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Winter whiteout

There were fewer traffic problems than expected in Kitsap’s first winter snow storm though one person was injured seriously in a traffic accident at the SR 3/Kitsap Mall off-ramp.

Many people were still on vacation when a moisture-laden, on-shore front crept east and north over Western Washington late Tuesday and into early Wednesday. Residents woke up to snow in their yards on New Year’s Eve day. Fortunately many didn’t have to worry about commuting.

Dustin Guy, a meteorologist at the Seattle office of the National Weather Service said the greater Kitsap Peninsula received everything from a “dusting to three or four inches.”

The snowfall averaged two inches in most places.

“It was nothing really heavy. Shelton started reporting flakes around 7 p.m. last night (Tuesday) and Seattle saw snow at about 10 p.m. Nothing really heavy anywhere,” Guy said.

Meteorologists predict it will continue to be cold in Western Washington, and there’s a chance that another on-shore front was moving in late Friday and today. Once it hits the cold air, more snow may fall, though it’s not known how much.

The lack of winds made recent storm more bearable, said officials.

Bret Bower of the NWS said it’s not going to get better.

On Friday, he said “It’s going to get colder in the coming days,” with more moisture meaning more snow and ice.

School was still out, so there were no school closings, said Central Kitsap School District officials.

Despite the fact many people didn’t have to work on Wednesday and Friday, there were still some folks on the road, and a few problems as Chico Towing’s half-dozen-plus drivers were kept busy pulling cars out of the ditch both days, said Linda Curtis, bookkeeper.

“Fortunately, a lot of people are not working today,” she said on Wednesday. “But we did pull out about 10 vehicles (in Kitsap) since last night. Many had problems getting on and off the freeway.”

Trooper Glen Tyrell said the Washington State Patrol responded to 23 minor collisions between midnight Monday and midnight Tuesday in the CK area. Numbers for Wednesday-Friday were up — 32 accidents, mostly spin-outs.

“Melting snow leaves water on roads, which freezes due to the low temperatures. This often creates ‘black ice’ which can lead to more accidents than the snow itself,” Tyrell said.

There was one minor and one major injury — unrelated to each other — but both at the SR 3/Kitsap Mall interchange.

“Most who were stuck in the snow required a simple tow,” he said.

Freeways were clear for Wednesday’s afternoon rush hour, but many surface streets — and on- and off-ramps — hadn’t been cleared yet by plows. Cars spun-out and occasionally got stuck in snow banks or ditches. Chico Towing, one of the county’s leading tow services, covers Belfair to Bainbridge Island. The local towing service has 20 tow trucks in its fleet based on Chico Way.

“Compared to last year, our first storm of this year was pretty mild,” said Curtis.

“Last year was more chaotic because the first storm didn’t happen during a vacation or holiday period,” Chico owner Stacey Tucker said.

New Year’s Day was fairly dry, with little moisture or ice on the roads. However, melting snow finally saturated roads Friday, and a Friday-morning feeze produced bumper-car conditions, according to the local branch of the National Weather Service (NWS) in Seattle.

There was more ice than bare, clean pavement on the roads for the Friday morning drive. For early-morning commuters it was touch-and-go from home driveway to work’s parking lot. Average freeway speeds were 35-45 mph, even with sand on the road. Those traveling faster often ended up spinning-out, facing the-other-way, in the median or right-lane ditch.

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