Wintry mess in mountains causes challenges for drivers ahead of holiday weekend

The State Patrol said a semi truck driver was going too fast for conditions when he lost control and rolled the big rig and trailer in I-90 near Kittitas Friday night, Dec. 29, 2017. (Photo: Washington State Patrol)

SNOQUALMIE PASS, Wash. - A wintry mess of snow and freezing rain on Friday made traveling across the mountain passes extremely challenging for drivers ahead of the holiday weekend.

The State Patrol said slick roads and speeding drivers led to dozens of crashes on I-90 and in Eastern Washington.

RELATED | Check mountain pass road conditions

Troopers reported 86 crashes in North-Central Washington since midnight Friday. More than 50 of those were in the Ellensburg area, including a rollover semi truck crash near Kittitas.

The State Department of Transportation said drivers are facing a lot of snow and slush, which made for a busy night on Friday for to truck operators.

“All of a sudden it turns to the slush and nobody knows what to do,” said Brandon Hine, one of the drivers with Cle Elum Towing. “And they just start to slide and then their gone and done."

As Hine hooked up one car with a stalled engine to his truck, he recounted how he’d been pulling vehicles out of snow banks all night due to the challenging weather at Snoqualmie Pass.

Though there were breaks in the freezing rain that fell, hazards remained as snow and slush on the roadway made travel unpredictable.

It got so bad that Alexis Blakes decided to pull off and wait it out at the West Summit. Instead, she got the U-Haul and trailer she was driving stuck in a snow berm. She said the weather got the best of her.

“You should definitely have your wits about you,” Blakes said. “I saw people doing 80 mph. I wasn't comfortable with it."

Hine said there’s only one safe way to travel on a night like this.

“Don't be in a hurry to get anywhere because as soon as you hurry, that's when you're going to have an accident," Hine said.

Troopers are warning drivers to be prepared with snow tires and chains if they're crossing over the mountain passes. Also pack water, snacks and blankets in case of delays.

A Winter Storm Warning is in place overnight for much of the Cascades, and one to two feet of fresh snow will accumulate in the higher terrain by Saturday morning.

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