As the Pacific Northwest hunkers down, huddles up, and prepares to be pummeled by snow, Washington Governor Jay Inslee has declared a state of emergency and warned the state’s residents to avoid driving in what could be one of the most intense snowstorms the state has seen in some time.
“Everyone in our state needs to focus on preparing for the snow and staying safe,” Inslee said in a statement Friday. “Weather forecasters predict this may be a storm unlike one we’ve seen in many years. I encourage everyone to stay off the roads if possible and plan ahead if you must travel.”
Hundreds of flights were canceled or delayed in the Seattle area as of Friday evening as the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport reported more than 4 inches of snow, according to the National Weather Service. And it may not let up anytime soon: Snowfall is expected through the evening and into Saturday.
The frigid temperatures and nasty weather that have gripped Washington this month have created a potentially life-threatening problem for those in the area without a roof over their heads. The Seattle Times said Friday that the King County Medical Examiner’s office reported its first death attributed to hypothermia after a man was found at one of the city’s light-rail stations earlier in the week. The paper reported the 59-year-old man may have been homeless.
Seattle officials expanded shelter spaces for adults and families in preparation for the nearing storm, with King County Executive Dow Constantine saying at a news conference that if anyone comes to a shelter facility, “we—the county, the city—we will find a place for you to be safe overnight,” according to the Times.
People in the Washington area are being advised to “limit” time outside and keep off roads if they can be avoided, Inslee said. Anyone who absolutely must travel and becomes stranded or trapped in their car is advised to stay inside the vehicle rather risk braving freezing temperatures.
The Washington State Department of Transportation also noted that anyone behind the wheel during the snowstorm should use extreme caution around those working to keep roadways safe.
“Whether it’s snowplows or emergency responders, please slow down around road workers and give them as much room as possible,” the agency tweeted Friday. “The safer they are, the faster they can get things cleared. Help them help you.”