With fresh snowfall, crews continue working to keep MLT and area roads clear

City of Mountlake Terrace snow plow priority routes map.

City of Mountlake Terrace public works employees continued to stay busy keeping the city’s primary travel routes passable, as fresh snow fell Wednesday night into Thursday and frigid temperatures persisted in the Puget Sound region.

Once again, the city’s plows initially focused on maintaining arterials and primary routes before turning their focus to side streets. Sanding that will help break up the compacted snow and de-icing are ongoing as needed. Staff noted that the weather forecast calls for a return to rain and asked residents who notice local flooding to keep storm drains and grates clear for snowmelt.

Storm drain grate cleared of snow. (Photo courtesy City of Mountlake Terrace)

Public Works Director Eric LaFrance said that as of Thursday afternoon, “We estimate that we have gotten to 75% of the roads,” which is around 50 lane miles, and “each one of those roads has been visited multiple times.”

“We have used 120 tons of sand and 60 tons of salt” so far this week, he added.

City of Mountlake Terrace Public Works department snowplow at work. (Photo courtesy City of Mountlake Terrace)

Public safety agencies are continuing to urge that drivers use caution when traveling on the snow and ice.

Recommendations include checking road and traffic conditions before leaving, slowing down and allowing for more travel time, removing snow from the vehicle before driving and also packing an emergency car kit. Those kits should include blankets, a flashlight, first aid kit, mobile phone charger, high-calorie nonperishable food, batteries, a candle to melt snow for drinking water, shovel, scraper, a sack of sand or cat litter that can be used for traction if a vehicle becomes stuck and battery booster cables.

The Mountlake Terrace Police Department is asking drivers to slow down, be aware of dramatically increased stopping distances, apply brakes carefully and treat all intersections without power as four-way stops by not assuming that other vehicles will be able to stop.

The snowmelt from today is expected to refreeze tonight.

Chief Pete Caw cautioned people to be aware of the dangers of black ice, which forms following a thaw then refreeze. He added, “We find speed a factor in most collisions during snow events.”

Snohomish County Public Works road maintenance crews will continue to plow, sand and salt 24/7 into the weekend. As of Thursday, the department noted that staff have plowed 50,000 miles of road since the snow started falling last weekend.

Crews initially focus during the snowfall on keeping primary routes clear for first responders. Once the snow stops, they can begin clearing secondary and tertiary routes when possible.

The county’s prioritization of snow and ice routes is based on traffic volume, transit and school bus routes, terrain, and knowledge of problem areas. Public calls requesting service for road plowing are recorded but will not impact the priority listing during snow and ice events.

Before heading out during a snow or ice event it is highly recommended that commuters check their travel routes and options. Those venturing through unincorporated Snohomish County can visit the department’s Snow and Ice webpage for road closure information, transit services and more. In addition, the snow removal and anti-icing map shows which routes are primary and secondary and allows residents to see what county roads have been recently plowed, sanded, or had anti-icing applied.

State routes and highways are maintained by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). The status of those roadways are not reflected on the Snohomish County road closure webpage. For more information call 511 or visit WSDOT’s website.

Drivers are advised to give snowplows and de-icer equipment plenty of room to work by allowing for a minimum following distance of 200 feet. Additional tips include:

  • If you must pass, take extreme caution and beware of the displaced snow and ice, or sand spray.
  • Vehicles parked along all major arterials and emergency routes must be moved off the street. Those vehicles left in the travel lane of a roadway and blocking traffic may be towed at the owner’s expense. It is recommended for vehicles to be moved when snow is in the forecast. Parking vehicles in the driveway and off the road helps the snowplows finish routes more quickly and efficiently.
  • Residents clearing driveways and snow berms are advised to pile the snow to the left side as you face the house, especially closer to the road. This prevents the snowplow blade from pushing the material back into the driveway. Throwing snow onto the road creates obstructions in the roadway and can be hazardous.
  • Keep drainage inlets near your home clear of leaves and debris during the winter months to help reduce the chance of flooding.
  • Try to keep garbage bins and other obstacles out of the street when the roads are icy or covered with snow.
  • Obey road closed signs.
  • Be sure to have vehicles mechanically prepared for cold weather. Have tire chains or traction tires readily available.
  • Keep food, water and medical supplies in your home that will last at least one week. Pay attention to weather reports and plan ahead for even longer periods of time.

During snow/ice weather events call 911 if it’s a life-threatening emergency.

For non-life-threatening emergencies call 425-407-3999.

The phone number for Snohomish County road closure updates and plowing inquiries is 425-388-7500.

For human services-related needs including shelters and some food needs call 211.

For overnight shelter, South Snohomish County’s Emergency Cold Weather shelter is located in Lynnwood and opens on nights with temperatures below 34 degrees. There are three pick-up locations in South Snohomish County. More information can be found at www.WeAllBelong.org.

Amid the freezing temperatures, South County Fire has requested that residences and businesses with a fire hydrant nearby clear snow and ice from around the hydrant.

A fire hydrant cleared of snow and ice. (Photo courtesy South County Fire)

The snowy weather and slick driving conditions have also led to local garbage collection services being canceled throughout the week. Waste Management has noted it “will resume collection when conditions allow.” Service alert information about service interruptions and recovery plans is available at servicealerts.wmnorthwest.com/mountlaketerrace/. Those alerts are activated and updated throughout the day as weather conditions warrant.

Typically, for weekly garbage collection, recycling and yard debris, residences can expect pick up on the next regularly scheduled collection day. Recycling and yard waste that is usually picked up every other week will be collected two weeks after the missed collection day. Multifamily and commercial locations can expect pick up as soon as conditions improve, although, in some commercial areas, Waste Management may collect after regular hours or on Saturdays in order to catch up.

If bad weather occurs two weeks in a row, then Waste Management and the city will coordinate two collection sites for residents to bring their garbage for drop-off.

— By Nathan Blackwell

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