Be ready for a tough commute; up to 6 inches of snow forecast in Olympia area

Storm warning: Forecasters predict 2-6 inches in lowlands

Staff writerFebruary 23, 2011 


    The state began lowering the water level in Capitol Lake on Wednesday in a bid to freeze to death some of the New Zealand mudsnails that infest the lake.

    The lake will remain drawn down as long as the cold spell stays in place. A similar draw-down of the lake in December 2009 triggered a 98 percent mortality rate in test plots over a five-day period.

    Freezing isn’t expected to eliminate the snails, which multiply rapidly, are the size of a grain of rice and have no natural predators.

    But the draw-down should help reduce the mudsnail population, according to the state Department of General Administration, which is working with the state’s Invasive Species Council, state departments of Ecology and Fish and Wildlife, City of Olympia, and others to combat the snail infestation first discovered in the lake in fall 2009.

    The lake remains closed to boating and other uses until further notice because of the danger of spreading the snails, which can overwhelm lake habitat for native species and threaten the long-term health of an infested body of water.

    John Dodge, staff writer

After seeing bursts of snow fall and melt harmlessly on roads between sun breaks most of Wednesday, drivers could face a challenging morning commute today as temperatures drop, according to the National Weather Service.

Periods of heavy snowfall were expected to continue through this morning, with 2 to 6 inches of snow forecast, meteorologist Carl Cerniglia said.

Late Wednesday night, cooler air from the north was expected to combine with the ongoing snow showers, making it cold enough for any new accumulations to stick to streets and sidewalks.

“The snow will accumulate and stick everywhere besides just the grass,” Cerniglia said. With that in mind, road crews prepared Wednesday for what was expected to be a busy night.

In Lacey, crews were prepared to work all night keeping arterials and intersections clear, operations manager Brad Burdick said.

“We’ve got people running over their shifts,” he said.

Olympia road crews began 24-hour shifts Wednesday morning and could extend the longer shifts through tonight if the snow continues, according to a city spokeswoman. Trucks will be sanding, salting and plowing as needed.

Crews applied de-icer on key roads Tuesday night, including Fourth, State and Harrison avenues. It was too warm and wet Wednesday morning to apply additional de-icer.

Thurston County is monitoring the storm but had no plans to activate its emergency operations center as of Wednesday afternoon, county spokesman Keith Eisner said.

By 3 p.m., there had not been a decision to delay opening the courthouse today; Eisner said the snow accumulations would drive a final decision.

County road crews also are on 24-hour operations, with plows and sand at the ready. Eisner said the county would wait and see whether conditions made de-icing possible.

Today’s temperatures are expected to hover around freezing, with lows the next few nights struggling to make it out of the teens, meaning whatever falls during this storm will stick around.

The snow also wreaked havoc on schools, community meetings and Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

There were delays and closures across Lewis and Mason counties, and the Tumwater School District and North Thurston Public Schools operated on snow routes.

The City of Olympia canceled a neighborhood meeting scheduled for Wednesday, and Thurston County rescheduled today’s open house regarding a proposed shooting-zone ordinance for Tuesday.

Lewis-McChord service members and civilian employees not designated as mission-essential were released early Wednesday and authorized to report two hours late this morning.

Nate Hulings: 360-754-5476

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