Relief in forecast for icy Walla Walla Valley

Another storm is expected, but so are warmer temperatures.

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With a winter storm closing schools and making driving treacherous, two kids make good use of the slippery conditions as they zip down the sledding hill at Pioneer Park on Thursday afternoon, blurring light and taking advantage of the speed of ice. January 19, 2012

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While traffic on icy streets was minimal, it seemed like everybody...and their dogs---literally, at times---hit the hill at Pioneer Park and other slippery inclines for a day of sledding. January 19, 2012

How has the recent icy weather affected the Valley? Check out the community reactions and photos below the story.

WALLA WALLA -- Schools were on two-hour delays and drivers daring the roads faced a crunchy, slippery commute this morning as the area began digging out from an all-day ice storm.

While no roads were reported blocked in Walla Walla or College Place, road conditions were hazardous throughout the area.

Black ice was reported on Highway 11 between Milton-Freewater and Pendleton this morning with chains required.

U.S. Highway 12 was reported as covered with compact snow and ice from the Tri-Cities going eastward.

The freezing rain that drizzled down all day Thursday shut down schools and left downtown Walla Walla deserted.

However, no significant power failures were reported in the area and any trees that succumbed to loads of ice in their branches apparently didn't block any roads.

Road crews were plowing in the city and county. George Bell, city of Walla Walla road superintendent, said workers were "trying to knock some snow off the main arterials on the east side of the city" this morning.

College Place Public Works Director Paul Hartwig said his crews were "going to be out blading the roads today and tomorrow as well."

Randy Glaeser, Walla Walla County Public Works director, said crews had now plowed almost all the county roads once and were back out again this morning.

"We have been challenged with a lot of trees down," Glaeser said. "Upper Mill Creek (Road) is a disaster area and there are similar situations at Biscuit Ridge Road and Scott Canyon."

Crews found that temperatures ranged widely throughout the county, he said. "We had places where it was 50 degrees to 15 degrees, depending on where you were."

Those working to clear away the ice and snow should get some help from Mother Nature as well. Another Pacific storm is expected to move into the region later today, but this one will be warmer with temperatures going into the 40s by Saturday, the National Weather Service reported.

Precipitation in lower elevations should come as rain, while mountain areas will continue to get snow. Winds are also expected to kick up with gusts in the mid-30 mph range tonight.

One major beneficiary of this week's storms have been the state's snowpacks, including those feeding the Walla Walla River Basin. Monitoring stations in the Blue Mountains reported significant gains in snow cover since Monday.

According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service website, one station located 20 miles east of the city reported an increase in snow cover from 35 to 55 inches.

A second station near the city of Walla Walla diversion in the Mill Creek drainage area showed an increase of 23 inches in the snow level.

Andy Porter can be reached at andyporter@wwub.com or 526-8318.

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