Old Man Winter's icy lockdown on the Tri-Cities should start to loosen its grip today with temperatures expected to climb to near 48 degrees.
But after relatively calm weather earlier Friday, emergency crews were scurrying after dark when freezing rain and dropping temperatures turned roads and sidewalks into skating rinks.
Trouble spots included Highway 395 over the blue bridge, Interstate 182 in Pasco and parts of Highway 240 after cars and trucks spun or rolled into the medians.
The National Weather Service forecasts a 20 percent chance of rain today with winds around 25 mph and gusts as high as 40 mph. Tonight's temperature may dip to 32, but will sneak up to the 40s on Sunday.
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The National Weather Service expects rain to persist off and on through Tuesday.
Most schools and many government offices were closed Friday because of expected slippery conditions but many businesses remained open.
Despite the dicey conditions, none of the vehicle crashes have involved serious injuries.
But a sledding accident Thursday sent a 10-year-old boy to the hospital.
Richland Fire Department sent a medical team to the popular Carmichael Middle School hill just before noon after the boy's sled slammed into a dugout and he suffered serious injuries, Lt. David Roney said.
No further information was available Friday on the boy's condition.
Washington State Patrol troopers and police got a break from freezing rain and snow during the day Friday, giving them a chance to regroup.
WSP Lt. Roger Wilbur said troopers spent all day Wednesday and Thursday essentially responding to crash after crash after crash.
State patrol dispatchers received 225 calls reporting collisions or needing trooper help in the Tri-Cities from 7 a.m. Wednesday to Friday morning. Usually they average three to five crash calls a day, he said.
"Spin-offs are the majority of the crashes that we see in weather-related conditions like this," Wilbur said. "The bulk, if not all, are just people driving too fast."
Thursday had several instances -- notably Interstate 82 near the Oregon state line -- in which freezing rain was to blame, Wilbur said.
The highway became a solid sheet of ice about three miles north of the state line and even slow-going semi-trucks couldn't get enough traction to stay on the road, the trooper said.
"It's really the freezing rain that gives us the problem," Wilbur said.
The area of I-82 where the bulk of the problems were involved a curve in the road that slopes to the left toward the median. Drivers were going slow enough to maintain control of their semi-trucks, but didn't have enough traction to keep from sliding into the median, Wilbur explained.
Interstate 182 between Richland and Pasco also was a trouble area this week, mainly because of the high volume of traffic, Wilbur said.
"If there's one or two cars around when you slide off the road, it might not impact you, but when there's 10 cars ... the possibility of hitting them or causing them to lose control increases the risk," Wilbur said.
Drivers hear the same advice before the winter driving season starts and whenever snow or ice cover the roads, but Wilbur said it can't be repeated enough: increase following distance, slow down and have extra supplies -- blankets, food and water -- in the car.
"The best advice in any kind of snow and ice conditions is be aware the roadways aren't going to be very good," he said.
"You need to drive accordingly and reduce your speed. If you've got enough momentum to roll that car over, you're going too fast to begin with," Wilbur said.
Lingering winter weather with poor road conditions also prompted Hanford contractors and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland to tell nonessential employees to stay home Friday.
Many Hanford employees already had the day off under work schedules that give every Friday or every other Friday off in exchange for nine- and 10-hour workdays the rest of the week.
Pasco police responded to and investigated more than 40 accidents Wednesday through Friday, said Capt. Jim Raymond.
Walla Walla County, Richland and Kennewick reported having no serious weather-related traffic collisions Friday.
"People are driving slow and that's good," said Kennewick police Cpl. Todd Dronen.
Many of Kennewick's streets still were under snow Friday, but the salt and deicer applications a week earlier made main thoroughfares and arterials easier going for motorists.
Martin Nelson, the city's streets and storms supervisor, said up to eight snowplows worked much of the past two days.
"We started with single-lane plowing (in the center lanes of four-lane streets) to allow traffic to turn left without having to fight a center berm," Nelson said.
Trevis Smith of Pittsburgh Paints on Washington Street in Kennewick said the city snowplows had cleared a path down the middle of the street, but tossed the snow so far to the side that it block access to the store's parking lot driveway.
Smith said he fired up a snowblower to carve a path through the 2-foot-high blockade.
"I got three ways cleared into the lot before my snowblower quit," Smith said.
The piled up snow has been a problem before, but not quite as bad as this year, he said.
Nelson said the city's goal is to plow a path without throwing snow onto the sidewalks.
The city's snowplows began clearing side streets Friday and eventually will reach into residential neighborhoods.
"There are a lot of folk who would like to get out of their residential areas, but it is just outside our budget right now," Nelson said.
Nelson said his crews will continue to lay down deicer and salt until the storm passes.
"You never know when the temperature is going to turn, so we'll continue until we are sure the weather is going to break," he said.
Dana Alderson, postmaster in Pasco, said they have been able to keep up usual deliveries on all 81 delivery routes.
"It has slowed us down, but all of our fleet is chained up and seasoned carriers know how to handle it," Alderson said.
The only real problem with snow is when it is piled up around mailboxes by a snowplow, she said. That can force postal workers to get out and climb over the snow.
But the mail going in and out of the Tri-Cities has been affected more significantly by bad weather out of town.
Alderson said some trucks were unable to stay on schedule after the Washington Department of Transportation closed main routes across the mountain passes and through the Columbia River Gorge.
"But at least everything is still moving. We've been told our mail is coming," Alderson said.