A February snow storm can be good news or bad news, depending on who you are.
Drivers weren’t loving the snow when it started falling, but sledding enthusiasts and children who got to stay home from school on Tuesday didn’t mind it.
As snow filled the air Monday afternoon, some Hermiston families wasted no time grabbing their sleds after school.
Mara Kelly said her kids Dominic Kelly, 7, Adrick Kelly, 7 and Tiago Kelly, 10 were eager to go sledding after school. The family didn’t wait until the snow stopped falling to head to the hill behind Hermiston Public Library.
“We like being out in the snow when it’s snowing,” she said.
Olivia Bands and Nick Meeks bundled up Zaylynn Bands-Meeks, 6, in a light blue coat and snow pants and brought her over to the same hill to fit in some sledding Monday afternoon as well before the hill got too trampled.
“We have to get it while it’s fresh,” Bands said. “She loves anything water related, including snow.”
Amelia Zumwalt, 5, and Heidi Zumwalt, 3, zoomed down the hill on sleds over and over again as the falling snow quickly covered up their tracks. It didn’t take long for more families to arrive at the hill, which is one of mostly-flat Hermiston’s few good sledding spots.
According to the National Weather Service, Hermiston accumulated five to six inches of snow, and Pendleton had accumulated three to four inches.
Tuesday left plenty of time for children to play in the snow after Hermiston, Umatilla, Stanfield, Echo and Morrow County school districts all canceled school. For Hermiston students, it was a temporary reprieve — they now have to make up the day on Friday, Feb. 15, which they originally had off school.
On Tuesday the hill by the library was covered with kids of all ages having fun, with some attempting to stand up on their sleds, or pile six people onto one inner tube. Other sledders took to Butte Park.
While kids were celebrating the snow, it was bad news for anyone trying to drive in it, particularly on the interstate. Interstate 84 and 82 were littered with wrecks throughout Monday and Tuesday, and Interstate 84 was closed on the westbound side from Pendleton to La Grande, then Baker City and finally Ontario on Monday.
Josh Smith, a paramedic with Umatilla County Fire District, said crews have only responded to three weather-related wrecks in their coverage area since the snow started falling on Monday. He said no one has been seriously injured in any of them.
Hermiston Police Department Capt. Travis Eynon reported officers responded on Monday to seven vehicle crashes. He posted a message on the department’s Facebook page urging drivers to go slower than usual and plan for longer commutes.
“If you do not have to drive in these conditions, please don’t,” he stated. “If you are not comfortable driving in these conditions, please don’t. It requires a bit of practice and experience.”
Even four-wheel drive vehicles might provide better going on snow-packed roads, but Eynon advised they do not stop any better than other vehicles. Use it if you have it, he stated, “but drive it sensibly.”
The police captain also reminded drivers of the dangers of intersections.
“They tend to get the iciest and therefore the slickest,” he stated. “Plan ahead for intersections and slow your vehicle far in advance of the intersection so when you do use your brakes for the final stop, you can actually stop rather than slide through the intersection and/or hit a vehicle for pedestrian.”
Eynon suggested drivers pack extra food and water, extra medications, a snow shovel, broom, jumper cables, blankets and a cellphone charger.
Jeremy Gierke, a lieutenant with the Boardman Rural Fire Protection District, said since Monday, they had responded to 12 weather-related crashes, both on Boardman roads and on nearby highways. But he said there had been no major injuries from those crashes.
Hermiston is expected to get more snow on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and into next week. The Oregon Department of Transportation recommends anyone planning travel during the inclement weather check www.tripcheck.com or call 511 (inside Oregon) or 800-977-6368 to get an update on closures and conditions.