Hundreds of cars stranded on highway as blizzard conditions hit Washington state

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Washington State DOT photo

Hundreds of cars were stranded on a highway after a pileup in blizzard conditions in Washington state, authorities said.

Multiple wrecks snarled Interstate 82 in Benton County, including one involving a semitruck that jackknifed, KEPR-TV reported. It said 200 to 300 vehicles were stranded there Saturday night as state troopers worked to turn around others headed in that direction.

A spokesman for Washington State Patrol said hundreds of cars were stranded and warned motorists to avoid the area. “Troopers are trying their hardest to get everyone help and turned around!” tweeted Trooper C. Thorson.

State troopers will not release numbers on the crash until authorities catch up on the 911 calls and emergencies, Thorson said. “Sorry for the delay but we are VERY busy,” he tweeted.

More snow and low temperatures

With plenty of snow on the ground around Seattle and temperatures in the teens overnight, roads were especially treacherous.

Some areas around Seattle received more than 10 inches of snow Saturday, the most for the month of February in 70 years, the National Weather Service said.

Seattle got more snow in one day than it usually gets in a year and officials warned people to get off the streets. The city averages 6.8 inches of snow annually.

Further inland, some areas of Washington state are reporting 12 to 18 inches of snowfall.

Thorson warned motorists to follow instructions on road closures.

“It’s gotten to the point where we are going to have to start writing tickets if people drive around “road closed” signs,” he tweeted. “Please just follow the instructions for your good and ours.”

Millions under winter storm alerts

More than 15 million people across the Western US were under winter storm alerts Saturday, according to CNN meteorologist Haley Brink.

“Everyone in our state needs to focus on preparing for the snow and staying safe,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement. “I encourage everyone to stay off the roads if possible and plan ahead if you must travel.”

He thanked emergency crews, troopers and first responders for helping keep roads clear, restore power and assist motorists.

Temperatures are expected to remain below freezing until Monday afternoon, Brink said, with the forecast high expected to hit 35 degrees.

Seattle’s average high at this time of year is 49 degrees, Brink said. There’s a possibility of more snow for Seattle on Sunday into Monday.

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