Storm, cold weather brings delays, cancellations

Blowing snow and fog makes visibility difficult on Highway 97 north of Riverside Friday morning.

Photo by Brock Hires
Blowing snow and fog makes visibility difficult on Highway 97 north of Riverside Friday morning.

Editor's note: This story will be updated as additional information becomes available.

Batten down the hatches and throw another log on the fire. That’s the message meteorologist and local officials are saying ahead of what could be a weekend of nasty weather.

Meteorologists from the Spokane office of the National Weather Service said bands of moderate to heavy snow were expected last night (after The Chronicle’s press time) and into Saturday.

“Snow will be followed by increasing north or northeast winds Saturday into Saturday night,” weather officials said. “Blowing and drifting snow will have the potential to reduce visibilities and cause some roads to become impassable.”

The inclement weather prompted the service to issue a winter storm watch Thursday morning. The warning remains in effect until late tonight when it will be called off — or extended.

The warning includes much of eastern Washington including Republic, Inchelium, Wauconda, Chesaw Road, Boulder Creek Road, Sherman Pass, Omak, Okanogan, Brewster, Bridgeport, Oroville, Nespelem, Disautel Pass, Waterville and Mansfield.

“Heavy snow and blizzard conditions possible,” meteorologists said. “Total snow accumulations of 5 to 10 inches are possible, and locally higher over the Waterville Plateau.”

Okanogan County Public Works officials said they were preparing for the storm.

“Okanogan County Public Works goal is to provide safe and efficient winter travel,” a statement said. “Plowing arterial roads will be the main focus until conditions improve. Area supervisors will evaluate road conditions.”

Public works officials said an emergency is only situations where fire, police or emergency medical services are called out.

Weather officials said wind gusts could reach 45 mph.

“Travel could be difficult. Patchy blowing snow could significant reduce visibility” officials said. “The cold wind chills as low as 10 below zero could cause frostbite on exposed skin.”

A separate storm watch — which includes Grand Coulee and Coulee City — said snow accumulations of 3 to 6 inches are possible with wind gusts reaching 45 mph.

“When the weather is extremely cold, and especially if there is blowing snow, try to stay indoors,” said Dr. Bob Luntz, health officer for Spokane Regional Health District. “To avoid hypothermia and frostbite, make any trips outside as brief as possible, and remember that by preparing for winter emergencies, the risk of weather-related health problems can be reduced.”

Friday afternoon Gov. Jay Inslee today declared a statewide state of emergency.

"Everyone in our state needs to focus on preparing for the snow and staying safe," Inslee said. "Weather forecasters predict this may be a storm unlike one we've seen in many years. I encourage everyone to stay off the roads if possible and plan ahead if you must travel."

The proclamation directs state agencies and departments to utilize state resources and assist affected political subdivisions in an effort to respond to and recover from the winter storm. The Washington Military Department’s Emergency Management Division has activated the State Emergency Operations Center and is instructed to coordinate all event-related assistance.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) limits the number of hours commercial vehicle drivers can be on the road. This proclamation exempts drivers that collect or deliver either bulk milk products from dairy farms to dairy processing facilities and between processing facilities, or de-icing road salt to Washington municipalities from FMCSA limitations.

During and following the storm, Inslee is asking everyone to follow common-sense tips:

• Stay off roads if at all possible. If trapped in your car, then stay inside.

• Limit your time outside. If you need to go outside, then wear layers of warm clothing. Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia.

• Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Only use generators and grills outdoors and away from windows. Never heat your home with a gas stovetop or oven.

• Reduce the risk of a heart attack. Avoid overexertion when shoveling snow.

• Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia and begin treatment right away.

• Check on neighbors. Older adults and young children are more at risk in extreme cold.

Delays and cancellations

Caribou Trail League district tournament postponed: The Caribou Trail League district tournament scheduled to start Feb. 9 has been postponed because of inclement weather.

The tournament will kick off on Monday, Feb. 11, at Wenatchee High School.

Weekend Wrestling: Because of weather conditions statewide, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association has canceled all weekend boys and girls' wrestling tournaments.

The organization said the decision was made "in the best interest of safety and equal opportunity for all participants."

Snow is predicted statewide this weekend.

To address the cancellations, the WIAA staff and event managers are developing a 32-entry WIAA Mat Classic tournament that will begin Friday morning, Feb. 15. Details of that schedule will be released by early Monday, Feb. 11.

Participants, parents and coaches are advised to work through their school administration with any further questions, WIAA officials said.

Okanogan School District:

Middle school wrestling practice has been cancelled today because to impending inclement weather; There will be no middle school girls’ Basketball practice today; Powder Hounds - The Loup Loup Ski bus is cancelled tomorrow. It will be reschedule for next week.

Omak School District: All after school programs will be canceled Friday because of worsening weather conditions.

Students are required to ride their normal bus home or be picked up at 3pm if that is their normal means of transportation after school.

Wenatchee Valley College:
Wenatchee Valley College at Omak campus will be closed Saturday, Feb. 9 because of inclement weather. There will also be some closures and cancellations on the Wenatchee campus tomorrow.


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