Winter snowstorm brings outside play days for some, commuting headache for others

PHOTO COURTESY OF JENNIFER MOTHERWAY - A group of children and a beagle get ready to sled down a snow-covered hill in St. Helens near the Columbia County Fairgrounds. A winter storm blanketed the region this week with several inches of snow. Snowfall in Columbia County this week affected schools, public agency meetings and road conditions for commuters and emergency officials.

On Tuesday morning, Scappoose and St. Helens school districts dismissed students early after the National Weather Service forecasted snow of up to 7 inches to hit the region. Late Tuesday night, both districts canceled school and afterschool activities for the following day.

As bouts of snowy weather dusted the region in the evening hours Wednesday, schools also delayed start times Thursday morning.

The Rainier School District canceled classes Tuesday and Wednesday. Clatskanie and Vernonia school districts followed a similar trend. Ranier and Vernonia districts were also closed Thursday.

In response to the snow and ice, Columbia County Roads Department worked around the clock since Monday to plow snow and sand roadways.

"Crews have been working shifts starting as early as 2 a.m.," said Tristan Wood, engineering project coordinator with the Roads Department. "We are not using de-icer treatments at this time, the effective treatment for our higher elevation roads we utilize is sanding rock. The road crews have been nonstop sanding since the first ice/snow began to fall."

After a snowstorm last winter that dumped nearly a foot of snow on the region that lingered for a week, creating icy ruts that disrupted traffic flows and causing students to miss more than seven school days, many districts adopted calendars that accounted for more snow days this year. Scappoose School District recently canceled class on a makeup day last week since students had not yet missed school due to poor weather.

While the measured snowfall did not reach the predicted 7-inch totals, many areas saw at least two inches of snow during the week, according to NWS data.

Cold overnight temperatures also prompted the Columbia County Warming Center to open its doors for several nights to accommodate people without permanent housing.

Emergency responders, like Columbia River Fire and Rescue, were busy during the winter storm as multiple car crashes were reported throughout the day Tuesday and Wednesday. Icy road conditions on Wednesday also caused delays for fire crews when a house fire was reported in St. Helens just before 8 a.m.

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