December 12, 2001 11:00 pm
SIDELINED: A string of trucks rest idle along Island Avenue this morning as their drivers wait for I-84 over Ladd Canyon to open. (The Observer/PHIL BULLOCK).
SIDELINED: A string of trucks rest idle along Island Avenue this morning as their drivers wait for I-84 over Ladd Canyon to open. (The Observer/PHIL BULLOCK).

By Alice Perry Linker

Observer Staff Writer

Interstate 84 from Pendleton to Ontario remained closed this morning because of high winds, blowing snow and near white-out conditions.

With a blizzard warning issued for today in the Grande Ronde Valley, it is not known when the interstate will open.

A spokesman from the Oregon Department of Transportation said shortly before 8 a.m. that no decision had been made. The freeway closed about 9:45 p.m. Wednesday, because of poor visibility.

There was a lot of snow blowing around out there, he said.

Schools in Imbler, Elgin and Union did not open today because of icy roads, poor visibility and deepening snow. The North Powder school was scheduled to open at 10 a.m. According to a report from Imbler, one person who went out to check the road conditions got stuck in the snow.

Wallowa County schools were open today.

Extreme icy conditions along Highway 82 north of La Grande contributed to two fatal accidents, one Tuesday and another Wednesday night.

Commuters into La Grande from Cove and Elgin this morning reported almost zero visibility and slick roads, and in some areas of Union County, snow depth was reported at about 10 inches. Some La Grande residents estimated as many as six inches in their yards.

Even the countys district attorney was thwarted by the weather. Russ West said this morning that he returned home after sliding twice into ditches along his commute from the Summerville area.

Although the roads and state highways on the valley floor remained open this morning, highway officials were recommending that people not travel throughout the Grande Ronde Valley unless it was necessary.

The ODOT spokesman said that there have been four interstate closures because of visibility this fall, an unusual condition. Highway closures most often come as a result of motor vehicle accidents, he said.

The National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning for today, predicting locally damaging winds. The winds are expected to be from the south at 20 to 35 mph, except near Ladd and Pyles canyons where gusts are expected to reach 60 mph.

The early morning snow is predicted to change to a mixture of snow and rain and become scattered showers by this afternoon. Highs in the valley may reach 40.

High winds are expected to continue through the night, and rain and snow are predicted for early Friday. Only about 2 inches of snow is predicted to accumulate in the valley Friday.

Wallowa County is not expected to receive the high winds of the lower valley, but rain and snow are predicted, with some accumulation above 3,500 feet. Intermit-tent rain and snow are predicted for the weekend.

Some blowing and drifting snow was reported in Enterprise this morning, with packed snow on the streets.