebrink
The first day of winter arrived over the weekend, and it came with a vengeance.
New snowfall blanketed the region, piling up several more inches atop an icy coating that already had wreaked havoc on the roads and prompted a run on stores for emergency supplies and last-minute holiday gifts. But a high wind warning for Dec. 20 and 21 proved unfounded, and with the reduced risk of falling trees came a reduced likelihood of power outages.
Unlike the devastating 2006 storm that knocked out power for days, this one was predicted well in advance. By Dec. 18, city maintenance crews, police and Eastside Fire & Rescue units all had prepared for a big blow. The blow didn’t show, only more snow. But by that time, many residents had heeded warnings to limit their travel and stock up on supplies. And city employees were out in force plowing and sanding roads, placing emergency equipment and working longer shifts.
Only one problem was reported, said city Public Information Officer Autumn Monahan. A tree fell across West Lake Sammamish Parkway Southeast at 184th Avenue Southeast, but it was cleared in 30 minutes.
Otherwise, there was no damage to city property other than a couple of broken pipes at Gibson Hall and one broken water meter, Monahan said. The city had received nine calls to check water service to homes where pipes had frozen; those lines were checked and the residents were advised to call a plumber.
Ron Little, general manager for the Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District, said residents had called about frozen pipes, but not in overwhelming numbers. Most of the frozen pipe incidents happened Dec. 19, when his staff went out to turn off water lines in order to prevent flooding about a dozen times, he said.
All major city streets were open, with road crews clearing secondary streets as time was available.
Many residents stayed home from work. But that didn’t prevent them from going to the grocery store, said Front Street Market manager Lori Steendahl.
“It’s so good for business, it’s just unreal,” she said. “The sad thing is, nobody can go to work, so they stay home and eat.”
Steendahl said the store’s employees have been able to get to work, most on foot, and the store hadn’t run out of anything except Duraflame fire logs.
“We will get more on Wednesday,” she said. “And we have lots of firewood.”
The manager of the Issaquah QFC store referred a call to company spokeswoman Kristin Maas, who said all their stores had been busy selling staple items, like bottled water, milk, bread and soup.
“We are selling a lot of baking supplies,” she said. “People are stuck at home, so they might as well bake.”
For the most part, QFC stores have had only intermittent shortages of certain items and most employees have been able to get to work.
“Our trucks are running late, but they are running,” Maas said.
At Grange Supply, 145 N.E. Gilman Blvd., General Manager Gary Olson said the cooperative had a record business day Dec. 20. It sold an entire 1,000-gallon tank of propane that day, and did a brisk business in fire pellets, pressed-wood fire logs, animal feed, gasoline and diesel fuel.
“We were the only ones with diesel,” Olson said.
On Dec. 22, the gasoline tanks were running low, but he was expecting a Cenex delivery that day or the next — even though the truck was coming over Snoqualmie Pass from Moses Lake.
Gas stations on the Sammamish Plateau ran out of gas during the storm because delivery trucks could not reach them. Employee Tom Baas, of the Klahanie Shell station, said gasoline ran out there Dec. 21 and he didn’t know when to expect more.
The same was true for the Shell station at Northwest Gilman Boulevard and state Route 900. Manager Rod Kennison said the distributor is making deliveries but is far behind schedule.
“They deliver a lot at night,” he said. “When it gets real slippery, they can’t take the trailer and we only get one load at a time. I got one Friday, but it only lasted until Saturday afternoon.”
The Issaquah Chamber of Commerce had not received any calls from member businesses regarding the weather, but those contacted by The Press reported mixed effects.
“It has been OK. A bit slower than usual,” said Jene Kramer, owner of The Boarding House restaurant in Gilman Village. “It depends on the day. If it is the day right after the storm, it tends to be slow. But the day after that, all hell breaks loose. People get cabin fever and they want to get out.”
At Nault Jewelers, owner Christine Nault said the store was busy Dec. 22.
“It’s Christmas, so it should be busy,” she said. “But maybe not as busy as it would be if it hadn’t snowed.”
Issaquah Police Chief Paul Ayers said the weekend weather was remarkable for causing no significant problems for his department. There were no collisions or stuck vehicles to deal with.
“Public Works has just done a great job keeping streets clear,” he said. “It helped a lot that people were listening to the advice of not to drive.”
While some parts of the region received up to a foot of snow, the weekend storm did not set records. National Weather Service data for the Seattle area show the largest single day’s snowfall happening Feb. 2, 1916, when 21.5 inches clobbered residents. The second-largest one-day accumulation came Jan. 13, 1950, with 20 inches.
By contrast, on Dec. 20 and 21 this year, only 3 inches fell each day — at least according to official records. Unofficial reports to the weather service show 4 inches in Issaquah, and 6 inches in Seattle.
Nonetheless, the city’s seven sanding trucks were busy. Crews of 12 to 14 employees each were working 12-hour shifts, both on the roads and in the Public Works Operations shops.
A forecast of snow and low temperatures prompted a review of emergency preparedness plans for city departments, plus Puget Sound Energy. All the trucks had their fuel tanks topped off, chainsaws were tuned up and signs were prepared for road closures.
If needed, emergency shelters will be opened at the senior center and community center, Monahan said. Each can operate on auxiliary power.
Residents are advised to check the city’s 1700 AM radio station for updates, or see the city’s Web site at www.ci.issaquah.wa.us. Recorded information also is available on the city’s emergency phone line, 837-3028.
Eastside Fire & Rescue workers didn’t have their hands full until Dec. 21, according to Josie Williams, public information officer.
Those calls were related to a phone system outage in the High Point, Snoqualmie and Echo Glen areas, frozen pipes and minor flooding, and fire alarms going off at apartment and business complexes, she said.
Waste Management and Allied Waste cancelled collection services for several days. Conditions continued to be a problem for workers. When service returns, they will make a priority to get to commercials businesses, restaurants and hospitals first, as public health is a high priority.
Those residents whose garbage collection was missed may set out twice the regular amount of garbage, recycling and/or yard waste at no additional charge for the next regularly scheduled collection day.
Big-O Tires service center on Northwest Gilman Boulevard was hit hard with customer requests. Customers coming in over the weekend wanting to purchase studded tires or chains were simply out of luck, said Jamie Ingle, store manager. The store was sold out of both and not expecting another shipment to arrive until after Christmas.
Road crews from the county’s Road Services Division worked throughout the weekend and continue to work to make roadways passable in unincorporated areas, like May Valley, Southeast Issaquah-Hobart Road and others.
All available employees at Clark’s Towing and Repair were on-hand through Dec. 22 and its phones were ringing off the hook with calls from U.S. Postal Service employees who had gotten stuck on one of the region’s various mountains or a driver asking to be towed off of a tree stump on Tiger Mountain.
“This is our busiest time of year,” Kathy Clark said. “We’re getting calls from people who have slid off their driveway, are not able to make it into their driveway, or those who have gotten stuck in a ditch.”
The company rescued one man, and his vehicle, that had run over a piece of a snowplow, which blew out his transmission. People should try to avoid large chunks of ice in the road, she cautioned, because you never know what is in them.