Of the Baker City Herald

Baker School District students got a late start this morning and North Powder students stayed home all day because of blowing, drifting snow.

The northwest end of the valley is drifted in, Don Ulrey, the Baker School Districts curriculum and personnel director said this morning. Some buses still cant get in from Medical Springs.

Wed rather make the decision on the side of safety for our students, Ulrey said.

The district set in motion a calling tree to notify people about the late start this morning. Notices containing information about how parents should respond to closures also were sent out about two weeks ago.

Because classes will be in session most of the day there will be no need to make up time later, Ulrey said.

The North Powder School District made the decision to cancel school today because of hazardous road conditions, according to secretary Kay Patterson.

This was the second day in a row that weather interrupted North Powder schools. Classes started at 10 a.m. Thursday and the all-school Christmas program was rescheduled from 7 p.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday because of the roads, Patterson said. North Powder schools are regularly closed on Fridays.

The weather was so bad we were afraid wed never get them back, Patterson said of moving up the program time.

There was a good turnout for the afternoon program and, although the students had no chance to don their fancy clothes for an evening performance, it went well, Patterson said.

We couldnt have postponed it until tonight, she said.

Classes started on schedule in the Burnt River School District at Unity, the Pine-Eagle School District at Halfway and Richland and the Huntington School District.

Road closures stalled truck traffic in Baker City Sunday between 12:15 p.m. and 5:15 p.m. and again at midnight Sunday, according to Tom Strandberg of the Oregon Department of Transportation in La Grande. Highway 30 also was closed from Haines to North Powder Sunday night because of extreme conditions and the Pyles Canyon road from North Powder to Union also was closed for a while, Strandberg said.

No injuries reported locally

Oregon State Police responded to at least 10 accidents in the Baker area between Friday and Sunday. No injuries were reported.

The most serious accident in the region happened on Interstate 84 near Meacham Sunday night when a truck driver was hit while out of his vehicle installing traction chains, according to Oregon State Police.

Rodney Wallem, 46, of Longview, Wash., was listed in serious condition this morning at Legacy Emanuel Hospital and Health Care Center in Portland where he was taken after initial treatment at St. Anthonys Hospital in Pendleton. Wallem was being treated for head injuries, a broken left elbow and a broken left leg, according to a hospital spokesman.

Wallem was hit by a 1990 Honda Accord driven by Alaric Young, 19, of Kennewick, Wash. The car went out of control on ice and slid along the side of the truck, police said. Wallem was hit as he was installing chains near the tractor unit. Police said the truck was parked on the shoulder of the eastbound lanes with its lights on when Wallem was hit. The investigation is continuing.

A Greyhound bus went into a ditch near Ladd Creek on Interstate 84 Sunday. A van brought passengers to La Grande.

Strandberg reminded drivers of the hazards of winter driving and urged caution.

I think were starting to see winters we havent seen for a while, he said.

Strandberg noted that the freeway has been closed five or six times in the past month.

Thats very unusual in recent times, he said.

He noted that two people died in accidents on Highway 82 between La Grande and Elgin last week. At least one of the victims was not wearing a seat belt, he said.

We are concerned that people drive with extra caution and wear their seat belts. We want them to get where theyre going safely, he said.

The (La Grande) Observer contributed to this report.