Accidents and icy driving conditions persisted in patches across Cowlitz County Saturday, even as snow and ice quickly melted that morning across the lowlands and in downtown Longview.
But more snow and ice is in the cards for the region, although the amount is unclear, according to the Portland office of the National Weather Service.
"We're in a pattern where we're not going to warm up very quickly," meteorologist Tyree Wilde said Saturday. "It's going to refreeze pretty rapidly tonight, with temperatures going into the twenties."
Wilde said the weather service had reports of anywhere from 7.5 to 10 inches across the county Saturday. Several inches of snow blanketed higher-elevation areas like the Columbia Heights neighborhood, and parts of Kalama saw snowfall above 7 inches. Across Cowlitz County, the weather service said up to another inch of snow could fall Saturday afternoon and evening.
Scattered snowfall may continue through Saturday night, but little is expected Sunday morning, meteorologist Will Ahue said. On Sunday night, 1 to 2 more inches are possible across the county, with another 1 to 2 possible on Monday. Those numbers will generally be higher as elevation increases.
Weather systems between Sunday and Tuesday will likely bring slightly warmer weather, Wilde said, and that mix of rain and snow in lower elevations could spell icy conditions throughout the week as temperatures continue to plunge at night.
For those below 500 feet, "it'll be a mix of rain and snow, pretty much from Monday on," Ahue said. "The unfortunate part is overnight lows will be generally below freezing."
Residents across western Washington and Oregon were hit with a round of snowfall this weekend in what many referred to (often humorously) as "snowpocalypse" or "snowmaggedon." The Seattle area received 3 to 8 inches of snow, and Governor Jay Inslee declared a statewide state of emergency due to the weather Friday.
In Southwest Washington, "we're at least prepared for the possibility of more snow and ice coming throughout the weekend and early next week," said Kimberly Pincheira, spokeswoman for the Washington State Department of Transportation Southwest region. "I don't want to minimize it, (but) we fared fairly lucky last night compared to the rest of the state," she said.
Nonetheless, Pincheira advised drivers to "play it safe" and use common-sense winter driving strategies like leaving plenty of room between vehicles and looking out for icy roads that look clear. Snowfall appeared to hit the northern and southern ends of the county harder, she said.
"We saw some minor incidents and collisions, but no major incidents at this point," she said. "We have had crews out around the clock all week, pretty much in anticipation of this weekend and going into next week. ... We're hearing the chance that there might be another storm system next week, but everything is fairly uncertain."
Christian Brothers Towing owner Jerry Marston said he decided to play it safe and take Friday night off. He's still turning down calls from icier, higher elevation areas in Carrolls, Columbia Heights and Rose Valley.
"It's risk management — none of us have four wheel drive trucks, because we'd use them once or twice a year," he said. "If they're wrecked in the ditch in four wheel drive (vehicles), and then we go up in a two wheel drive, it's not very safe."
The Cowlitz PUD responded to scattered outages affecting roughly 400 customers by noon Saturday, most of which were due to "vegetation events," PUD spokeswoman Alice Dietz said.
Those are typically situations such as a tree falling into a power line, she said, due to accumulation of heavy snow.
One such tree broke a cross arm on a utility pole near Ariel, causing scattered outages affecting just over 200 customers just before 6 a.m. Those outages were restored by 3:30 p.m.
"We knew that we would be having this weather event," Dietz said. "All of our crews have been on standby."