Spring snow surprises South Whidbey | UPDATE

An unexpected spring snowstorm hit South Whidbey and much of the surrounding area Friday morning, burying daffodils in the white stuff and causing some helpless motorists to slide into the ditch.

Drivers pull off Highway 525 en masse Friday morning in Greenbank. A snow storm caught Whidbey Island by surprise and sent many cars and drivers into ditches.

An unexpected spring snowstorm hit South Whidbey and much of the surrounding area Friday morning, burying daffodils in the white stuff and causing some helpless motorists to slide into the ditch.

Kim Winjum, associate publisher of the South Whidbey Record, came into Langley from Bayview Road and saw eight cars strung in the ditches alongside the road — one of which was Winjum’s. She was trying to pass “a cluster of cars that got stuck,” and found herself sliding sideways into the ditch. “There was no stopping it,” she said. “But boy, my heart is still pounding.”

ICOM reported several incidents, including a woman complaining of backlash after her car hit the ditch at Highway 525 and Mohawk about 8:20 a.m. Shortly after, an unknown injury accident was reported at Lagoon Point and Smuggler’s Cove roads.

Only a few cars dared to come into Langley from Saratoga Road and its threatening hill a few miles outside of town. Those that did either had all-wheel drive or gunned it and fishtailed their way up.

In The Village by the Sea at 7:30 a.m., it was a  picture postcard scene of snow falling on quaint buildings, covering newly-planted flowers and turning sidewalks into bright white pathways to hot coffee served at The Commons and Useless Bay Coffee Company.

Jay Smith was unloading bread for the Star Store from the back of his Franz delivery truck as fat snowflakes fell around him. He’d had a long morning, driving from his home in Snohomish to pick up the truck in Lynnwood and then to the Mukilteo ferry.

“It was dumping in Snohomish and Lynnwood,” he said of the snow. But he found plenty of snow at Foodmart in Clinton and still had deliveries to make at The Goose in Bayview and Payless in Freeland. “I hope it goes away,” he said of the surprise snow storm.

Steve Kirkpatrick decided to take a walk from his Edgecliff Drive home. He said snow knocked a branch off a tree which hit a power line. “I called my wife and she said the power was out,” he said.

The last thing Kirkpatrick expected to see Friday morning was snow. “The dog woke me up and in a minute I was in this snow,” he said.

A photo buff, Kirkpatrick was taking pictures with his phone camera, particularly of the odd sight of spring flowers covered by snow.

South Whidbey schools were initially running two hours late but later it was decided to close for the day. Teacher Charlie Snelling too advantage of the extra time to walk his dog Bella downtown. “I’d have to go to work if it didn’t snow,” he said, as he and Bella, dodging snowflakes, waited outside for a companion to get some coffee.

Traffic on Highway 525 was clear but slow in the morning. The ferry holding lot in Clinton was unusually vacant for the daily commute, with only four lanes filled with cars for the 8 a.m. sailing. There was later a report by Lorinda Kay, office coordinator for Whidbey News Group, that a power line had fallen across Highway 525 at Humphrey Road, delaying ferry traffic.

Reports came in that Freeland saw little to no snow, but was surrounded by areas covered with the heavy, white flakes.

Aaron Schweer, manager of Scotty’s Towing in Freeland, said there was little if any in town, but plenty to the north. “Mostly Greenbank and Coupeville seem to be getting the worst of it,” he said. “We’re running our two trucks and two drivers.”

Schweer said “a lot of cars are on the side of the road,” and guessed many drivers would just wait for the weather to warm up. As for the spring snowstorm, this is the latest one Schweer can remember. “I’ve been here 23 years,” he said.

Record reporter Ben Watanabe crossed the median on Highway 525 traveling north to Langley. As he approached the intersection at Langley Road and the highway, traffic slowed, but he didn’t. The ABS brakes on his car cushioned the impact as he slid across the lanes and into the guard rail near Ken’s Korner in Clinton. He was not injured.

Cars in ditches and tree branches in power lines kept the South Whidbey Fire/EMS duty officer from checking into the Freeland command office. No injuries and no multiple car collisions were reported to the fire/emergency medical services district.

“He never made it into the office yet,” said Deputy Chief Mike Cotton of Beck, reporting from headquarters. “He’s been busy on his way in.”

There was no snow in Oak Harbor, according to Nathan Whalen, a reporter who lives there. Coming to work in Coupeville, he started seeing flakes a San de Fuca and the solid snow after rounding the corner at Libbey Road, heading into Coupeville.

Deputy Darren Crownover spent a hectic morning helping drivers all over Central and South Whidbey. “There are cars along the roads and horrible traffic conditions,” he said in a quick call.

By 10 a.m., snow was still thickly falling in Langley, which was no deterrent to carpenter Chad Caldwell who went to work sawing out a window space on the second story of The Commons building. He said he drove in from Scatchet Head where there was not snow, but he hit snow on Cultus Bay Road and had to make room for a snowplow going by.

A man using a Skilsaw in a snowstorm was an unusual sight, but Caldwell said it had to be done. “We’ve got to get this thing buttoned up,” he said with a smile. “Winter’s upon us.”

By 10:30, the snowstorm in Langley appeared to be over, much as it was elsewhere on the island. All that remained was digging our and, perhaps, making the first snowman of 2013.


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