The Puget Sound region was hit with one of its worst snowstorms in many years which caused problems for residents, cities, schools and local businesses.
Starting on Feb. 3 and continuing for about 10 days the area was hit with three separate snowfalls and regular nights of below-freezing temperatures.
Some areas of Marysville and Arlington reported more than two feet of snow piled up.
“This was a historic storm, both in terms of the accumulation of snow and ice, and in the number of days it lasted,” said Connie Mennie, communications administrator for the city of Marysville.
Kristin Banfield, communications manager for the city of Arlington, said that the city hadn’t received that big of a snow event since the late 2008/2009 storm.
City staff had a lot of work to do as the cold continued for many days in a row.
“Like many other communities our crews were challenged to keep up,” said Mennie. “The city road crews worked around the clock to keep the main arterials open."
Marysville’s crews were working two 12-hour shifts to keep going through the event and worked 11 days straight.
Arlington’s crews worked a similar amount of time straight through the storm.
“They’re tired now, obviously, and they’re just getting back to a regular schedule now [on Feb. 15],” said Banfield.
Both cities reported that traffic accidents were fewer than anticipated.
“We didn’t have as many accidents as we could have,” said Mennie.
Between Feb. 3 and Feb. 13 Arlington Police received call for about 25 accidents, according to Banfield.
“We always plan for additional emergency response in events like these, and it was less than anticipated. It was definitely not as high as we thought it could have been, ” she said.
Both attributed the reduced accidents to the fact that people stayed home during the worst days.
“They heeded our word to stay off the roads, which also really helped our crews be able to clean up the streets quicker,” said Banfield.
The city of Arlington put down 800 tons of sand/salt mix throughout the snow storm.
“Now the work begins of getting all that cleaned up. That’s our next focus,” said Banfield.
“We had put in an additional request for salt and we had enough to get through one more storm, but that fourth one would have us very far down in our supplies,” she said.
Marysville likewise was running low on salt and Mennie said that they had no place to buy it anymore, “so we were glad to hear that the weather was finally warming up.”
Replacing those supplies and paying for the overtime hours will likely have to come out of the city’s budgets.
“The city has a contingency fund that we’re going to have to dip into to pay for this larger-than-normal response,” said Mennie.
“You plan for it and you hope you don’t have to use that fund, but this year we do,” she said.
Banfield said that Arlington does budget for some overtime, but not to the extent of this recent snow storm.
Local schools also had to deal with a snow event that taxed a lot of their resources.
“The biggest challenge is responding to clearing pathways and drives inside of our campuses,” said Brian Lewis, executive director of operations at the Arlington School District.
“We have equipment, but not the kind that would be appropriate to a snow response like that. We can get the job done, but when it snows again we've got to get it done again,” he said.
The bigger issue for the districts may be all the missed time, said Lewis.
The Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction is allowing schools to waive up to two school days because of the snow storm.
“We’re going to be looking at that option, although we haven’t decided if we’re going to do that yet,” said Lewis.
Even if you don’t have 180 school days, there is no way to waive the 1,027 required hours of instruction for students.
“School districts like ours will have the opportunity to apply to waive days that were missed while the state of emergency was in effect and we are considering applying,” said Bello Dondja, communications specialist with the Marysville School District.
“However, there is no legal authority to waive the mandatory average of 1,027 hours of instruction for students,” he said.
The length of the snowstorm meant there were many days with clear main streets, but dangerous sidewalks and neighborhood streets that schools had to deal with as well, which caused some additional snow days and late starts.
“The conditions of neighborhood roads and sidewalks also play a role in the decision-making process. We have staff and students who live in outlying areas of our community, as well as students who drive themselves to and from school,” said Dondja.
If the school doesn’t have enough teachers it wouldn’t be able to provide classes anyway.
“It’s difficult for us to compel them to travel,” said Lewis.
Many local businesses also had to deal with the snowstorm, which shut down a lot of commerce over 10 days.
“I had a couple different days where I had one customer, literally, and then a couple days that were okay,” said Rich Senff, owner of Arlington’s Action Sports.
“The weather is always tough for small businesses, but there's nothing you can do about it. You can’t battle God,” he said.
The snowfall also came at a bad time for businesses.
“It’s a hard time of the year for small businesses, so to have that compounded with such a long snowstorm is pretty tough,” said Lorene Wren, owner of Marysville’s Wrenhaven Vintage Market.
Wren said many businesses on Marysville's Third Street were closed for many of the snow days.
“It definitely slowed things down,” she said. “The customers that were able to come down, we were happy to see though."
Many of the owners simply couldn’t get out to their business.
“I live out, southeast of Granite Falls, so my ability to even get here can be challenging, even with a four-wheel drive vehicle,” said Suzi Quilllen, owner of Arlington’s Perfectly Knotty, who has no other employees so she has to close the shop when she is not there.
“Even if I did choose to come in, I really don’t want my customers driving out in that junk and I don’t want to encourage them to do that,” she said.
The snow also impacts the Olympic Avenue corridor as it makes any parking more dangerous as the plowed snow piles up, said Senff.
He said he “doesn’t want to pick on the city too much” as they do a lot of work during storms, but said he wished their snow plan included more thought about downtown commerce.
Senff also hopes people are a little more skeptical of media hype about snow storms. “It’s not an Armageddon-type situation. Heavier than normal, yeah, but it’s not panic time,” he said.
As the temperature rose on Feb. 13 Quillen said she was glad to see her customers back.
“When I finally came in I knew people were going to come in because of the cabin fever, so we had a good crowd yesterday,” she said.