Latest arctic storm packs a punch on San Juan

Town and county public works employees spent much of the night plowing roads, but nature didn’t let up. “It kind of got ahead of us,” town Public Works Director Mike Wilks said. “Our guys were up all night last night. They’re tired and we’re a little short-handed.”

Town and county public works employees spent much of the night plowing roads, but nature didn’t let up.

“It kind of got ahead of us,” town Public Works Director Mike Wilks said. “Our guys were up all night last night. They’re tired and we’re a little short-handed.”

Wilks said he expected his crews to get caught up on plowing and sanding today, and weather forecasts indicated they may be able to do so.

The National Weather Service was forecasting cloudy skies today, gradually becoming mostly sunny, with a high near 33 and a north-northeast wind between 18 and 21 mph, with gusts as high as 26 mph. Tonight, it will be mostly cloudy, with a low around 24 and a northeast wind between 5 and 14 mph.

Tuesday, there’s a chance of snow showers. It will be mostly cloudy, with a high near 34 and a southeast wind between 10 and 15 mph. New snow accumulation of less than a half-inch is possible. Tuesday night, rain and snow are likely. It will be cloudy, with a low around 30 and a south-southeast wind 10 to 14 mph becoming west-southwest. Chance of precipitation is 60%.

Wednesday, it will be rainy with temperatures near 39 and a south-southeast wind between 10 and 16 mph. Wednesday night, rain showers are likely. It will be cloudy and breezy, with a low around 32.

Christmas Day, rain and snow showers are likely, although the day’s high will be near 37.

Rain is likely Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with highs ranging from 38 to 44.

Temperatures dipped as low as 14 on San Juan Island Friday, as the latest arctic storm moved in.

Today, Wilks said staying off the roads “is a very good idea.”

“We’re keeping ’em plowed, but they’re really slippery. A lot of areas had ice underneath the snow.”

Over the weekend, the town water department got called out on “several occasions” regarding frozen pipes, Wilks said. The town won’t know about leaks until those pipes start thawing.

OPALCO general manager Randy Cornelius said today that there were scattered power outages over the weekend.

— A two-hour outage near the Orcas Island ferry terminal.
— A two-hour outage on the north end of San Juan Island, caused by a faulted cable.
— A two-hour outage on Center and Decatur islands, caused by a blown fuse.

“So far, we’re doing well. The loads are heavy, but they’re manageable,” Cornelius said. He advised residents to keep an eye out for trees leaning into power lines. “Give us a call at 376-3500 so we can trim it back.”

The Sheriff’s Department reported several injuries from slips and falls. And Sunday night, a woman was injured on Portland Fair Road when her car went off the road and a vehicle that stopped to help her was struck by another vehicle. She was in surgery this morning in Harborview Medical Center.

On Dec. 17 on Orcas Island, a teen-ager’s neck was broken in a snowboarding accident at the golf course. He is reportedly paralyzed from the chest down.

The San Juan County and Town of Friday Harbor Emergency Management Office issued the following winter weather tips.

1. Use Common Sense: As is always the case, please keep an eye on your neighbors, friends, and family. Check in with weather forecasts periodically.

2. Take precautions to keep your pipes from freezing, including:

— Keep a steady drip of water running from the faucets located furthest from where your water enters your house.
— Keep cupboard or other doors open to expose pipes to indoor heat.
— Keep indoor heat on, even during vacations.
— Insulate pipes, particularly those on north walls.
— If your water stops running, your pipes are likely frozen.
— Use care as things thaw, and know how to shut your water off in case major leaks develop.
— If you aren’t at home, have someone set up to keep an eye on your house, especially if the power goes out.

3. If you need a portable heater to help stay warm inside, follow these precautions:

— Be extremely wary of fire, keeping your heater well clear of all flammable materials.
— Be sure to use a heater according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
— Make sure portable heaters are set on a firm, steady base.
— Use fuel-burning space heaters only with adequate ventilation.
— Electric space heaters should be properly grounded. Make certain they are plugged into a circuit that can handle the load.
— Never use a gas stove, electric range, or a charcoal grill as a heater.
— Only use fuels for which your space heater has been designed.

4. If snow should fall or the sidewalks and roads turn icy, keep the following in mind:

— Walk carefully on ice. Every time snow or ice falls, multiple islanders end up in the hospital due to falls. Be careful.
— Don’t drive unless absolutely necessary.
— Please don’t drive on roads that have yet to be plowed. This only makes it harder for the road crews.
— Remember, road crews can’t clear private roads. Neighborhoods with private road access should have a plan in place to clear as needed.
— If your car becomes stuck, try to get it as far off the road as possible. Cars left in the roadway may be moved or towed by emergency responders.

5. And finally, some winter driving tips, courtesy of the state Department of Transportation:

— Clear snow and ice from all windows and lights — even the hood and roof — before driving.
— Pay attention. Don’t try to out-drive the conditions. Remember the posted speed limits are for dry pavement.
— Leave plenty of room for stopping.
— Leave room for maintenance vehicles and plows — stay back at least 200 feet.
— Use brakes carefully. Brake early. Don’t stomp on the brakes. It takes more time to stop in adverse conditions.
— Don’t get overconfident in your 4×4 vehicle. Remember that your four-wheel drive vehicle may help you get going quicker than other vehicles but it won’t help you stop any faster. Many 4×4 vehicles are heavier than passenger vehicles and actually may take longer to stop.
— Don’t get overconfident with your 4×4 vehicle’s traction. Your 4×4 can lose traction as quickly as a two-wheel drive vehicle.
— Don’t pump anti-lock brakes. If your car is equipped with anti-lock brakes, do not pump brakes in attempting to stop. The right way is to “stomp and steer.”
— Remember that trucks are heavier than cars. Trucks take longer to safely respond and come to a complete stop, so avoid cutting quickly in front of them.
— Go slow! Drive according to conditions.

For the latest updated weather forecasts, CLICK HERE.

For the latest mainland road conditions, CLICK HERE.