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Snow Drifts Region Back To Reality Storm Causes Auto Accidents, Forces School Cancellations

Friday’s storm in Spokane pushed the season’s snowfall total to a slim 15.3 inches, nearly as much snow as the city gets in a normal January.

Four inches fell by Friday afternoon at the National Weather Service office, and elsewhere.

Forecasters said more snow in lighter amounts is on the way tonight and again on Monday and Tuesday. Accumulations are expected to be no more than an inch or so at a time.

Highways in the region, including mountain passes, remained open to traffic, but compact snow and ice covered roadways. Crews were busy plowing and sanding.

The Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department reported 35 accidents in the county and Coeur d’Alene since early Friday.

The Spokane Police Department reported 52 accidents during the day. Most of the accidents didn’t involve injuries although many caused traffic snarls.

State troopers responded to 120 accidents in Spokane County alone by Friday evening. County sheriff’s deputies were called to dozens more.

Drifting snow forced the closure of some schools, including the Sprague district, and delayed starting times at others. Several high school basketball games were canceled Friday night.

A series of weak storms is lining up over the North Pacific and taking aim at Oregon and Washington.

Forecasters said those storms will be picking up enough cold air to bring snow to the Inland Northwest. Daytime temperatures are expected to remain near or below the freezing mark.

The weather pattern that brought more rain than snow so far this season shows signs of turning more winterlike. The flow of winds in the upper atmosphere has shifted so that the jet stream is drawing colder air off the Gulf of Alaska.

Forecasters said the pattern will remain in place through the middle of next week and probably longer.

“We are not going back into the 40s,” said John Livingston, meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service office in Spokane.

As a result of the snowy forecast, the city of Spokane announced Friday that it will plow all its residential streets after crews finish clearing arterials and bus routes. Residents are asked to move their vehicles off streets when crews are scheduled in their neighborhoods and to mark driveways with flags or reflectors. As in previous years, the plowing schedule is available by calling the city’s snow line at 456-2666.

In Spokane, the average annual snowfall is 50 inches, but actual totals vary dramatically from year to year. This year, only 11.3 inches of snow had fallen before Thursday night.

Residents haven’t shoveled much since the near-record snow year of 1992-93 when 87.3 inches fell.

During the 1994-95 season, the weather service recorded 29 inches at Spokane International Airport. In 1993-94, only 19 inches of snow fell. January is the snowiest month with an average snowfall of 15.9 inches.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Color photos

MEMO: IDAHO HEADLINE: Snow drifts area back to winter reality

IDAHO HEADLINE: Snow drifts area back to winter reality