Sunday snow stuns Vashon Island

A wet snow began falling on Vashon and its weather-weary residents Sunday afternoon and kept up well into the night, knocking out power to a third of the Island and creating innumerable problems for drivers on Sunday and Monday.

Jim Didricksen, the county’s Vashon-based roads supervisor, called Sunday’s wet snow “the worst kind,” because it makes roads nearly as slippery as ice.

The main highway on the hill to and from the ferry was a problem for many drivers on Sunday, Didricksen noted, with a dozen or so cars pulled over to the side when road crews went through in the early evening.

Some of the cars did not want to wait behind the plow and got stuck, he noted, adding to the trouble on that stretch of road.

Didricksen, weary from recent storms, noted on Monday that Vashon’s sanding truck, grader and plow have been running 24 hours a day and an additional sanding truck has been running 12 hours a day.

South of Burton, an alder tree fell across the main highway on Sunday night, Didricksen said, and the highway needed to be closed and traffic detoured onto Wax Orchard Road.

On Monday morning, public school students and their families woke to the news that, because of the overnight power outage, school was delayed for two hours — on the first day of school after winter break.

The two-hour school delay allowed bus drivers to do their routes in the daylight, according to Ann Murray, who manages the district’s transportation.

There were downed power lines and many over-hanging trees Monday morning, Murray added, but most of the routes were “fairly OK.”

May Gerstle of Vashon-BePrepared estimated that phone service went out at 9 p.m. Sunday, affecting roughly 800 people who live on Vashon south of the Judd Creek bridge.

Phone service remained out Monday for many, according to Assistant Chief Mike Kirk at Vashon Island Fire & Rescue. He said those who live south of Burton needed to use their cell phones to call 911 in case of emergency on Monday afternoon.

As backup, ham radio operators were stationed at the Burton and Tahlequah fire stations to handle emergency communications and relay messages to Station 55 on Bank Road.

Phone service was restored by mid-Monday afternoon, Gerstle said.

At that time, 1,000 Island households were still without power, according to Patti McClements, community service supervisor at the Vashon Puget Sound Energy office.

A transmission line went down Sunday evening, McClements said, and two poles also went down, leaving 3,000 households and businesses in the dark.

Several trees also fell onto lines, creating scattered outages throughout the Island on Monday.

Crews hoped to have power restored by 9 p.m. Monday evening, she said, noting that many teams were working on the Island.

At the fire department, personnel were too busy on Monday to answer questions by deadline about the number of aid calls that had been received because of the latest storm.

And though the weather forecast does not call for snow, fairly warm temperatures and rain are expected to add more water to the soggy ground.

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