SEATTLE — The Puget Sound area, known for months of off-and-on drizzle rather than subfreezing winter weather, was hit by another round of snow Tuesday, snarling traffic and closing schools for more than 380,000 students.
With snow falling before daybreak across much of the state west of the Cascade Range and one to three inches expected in most areas before noon, traffic snarls developed quickly in the morning commute following the three-day Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend.
Lauren Chudecke, a spokeswoman for the state Transportation Department, said plowing, sanding and de-icing trucks were working mainly on Interstates 5, 90 and 405. Worse than normal backups quickly developed along those and lesser commuting routes.
Numerous fender-bender collisions and cars off the road were reported in the suburbs around Tacoma and south of Seattle.
Local governments have little snow removal equipment, and there was still ice on numerous streets in shaded areas from the few inches of snow that fell last week. City crews were concentrating on arterials used by inbound traffic, according to a statement issued by Marybeth Turner, spokeswoman for Seattle Transportation Department.
Public schools were closed in Seattle, Tacoma, Everett, Bremerton and numerous suburban areas and outlying towns. Classes also were canceled at dozens of private and parochial schools.
Rain was forecast in the afternoon with temperatures approaching 40, but National Weather Service forecasters warned that motorists could face treacherous conditions after dark, when the mercury is expected to drop below freezing again.
The latest rash of snow days was another blow to school officials already struggling to redraw calendars after previous closures because of wind, rain and snow.
Seattle has lost five days of school and some areas as many as 10, most of which must be made up through reduced spring and midwinter breaks, cancellation of teacher training days and extensions of the school year this summer.
Washington law requires each district to hold at least 180 days of classes in each school year, but state education officials announced plans last week to ease restrictions on waivers for makeup day requirements.
School districts in counties where the governor has declared an emergency will be eligible to apply for an exemption to the 180-day rule, and approval would enable them to make up the lost time in hours rather than days to meet a parallel requirement of 1,000 instructional hours.
—The Associated Press