The first of several snow storms that will pass through Yakima Valley caused road closures, crashes and power outages Saturday, officials said.
The National Weather Service’s blizzard warning for Yakima and Kittitas counties is expected to expire at 10 a.m. Sunday, when winds and snowfall should taper off. But a weather service official said any relief will be short-lived, as another storm rolls in Sunday night, and every 24 hours after that for the rest of the week.
“Snow, and more snow,” said Jim Smith, observation program leader at the weather service’s Pendleton, Ore., office.
About 3-5 inches fell in Yakima Saturday, according to the weather service, but 33 mph winds gusting to near 40 mph blew snow into drifts as deep as 4 feet and caused white-out conditions.
Interstate 82 was closed between Selah and Ellensburg because of poor visibility and blowing snow, according to the state Department of Transportation. As of Saturday evening, the highway remained closed, with drivers advised to take State Route 821 through the Yakima River Canyon.
Likewise, Interstate 90 was closed between Kittitas and Vantage due to poor visibility and semi-truck spinouts that were blocking traffic, according to WSDOT’s website. Both directions will remain closed overnight.
State Route 24, between Beane Road to the Vernita Rest area was closed due to poor visibility as well.
The Washington State Patrol tweeted that accident numbers for the day would not be available until dispatchers and troopers finished up responding to 911 calls.
“Sorry for the delay, but we are very busy,” troopers tweeted.
More than 850 Pacific Power customers in Yakima County were without electricity for more than three hours after a tree fell over and took out several power poles, said utility spokesman Drew Hanson. Crews were able to restore power by 3:45 p.m., Hanson said.
In Yakima, Mayor Kathy Coffey declared a state of emergency due to the storm. The emergency declaration allows the city to call for additional help to handle the severe weather, according to a news release from the city. It also makes the city potentially eligible for state and federal funding for its storm response, the release said.
Yakima County commissioners also issued an emergency declaration Saturday as did the Yakama Nation. Gov. Jay Inslee updated a state of emergency he declared on Friday, allowing commercial drivers delivering food, propane and emergency supplies to drive more hours than would be allowed under federal regulations.
Yakima Air Terminal Director Rob Peterson said two flights were able to come in Saturday, with another one expected at midnight. He recommended people planning to fly check with their airlines to see if there are any weather-related delays.
Weather forecasts call for the storm to taper off by Sunday morning, with snow likely to begin around 4 p.m. Sunday and continue until Wednesday morning.