Kent residents this week appeared to be handling the snowstorm that struck Western Washington.
Locals successfully navigated hard-to-travel streets and worked their way around closed roads, reduced Metro bus service, cancelled garbage service and closed King County courts.
The city avoided power outages, and with the exception of one accident along Interstate 5 and a car fire on State Route 167, didn’t get into major wrecks, even with the icy roads.
In the I-5 accident, which happened near Kent, a 52-year-old Federal Way man was hit by a car Monday as he attempted to remove chains from his wheels on the shoulder of the highway. The man sustained two broken legs, and was to be cited for standing in the roadway and unlawfully stopping his car.
On Tuesday, an SUV caught fire in the northbound lanes of SR 167, tying up traffic for about half an hour.
In the community of Kent, drivers appeared reasonably polite, letting others into line, as backups snarled some of the main streets in different parts of town. That included the West Valley Highway, the southbound lanes of which saw major slowdowns Tuesday night as drivers navigated lumpy ice and slippery surfaces.
As of Wednesday morning, many streets still had compacted snow, but most drivers kept their rates of speed down and accommodated the slick surface.
“We’ve really handled it well,” Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke said Monday in a phone interview. “I’ve been so impressed. People have told me they want to compliment the road crews for how well they’ve done this year.”
Cooke said this is the first year city officials have put road crews on rotating 12-hour shifts for 24-hour coverage. In prior years, road crews were called back to work after eight-hour shifts.
“Road conditions are about as good as they can be with all of the snow we’ve had,” said Bill Thomas, city street superintendent.
About 4 to 6 inches of snow fell in Kent through Tuesday. Streets were covered with snow, but people stayed home or drove carefully.
“It seems very quiet,” said Paul Petersen, Kent Police spokesman. “All of our patrol cars are chained up. We’re out with the public moving very slowly.”
Temperatures were expected to climb to about 38 degrees with the possibility 1-2 inches of new snow on Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service. Forecasters predicted rain or snow and a high of 36 for Christmas Day, and as the weekend progressed, the start of thawing.
“We expect the roads to get better with daytime temperatures above freezing,” Thomas said. “Hopefully, by the weekend all of this will be a memory.”
City officials closed Southeast 277th Street, the James Street hill and South 228th Street up the West Hill for portions of Sunday and Monday.
County officials closed Southeast 228th Place at 132 Avenue Southeast in unincorporated Kent. That street remained closed on Tuesday.
City road crews started to work around-the-clock when the first snow struck Dec. 13.
“We’ve had three rounds of snow,” Thomas said. “The guys are ready to be home for Christmas.”
King County officials closed public health centers on Monday in Kent, Renton, Auburn, Federal Way and several Seattle locations because of the bad travel conditions. County officials reopened the health centers Tuesday.
King County Superior Courts and District Courts at the Norm Maleng Regional Justice Center in downtown Kent also were closed on Monday, but reopened o Tuesday.
Metro transit officials reduced bus routes by about half on Monday and Tuesday in South King County because so many roads were covered with snow and ice. The closed bus routes in the Kent area included 152, 154, 155, 161, 162, 164 and 183. Ten routes still were operating Tuesday.
“We want people to pray for rain and temperatures above 40 degrees,” said King County Councilwoman Julia Patterson, whose District 5 includes Kent.
County road crews focused on clearing the major arterials and had not been able to reach collector roads, Patterson said.
“Our King County Metro and Road Division employees are working 12-hour days and will work Christmas Day for the safety of residents,” Patterson said.
Drivers found various road conditions in Kent.
“The streets that have been really plowed are very passable,” Petersen said. “The streets that are not plowed, you need to go slow and careful.”
City crews were unable to plow most residential streets. The crews focused on the main roads.
“Kids were having a great time on any street with a slope,” Petersen said.
Kent firefighters had very few weather-related calls.
“It’s been a pretty quiet weekend,” said Kyle Ohashi, public information officer for the Kent Fire Department, in a phone interview Monday.
In Covington, three boys escaped injury despite falling through the ice at a shallow storm-water pond at a neighborhood just west of Kentwood High School. The water did not go above the heads of the boys, whose ages were unavailable. Kent firefighters responded to the call, but no medical treatment was needed, Ohashi said.
That incident should be a warning to anyone who thinks about walking on ice-covered ponds in Kent or anywhere else , Petersen said.
“Stay off the ice,” Petersen said. “I don’t care what it looks like or sounds like. Ice can be very, very thin.”
Emergency calls to the fire department could increase this week when frozen pipes begin to thaw and potentially leak into homes, Ohashi said.
“We expect calls about pipes breaking,” Ohashi said.
For more information on garbage service, call Allied at 206-682-9735 or go to www.rabanco.com. Rabanco is a division of Allied Waste.
City officials cancelled the Land Use and Planning Board meeting slated for Monday evening at City Hall because of the adverse weather conditions. City officials rescheduled the meeting for 7 p.m. Jan. 12.
For information about state and regional road conditions, go to www.wsdot.wa.gov/.
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