Slip-sliding away: Freezing rain turns local roads into ice rinks

Conditions led to closure for parts of Interstate 84 and Highway 11, as well as multiple schools.

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WALLA WALLA -- A freezing rain overnight turned roads and sidewalks turned into ice rinks today.

Treacherous driving conditions closed several major highways and delayed or cancelled school in Washington and Oregon. Icy conditions also shut down Interstate 84 between Pendleton and La Grande in Oregon.

As of 9 a.m. today, all major routes through Umatilla County in Oregon were closed, including Interstate 84 and Highway 11 between Pendleton and the Washington state line. The Oregon Department of Transportation reported the shutdowns are due to trucks blocking the roadways and extremely icy conditions.

In Columbia County, the state highway is clear, but side roads were compact snow and ice. County road superintendent Roger Trump said crews were sanding, and "we are continuing to take snow off the gravel roads that weren't taken care of yesterday."

Snow levels ranged from about an inch in Starbuck to 10 inches at higher elevations, Trump said.

The extreme weather shut down several school districts in Washington and Oregon, including Walla Walla Public Schools, College Place Public Schools, Prescott School District, the Milton-Freewater School District, and the Athena-Weston School District.

No closures were reported on state or county roads in Walla Walla County, but icy conditions were reported in many areas and drivers were being asked to use extreme caution.

The Columbia School District in Burbank reported on its Web site that it was starting school two hours late, but that kindergarten or preschool classes were cancelled.

Dayton schools opened two hours late, with the Tucannon bus route cancelled.

A Garfield County Sheriff's Office dispatcher reported 35 degrees with melting conditions in Pomeroy. Schools started on time.

Conditions on Waitsburg sidewalks and streets were icy, city clerk/treasurer Randy Hinchliffe said this morning. Most of the three inches of snow on the ground had melted, he said.

Although more rain was predicted for today and tonight, temperatures were expected to rise above freezing later today with the high near 40 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. Nighttime temperatures were also expected to remain above freezing with the low around 36 degrees.

U-B reporters Maria Gonzalez and Carrie Chicken contributed to this report.

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