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200,000 lose power in Seattle ice storm; flights disrupted

wsdot.wa.gov

This traffic camera image shows crews responding to an overturned car on State Route 599 north of Seattle, Wash., on Thursday.

SEATTLE -- A day after a major Pacific storm covered Washington state in snow, the Seattle area on Thursday dealt with a new menace: an ice storm that shut down the airport and toppled trees -- cutting power to some 200,000 homes and businesses, cutting off roads and taking the life of a man on his ATV.

Some commuters gingerly tried to make it to work as a freezing rain iced over roads, but others stayed home.

Several major roads were cut off by fallen trees weighed down by ice and snow. Near Issaquah, a suburb east of Seattle, a man on his ATV was killed by a falling tree, NBC affiliate KING5.com reported.


Gov. Christine Gregoire declared a state of emergency by late morning, a move that would allow her to deploy National Guard troops if needed.

The National Weather Service used the Emergency Alert System to break into Thursday morning broadcasts with an ice storm warning until noon for the Seattle area and southwest Washington. That was later extended to 2 p.m.

A mix of snow and ice was expected Thursday afternoon and overnight before warmer temperatures bring rain and the possibility of flooding.

Time lapse video shows the snow falling Wednesday on Seattle.

Downed trees also led to the outages, and many customers might not see power back for days.

"We think it will be 3 to 4 days … maybe longer," Puget Sound Energy said on its Facebook page, adding that it was dealing with 500 outage locations.

Sea-Tac Airport closed early Thursday so that its three runways could be de-iced. Two runways had reopened by midday, but many airlines reported flight cancellations.

Lines hundreds of people long snaked around nearly every ticket counter, with many passengers on their cell phones as they tried furiously to rebook their flights. Reader-boards showed the vast majority of flights canceled or delayed.

At Snoqualmie Pass just east of Seattle, Interstate 90 closed Thursday morning for avalanche control.

Freezing rain and ice pellets caused numerous accidents in the Seattle area, where drivers are mostly inexperienced with driving in snow or ice. The last widespread freezing rain in Seattle was in December 1996, said meteorologist Jeff Michalski at the Weather Service office in Seattle.

On Wednesday, downtown Seattle saw two inches of snow but Olympia, the state capital, got 11 inches and other areas were also in double digits.

The Washington State Patrol said it responded to more than 700 accidents on Wednesday.

It may not have been the disaster some were predicting, but the winter storm shut down much of the region. NBC's Miguel Almaguer reports.

Thursday's forecast was for a mix of snow and rain, and the Weather Service warned that urban and small stream flooding was possible Friday, when another, albeit milder, storm was expected to hit the state. Rain and temperatures in the 40s would start melting snow on the ground.

STORY: Child drowns, mom presumed dead in storm

The National Weather Service also issued flood warnings for several Oregon rivers and several roads were closed because of flooding in Salem and nearby Turner and Scio.

Authorities called for voluntary evacuations of the town of Mapleton, Ore., which has about 1,000 residents, and some nearby areas because roads are expected to flood.

Don Ryan / AP

Downtown business are protected from flood waters with sandbags in Scio, Ore., on Thursday.

Residents of 22 homes were urged to evacuate near tiny Lewisburg, Ore., about 80 miles south of Portland, due to unstable land and a landslide.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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