Thursday, December 20, 1990 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Cold Facts: More Glimpses Of A Snowstorm To Remember

On an icy Simonds Road Northeast, between Bothell and Kenmore, one man couldn't take it anymore.

An impatient driver in a Volkswagen Rabbit passed two motionless lanes of traffic in the left lane, skidded predictably on the ice and became stuck. Now his car was blocking the oncoming lane of traffic. The driver got out and crouched to examine his tires.

Then, in the dusky light, a snowball arced noiselessly across the road and hit him. Several more frosty missiles followed. Each one found its target. Another driver, in a truck, climbed from his vehicle and began pelting the offending driver with snowballs. The Rabbit driver, perhaps shamed, slipped back into his car and slid back down the hill to his rightful place in line.

``More than anything, I think he (the snowball pitcher) was just venting his frustration at all the crazy people everywhere out on the road and at the elements,'' said Ted Noggles, a dental technician in the traffic jam.

Tuesday, Dec. 18, 1990, was a day when, forged from a wildly wind-whipped snowstorm, there were born heroes, good samaritans, personal adventures, grueling commutes, fleeting friendships and acts of uncommon generosity.

And it was a night when people experienced things, good and bad, that they will always remember:

On foot after her car became stuck on a hill, Lynn Fuller, a Bellevue teacher, received a jolt of electricity through the handle of her umbrella when lightning flashed overhead. A check at a hospital showed her right side temporarily weakened. She'll be OK.

Mary Gey-McCulloch and her Lake Union neighbors broke up their hot-buttered-rum party to help tie up a houseboat that had broken loose. Six party-goers pulled on the boat's main tie-up line, like people playing tug-of-war. Their work done, they returned to McCulloch's home for hot cider.

In the midst of a traffic jam at South King Street and Rainier Avenue South, someone dressed as Santa Claus cavorted among the cars, spreading holiday cheer.

Doug Smith, a Bellevue resident, was waiting with about 40 others at Westlake for a bus to Bellevue. Some had waited five and six hours. A packed bus from Bellevue stopped and people stepped off. The bus then sat empty. ``It was just too much for people to take,'' said Smith.

Smith and the knot of passengers-in-waiting approached the bus and began pounding on the doors and windows. The driver inside explained that her shift was finished.

``People started pleading, `Take us the Bellevue,' '' Smith said. ``Then it became, `Take us to Bellevue, dammit.' ''

The bus driver, whom Smith described as ``unbelievably giving,'' took everyone aboard, navigated slippery downtown streets, somehow got on Interstate 90 and crossed Lake Washington. She let people off at all sorts of stops relatively close to their homes.

``She was going to go home for the night, but she took all of us to Bellevue,'' Smith said. ``I think this Metro bus driver deserves a gold medal.''

The driver would not give Smith her name, only her employee number: 7574. Smith plans to call Metro and recommend she receive a citation.

In all, 400 Metro buses got stuck - nearly half the rush-hour fleet. Some drivers' apparent lack of chutzpah distressed stressed-out riders.

``People wanted to kill the bus driver,'' said Pete Hamill, who took several hours commuting from downtown to the University District.

``At one point, we were stopped for so long that we thought the driver had gotten off the bus to get a drink. But we could never find out because the people in front of the bus would not talk to the people in back.''

School buses also had problems. Gillian Soholt, a Garfield High School student, was aboard one that was disabled on 23rd Avenue East. She and friends went to a nearby house to use the telephone and bathroom.

Soon, resident Dan Zucker had a houseful of storm refugees: the Garfield students, two bus drivers with stuck buses and one parent who had gotten stuck on her way to retrieve her daughter from Garfield. Zucker fed them a dinner of chicken, pasta and green beans.

``I think the guy is very awesome, and we plan on sending him a gift,'' said Soholt, 15, who took refuge at Zucker's house from 3:30 to 11:30 p.m.

Zucker said the students ``just seemed to need some hospitality.''

Nancy Swigard was the recipient of a different sort of hospitality - the come-on-and-do-the-town-with-us kind.

Swigard, battling the elements on Interstate 90, threw in the towel just east of Island Crest Way on Mercer Island and began trudging toward the off-ramp. She was on her way from her office in Bellevue to her home in Seward Park.

A couple with a four-wheel-drive vehicle pulled up. Swigard accepted their offer of a ride.

In the car were Torben Hollingsworth; his wife, Virginia Blaine; and Hollingsworth's parents, all out for a night on the town. The group made it across the bridge, but the exit to Swigard's house, Rainier Avenue South, was jammed. ``So they said, `Why don't you go to dinner with us?' I thought, sure, why not? At least I'm on the right side of the bridge.' ''

They went to Cutter's near the Pike Place Market. The Hollingsworth party had dinner. Swigard had a drink. When Swigard stole away to pay for her benefactors' dinner, Hollingsworth made the waiter tear up her bill.

``Then they said, `Why don't you go to the Nutcracker with us?' '' By then, she really wanted to get home to check on her family, but her options were limited.

``I never would have seen it otherwise,'' she said. ``Then they drove me home. It took two hours, and they still had to go to Issaquah. I told them to send me the charges for the calls I made on their car phone, but I know they never will.''

The day and the night were replete with less grand examples of people helping others make do.

Yesterday morning in Ballard, as a dozen shivering souls waited for the bus on 24th Avenue Northwest, a woman emerged from an apartment building near Northwest 65th Street. She bore a tray laden with a steaming coffee pot and mugs. ``She put it down on her porch, told us to help ourselves, then raced back inside,'' said Kevin Donnelly.

Coffee was free all night at the Arco service station at Northeast Bellevue-Redmond Road and 148th Avenue Northeast.

A man stuck on the road directed traffic on the Lake City Way off-ramp from Interstate 5.

The ice-coated ramp is steep and curved and elevated, making it especially treacherous. The man talked to drivers approaching the ramp and advised them to take it one car at a time, to keep moving slowly, not stop and, above all, to wait until the cars ahead had made it to the top before starting. Drivers who ignored the man didn't make it to the top of the ramp.

The folks at the Nikko Restaurant allowed desperate drivers mired in a massive traffic jam yesterday at South King Street and Rainier Avenue South to use their bathrooms at 1:30 a.m. and later - way after closing time.

Copyright (c) 1990 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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