By JESSE BURKHARDT
For the fourth time in the 2010-2011 school year, the White Salmon Valley School District's school were closed for the day on Tuesday due to heavy snow and potentially hazardous road conditions.
The latest closure comes after thick snow fell virtually all day on Monday and was still falling when Tuesday morning rolled around.
Kids around the region relished having a day off to play in the snow, but the closure of the schools means yet another day will be added to the school year to make up for the lost day of teaching. With the two built-in snow days already tapped out, the school district is faced with tacking on two more days of classes to the school calendar.
Although roads in the Bingen and White Salmon areas were generally passable and not too slick, heavy snowfall in the outlying areas of the school district made it risky to try to get buses out.
"The buses would not be able to get very far up Snowden Road," explained Whitson Elementary School Principal Vicki Prendergast. "They had 18 inches of snow on Monday. It was coming down really hard."
Temperatures in the area were not excessively cold. The Riverview Bank sign in White Salmon showed temperatures in the mid-30s on Tuesday, a bit above freezing, and the roads were generally slushy, not icy.
But the snowy conditions created other problems.
At Chris Stenberg's house on Cherry Street in White Salmon, for example, two trees -- a cherry tree and a dogwood -- succumbed to the weight of the heavy, wet snow and broke. The cherry tree, estimated to be about 50 feet tall, cracked in half and fell across Stenberg's driveway. Fortunately, the big tree trunk did not fall onto her house or her car, and there was no damage to anything but the tree. But the fallen tree kept her car blocked in until the trunk could be removed.
"I'm just glad spring is this month," Stenberg said.
Klickitat Public Utility District crews were kept on their toes with a series of small power outages around the area. The outages were caused by heavy snow breaking poles or crossarms, leading to downed wires.
On Tuesday, about 25 customers, spread around a handful of locations, were briefly without power. Included in the outages were a part of the Fisher Hill Road area near Lyle, and Guler Road in Trout Lake. There was another outage in the Appleton community. And on Monday night, some customers in the Snowden area were temporarily without power. But overall, the PUD reported no major problems.
White Salmon Mayor David Poucher said the city was not having any serious trouble, although there were a number of motor vehicle mishaps on Monday.
"There have been a slew of little accidents, little fender benders off the side of the road, and pulling cars out of ditches, but no one has been hurt," Poucher said. "We're keeping the roads plowed and we'd sure like to get people to shovel their sidewalks. That is a requirement, but by the time people realize that, it'll probably be raining."
Poucher said he was happy to see the snow.
"It was kind of a surprise, coming a little late in the season," Poucher explained. "But we need the moisture, and this is good for the watershed. We had a very dry January. We need this for building up the watershed. We'll take all the snow we can get."