Freak snow cancels school in small Washington town

BICKLETON — A freak snowstorm in May gave students a surprise day off Wednesday in the Columbia River Gorge town of Bickleton.

Ten to 12 inches fell overnight within a 5- or 6-mile radius in the community at an elevation of 3,000 feet, said school Superintendent Ric Palmer.

“You go down the hill and get out of it,” he said.

The heavy snow brought down tree branches on power lines, taking out electricity and phone service, Palmer said from home, where he was using generator power.

It was the lack of power at school rather than the snow that forced him to cancel classes. Still, it marked the first snow day of the school year, after only a few delays caused by snow during the winter.

“Yeah, they love it,” Palmer said about his students. They will have to make up the day before classes end next month.

About 170 students attend kindergarten through 12th grade in one building in Bickleton, in Klickitat County at an elevation of about 3,000 feet.

Utilities should be restored and classes were likely to resume on Thursday.

A recorded message about the freak snow on the school phone line had an incredulous tone: “I repeat it’s Wednesday, May 22, and we have had to cancel school.”

A couple of inches of snow also fell on 3,100-foot Satus Pass on Highway 97 between Goldendale and Toppenish, the sheriff’s office reported. But no significant problems were reported.

The Paradise ranger station at Mount Rainier recorded nearly a foot of snow overnight and the snow level dropped to near 2,000 feet, the National Weather Service said.

A winter weather advisory was in effect until 5 a.m. Thursday for the central Cascades with 4 to 9 inches of snow expected above 5,000 feet.

Forecasters said the rain and snow showers should start to diminish Thursday in Washington with temperatures moderating through the Memorial Day weekend.

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