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Governor Gregoire declares state of emergency in response to winter storms

Governor Chris Gregoire proclaimed a winter storm emergency this morning, following a series of events that have forced schools and offices to shut their doors and made many roads impassable.

“This is purely a precautionary measure,” Gregoire said in a news release.

“So far, we haven’t received any requests for state assistance – but we know weather conditions are rapidly changing. I want to make sure we have every resource available to ensure our communities are safe. This proclamation would allow us to activate the National Guard if we need to.”

“It also allows state agencies to respond quickly to any storm-related requests from cities and counties for state assistance. A brief waiver of the restrictions on dairy truck drivers’ work hours is needed now to avoid shipment delays that could mean the loss of nearly $1 million a day for the state’s dairy industry.”

The proclamation also allows the State Emergency Operations Center at Camp Murray to be activated to coordinate the state’s response to the winter weather.

Puget Sound Energy, the state’s largest utility, said that tens of thousands of its customers were still without power following the onset of this morning’s ice storm, which is definitely not helping matters. Here’s PSE’s latest update:

Puget Sound Energy crews Thursday morning are working under extremely difficult conditions. Trees and limbs, weighed down by ice-encrusted snow, are breaking off and damaging power lines, resulting in new power outages to tens of thousands of homes and businesses.

Due to hazardous field conditions with falling limbs and trees, some PSE crews on Thursday morning have needed to stay clear from working near trees, impeding damage assessment and repair work. Crews will resume their work as soon as it’s safe to do so.

As of 11 a.m., PSE is responding to 515 outage locations affecting approximately 184,000 customers. Hardest hit areas are in Thurston and Pierce counties and parts of King County. Since heavy snows began on Tuesday morning, PSE has restored power to approximately 51,000 customers in Western Washington.

PSE has requested 140 additional power line crews from other parts of the country to assist with repairs and restoration work, which is expected to extend well into the weekend. There are 75 four-person power line crews, 27 two-person tree crews and 76 servicemen available and assisting with restoration efforts.

We appreciate our customers’ patience as we work to repair power as quickly as possible, with safety our top priority.

People who need to report a power outage, should call Puget Sound Energy at 1-888-225-5773.

WSDOT says the ice storm is affecting the entire state. It is trying its best to keep roads clear, but cautions that downed tree limbs and collisions are making travel very difficult on state highways.

Sound Transit has been forced to stop operating its Tacoma Link streetcar due to ice buildup on the wires. Most of its Express bus runs are also on reroute due to the storms. The same goes for King County Metro and other local bus agencies.

The National Weather Service warns we’re still not out of the woods:

A WARM FRONT WILL CONTINUE TO SPREAD RAIN OVER PORTIONS OF WESTERN WASHINGTON THROUGH EARLY THIS AFTERNOON. TEMPERATURES WILL REMAIN BELOW FREEZING WITH FREEZING RAIN EXPECTED AT THE SURFACE. AREAS FARTHER NORTH INCLUDING EVERETT…ADMIRALTY INLET AND EASTERN STRAIT OF JUAN DE FUCA WILL SEE SNOW AT TIMES. PRECIPITATION WILL EASE THIS AFTERNOON. TEMPERATURES WILL GRADUALLY MODERATE TONIGHT…RISING ABOVE FREEZING. ANOTHER STRONG SYSTEM WILL BRING HEAVY SNOW TO THE MOUNTAINS ON FRIDAY.

Stay home if at all possible:

AN ICE STORM WARNING MEANS SEVERE WINTER WEATHER CONDITIONS ARE IMMINENT OR OCCURRING. SIGNIFICANT AMOUNTS OF ICE ACCUMULATIONS WILL MAKE TRAVEL DANGEROUS OR IMPOSSIBLE. TRAVEL IS STRONGLY DISCOURAGED. COMMERCE WILL LIKELY BE SEVERELY IMPACTED. IF YOU MUST TRAVEL…KEEP AN EXTRA FLASHLIGHT…FOOD…AND WATER IN YOUR VEHICLE IN CASE OF AN EMERGENCY. ICE ACCUMULATIONS WILL LIKELY LEAD TO SNAPPED POWER LINES AND FALLING TREE BRANCHES THAT ADD TO THE DANGER.

Pacific NW Portal’s Extended Weather page has lots of useful links for dealing with winter weather, along with the latest seven-day National Weather Service forecast and updates from trusted weather blogs.

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  1. By Morning Rundown for January 20th, 2012 on January 20th, 2012 at 9:33 AM

    [...] Governor Gregoire declares state of emergency in response to winter storms [...]