The snow flurries forecast for this weekend arrived early in the Tri-Cities, causing crashes and canceling evening and weekend events.
Snow started falling just before 8 a.m. across the Mid-Columbia as the National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for most of the Mid-Columbia through 1 p.m. Sunday.
More snow is expected. The weather service is warning that up to six to eight inches could fall in the Tri-Cities by the end of the weekend.
As snow began to fall Friday morning, cars and trucks started sliding off roads and into each other.
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Many of the crashes were reported along Interstate 82 near Prosser and on Highway 395 north of Pasco.
And Interstate 182 near Road 100 in Pasco proved to be another problem area.
In all, the Washington State Patrol responded to 27 wrecks and pin-outs in the Kennewick area.
Two people ended up going to hospitals. A 91-year-old woman went to Prosser Memorial after a crash on Interstate 82 and a 62-year-old woman was taken to Lourdes Medical Center after a Highway 395 collision.
With snow on the ground and the promise of more on the way, several agencies canceled evening activities and closed campuses for the weekend. This included high school basketball playoffs, wrestling matches, the Kasey Anderson concert and a young adult authors book tour.
The Hanford vitrification plant told its construction and startup crews that their day and night shifts were canceled through the weekend.
The National Weather Service said Tri-City residents could wake up Saturday morning to one to two inches of fresh snow on the ground.
Chances of snow Saturday are 80 percent, with one to three inches of snow possible by evening and another one to three inches possible overnight Saturday.
A blustery wind with gusts up to 39 mph is likely to blow snow and reduce visibility for drivers on Saturday, according to the weather service.
Sunday the chance of snow drops to 40 percent.
However, that may not be the end of the snow as storm systems are expected to roll over the Tri-Cities during the coming workweek.
Snow is likely early Tuesday morning and possible over the next 24 hours, the weather service said. A fresh system could bring a chance of snow Thursday through Friday, according to the early forecast.
Temperatures will remain colder than usual.
Highs should remain in the mid to low 20s for most of the coming week, the weather service predicted.
Monday could be particularly cold. The low could drop to 9 degrees in the morning, and the high for the day may not reach 20 degrees.
State of emergency
Snow is causing problems across the state with one to three inches blanketing Seattle, causing backups on Interstate 5.
The weather wreaked havoc on traffic, forced the city to open up emergency shelters for the homeless and caused runs on grocery stores, according to the Seattle Times.
In Spokane, plows are working through the night to clear streets, as they expect another two to four inches to fall overnight, the Spokesman-Review reported.
In the center of the state, people can expect the wind to kick up snow across roads if they’re traveling on Interstate 90 or highways 2 and 97.
“We are watching for blowing and drifting snow with near zero visibility at times,” the Washington State Department of Transportation said in a tweet about this weekend’s weather.
It recommended that weekend travelers reschedule their trips for later in the month when roads may be safer.
It warned drivers to be particularly careful on bridges, ramps and overpasses where ice may form.
In preparation for the snow, Gov. Jay Inslee issued a state of emergency for the state Friday. The proclamation frees up the state government to focus on helping areas affected by the storm.
“Everyone in our state needs to focus on preparing for the now and staying safe,” the governor said. “Weather forecasters predict this may be a storm unlike one we’ve seen in many years. I encourage everyone to stay off the roads.”
The snows have already hit the mountain passes. Pictures from the top of Snoqualmie Pass show white roads and low visibility. It’s expected to continue to fall for the rest of the weekend.
Chains are required on all vehicles except for all-wheel drive to drive through the compact snow and slush on the road, the Department of Transportation said.