snowJanuary 19 2012 at 8:10 AM
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It was the heaviest day of snow for Central Washington so far this season. Nearly 2 feet fell in Roslyn near Snoqualmie Pass and more than 14 inches blanketed the Goldendale area.
Seasoned truck drivers spent much of Wednesday holed up at Gearjammer Truck Plaza in Union Gap, waiting out the weather rather than risk the bad roads.
By afternoon, the truckers said, they had to chain up just to leave the lot, and chains were required going both directions on Interstate 82 north of Yakima.
"When it's snow, go slow; when it's ice, go someplace nice," said Shear'Ree, a driver from Kansas-based Seaboard Transportation.
He arrived at the Gearjammer on Tuesday night, and planned to wait out the worst of the storm. "We got no other choice," he said. "When it gets so bad you have to put on chains, you shouldn't be on the road."
Jimmy Gortemiller, who was driving for JL Transport out of Centerville, Texas, said staying put was the smart thing to do.
"It ain't worth killing somebody," he said of driving in heavy snow. "No freight in this world is worth somebody's life."
The truck drivers knew what they were talking about.
State highways in Yakima County saw more than 67 accidents Wednesday, said Washington State Patrol Lt. Terry Liebrecht. At least one involved an injury.
One of the most treacherous places was on Interstate 82 near the rest stop north of Selah, where truckers and car drivers were required to put on chains to reach the summit on south Umtanum Ridge.
"It all started with two truckers losing the ability to gain traction," he said. "Eventually, it stretched to all vehicles other than all-wheel drive."
The Yakima County Sheriff's Office received more than 36 reports of accidents and spinouts.
The Goldendale School District was the only district in the region to close Wednesday because of weather.
But in the Yakima Valley, area school bus drivers chained up before their afternoon routes, and after-school activities were canceled in Yakima, East Valley, Union Gap, Grandview and Prosser.
Yakima Valley Community College canceled evening classes, events and athletic programs on both its Yakima and Grandview campuses for Wednesday.
In Selah, elementary school teacher Erin Roberie was on crossing guard duty Wednesday morning and said she hoped she wouldn't be out there again today.
"Usually, I think the snow is really pretty, but today it made it a lot more difficult to be out here," she said, wearing two pairs of socks, long underwear, pants, two scarves and a hat.
Roberie said she was worried about the hill leading down to John Campbell Elementary School, but hadn't seen any accidents Wednesday morning.
"If it keeps up like this, then I hope we don't have school tomorrow," she said.
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