The warning from the Oregon Department of Transportation on Sunday, Jan. 2, was as stark as it was simple: Motorists in Umatilla County are advised to stay at home because of severe weather conditions.

Most routes throughout the county were closed or, because of blowing snow, unplowed.

The warning from the transportation department described how conditions were so extreme snowplow drivers could not see the road well enough to complete the task of clearing it.

The weather doesn’t appear to be on the verge of clearing anytime soon either. Snow and high winds are forecast for a large section of the entire region.

Snowstorms are nothing new to anyone who has lived in the local area for very long. Inclement weather, interstate closures and treacherous driving conditions over Cabbage Hill are a routine part of Eastern Oregon weather.

Yet that doesn’t mean the danger from severe weather is any less or should be disregarded. When the transportation department issues a warning that, in effect, tells residents to stay off the roads that means the situation is a bit more serious than expected.

What that means to the rest of us, though, is clear. Not only should we stay off the roads unless we absolutely must, but it also is a legitimate warning that we all need to take proper heed.

It is easy, after living through a couple of Eastern Oregon winters, to become complacent. We can grow dismissive of the weather, consider it just a minor nuisance that can be ignored, at the very least, downplayed.

That isn’t the case. Winter storms, such as the ones we are now enduring, are serious and always carry to potential to become extremely dangerous.

The best thing, of course, is to stay off the roads if possible. If not, then extreme caution should be the watchword. Going slow on the drive to and from work is not only a good idea but may save someone’s life, or at the very least, avoid a costly car repair.

When conditions deteriorate as they appeared to over the weekend and probably will again this week, motorists have an obligation to take the weather conditions seriously and not take any undue risks. Not only will you be taking care of yourself, but you will be ensuring others remain safe as well.

So be careful out there.

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