Heavy snow may delay Yakima first responders

YAKIMA, Wash. — Yakima first responders are asking the community to be patient and considerate as they deal with a higher-than-normal call volume and delayed response time due to the extreme winter weather.

“It gets a little frustrating for deputies that they can’t get to places quickly, especially if there’s an emergency or we have to go to a call where there’s an injury,” said Casey Schilperoort, spokesperson for the Yakima County Sheriff’s Office.

Schilperoort said while they’ve seen fewer calls for traffic incidents than around this time last year, they’re still getting more calls than normal. He said the crashes are mainly caused by people driving too fast for the road conditions.

“For county roads, the speed limit is 50 miles an hour unless otherwise posted but if there’s three, four or five inches of snow, that’s not appropriate,” Schilperoort said. “You need to slow down to an appropriate speed so that you can drive safely and so you don’t go off the roadway.”

Yakima Police Sgt. Jim Moore said they’re seeing an increase in traffic accidents due to the bad weather, but also for domestic violence calls as more people stay home to keep warm.

“Domestic events do increase when we have more people inside, especially around the holidays when they come in from out of town,” Moore said.

Police said since they’re already moving slower due to the bad road conditions, they need people to pay better attention when they see emergency lights and sirens near them.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s coming at you or going away or anything,” Moore said. “If that’s the case, you need to pull over to the right and stop.”

Moore said if traffic is heavy or there’s no room to merge into the right hand lane, people can either try to quickly find an opening or move as far over to the right as they can get within their own lane.

First responders said that small amount of time gained by not having to wait for drivers to move out of the way might make the difference in saving a life, especially for fire trucks and ambulances.

“It could be something very minor that they need to go to but it also could be somebody’s having a heart attack or stroke,” Schilperoort said. “It’s so important that you get out of their way so they can get to where they need to go.”

With Yakima expected to get up to a foot of snow accumulation Wednesday night headed into Thursday morning, Schilperoort said people should slow down, allow for extra travel time and stay home if they can to keep themselves safe.