Historic winter storm likely to blast Northwest

A potentially historic winter storm is forecast to dump heavy snow across the Pacific Northwest Wednesday, probably wreaking travel havoc in areas not used to so much of the white stuff.
Unlike most Northwest storms, snow may fall even at sea level, including in Seattle and Portland.
Up to a foot of snow could blanket the Seattle area, a city that typically sees about 6 inches a year. If 10 inches are measured, it would match the third-biggest snowstorm on record in Seattle, according to National Weather Servicemeteorologist Johnny Burg in Seattle.
The most recent big snowstorm in Seattle was in November 1985, when 7.8 inches fell, according to the weather service.
The storm and its heavy snowfall could force roads to close in the passes of the Cascades, clog streets with snow and force flight delays and cancellations, AccuWeather meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said.
Near the coast, he said, the snow will be heavy, wet and difficult to shovel. The combination of the snow and gusty winds could down trees, taking power lines with them.
Light snow prompted some school districts in Washington and Oregon to close or delay opening Tuesday, and delays or closings are likely again Wednesday. Transportation Department trucks were out spraying de-icer and sanding roadways.
The weather service placed winter storm watches and warnings for most of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. Several feet of snow could fall in the Cascades and northern Rockies, where avalanche danger is high.
Later Wednesday and into Thursday, the snow should end, Burg said, but rain will begin to fall across western Washington, potentially leading to river flooding this week because of the rain and snow melt.
If the past is any hint, several inches of snow could paralyze Seattle. The city owns relatively few snowplows, and Seattle drivers are mostly inexperienced with driving in snow or ice.
"Snow is beautiful to look at, but it's kind of a hindrance for us to work and commute," said John Lee, 23, who works in Seattle and lives in Mill Creek. "The snowstorm is going to cause a little bit more havoc and chaos on the road."
The cold, raw weather isn't confined to the Northwest: In central California, citrus farmers were nervous about a hard freeze that's hit the nation's largest fresh-fruit market this week. The weather service said temperatures dropped to as low as 19 degrees early Tuesday, and hard freeze warnings were in effect again for early Wednesday morning.
"It will be a week before we see what damage there may or may not be," said Dean Thonesen of Sun West Fruit, east of Fresno.

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