SEATTLE — A winter storm moving through the Pacific Northwest on Friday brought a mixture of rain, mountain snow and freezing rain, causing multiple collisions and headaches for some travelers ahead of the holiday weekend.
Authorities urged drivers to be careful as freezing rain and snow created icy roads in many parts of the region, including many communities in Whatcom County and central and eastern Washington.
Freezing rain toppled trees, knocked down power lines and caused a house fire Friday in the Bellingham area, The Bellingham Herald reported .
Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office Division of Emergency Management urged people to stay home and said roads were slick with ice and blocked by fallen trees.
Puget Sound Energy reported about 20,000 customers had lost power Friday night in Bellingham and north of the city near the Canadian border.
“Driving conditions are bad, and walking conditions are, too,” the Grant County Sheriff’s office said in a tweet Friday, urging people to “just stay home if they can.”
About 1 to 2 feet of snow was expected in the North Cascades, the National Weather Service in Seattle said Friday morning. Meanwhile, Snoqualmie and other mountain passes saw a mixture of snow and freezing rain.
Gusts and winds picked up Friday afternoon and evening in western Washington and could bring possible tree damage, said Logan Johnson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Seattle.
Heavy rain was also causing minor flooding in some rivers in western Washington. A flood warning was in effect for a few Puget Sound rivers through Monday.
Parts of northwest Oregon and southwest Washington may get up to several inches of rain, and a flood watch was in effect in that region until late Friday.
In Idaho, officials said the winter storm will make traveling difficult in the panhandle region through Saturday with up to 2 feet of snow expected.
Idaho Transportation Department spokeswoman Megan Sausser said crews have been pre-treating roads with salt and are now out plowing.
“In a storm event like this there are going to be plows on the road 24-7,” she said.
Tractor-trailers heading for Lookout Pass on Interstate 90 east of Coeur d’Alene on Friday are being required to use chains.
Several winter storms have already come through this season resulting in a flurry of crashes and slide-offs, but drivers might have had enough practice now to adapt to winter driving conditions, said Idaho State Police spokeswoman Natalie Allred in Coeur d’Alene.
“It’s snowing pretty hard right now,” she said late Friday morning. “It all depends if it’s going to get warm or cold.”
Allred said weather is expected to fluctuate around freezing at lower elevations so roads could turn slick as the temperature drops.
She said the main problem that troopers encounter is motorists driving too fast for conditions, vehicles without appropriate tires, and drivers not leaving enough room when following another vehicle.
Farther north, the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center issued an avalanche warning through Saturday for those heading into the backcountry in Bonner, Boundary and Shoshone counties.