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Early winter snowfall blows into Kitsap County

Shortly after 5 a.m Wednesday, Nov. 28, 30 Kitsap County snow plows roared to life and headed out to major arterials as an unpredicted snowstorm blanketed the area.

National Weather Service officials said two to eight inches of snow fell on Kitsap County Wednesday morning.

ìThere is an on-call employee every night and, in this case, either the 911 center or the sheriffís office alerted that person of what was going on,î county Department of Public Works engineer Callene Abernathy said. ìWhen snow falls, people start to call 911 or the sheriffís office to report incidents.î

By midday, the county had plowed and sanded most major roadways.

Despite the countyís efforts, a barrage of accidents littered county roads and state highways, slowing traffic to a crawl in many areas.

Washington State Patrol Trooper Glen Tyrrell said serious delays occurred along state routes 16, 3, 307 and 303.

Closures were also imposed. State Route 303 was closed at Ridgetop so plows and sand trucks could make the grade safer.

North-south county travel took as long as two hours Wednesday morning, according to county employees commuting from northern communities to the courthouse in Port Orchard.

Puget Sound Energy (PSE) spokesmen reported that 16,000 residential and commercial customers in Kitsap County were without power Wednesday.

Roadside trees and branches, laden with snow, cracked and bent under the pressure and fell on nearby lines.

PSE regional spokesman Don McDaniel said power was expected to be restored to all customers by Thursday afternoon.

ìMost of the customers hit the hardest were in Kitsap and Jefferson counties,î McDaniel said, ìwith some customers losing power in Thurston County as well.î

Dispatchers at Kitsap County Central Communications were busy early Wednesday morning and well into the day. Night-shift dispatchers were asked to stay longer and help the morning shift deal with the increased call volume.

This was pretty typical for a snow day,î said Dave Magnenat, assistant director of CenCom. ìThe staggered commute times, with school cancellations and delays, did help mitigate traffic problems.î

Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue crews responded to nearly 90 calls Wednesday, according to spokesperson Judy Knudtzon.

ìMany of the calls were motor-vehicle related where people were not injured,î Knudtzon said. ìAnd most of the other calls had to do with fallen tree limbs and downed power lines.î

Other calls involved ìpeople with breathing problemsî caused by the sudden weather change, Knudtzon said.

Despite the numerous vehicle accidents, there were few weather-related injuries at the three Harrison Hospital sites.

ìWe only saw five people come in with weather-related injuries,î hospital spokesperson Patti Hart said Wednesday afternoon. ìThose ranged from a motor-vehicle accident to a tree branch falling on somebody to a couple of falls on the ice.î

Hart said all of the injured were treated and released Wednesday.

ìIím surprised more people werenít injured in motor-vehicle crashes,î Hart said, adding that snow-removal equipment and de-icers were available to keep the hospitals accessible.

ìIím glad we were ready,î Hart said.

By Wednesday afternoon, National Weather Service officials said scattered rain started to fall throughout the peninsula. Snow started to melt in many areas, leaving slushy wet roads and sidewalks.

Sean Lamphere contributed to this report.

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