SEATTLE -- What some thought may be only a few inches of snow turned into a few feet by Thursday in the mountain passes.
A winter storm watch issued by the National Weather Service for the Cascade and Olympic Mountains Wednesday night delivered, causing drivers to bring out chains that haven’t been touched since last winter, and even boosting hopes of ski resorts opening early.
White Pass near Yakima received 17 inches of new snow overnight, while Crystal Mountain and Mount Baker each received 16 inches of new snow.
Snoqualmie Pass received 12 inches of new snow overnight.
Across most mountain passes, either traction tires or chains were required of all drivers. Plows continued to work to clear the roadways, but snow continued to fall Thursday afternoon, making it tough to stay on top of the new accumulation.
Tom White chained up his semi-truck on the side of I-90. It was a 20-minute chore, followed by a drive but he doesn't mind.
"This is what I live for," said White. "This is why I am a truck driver."
Driver Woody Trihey said the key to a snowy commute is being smart.
"I drive about 5 miles an hour under the speed limit, and I don't have any problems. I don't expect any problems," said Trihey.
There is a silver lining to these snow clouds – some regional ski resorts are expecting to open earlier than anticipated. Crystal Mountain will open with limited operations and areas this Friday (11/19), and Mount Baker will open with 7 chairlifts and both base areas open this Saturday (11/20).
At Stevens Pass, General Manager John Gifford said they need between three and three and a half feet of snow before opening.
While this system moves over the Pacific Northwest for the next few days, snow levels may drop as low as 500 feet, resulting in some pockets of snow accumulation or wet snow in the lowlands.
However, a blast of cold air is expected to arrive around Sunday, bringing cold temperatures through Tuesday, and very little moisture.