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Ice Storm 2022 Wreaks Havoc in Western WA

Seattleites were immobilized by a historic winter ice storm — dubbed Ice Storm 2022 — this past holiday season.  As the massive storm rolled into Western Washington just before Christmas Eve 2022, a large swath of the Pacific Northwest region was struck with power outages, airport closures, traffic accidents, and injuries, taxing the impacted areas’ emergency support services and bringing regional travel to a standstill. 

Seattle, a city built entirely on hilly terrain, was glazed over with a sheet of ice measuring one-quarter inch thick in some areas, resulting in major losses and injuries. For the first time since 1996, King County Metro’s system was completely shut down, as were Pierce and Snohomish Counties’ bus systems. The rare ice event also forced the unprecedented closure of all three runways at Seattle Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac), snarling holiday travel irrevocably.

CZ Law’s personal injury lawyers are experienced in handling winter accidents of all kinds — from slip and fall injuries to fender benders and multi-vehicle accidents.  Read on to learn how you can protect yourself during severe weather events. If you were injured or incurred losses during Ice Storm 2022, or any other winter accident, contact CZ Law’s team of experienced Washington accident attorneys for help today!  

Ice Event of the Decade Causes Accidents, Injury, & Chaos

While many of us dream of an iconic “White Christmas,” our collective visions of a winter wonderland likely do not include the chaos experienced by residents and visitors in Western Washington leading up to Christmas. Like Dickens’ Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, Ice Storm 2022 ushered in a wave of destruction, with freezing rain contributing to hundreds of vehicle accidents, slip and fall incidents, and disruption in services that left thousands stranded or without power.

As reported by The Seattle Times, the holiday ice storm’s regional impacts included:

  • Moving Vehicle Accidents - Washington State Patrol reportedly responded to 253 car accidents, spinouts, and broken-down vehicles in less than 24 hours in King County alone.

  • Stationary Vehicle Collisions - With traction near zero on the ice-covered roads, motor vehicle accidents were not limited to vehicles in operation. Stationary vehicles slipped on the ice, colliding into other vehicles, including four State Patrol cars that were struck while they were stopped to assist with other traffic accidents. 

  • Slip & Fall Incidents - The University of Washington School of Medicine reported treating 70 ice-related injuries by midday on Friday, December 23rd. Similarly, the Seattle Fire Department reported responding to 233 slip-and-fall calls and other storm-related accidents by the end of the workday on Friday.

  • Power Outages - More than 7,500 Puget Sound Energy customers were affected by power outages in Western Washington on the afternoon of December 23, with more than 3,100 of those customers in Snohomish County remaining without power into the evening.

  • Canceled Flights - In addition to the unprecedented temporary closure of all three Sea-Tac runways, the ice storm resulted in over 670 flight cancellations at the airport. Washington State Ferries also suspended service on some routes due to the storm.

What Causes Ice Storms and Why Are They So Dangerous?

Ice Storm 2022 impacted several counties in Western Washington and was caused by the confluence of two significant weather systems. Specifically, The Seattle Times article cited National Weather Service Meteorologist Kirby Cook’s explanation of a blanket of cold air settled over Western Washington colliding with a storm system consisting of precipitation and warmer air moving in from the Pacific Ocean. 

Mr. Cook described the ice storm’s development to The Seattle Times, explaining, “As it moves into that cold air mass, it doesn’t displace it all at once. So you get rain falling on very cold surfaces and it freezes pretty much instantaneously.”

The National Weather Service cites three particularly treacherous scenarios brought about by ice storms, including:

  • Black Ice - Clear patches of ice that form when water collects on the road (usually in the early morning hours or after rainfall) and temperatures dip below freezing, creating extremely dangerous driving conditions.

  • Ice Jams - These form when frozen lakes and rivers start to melt and chunks of ice become lodged at underpasses or natural obstructions, creating dangerous flooding.\

  • Ice Recreation - Frozen lakes and rivers are tempting for nature lovers and outdoor sports enthusiasts, but recreating on icy surfaces can have deadly consequences. The National Weather Service recommends contacting your State Department of Natural Resources before venturing out on the ice, as well as educating yourself about the inherent dangers of ice.

KING 5 News featured Washington State Patrol Trooper Kelsey Harding urging motorists to avoid travel whenever possible. Trooper Harding warned that temperatures would rise above freezing on December 24, and melting ice and snow would lead to flooding on the roadway, causing more vehicles to hydroplane and spin out.

Remember, there is no such thing as 100% safety when dealing with ice in a natural setting. Always educate yourself before attempting any winter recreational activity on the ice, and exercise extreme caution when you encounter ice while driving or recreating.

Weather-Related Accident Prevention & Response

Although residents of the Pacific Northwest live with the daily threat of winter injuries and accidents, it is always helpful to review preventive measures. Follow these tips to help avoid a motor vehicle accident this winter:

Tips for Safe Winter Driving & Accident Prevention

  • Heed safety warnings: do not drive in severe weather conditions

  • Properly maintain your vehicle, ideally in advance of winter weather

  • Check traffic & weather reports before traveling; always allow extra travel time

  • Drive slowly & allow extra stopping distance between vehicles

  • Ensure your vehicle is stocked with supplies including food, water, & blankets

  • Carry safety equipment such as chains, flares, jumper cables, flashlight, & safety vest

  • Minimize distractions & do not drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol

  • Educate yourself on safe winter driving to avoid spinning out or hydroplaning.

Even experienced winter drivers can be involved in an accident. If this happens to you, try your best to remain calm. Take a few moments now to review our checklist of important steps to take if you are involved in a weather-related collision:

What to Do If You Are Injured in a Weather-Related Accident 

  • Call 911 if anyone is injured in the accident

  • Stay with your vehicle until help arrives

  • Run your engine with a clear exhaust pipe, only as necessary to stay warm

  • Gather documentation such as photos of injuries & damage, only as safety permits

  • Do not admit fault at the scene of the accident

  • Seek a medical evaluation as soon as possible, even if your injuries seem minor

  • Contact an experienced accident attorney as soon as possible

CZ Law: A Trusted Resource for Winter Injury Accidents

The law firm of Carpenter & Zuckerman was founded on the principle of standing up for injury victims against wealthy insurance companies whose sole focus is to increase profits for their shareholders. Our firm’s focus is to ensure you are protected for the future and receive the maximum compensation possible in your case. We strive to shoulder the burden of the legal process so you can concentrate on healing. Our team of veteran accident lawyers is experienced in negotiating with insurance companies as well as courtroom litigation. We often achieve outstanding settlements for our clients well before trial.

CZ Law has been helping winter accident victims recover compensation for their damages for the past 27 years. We maintain offices in Washington State and California. To date, our accomplished and compassionate personal injury attorneys have secured more than $2 billion in verdicts and settlements for our deserving clients.

With winter weather in full swing in Washington State, vehicle collisions, slip and fall incidents, and winter sporting accidents are unfortunate realities of life in the region. In all seasons and circumstances, CZ Law is ready to help you recover the compensation you deserve for your injuries so you can move on with your life. Contact CZ Law’s Washington office today at (425) 786-2918, or fill out our contact form for a FREE consultation

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