Goodbye, snow. Hello, freezing rain

Helping a snowbound Burbank neighbor

Snowbound Burbank resident Judy Toebe gets more of a response than expected after calling the Walla Walla Fire District 5 fire station asking to borrow a snow shovel.
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Snowbound Burbank resident Judy Toebe gets more of a response than expected after calling the Walla Walla Fire District 5 fire station asking to borrow a snow shovel.

Tri-City area drivers will need to be prepared for some slick roads the next two days.

Rain, likely mixed with freezing rain, was forecast for Wednesday morning from midnight until 11 a.m.

A slight chance of snow is forecast in the afternoon, but any accumulation should be less than half an inch, according to the National Weather Service.

Students can check for school closures and delays at bit.ly/snowdelays.

Thursday morning should bring a chance of snow before 11 a.m., then wintery mix for the rest of the day. Freezing rain is forecast after 5 p.m.

Some snow accumulation is possible, but no more than one or two inches is expected.

Burbank shovel helpers
Assistant Fire Chief Erik Mattox, left, and firefighter Isidro Diddens, with Walla Walla Fire District 5 in Burbank, help dig paths for Jody Toebe after snow blocked her driveway. She asked to borrow a snow shovel but the firefighters walked over and dug her out. Bob Brawdy Tri-City Herald

That should be the end of the winter storm system through at least early next week, other than a slight chance of snow Saturday night and Sunday in the Tri-Cities.

Tri-City residents can look forward to a break from gloomy skies on a day many people will have off from work and school.

Presidents Day could be the sunniest day in the Tri-Cities in the next week, according to the early forecast of the weather service.

Crashes keep police busy

Most Tri-City-area schools were closed for a second day in a row Tuesday, giving kids a chance to play in the snow.

Law enforcement was not having fun, however.

People were still sliding around on slick roads as Tri-Cities residents continued digging themselves out from the weekend’s snowstorm.

Tuesday morning, a semi truck and trailer slammed into a guard rail as it headed east on Interstate 82 near the Oregon border about 8:20 a.m.

I 82 semi.jpg
Eastbound lanes of Interstate 82 were blocked after a semi driver lost control Tuesday morning. Washington State Patrol

It was one of the eight crashes between 5 and 8 a.m., said Washington State Patrol Trooper Chris Thorson.

Most of them were caused by people driving too fast on roads still slippery from the snow and ice, he said.

He warned that water on the highway could turn into black ice as temperatures drop.

While no one was hurt in Tuesday morning’s crash on Interstate 82, five people were taken to hospitals after two wrecks involving semi-trucks with trailers starting at 3:30 p.m. Monday on Highway 395.

John Schilling sits and watches as Jimmy Zhao snowboards near Badger Mountain in Richland on Tuesday. Schilling was teaching Zhao the basics of snowboarding. Noelle Haro-Gomez Tri-City Herald

In one crash, Thiha Maung, 46, Merisa Maung, 44, and a 9-year-old were taken by ambulance to Lourdes Medical Center in Pasco.

Their Toyota Corolla was hit by a tractor and trailer just south of Mesa, the state patrol said.

The semi’s driver, Adan Lomeli-Carrillo, 35, of Kennewick, was driving too fast for the slick roads when he lost control, the state patrol said.

Less than an hour later, Steven D. Forth, 46, of Claresholm, Alberta, swerved to avoid a two-semi crash at Highway 395 and drove north in the southbound lanes for three miles, triggering a pileup of four semi trucks, the state patrol said.

Another semi swerved to avoid Forth, and hit the guardrail, a third semi hit the second truck and a fourth crashed into a Dodge pickup.

Paul Fraser of Richland skis around Badger Mountain on Tuesday while the suns was out. Noelle Haro-Gomez Tri-City Herald

The driver of the second truck, Charles H. Van Lear, 55, of Kennewick, went to Lourdes Medical Center, and the driver of the fourth semi, Blane Strong, 57, of North Las Vegas, was taken to Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland, the state patrol said.

The crashes caused a highway backup that lasted for hours.

Helping hands

While the snow and ice sent some skidding, it also brought out the best in many around the community.

Nine off-duty firefighters from across the region showed up at the Mid-Columbia Meals on Wheels’ doorstep to pick up dozens of deliveries for elderly people stuck at home.

They were joined by many of the organization’s normal drivers who braved the snow to serve meals.

Many clients were running low on food since they weren’t able to get to the store in the snow, the organization said on its Facebook page.

Kids trudge up a hill with their sleds at Carmichael Middle School in Richland on Tuesday. Classes were canceled because of the snow. Noelle Haro-Gomez Tri-City Herald

Firefighters and volunteers spent two hours getting the food to people using four-wheel drive vehicles.

“We hope all of you are remaining safe during this winter weather,” the Richland Fire and Emergency Services department posted. “We have witnessed so many acts of kindness during the storms and we are grateful to work in such an amazing community.”

Kennewick police shared their own story about an act of kindness they witnessed after a driver got stuck.

An officer found a car in a snowbank near Fourth Avenue and Shepherd Street. As the officer started helping the driver get back onto the road, two people from AGA Construction lent a hand.

“They stopped, equipped with snow shovels and quickly freed the vehicle from the snow,” Kennewick police said on its Facebook page. “We appreciate everyone who has pitched in to help their neighbors and complete strangers, not only during snow events but on a regular basis.”

A Facebook group called “Tri-City Snowstorm 2019 Helpers” popped up to connect those needing food, transportation or help shoveling in the bad weather with those who could help.

Hungry horses
A group of hungry horses gather around a large bale of hay in a snow-covered pasture Tuesday off West Humorist Road in Burbank. Bob Brawdy t

Within a few days of its creation, it had 2,250 members.

People were taking down grocery lists as they left to do their own shopping and offering tips on where snow shovels were still in stock.

One woman asked if someone could help her jump start a dead car battery, saying that tow companies were so busy she had not been able to get help.

Another person asked is someone could provide a ride to a medical appointment near Trios Southridge Hospital. One woman found someone who could pick up a prescription for her.

Garrett Huff, 10, pushes the sled as Zoe Call, 7, and Eli Warnick, 5, ride on it Tuesday in Richland. Classes were canceled for a second day because of the snow. Noelle Haro-Gomez Tri-City Herald

Roads remained closed

Interstate 90 was closed all day Tuesday near Snoqualmie Pass with plans to reassess conditions at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Over 48 hours more than four feet of snow had fallen on the interstate.

It closed at about 5 p.m. Monday as several crashes were reported on slick roadways.

Washington state Department of Transportation crews on Tuesday were plowing snow, performing avalanche control work to remove snow from dozens of avalanche chutes, and removing snow and ice from overhead signs, bridges and overpasses within the 70-mile closed section.

Here’s what Interstate 90 looked like Tuesday morning at milepost 34 with snow continuing to fall. Courtesy Washington State Patrol

“We haven’t seen monumental snow accumulation like this in our 20 years,” said Harry Nelson, maintenance superintendent for the state agency. “We are literally digging our way out of all this snow so that we can get it back open for drivers.”

Several rural Benton County roads also remained closed Tuesday evening as crews continued to plow.. They include: Lincoln Road, McBee Road, Nine Canyon Road between Lower Blair Road and the south end of County Road, Sellards Road between Highway 221 and Travis Road and Ward Gap Road.

Ashleigh Flint, 12, surfs on his sled down his driveway in Richland on Tuesday. Noelle Haro-Gomez Tri-City Herald

Senior staff writer Annette Cary covers Hanford, energy, the environment, science and health for the Tri-City Herald. She’s been a news reporter for more than 30 years in the Pacific Northwest.