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Snow storm: Federal Way schools are closed today

This photo was taken about 3 p.m. Wednesday at Celebration Park in Federal Way as the snow started to get heavy. - Andy Hobbs/The Mirror
This photo was taken about 3 p.m. Wednesday at Celebration Park in Federal Way as the snow started to get heavy.
— image credit: Andy Hobbs/The Mirror

UPDATE: All Federal Way Public Schools are closed today, Feb. 24. No out-of-district transportation will be provided. After-school and evening activities are canceled. 

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UPDATE: Federal Way and the rest of Puget Sound is under a winter storm warning until 10 a.m. Thursday as a storm moves in that could produce between 2 and 6 inches of snow.

There were no local school cancellations this morning, but the Federal Way School District did cancel after-school and evening activities for Wednesday night. An awards dinner for the district's AVID writing contest scheduled for Thursday night has also been cancelled. 

Forecasts indicate that the storm will not pick up speed until Wednesday afternoon; snow was falling in Federal Way as early as noon. The National Weather Service forecast predicts that the heaviest snow will occur Wednesday before an arctic front moves across the area tonight.

The National Weather Service had predicted ice for the evening commute, causing some to remember the nightmare commute caused by a storm on Nov. 22, 2010.

However, University of Washington atmospheric sciences professor and reputable local weather prognosticator Cliff Mass wrote on his blog Wednesday morning that he did not expect an icy commute this evening.

Mass predicted that Wednesday morning commutes would also be unaffected by weather. "Temperatures will remain at or slightly above freezing during the day," Mass wrote. "Major urban roads should be OK, particularly since many (departments of transportation) applied de-icers. The only failure mode would be if the snow rate gets so large that we get a slippery slush layer after the de-icers get diluted."

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Original report:

The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch for the area, forecasting that between 2 and 6 inches of snow could fall during the day on Wednesday.

The forecast says that "slushy accumulations" are possible for Wednesday morning, but that the main snowfall will begin Wednesday afternoon and continue through early Thursday.

"An arctic air mass dropping south from British Columbia combined with developing low pressure off the Washington coast will give the potential for heavy snow over all of the lowlands of Western Washington beginning Wednesday and continuing into Thursday morning," said the National Weather Service's forecast.

Federal Way Deputy Public Works Director Marwan Salloum said that a plan to combat the snow would be hashed out Tuesday afternoon, with the likely outcome of switching city snow removal crews to 12-hour shifts. Salloum said the city has all the necessary snow-melting materials to clear roads.

"The forecast right now would appear that there may be an accumulation of snow on Wednesday and going into early Thursday," he said. "We're trying to figure out how to deal with this short duration event."

A city press release issued Tuesday afternoon confirmed the move to 12-hour shifts. As is usual, major and minor arterial routes will be cleared first. Residents may report problems to the Public Works Department at 253-835-2700 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. and 1-800-400-0749 after hours.

Calls to the message center will be routed to on-call staff and responded to, according to priority level. The city does not maintain private streets, parking lots or driveways. A map of Federal Way's snow plow routes can be found at www.cityoffederalway.com/SnowPlowRoutes.

University of Washington professor Cliff Mass, a renowned local source for weather predictions, wrote on his weather blog, "So bottom line for snow. My prediction: South Seattle - 1 to 3 inches, North Seattle -2 to 5 inches, northern Snohomish (3-8 inches).

"Good news for commuters and (Seattle Department of Transportation) tomorrow: temperatures will remain above freezing, SO NO SOLID ICE LAYER like Nov 22, 2010."

In addition to snow, forecasts point to chilly temperatures for the remainder of the week. A high of 36 is predicted for Wednesday, 31 on Thursday and 33 on Friday. However, the National Weather Service predicts sun for Friday and Saturday.

(Jacinda Howard contributed to this report.)

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