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Arlington digs out

A professional photographer, Kent Baker captured the snow fall in his own cul-de-sac at a key moment in the evening light. -
A professional photographer, Kent Baker captured the snow fall in his own cul-de-sac at a key moment in the evening light.
— image credit:

ARLINGTON — Arlington got off easy in November when flooding hit other areas around Puget Sound, but it wasn’t so lucky when the snow started Dec. 13.

While it was slushy around town that first day, the surrounding hills started gathering snow on the day of Shop with a Cop, and the snow kept falling and falling daily after that, continuing even this past weekend, although it stopped accumulating on New Year’s weekend.

It was Wednesday night, Dec. 17 when the cold air combined with precipitation to bury Arlington with its first serious round of nice dry snow — then it snowed and it snowed and it kept on snowing some more.

It was Friday, Dec. 19, when the Seattle TV news stations were reporting quantities of snow. After reporting that Arlington had six inches, they got calls to clarify that “We’ve got 20 inches.” “We’ve got two feet here.”

The city, county and state all rallied to the cause of keeping the roads safe, but neighborhoods got neglected and people got frustrated none-the-less.

The city of Arlington announced early its primary focus would be on principal arterials, bridges and other elevated road structures, especially streets to Cascade Valley Hospital, to fire stations and bus routes.

But once around town didn’t do the trick, as the snow kept falling over the weekend, Dec. 20 and 21.

“We pay our taxes, too,” a resident of Eagle Crest told The Arlington Times.

Janet Mecham said she called the city and they said they didn’t have enough equipment.

“My caregiver couldn’t get in,” Mecham said.

“You’d think they could clear 172nd Street,” a frustrated business owner, Becky Foster complained to the paper.

“The traffic was backed up to my house,” Foster said. “Who was supposed to be plowing Smokey Point Boulevard?”

Schools got an early start on the holidays. Scheduled to begin Dec. 22, the snow caused closures Dec. 18 the week before.

By Wednesday, Dec. 24, the roads were cleared up, with piles of slush piled on the side turning to ice as temperatures turned cold.

Snohomish County road crews plowed 50,000-plus miles, and it wasn’t just once around, each time they finished their routes, they started again as the snow just kept coming down. County crews split 12-hour shifts, covering more than 3,600 public road lane miles in the entire county. County road crews spread a daily average of 800 tons of sand, totaling, at first count, approximately 7,000 tons of sand.

Mayor Margaret Larson called for patience from residents as exhausted crews continued to clear main roads. She encouraged residents to watch out for neighbors in need.

“During weather events like this, we need neighbors to help neighbors in need,” Larson said. “That’s the best present anyone could give or receive this holiday season.”

The city’s assistant administrator, Kristin Banfield said she received a lot of calls from people wanting the city to clear their driveways.

“Our crews just can’t do it,” Banfield said.

Even cul-de-sacs in subdivisions were a challenge.

“We recommended that residents partner together with their neighbors and call local equipment rental companies to see what equipment may be available to them to help with clearing.”

Arlington police and fire departments responded to dozens of accidents.

“Most of these accidents have been minor, causing damage to vehicles only,” Banfield said.

Arlington’s building official, Chris Young spread the word to downtown business owners to clear their awnings and canopies of snow, reminding people that a cubic foot of water weighs 62 pounds.

Citizens were reminded that calls to 911 for non-emergency situations only delays emergency workers from reaching those that need immediate assistance.

Arlington Public Works department reminded residents the simple trick of opening your under-sink cabinet to help heat circulate, and if a water pipe does break, to close the main shut-off valve to prevent flooding.

In the end, the “Big Storm of 2008” provided a white Christmas, keeping people close to home with many holiday gatherings cancelled or postponed.

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