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(Updates with latest forecast in second paragraph, flight cancellations in fifth.)
Jan. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Airlines canceled flights out of Seattle, Microsoft Corp. employees worked from home via teleconference and Starbucks Corp. shut its headquarters as a winter snowstorm hit the normally rainy city.
Two to 4 inches (5 to 10 centimeters) of snow blanketed city streets by mid-morning and another 2 to 4 inches may fall before the storm ends overnight, the National Weather Service said. Earlier forecasts were for as much as 12 inches, which would have been the city’s biggest snowfall in 27 years.
The region, where major employers also include Boeing Co. and Amazon.com Inc., lacks the plows of places that get snow more regularly, and hilly terrain complicates travel. Public schools and the University of Washington in Seattle told students to stay home today.
“For a city that is known more for its rain than its snow, this is going to be a big snowstorm,” said Andy Haner, a National Weather Service forecaster in Seattle. “The other big issue here is our hills. San Francisco is known for its hills but Seattle isn’t that far behind.”
Alaska Air Group Inc., the largest carrier at Seattle- Tacoma International Airport, had canceled 47 flights by Alaska Air and its Horizon unit as of 9:30 a.m. local time.
“We selected flights in markets where we fly several times a day so that we can reaccommodate customers as quickly as possible,” said Paul McElroy, a spokesman for the Seattle-based carrier. “We’re doing our best to operate flights to the Midwest and East Coast, and to Hawaii so folks can get to some warmth and sunshine.”
Runways are open and some carriers canceled flights “proactively,” the airport said on its website.
Starbucks, which operates the world’s largest chain of coffee shops, closed its headquarters in Seattle yesterday and said it would consider shutting individual shops neighborhood by neighborhood.
Chicago-based Boeing, which makes jetliners in the Seattle area, told employees in a recorded message today that it’s monitoring the storm and hasn’t made any changes to its operations. Workers in Washington and Oregon were expected to work their normal shifts.
Microsoft planned to keep in touch with its staff through an e-mail alert system, said John Cirone, director of employee communications at the company.
“The vast majority of our employees are able to work remotely, so we would foresee very little impact on our business,” he said by e-mail.
Amy Barzdukas, a general manager at Microsoft, said members of her server software marketing team were working from their homes using personal computers, mobile phones and a Microsoft teleconferencing program called Lync. She said some “hardy souls” were thinking of venturing to the company’s Redmond campus, which never closes.
Costco Wholesale Corp., the largest U.S. warehouse club chain, didn’t anticipate any major disruptions at a distribution center it operates in the region, said Franz Lazarus, senior vice president of global operations at the company, based in Issaquah, Washington, east of Seattle.
“When these snow events happen, some parts of the community are affected and some are not,” Lazarus said. “I’ve got to make sure the parking lots are clean,” he joked.
Cities along the Interstate 5 corridor south of Seattle, including the state capital of Olympia, got 8 to 18 inches of snow today, said Danny Mercer, a meteorologist with the weather service in Seattle.
The snow may turn icy by tomorrow, making travel difficult, and then melt within a few days, possibly causing flooding, he said.
“We’re really discouraging travel,” he said.
Ski areas in the mountains east of Seattle and Portland welcomed the snow to make up for a dry December.
“We’ve got what everyone has been dreaming about -- lots of deep powder,” said Hans Wipper, operations manager at Mount Hood Skibowl, east of Portland, where forecasts called for 1 to 3 feet of snow.
Business had been slower than normal so far this year, he said.
“It’s winter, finally,” said Drew Jackson, a spokesman for Mount Bachelor ski resort, near Bend, Oregon.
Pike Place Fish Market in downtown Seattle, where workers are known for entertaining tourists by throwing fish, opened to empty concourses.
“We’ll stay open as long as they let us,” said Samuel Samson, manager at the market. It’s been about 15 years since snow forced a shutdown, he said.
--With assistance from Dina Bass, Britton Staniar, Susanna Ray, Hui-yong Yu and Steve McPherson in Seattle; Anthony Effinger in Portland; Brian K. Sullivan in Boston; and Mary Jane Credeur in Atlanta. Editors: Charlotte Porter, Richard Stubbe
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