Snow, ice turn Tri-Cities into slippery mess

A slushy and icy mix of snow, freezing rain and rain Tuesday across the Mid-Columbia closed and delayed schools, shut down Hanford work early and postponed most after-school events.

Drivers slipped and often slid off highways and streets, and flooding was reported in eastern Umatilla County in Oregon.

Temperatures warmed to near or above freezing in the Tri-Cities on Tuesday afternoon. But roads turned slippery again Tuesday night under freezing rain, causing accidents across the Mid-Columbia.

Emergency dispatchers across the Tri-Cities and surrounding area said early-evening collisions led to few serious injuries, with many drivers treated at the accident scene. Crashes began to decrease after rush hour across the Mid-Columbia.

Roads in Pasco and Kennewick were slick. However some of the main arterials were layered in slush and water as traffic broke down the icy cover.

Interstate 90 eastbound was closed about 5 p.m. near Denny Creek because of multiple collisions. The Washington State Department of Transportation was hoping to reopen it by 8 p.m.

The slick and sloppy weather is expected to be a watery memory by later today, as the National Weather Service in Pendleton predicts a chance of rain and temperatures in the high 30s by late afternoon.

But on a gloomy Tuesday, freezing rain led to cancellation of school in Walla Walla, College Place, Prescott, Touchet and the Milton-Freewater and Athena-Weston school districts in Oregon.

In the Tri-Cities area, Finley School District was closed and most other districts were on a two-hour delay.

Numerous after-school sporting events were canceled because of the weather. And Columbia Basin College in Pasco closed early Tuesday.Some students at Washington State University Tri-Cities didn’t have to take their finals Tuesday because the campus closed shortly after 5 p.m. Exams will be rescheduled.

Hanford nuclear reservation workers started the day two hours late because of slick roads. Before 2 p.m., nonessential workers north of the 300 Area near Richland were sent home in anticipation of icy roads as afternoon temperatures began to drop.

Less than 90 minutes later, nonessential workers in the 300 Area also were sent home, and most swing shift workers were told not to report to the site Tuesday night.

In Oregon, highways 730 and 11 and interstates 84 and 82 were closed for a time Tuesday morning because of icy roads and trucks blocking lanes, the Oregon Department of Transportation reported.

Flooding was reported in Weston and Athena because of high water from creeks, rivers or field runoff, emergency officials said.

The Umatilla Chemical Depot and Oregon state offices in Umatilla County also were closed Tuesday because of icy roads, the depot said.

Benton County Emergency Services was receiving many 911 calls from residents Tuesday evening wanting information on road and weather conditions.

It reminds residents that such calls can cause delays in responding to emergencies.

For information on road conditions, emergency services recommends calling 509-588-3322 in Benton City; 585-4419 in Kennewick; 509-786-7300 in Prosser; 509-942-7733 or 509-531-9168 evenings in Richland; and 509-967-5434 in West Richland.