Snowstorm buries Pacific Northwest, with more on the way

SEATTLE (AP) — Residents of the Pacific Northwest in the United States (US) took to neighbourhood hills with skis, sleds or even just laundry baskets on Saturday to celebrate an unusual dump of snow in a region more accustomed to winter rain.

Some areas received more than a foot of snow, and meteorologists say more is on the way early next week. Hundreds of flights were cancelled in Seattle and Portland, and heavy snow drifts closed major highways in eastern Washington. Around 50,000 people lost power.

Residents cleared out grocery store shelves and left work early Friday afternoon as the storm arrived. Over 30.5cm was recorded by Saturday morning in some areas, including on the Olympic Peninsula, in the nation’s latest bout of winter weather.

In Tacoma, hundreds of people turned out for a snowball fight in a park after someone who lives nearby suggested it on Facebook. They took cover behind picnic tables and used sleds as shields.

“This is a perfect morning to bundle up and play in the snow, but stay off the roads if possible,” Governor Jay Inslee wrote on Twitter.

In central Washington, blowing snow and drifts 0.9 to 1.2 metres deep forced the closure of United States 2 and Interstate 90. The Grant County Sheriff’s Office warned that snow drifts were blocking many roads. Airports in eastern Washington closed, and numerous car crashes were reported.

“Snow conditions are worsening minute to minute, so don’t expect travel conditions to improve,” the sheriff’s office wrote.

Several hundred people take part in a public snowball fight at Wright Park in Tacoma, Washington. – AP

The National Weather Service said additional snow could fall and another storm was expected early next week.

About 180 people spent the night at an emergency shelter set up at Seattle Center, with officials going out again on Saturday to get other homeless residents to safety. Inslee declared a state of emergency over the storm. The state Transportation Department said crews had to clear several trees that had fallen across roads in the Tacoma area.

In Portland, a tanker truck slid into a sport-utility vehicle on an interchange between Interstates 5 and 84 on Saturday, blocking the ramp for hours.

Other parts of the country were also wrestling with difficult weather. Residents of Hawaii were bracing for coastal flooding amid extreme surf predictions. A California man died in rough waters off of Maui on Friday, Hawaii News Now reported.

In California, more than 120 visitors and staff members were rescued last Thursday after being trapped by up to two metres of snow in a Sierra Nevada resort for five days.

Another winter storm was on the way to the region.

In Yosemite National Park, as many as 50 housing structures near Half Dome Village were damaged by trees toppled during a snowstorm earlier this week, displacing more than 160 employees who provide food, lodging and other services for visitors.

Elsewhere, over 148,000 customers lost power in Michigan following days of freezing rain. The Consumers Energy utility said power would be restored by late yesterday.

In Washington, about 50,000 people lost power. In Seattle, snowfall from last Sunday and Monday lingered into the week as below-freezing temperatures gripped the area. A 59-year-old man died last Thursday from exposure at a Seattle light rail station.

Residents in Portland and Seattle who are more accustomed to rain than snow waited in long lines to buy shovels and de-icer.