Record snowfall blankets Bellevue area

Snow and bad weather blanketed the Puget Sound region for two weekends in a row, marking the snowiest month on record in the last 50 years.

The weather clogged roadways and prevented travel, forcing Bellevue College and other schools and businesses in the region to close. Gov. Jay Inslee has declared a State of Emergency and has activated National Guard units to help the storm’s victims reach safety.

In an average year, Seattle will see about 1.7 inches of snowfall. In the past two weeks, 14.1 inches of snowfall was recorded at the Sea-Tac airport, which is more than 8 times the yearly average.

The snow disrupted the city, with many businesses changing their hours or closing entirely for the duration of the storm. Many non-essential public and government workplaces, from museums to courthouses, saw themselves closing early on Feb. 8 to avoid trapping workers in the falling snow and dangerous conditions. Many of them stayed closed, as workers couldn’t safely reach work or even leave their homes due to the heavy snow.

Some cities were almost entirely buried by the snow. Conditions were bad enough in North Bend that local emergency services haven’t been able to keep up with demand. The National Guard has stepped in, however, and have begun to dig people out of houses and cars that were buried from the storm. Reports of people being stranded for up to two days without water and food have come from the region, and emergency services are working tirelessly to reach victims.

Schools were also greatly affected by the winter storm. Many school districts decided to remain fully closed through Feb. 13, with a late opening on Thursday and normal hours resuming Friday, Feb. 15. However, some districts, such as Kent and Northgate, have not been able to reopen, and will remain closed until Tues., Feb. 19, at the earliest, due to the President’s Day weekend.

Bellevue College was also affected by the storms. The BC alert system sent messages warning students of closures due to snow and icy conditions. The campus was closed Feb. 4 and 5, and the potential hazards from a new storm meant that school officials saw fit to shut down the campus before noon on Fri., Feb. 9 as well.

Bellevue College’s Main Campus did not open again until 10 a.m., with classes not beginning until 10:30 a.m. on Feb. 13. However, even with the delayed start, there were still plenty of students who couldn’t make it to class due to road conditions.

Some students did not share the school’s worries about snow and ice. Sam, a Bellevue College student, when asked about the conditions that closed the school said, “I have an off-road vehicle with all-wheel drive, so I didn’t care.” However, for those with less robust vehicles, driving in the snow was much more dangerous.

Stories of accidents and traffic flooded social media. Facebook and Twitter accounts alike were full of images of cars buried at the side of the road.

Highways were backed up or closed due to collisions, and emergency crews worked tirelessly to free trapped drivers and clear the roadways.

It is important to remember that, during times of inclement weather, it is best to stay indoors and wait out the storm. Properly preparing emergency supplies at home goes a long way in keeping yourself and your family safe. If driving in snowy conditions is unavoidable, drive slowly and allow other drivers plenty of room to stop on the slick roads.