Saturday morning the wife and I departed early to drive to Spokane's WoodCraft store for a scroll saw class. While the weather was good here in the valley, once we crested the valley wall, things changed. We elected to go northbound on US-195 as on a normal day and weather, that drive cuts about 30-40 minutes off the trip. 8 miles north, the weather turned horrible. Snow with later reported winds of 35mph and gusts into the 50+mph. Whiteout conditions prevailed.
North of the farming community of Colton,WA in whiteout conditions we drove into a cutbank where momentarily there was improved visibility. There sat a pickup off the road, off the shoulder, passenger side front wheel suspended over the edge resting on air over a ditch. A school bus had stopped, a truck behind him and the bus driver and the driver of the offroaded pickup were talking. As we left the windbreak of the cutbank, I had a bad feeling and turned on my emergency flashers. The SUV following me did the same. Some 400 yards ahead a southbound caravan of 5 cars and pickups were followed by a semi.
We drove another 4 miles, discussed the next 95 miles of this and turned around and headed south on US-195 towards our home in Lewiston. Using a cell phone, the wife called WoodCraft and explained we wouldn't be there for the class.We hadn't gone far in the continuing whiteout when in my rearview mirror, I saw an ambulance with emergency lights flashing. I pulled over onto the shoulder while two ambulances and two fire department rescue trucks passed us. A couple miles south just short of the aforementioned cutbank, we were waved off the road and told to wait. There were 5 cars there too. Then another fire dept rescue truck arrived, 3 Washitngton State troopers in cars and a sheriff's department cruiser. This was on the north side of the accident. We don't know what was happening on the south side.
After 1 1/2 hours, a fireman came back, informed us that we were to follow a rescue truck back north to Pullman, Wa as the highway would be closed for several more hours. He confirmed that the school bus, the trucks and the 5 vehicles were involved in the accident. The semi driver was able to stop without getting involved. An ambulance departed then the rescue truck with lights flashing led us away.
At Pullman, we turned east and drove to Moscow, Id where we picked up US-95 and drove the 30 miles home.The next day it was reported that though the bus had a driver, a teacher and 12 students on it and was involved in the accident, nobody aboard was hurt. Of the 7 cars and pickups involved, one couple with minor injuries were taken by ambulance to the Pullman hospital, treated and released.If we had been 30-60 seconds later, we could have been involved as the fireman said there were vehicles all over the place in that cutbank area.We skipped class but not because we wanted to do so.
In 30 years living in Idaho, elk hunting in the Bitterroot Mountains of Idaho, skiing hard in Washington, Idaho and Montana, this is the first time weather kept us from doing what we wanted to do when we wanted to do it. I can handle ice and deep snow. "0" visibility is a different matter, however.