Editor’s note: This story will be updated as information becomes available.
OKANOGAN - An overnight freezing rain storm blanketed much of Okanogan Valley leaving a sheet of ice across area highways and creating a hazardous morning commute.
According to officials from the Spokane office of the National Weather Service, much of eastern Washington will remain under a freezing rain advisory through at least 10 p.m. tonight.
“Freezing rain will continue this morning, changing to rain with pockets of freezing rain this afternoon, except possibly changing to snow in the Methow Valley,” meteorologists said early Wednesday morning.
Officials said ice accumulations of 1/10 to 1/4 of an inch is possible. Meanwhile, snow accumulations of 1-3 inches in the mountains near the Canadian border, and 6-10 inches in the North Cascades mountains can be expected.
The freezing rain began falling early this morning and prompted the closure of Inchelium, Mansfield, Methow Valley, Okanogan, Omak, Oroville, Paschal Sherman Indian School, Pateros and Tonasket schools, and the Omak campus of Wenatchee Valley College. Several other schools started two-hours late.
The inclement weather also prompted the Tonasket and Okanogan senior citizens centers to close for the day.
"We have already received several reports of black ice on some area roadways,” officials from the Okanogan County Sheriff’s office said earlier this morning. "Drive with caution.”
“As you step out of your house this morning be cautious of the icy conditions,” Okanogan County Emergency Manager Maurice Goodall said. “There’s a thin coat of ice over most cold surfaces. The vehicles are covered in ice and our roadways seem to be in about the same condition. Be cautious driving today.”
Goodall urges residents to be aware of their surroundings and always be prepared.
"People want to get down the road and it looks like it's wet," he said. "Unfortunately there's ice underneath that wetness."
"The surfaces may feel warm to us, but surfaces are cold," he said.
It’s a similar situation in Ferry County.
"Please be advise the sand trucks are doing the best they can. Try to stay home if at all possible,” officials from the Ferry County Sheriff’s office said. "The Republic school is two-hours delayed due to the road conditions.”
The weather has prompted several other delays, cancellations and closures:
- Family Health Centers clinics are operating on shortened hours today. Patients are urged to contact their local clinic before arriving to appointments to get further details.
- Loup Loup Ski Area is closed today. All classes and special programs are cancelled today. Officials say they plan to re-open Friday, Feb. 17.
- Okanogan County Community Action will be closed this morning and we will continue to evaluate to see if they can open later this afternoon.
- Okanogan Senior Citizens Center will be closed today.
- Tonasket Senior Citizens Center will be closed today.
School delays, closures. Update as of 9:50 a.m.
- Almira School District- Two-hour delay.
- Brewster School District- Two-hour delay.
- Bridgeport School District- Two-hour delay.
- Coulee Hartline School District- Two-hour delay.
- Curlew School District- Two-hour delay.
- Grand Coulee School District- Two-hour delay.
- Inchelium School District- Closed.
- Mansfield School District- Closed.
- Methow Valley School District- Closed.
- Nespelem School District - Two-hour delay.
- Okanogan School District - Closed.
- Omak School District - Closed.
- Oroville School District - Closed.
- Orient School District - Two-hour delay.
- Paschal Sherman Indian School - Closed.
- Pateros School District - Closed.
- Republic School District- Two-hour delay.
- Tonasket School District - Closed.
- Wenatchee Valley College- Classes for the Omak campus are cancelled today; Wenatchee campus will have a two-hour delay.