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Winter Storm

On Thursday, Dec. 18, 2008, much of the Inland Northwest awoke to a heavy coating of snow. Which kept falling. And falling. Spokane ended up with 23.3 inches over 34 hours ending at 4 p.m. Thursday. Coeur d’Alene had 25 inches by Thursday morning. Dozens of roofs collapsed. Stores sold out of roof rakes and snow shovels. Schools and offices closed down for multiple days. Additional snowfall would make December the snowiest on record with 61.5 inches. By the end of the winter, 93.6 inches had fallen at the airport, besting 1949-50 as the snowiest winter on the books. With the 92.6 inches that fell in the winter of 2007-08, Spokane also set a snow record for back-to-back years.

A December to remember

It was one for the record books. December was the snowiest month in the Inland Northwest since record- keeping began in 1881. Some of the startling statistics: 61.5 inches of snow fell in Spokane during December, while in Coeur d’Alene the National Weather Service total was 56.1 inches. An average December in the region brings just under 14 inches of snow.

Timeline of December 2008 snow

Wednesday, Dec. 17: The snow begins to fall lightly in the morning and in earnest by late afternoon. Commuters get stuck on streets leading to the South Hill. Police eventually declare that, except for major arterials, “motorists should consider ALL streets in Spokane closed.” The snowstorm is the result of “the alignment of everything,” says National Weather Service forecaster John Livingston. Thursday, Dec. 18: Spokane ends up with 23 inches by the end of the day. Coeur d’Alene boasts 25 inches. School districts and colleges throughout the Inland Northwest close, as do most government offices. Spokane Transit Authority suspends all but four of its 39 routes. Travel ranges from difficult to impossible out of Spokane International Airport; at least 75 travelers spend the night there. The Christmas Bureau shuts its doors to poor families and individuals for the first time in its 50-year history. Sacred Heart Medical Center cancels elective surgeries. Stores and malls close early. The Washington State Patrol responds to almost 200 collisions. Two state highways are closed – routes 194 and 272 in Whitman County – as are several Kootenai County roads on the Rathdrum Prairie. “This one is absolutely off the Richter scale,” says Coeur d’Alene’s deputy city administrator, Jon Ingalls.

Schools battle loads of snow

Uncleared sidewalks were the biggest problem for schools that opened Tuesday in Spokane. And roofs were the issue for some that didn’t. Many districts canceled classes Tuesday – extending winter break to 20 days instead of the planned 17 – so crews could shovel snow from roofs. In other areas, the work continues, with Coeur d’Alene, Liberty, Freeman, Mead, Central Valley, Riverside and Rathdrum-based Lakeland districts among those canceling classes again today.

Two schools evacuated briefly over false alarms

Two Spokane elementary schools were evacuated briefly Tuesday after false alarms. At 7:20 a.m., fire crews responded to Stevens Elementary, 1717 E. Sinto Ave., after a report of a gas-like smell in the school’s kitchen.

Flood warning extends through Friday

Precipitation, melting snow and heavy traffic created a commuter's nightmare Tuesday as the Inland Northwest began to emerge from its blizzard of holiday storms.

Three hurt when trusses collapse

Three people escaped with minor injuries when the roof trusses they were setting up for a partially-constructed community center at a Spokane Valley mobile home park collapsed Tuesday.

Avalanche closes Stevens Pass

Stevens Pass is closed from Scenic to Leavenworth, about 40 miles, because of an avalanche according to the Washington Department of Transportation. Avalanche control has been completed on Snoqualmie Pass. The roadway is open.

Browne’s Addition plowing to begin today

The city of Spokane will be plowing streets in Browne's Addition on Tuesday and Wednesday, and police are asking residents to move their cars or face towing.


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