‘Twas the night before Christmas Eve and all through Lewis County, ice covered grounds from Packwood to the western boundary.
On Friday morning, residents throughout the area received notifications from the Lewis County Alerts system warning of the “treacherous” conditions, advising not to travel unless “absolutely necessary,” as local fire and emergency service responses were seeing delays in response times.
According to the National Weather Service (NWS) forecast office in Seattle, between one tenth and one quarter of an inch of ice accumulated overnight Thursday throughout most of Western Washington. Meteorologist Samantha Borth said Friday morning reports of the weather were still coming in throughout the morning. There has not been an ice storm of this magnitude in the region since 2012, she said.
A winter storm warning was put into effect between Thursday and Friday evenings. At the Chehalis-Centralia Airport, temperatures were logged in the 20s from 4:35 p.m. on Wednesday until 10:35 a.m. Friday. Borth said temperatures were set to warm throughout Friday afternoon and evening, reaching around 45 near midnight, bringing rain that may melt the ice.
Around 1,000 Lewis County Public Utility District (PUD) customers in the Ashford area and 400 in the Mossyrock area experienced power outages late Thursday night, said spokesperson Daniel Hargrove. Crews were able to restore power to those areas quickly, he said, with only 18 customers in Mossyrock still experiencing outages as of Friday morning.
“That was a blessing,” Hargrove said.
Centralia City Light did not see any outages as of Friday.
The Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT) closed U.S. Highway 12, state Route 508 and state Route 7 Friday morning, affecting travelers across Lewis County.
Lewis County Sheriff Rob Snaza said his office responded to well over a dozen vehicle accidents before 11 a.m. Friday morning, adding the roadways were in some of the worst conditions he’d witnessed as Lewis County Public Works was unable to reach many areas to distribute sand.
Public Works Director Josh Metcalf said after dispatching crews to work the roads around 4 a.m. Friday, his team made the decision to bring everyone back in, discovering the roads were unsafe for work trucks to travel.
Metcalf encouraged travelers to stay up-to-date on conditions by checking the county Public Works and Emergency Management Facebook pages. Even as weather warms throughout the day, he said the fewer people on the roads, the better.
“The less traffic, the more our crews can do our jobs and do them safely,” he said.
At around 2 a.m. Friday, crews with Public Works responded to a call about downed trees on Cispus Road in Randle when a tree fell on top of a county truck, totaling it, Metcalf said.
“That’s the risk of those call-outs in the middle of the night,” he said. “No injuries, but the truck was totaled. … The truck is replaceable.”
Borth cautioned with heavy rainfall and ice melt, NWS would be closely monitoring the Chehalis River throughout the next week as flood potential increased. Ross McDowell with Lewis County Emergency Management said the area was “unlikely” to see a major flooding event over the coming week, but that he’d also be closely monitoring the Cowlitz River at Randle as a combination of heavy rain and snow melt would cause it to rise.
McDowell said for the Chehalis, his biggest concern was the presence of “king tides” on the coast, which could cause backup of downstream flow in Grays Harbor County.
Lewis County Offices, including Superior Court, were shut down for the day Friday due to the inability of employees to travel.
Freezing rain, as opposed to snow, occurs when a warm atmospheric layer meets a cold layer before the surface, Borth said.
For Emergency Management’s Facebook page, head to https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100072464765616. Sign up for text or email alerts from the county at https://lewiscountywa.gov/departments/emergency-management/lewis-county-alert/.