Tri-City residents woke up Monday to at least 3 inches of snow, and more could fall later in the week.
A winter storm was expected to pass quickly through the area but paused over the lower Columbia Basin in the early morning, leaving snow from Benton City to Walla Walla.
The snowfall appeared to travel east, with people in Richland reporting the snow starting around 2:35 a.m. People began reporting snowfall in Pasco at 3:34 a.m.
By 4 a.m., the National Weather Service issued a winter weather advisory, and winter weather cut visibility to a half-mile.
Forecasters expected the snow to stick to the mountains in northeast Oregon and southeast Washington, said Ann Adams, an assistant meteorologist at the service’s Pendleton station.
“We thought everyone would get some snow,” she said.
Moving toward Wednesday, a strong and wet Pacific system is expected to spread precipitation across the region, National Weather Service forecasters said.
The storm is expected to leave about 5 inches of snow across the region.
Snow and slick conditions led to roughly 45 crashes and collisions in the Tri-City region, Trooper Chris Thorson said. One of the collisions was a driver going too fast for road conditions, colliding with a stopped Franklin County Sheriff’s Office patrol car on Highway 395. No injuries were reported.
Many of the agencies affected by the snow reported being surprised and quickly responded once it started falling.
Ron Foraker, the Port of Pasco’s director of airports, said a guard on duty informed people around 4:30 a.m., which allowed airport staff to begin cleaning the runways before flights needed to leave or land.
The only flight canceled from the Tri-Cities Airport was an Alaska Airlines flight, which was supposed to arrive from Bellingham but didn’t leave before the Bellingham International Airport closed Monday morning.
A separate storm dropped freezing rain across the city and closed the Bellingham International Airport runway at 12:42 a.m. Mike Hogan, a spokesman for the Port of Bellingham, told The Bellingham Herald. Ice was nearly an inch thick.
Removing ice from planes before they left was the only delays, Foraker said.
The highways were clear and wet, and arterial roads cleaned by noon.
Cary Roe, Kennewick’s director of public works, and Jon Funfar, Pasco’s communication program manager, said crews were out within an hour of snow starting in the region.
Roe said crews are working to pick up as much moisture from the road as possible before more snow comes to the area and temperatures turn cold again.