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Schools closed again as Whidbey struggles with snow, ice
Schools are closed for the third consecutive day Thursday as islanders awakened to roads that resembled sheets of ice in Oak Harbor.
Getting out of driveways and neighborhoods was the biggest problem, as drivers lucky enough to reach Highways 20 and 525 found conditions manageable if they drove at 35 mph or less as Washington State Department of Transportation snow plows had done their job.
All this week, businesses have valiantly been trying to stay remain, dealing with snowfalls over the weekend, on Monday, Tuesday, and a real blizzard early Island Wednesday morning.
The National Weather Service forecast that around two inches of snow would fall in the Oak Harbor area in the morning before stopping by noon. Wednesday’s snowfall was the latest round that started Saturday and continued through the week.
Thursday morning a few small flakes were falling, but a warming trend is predicted to kick in this afternoon.
Businesses generally stayed open, especially ones that can help folks deal with, or enjoy, the snow.
“We’re out of snow shovels and sleds,” said Cheryl Wieldraayer, manager of Ace Hardware on Pioneer Way in Oak Harbor. She said her store still had plenty of ice melt, heaters and scrapers still available. Some homeowners are also taking time to further weatherproof their homes, and her store has a lot of weather stripping left on the shelves.
Of interest, she noted that some people’s purchases reflected their concern for the wildlife dealing with the cold weather.
“We’re selling a lot of bird feed because people feel sorry for the wildlife outside,” Wieldraayer said.
At nearby Oak Harbor Auto Center, which is located on Highway 20, employees have been busy selling chains and cables for cars. Fortunately they still have a lot of stock left for people looking for more traction on their tires.
“We had a bunch left over from last year’s snow storm. We have enough for everyone in town,” counterperson David Peterson joked.
The nearly week-long snow storm has dumped several inches of the white stuff on Whidbey Island. Depths varied widely, but half a foot seem typical. It forced school districts in Oak Harbor, Coupeville and South Whidbey to cancel classes Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Oak Harbor city offices were closed and garbage and recycling collection is suspended until weather conditions improve. The city’s Finance Standing Committee meeting Wednesday and the Public Safety Standing Committee meeting Thursday also have been canceled.
“Today was probably the worst day,” said Rich Tyhuis, operations manager for streets, water and facilities at the city of Oak Harbor, about Wednesday’s weather. He added the city has three sanders and three snow plows working to clear Oak Harbor roads.
Many businesses in Oak Harbor kept its doors open despite the severe weather.
Jeanna Wilson, who works for Liberty Tax Service, spent five hours outside Thursday dressed as the Statue of Liberty and reminding people it’s tax time. She was ready for the snow too. She was wearing two layers of clothes and gloves.
“The only thing that’s cold on my body is my face,” she said while waving a sign and walking on a sidewalk in front of a strip mall.
At nearby Angelo’s Caffe, which is located on the recently renovated Pioneer Way, the owners were open and a few regulars made it a point to stop by.
“It becomes like a family day. Everybody comes in to chat,” said Kathy Colliantes, who owns the popular restaurant with her husband, Elfuel. Colliantes added that she and her husband were the only ones manning the restaurant because she didn’t want her staff to take the risk of driving to work. Angelo’s Caffe was supposed to host the Sunrise Rotary Wednesday morning, but the snow storm postponed that event for one week. Virtually all school, government and community meetings were canceled during the week.
Road crews have been busy. Dustin Terpening, spokesman for the Washington State Department of Transportation, said two plows are busy clearing sanding and salting Highway 20 and Highway 525 on Whidbey Island.
He said that motorists can still expect patches of compact snow and ice on the highway. While Whidbey is pretty much through the peak of the storm, the chilly temperatures will still affect road conditions. It’s been so cold with temperatures in the 20s that the sand and salt hasn’t been able to burn through the ice. Temperatures aren’t expected to significantly warm until Friday. Once that happens, the roads will start clearing, Terpening said.
The National Weather Service is forecasting that a mix of rain and snow will fall Thursday with no additional accumulations expected. Rain is forecast Friday with a high reaching 45.