Umatilla County Search & Rescue teams brave harsh cold to help stranded motorists

Umatilla County
Image credit: ODOT

PENDLETON, Ore. — Search and Rescue teams from Umatilla County worked tirelessly through the early morning into Monday afternoon to help stranded motorists in the midst of a blizzard.

According to the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office, Sgt. Dwight Johnson, Senior Deputy Rowan Hayes and a handful of local volunteers began their efforts at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday night and just finished their shift on Monday afternoon.

Umatilla County leaders opted to active Search and Rescue teams on Sunday night after reports that individuals were stranded in the vicinity of Milton-Freewater.

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In order to gain access to the region through snowy terrain and whiteout conditions, Search and Rescue volunteers had to follow a snowplow up Highway 11. At one point, even their snowplow got stuck in the heaps of precipitation.

Through the night, crews traversed treacherous conditions to help every person who reported themselves in danger because of the weather. Now, Umatilla County deputies and leadership ask that commuters keep off the roadway while they brace for another round of snowfall.

READ: Columbia River Gorge blanketed by snow, closing I-84 from Troutdale to Hood River

In a social media post on Monday afternoon, the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office offered the following comments:

[Search and Rescue volunteers] are just now getting back into the office and heading home, just in time for the next storm to hit. We love our volunteers, they are invaluable. PLEASE STAY OFF the ROADS and give the first responders a chance to rest and be safe. Let’s give those hard-working road crews a chance to get the roads cleared too. To all of you out last night, Thank you for your service!

Keep off the roads if possible and stay safe from this severe weather.


WINTER WEATHER ALERT: Snow/sleet mix continues in the Tri-Cities Monday morning