Seattle Weather: Massive Snowstorm Strikes Northwest Pacific Region

on January 24, 2012 2:30 PM EST

Seattle Snow Storm 2012
Vehicles aboard the Seattle-Bainbridge Island ferry disembark during rush hour. Ferry traffic was significantly lighter due to the snow. A Pacific storm blanketed Seattle in more than 4 inches of snow on Wednesday, forcing school closures and airline flight cancellations and snarling traffic throughout a city more accustomed to rain than severe winter weather. (Photo: REUTERS/Cliff DesPeaux)

A highly anticipated snow storm hit Seattle and the surrounding area Wednesday, dumping over a foot of snow on the Northwest Pacific Region. Although the area saw less snow than expected, the unusual weather hit residents hard.

The Associated Press reports that tens of thousands of residents lost power and hundreds of cars slid off the icy roads. Major airlines cancelled their flights to and from the Seattle-Tacoma airport Wednesday. The expected snowstorm also prompted many schools to post delays and closures.

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One child was killed in the storm, the AP reports, when a car with the child was swept from a parking lot into an Oregon creek.

The icy rain and heavy snow also created dangerous road conditions, especially for drivers unaccustomed to navigating in the snow. There were 95 accidents recorded near the Wash. capitol on Wednesday, State Trooper Guy Gill told USA Today.

"For the first time in my career, I had to put chains on," he said. "You stay in the path laid down on the freeway."

Seattle and the surrounding Puget Sound cities are not accustomed to heavy snowfall, with the city averaging 5.9 inches annually. The city is not equipped with the necessary snowplows and road salts that are commonplace in Chicago and New York. Residents were advised to be prepared with extra flashlights, food, water and blankets in case of an emergency.

Following the storm, snow may give way to rain later in the week, leading to more typical weather for the winter months in the region.

However, there are fears that the slightly warmer weather may turn the remaining snow into ice, which could create dangerous road conditions. Seattle officials urge residents to clear clogged storm drains to allow the melted snow to leave the city and avoid severe flooding.

The AP reports that nearly a foot of snow hit Olympia, Wash. with 11 inches was measured at the Sea-Tac Airport. Lewis County had the highest amount of accumulated snow in the region, ranging from 12 to 17 inches. Oregon was not hit with as much snow as Washington, but the state received rain and is concerned about flooding.

"It's unusual to get this much snow for western Washington," Dennis D'Amico, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Seattle, told the AP.

There were expectations that the storm this week could exceed the amount of snow seen in the region since the record-breaking November 1985 blizzard. On Nov. 21 and 27, snow storms in the area brought a total of 17.5 inches of snow in Seattle in one of the coldest Novembers on record.

Seattle's largest snowstorm on record of all time occurred Jan. 5-9 in 1880, with snow accumulation of 6 feet in some places, according to the Daily Mail.

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