January 10, 1995 in Nation/World

The Big Thaw Icy, Slushy Roads Lead To School Closures, Accidents

Mike Prager Staff Staff writer

A wet thaw spread over the Inland Northwest on Monday, slickening pavement with a sheen of water on ice.

Forecasters said the thaw will persist for six to 10 days and could recur through the rest of winter.

“It’s going to stay warm and mild,” said John Livingston, chief meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Spokane.

The freezing level over Spokane rose to 7,500 feet on Monday and the temperature hit 40 degrees at noon. Ski areas in North Idaho had rain up to the 4,500-foot level, with snow on slopes above that.

Fog swept across the West Plains in Spokane County, causing several flights to be diverted from landing at Spokane International Airport. However, no outgoing flights were canceled.

North Idaho schoolchildren got an unexpected day off.

The Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls, Lakeland and Bonner County school districts all closed their doors after thick slush and black ice coated roads early Monday morning.

School officials worried buses would not be able to negotiate the slick roads safely, said Doug Cresswell, Coeur d’Alene School District superintendent. “The safety of our kids is our No. 1 concern,” he said.

Icy, slushy roads Sunday and Monday contributed to at least 60 accidents in Spokane County, officials said.

As usual, drivers either braked too hard or drove too fast for the slippery conditions, which were aggravated by wetness on top of the icy spots.

“It’s been hazardous, that’s for sure,” Sgt. Chris Powell of the Washington State Patrol said Monday.

Injuries, some serious, were reported in at least a dozen accidents over both days, according to the WSP and the Spokane Police Department.

The Idaho State Police had reported five minor accidents by Monday evening.

About a half-inch of rain was recorded at the Spokane airport by Monday evening. This, combined with snow that fell over the weekend, followed more than a week of dry, frigid weather.

The Inland Northwest is on the northern edge of a strong storm track that has pelted California with large amounts of rain.

The cause of the rain is a deep low-pressure area over the eastern Pacific that’s picking up milder air off the subtropical regions and sending it into this region from the southwest.

The low-pressure area is expected to produce storms in 24- to 48-hour intervals during the coming week. Rain is expected again today.

Highs are expected to climb into the low 40s throughout the week, about 10 degrees warmer than normal. Lows will be at or above freezing.

Some cooling is expected next weekend, and that should improve ski conditions, Livingston said. However, forecasters said temperatures are expected to remain slightly above normal.

The 30-day outlook for January calls for near-normal precipitation and near-normal temperatures.

But snow lovers shouldn’t give up hope. The 60-day outlook calls for below-normal temperatures.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Mike Prager Staff writer Staff writers Bonnie Harris and Winda Benedetti contributed to this report.

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