Thurston County winter blast causes crashes, chills residents

The freezing temperatures and snow caused a mess on roads Thursday morning, particularly in the South Sound. The snow got heavier with each passing mile southbound along the Interstate 5 corridor.

And state troopers say don’t be fooled by the sunshine and dry day that emerged. The melting snow and slush will once again freeze into ice on the coldest night of the new year – and troopers expect it will cause another dangerous morning on the roads Friday.

The wind chill on Thursday dropped “feels like” temperatures into the teens in Olympia and Tumwater. People woke up to a blanket of snow that canceled school in Olympia, Tumwater, and Shelton, to name a few school districts.

“Snowed about 2 or 3 inches, that’s about as deep as it got last night. But it’s the cold that’s bad,” said Lonnie Kunzi, a Tumwater resident.

That frigid cold delivered icy roads all over the region.

“Our troopers in Pierce and Thurston counties have handled over 25 collisions, mostly in Thurston County, due to the winter driving conditions,” said Trooper Robert Reyer, who covers the South Sound.

Reyer said many crashes were single-car crashes, drivers losing control and spinning into ditches. A two-semi crash on I-5 near Olympia did block northbound traffic for hours, and needed ecology cleanup after a diesel spill.

In Kitsap County, the sheriff’s office said a normal morning brings zero to three crashes, but on Thursday they saw 87 crashes in the county.

People say local roads were dicey too.

“It was pretty bad, real icy,” said Lisa Minga, another Tumwater resident. “I drove here (to work) very slow at about 10 mph just to be safe – I know people were mad at me,” she said.

The winter weather grew more intense with each mile south on the I-5 corridor. People in Olympia reported about an inch or two of snow. Tumwater got 2 to 3 inches.

But Portland got slammed with a historic 10.8 inches of snow – the second most ever recorded in one day. The storm left major highways frozen and at a standstill, stranding drivers for hours.

“I don’t like the snow, I’d much rather have heat,’ said Rebekah Yarbrough, who lives in Rochester. “But I’ll take this over 10 inches,” she said.

Trooper Reyer warns the cold blast at home isn’t over – and neither is the risk. The snow melt during the day will freeze overnight.

“That’s a very dangerous mix,” Reyer said. “Anybody who needs to go to work tomorrow and they don’t have the option to stay at home - be very careful,” he said.

Another round of lowland snow is expected late Saturday.