Blast of winter


Marsha Hart, KP News

Kyle Stone, 6, delights in catching snowflakes on his tongue in his Wauna neighborhood the week before Christmas. Photo by Marsha Hart

Roadways were difficult to navigate, but Peninsula School District students got an early Christmas gift this year with an extra three days added to their holiday break when snow piled higher than the Key Peninsula has seen in years.

Snowmobiles, sleds, snow families, and snow forts were part of the landscape as the young and young at heart took time to experience the wintery fun.

Totals for this storm have not been reported yet but in Wauna the snow measured 12 inches on Dec. 22.

National Weather Service meteorologist Johnny Burg, who works at the Seattle weather station, said the record one-day snowfall total was set on Jan. 20, 1943, when Minter Creek reported 14.7 inches. The one-month record total snowfall was 28.5 inches.

“We have spotted reports from across the area, but this is a pretty hefty dump of snow,” Burg said. “People need to be aware of basic safety when we have a storm. Only travel if you need to, and don’t leave pets outside.”

The Key Peninsula got a taste of what was to come when a winter storm descended and had schools on a two-hour delay Dec. 15 and 16, but school was canceled the rest of the week when more snow came in the night of Dec. 16.  It only got worse as initial reports called for hurricane force winds the weekend before Christmas, along with possible freezing rain, but the Key Pen was spared, and instead saw a deep blanket of snow just in time for the holiday.

Janet Shonk, a Park Ranger at Penrose State Park, clears some snow with a tractor. Photo by Karina Whitmarsh

Accidents were reported throughout Pierce County, and a car slid off the road on the Purdy sand spit and ended up in the bay. The accident was reported at 11:36 a.m. Dec. 18. No injuries were reported, said Brandy Kessler, a Washington State Patrol trooper.

An injury accident on Key Peninsula Highway and 302 on Dec. 17 set the tone. Dec. 18 saw three accidents, including the one on the Purdy spit, and another five minutes later in the Wauna curves, said Guy Allen, division chief for Fire District 16.

“The most common calls we’re getting now are slips and falls and people breaking bones,” Allen said. “People need to be extra careful, and as the weather changes and it warms a little bit, people will get comfortable with driving and tend to speed up. Conditions could be different around the next bend from the one they’re driving on.”