Issaquah on ice: Snowstorm snarls traffic, prompts school closures

November 30, 2010

Ryder Marin, 9, of Issaquah, starts to spill after becoming airborne on the Issaquah Community Center hillside Nov. 23. ‘All the snow comes straight up in my face and I can’t see very well,’ he said. By Tim Pfarr

The nightmare occurred long before Christmas — and before Thanksgiving.

Issaquah and the Puget Sound region slid to a halt during a fall snowstorm Nov. 22. The storm snarled commutes for Issaquah residents and prompted road crews to toil through Thanksgiving to clear streets. The poor conditions interrupted the regional transit system and left riders huddled in bus shelters. The fallout sent shoppers scrambling to stores for emergency supplies and Thanksgiving staples.

The mercury dipped into the teens and 20s — record cold temperatures — in the days after the storm and turned roads icy.

“People were very understanding of the situation,” Issaquah Police Patrol Cmdr. Scott Behrbaum said. “I think a lot of people were just trying to get home Monday night.”

Some motorists abandoned vehicles and turned road shoulders along Highlands Drive Northeast, Newport Way Northwest and Southeast Black Nugget Road into impromptu parking lots. Police impounded more than 30 vehicles in travel lanes as conditions deteriorated Nov. 22.

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Crews used more than 600 tons of sand during snowstorm

November 30, 2010

NEW — 8 a.m. Nov. 30, 2010

City road crews used more than 600 tons of sand to keep Issaquah streets passable during the recent fall snowstorm.

The sand has replaced snow along road medians and shoulders a week after snow blanketed the Puget Sound region.

Bret Heath, city Public Works Operations and emergency management director, said crews plan to sweep and collect the sand throughout December. The department then screens debris from the grit and plans to use the sand again if road conditions deteriorate.

“We recycle as much of it as we can,” Heath said. “We’ll pick up it up, store it, screen it and reuse it, either for sandbags or for sanding again.”

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Snowfall offers early test for road crews

November 23, 2010

The snowfall the Issaquah area received in recent days served as a practice run for city and King County road crews, not to mention commuters.

The extended forecast calls for a harsh winter. La Niña conditions could mean more snow in the months ahead — a lot more — and snowplows could turn into a familiar site on local roads.

In the days before the snowflakes start to fall, the Issaquah Public Works Operations Department and the King County Road Services Division ready equipment to mobilize if conditions should require roads to be plowed and sanded.

Bret Heath, city Public Works Operations and emergency management director, said residents should monitor conditions if the forecast includes snow.

“Making a decision to drive in snow is making a decision to drive in a hazardous condition,” he said. “If you don’t have to, think real hard about whether you really have to drive. Take some public transit, walk to public transit if you can or, better yet, stay put.”

Meanwhile, emergency planners prepare plans to alert Issaquah residents through the city radio station, 1700-AM, emergency information phone line and a section of the municipal website dedicated to winter weather conditions.

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Issaquah, King County road crews prep for snowfall

November 20, 2010

NEW — 5 p.m. Nov. 20, 2010

Snow could dust the Issaquah area Sunday.

National Weather Service meteorologists in Seattle forecast a 40 percent chance of snow showers during the day Sunday, plus a 50 percent chance of snow showers Sunday night and Monday. The forecast calls for accumulation of less than a half-inch, and low temperatures in the 20s.

The outlook has prompted the Issaquah Public Works Operations Department and the King County Road Services Division to ready snow equipment to mobilize if the conditions require roads to be plowed and sanded.

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Issaquah braces for rain-soaked winter, creek floods

November 2, 2010

City completed projects to reduce risk since last flood

Mike Crossley (yellow vest) works in the HAM radio communication station during a Community Emergency Response Team flood drill. By Autumn Monahan

January rain turned placid Issaquah Creek into a debris-filled torrent in early 2009 — and emergency planners hope fresh memories of the flood prompt residents to prepare for the rain-soaked winter on the horizon.

Long before fall rain blanketed the area, Issaquah and King County emergency planners had prepared to respond to Issaquah Creek flooding.

Meteorologists predict La Niña conditions — colder-than-normal temperatures and greater-than-normal rain- and snowfall — in the months ahead. The combination has emergency planners concerned about rain-gorged Issaquah Creek and the potential for disaster.

“If you look at Issaquah Creek now, you think, ‘Oh, that’s a nice, pretty little creek.’ It can turn into a roaring monster pretty quick,” Bret Heath, city Public Works Operations and emergency management director, said last week.

The city has completed a series of flood-control projects in the 21 months since the most recent flood, including a high-profile floodplain restoration effort at Squak Valley Park North.

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City prepares for earthquake aftermath

October 12, 2010

A dry-erase board at the city Emergency Operations Center lists mock local road closures as city employees handle emergency scenarios during the two-day regional earthquake drill. By Greg Farrar

The disaster — a magnitude 6.7 earthquake — struck the region less than 48 hours earlier, during rush hour at 7:54 a.m. on a Tuesday.

The temblor triggered landslides on steep slopes, damaged Interstate 90 through Issaquah, snapped mains and compromised the drinking water supply, and toppled cargo cranes at the Port of Seattle — a critical link to deliver food and fuel to Issaquah and the region.

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Leaders urge emergency preparedness

October 12, 2010

Issaquah Highlands residents gathered at Blakely Hall over pizza and soda late last month to prepare for a cataclysm.

The meeting, part of the statewide Map Your Neighborhood effort, brought together residents of a highlands neighborhood to prepare for the aftermath of a strong earthquake.

“What we found out with Katrina and the Kobe earthquake in Japan is that neighbors depend on neighbors,” Stuart Linscott, a highlands resident and Issaquah Citizen Corps Council board member, told the group.

Linscott and other corps members offer free education and training to organize Issaquah residents — neighborhood by neighborhood — for disasters.

Because only a handful of Eastside Fire & Rescue firefighters might be on duty in Issaquah at the time of a calamity, city and state officials encourage residents to take steps to prepare.

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City readies snow plan before flakes fall

November 24, 2009

City officials readied plans last week to keep key roads open when cold and precipitation turn Issaquah into a winter wonderland — and cover streets in ice and snow.

With less than a month until winter begins, and with snow blanketing higher elevations, officials prepared plans to alert Issaquah residents and deploy plows when weather turns foul. For drivers who need to venture out in snow, officials recommended checking the city radio station, 1700-AM, emergency information phone line — 837-3028 — and a section of the city Web site devoted to winter weather for updates about road and weather conditions.

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New Issaquah Creek flood gauge will eliminate a ‘blind spot’

November 24, 2009

City emergency planners will soon have a new tool to monitor rising flood waters: a new Issaquah Creek flood gauge. Read more

City Council OKs new Issaquah Creek flood gauge

November 23, 2009

NEW — 6 a.m. Nov. 23, 2009

City emergency planners will soon have a new tool to monitor rising flood waters: a new Issaquah Creek flood gauge.

Though workers will install the gauge early next year, the device will not be calibrated and ready until the next flood season. City Public Works Operations Director Bret Heath said the city would be able to collect data from the gauging station in the meantime.

Heath, who also serves as the city’s emergency management director, said the existing flood gauge arrangement has “a bit of a blind spot.” Heath said the new gauge should fill the gap.

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