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Icy Winds Close School, Ski Lifts Temperatures Expected To Be Colder Today, But Calmer Winds Should Make It More Bearable

An abrupt downturn in temperatures combined with icy winds to shut down ski lifts and at least one school district in North Idaho on Monday.

“We felt it was unsafe to operate today,” said Schweitzer Mountain Resort spokeswoman Sandi Nichols, explaining why the beginner lift was the only chairlift running.

The temperature was zero degrees Fahrenheit and the wind was blowing a steady 35 mph when the ski resort was scheduled to open.

Similar conditions at Silver Mountain kept the gondola and lifts closed all day for the second day in a row of frostbite-inducing ski weather.

Heeding a winter storm warning from the National Weather Service, Bonner County schools Superintendent Leonard Parenteau decided Sunday night that schools would not open Monday.

“There’s a point where it’s too severe,” Parenteau said Monday afternoon. The school district uses the guideline that once the wind chill factor reaches 20 degrees below zero, schools remain closed.

The wind changed direction and eased up Monday afternoon. And while temperatures are expected to be colder today, calmer winds should make the outdoors more bearable, according to weather forecasters.

Blowing snowfall drifted across country roads in Benewah County Monday morning, delaying school for students there.

Cliff Mooney, transportation supervisor for the Plummer/Worley School District, talked with the seven highway districts in the 50-mile-long school district in the predawn hours Monday before postponing bus runs.

“As it turned out, it wasn’t really drastically bad, but it was worth waiting,” he said. “We’ve got about three or four inches (of snow) down here.”

Blowing snow flurries also limited visibility at Fourth of July and Lookout passes on Interstate 90, but Idaho State Police did not report any traffic problems due to the cold, snowy weather.

Though schools were operating as usual elsewhere in the Panhandle, some principals opted to keep their students inside during breaks.

On the windy Rathdrum Prairie, Seltice Elementary School Principal Bill Ramich said students there were spending recess in their classrooms.

“Most of them were dressed quite well, but we were concerned about the wind chill,” he said. “It feels like it goes right through you.”

Unseasonably warm weather last week made the ice on Coeur d’Alenearea lakes dangerously thin for icefishing enthusiasts.

If the weather stays cold and the wind drops off, as it’s expected to do today, the lakes may refreeze, said Steve Smith of Fins and Feathers tackle shop.

“We’d like it to stay colder longer so we could have a longer season,” Smith said.

But the cold spell isn’t expected to last more than a few days, said National Weather Service specialist Irv Haynes. A chance of snow and rain was forecast for midweek.

“We’re expecting the Pineapple Express - upper 40s on Friday and lower 50s on Saturday,” he said.

And unless the wind picks up again today, students in Bonner County had better have their homework done this morning.

“We spent time going through the (bus) fleet today, making sure we’re ready to go tomorrow,” Parenteau said Monday. “The notice has gone out that there will be school tomorrow.”