January 1, 1997 in City

Meltdown Exacting Heavy Toll Roofs Cave In Under Weight Of Melting Snow And Added Rain

Adam Lynn And Mike Prager S Dan Hans Staff writer

The Spokane YWCA became a winter weather casualty Tuesday when melting snow and rain seeped through the flat roof and collapsed parts of two ceilings.

Water fell in streams throughout the 30-year-old building all day, just 24 hours after YWCA officers discussed recruiting volunteers to clear snow from the roof.

Rain water also leaked through the roof of a downtown Washington Trust branch, forcing bank officials to close the lobby Tuesday afternoon.

“This winter just won’t leave us alone, will it?” said Randy Hurlbert of the Washington Trust at Second and Wall.

It didn’t Tuesday, when flood warnings were issued for urban areas and small streams in Eastern Washington and North Idaho, as well as a few of the larger Inland Northwest rivers.

Nearly an inch of rain was forecast for Spokane overnight with as much as three inches expected near the mountains of the Idaho Panhandle.

Rain and melting snow caused problems throughout the region.

YWCA Director Monica Walters closed the facility at Broadway and Lincoln for the day as repair crews scrambled to clean up the soggy mess.

“We had to tell people they couldn’t come in and swim this morning,” Walters said. “We’ve got leaks in the offices, leaks in the homeless school, leaks in the pool area. Generally, we’ve got leaks everywhere.”

There will be no relief for a few days into the New Year.

Forecaster Paul Frisbie of the National Weather Service said the latest round of rain should ease in Spokane about 8 a.m. today with the storm passing out of the Idaho Panhandle by noon.

But it will be followed by rainy periods as the unsettled weather continues for the next day or two.

The freezing level above Spokane was forecast to rise to 9,000 feet Tuesday night as an intense warm front moved inland from the subtropical waters of the Pacific Ocean.

“Warmer storm systems tend to produce more precipitation. This is no exception,” Frisbie said.

The recent storms pushed 1996 to third place on the all-time list of wet years. More than 25 inches of rain and melted snow were recorded during the calendar year. The precipitation record was set in 1948 with 26.07 inches. Second on the list is 1882 with 25.99 inches.

Along with the flood warning for small streams and urban areas like Spokane, Post Falls, Coeur d’Alene and Lewiston, the weather service also issued a flood warning for the St. Joe River on Tuesday after the river crested at 13.7 feet at Calder, Idaho.

An ice jam broke upstream, sending a surge of water over low lying areas. Flood stage at Calder is 13 feet.

The water was expected to rise again today in the wake of the latest rainstorm.

Also, flood watches were issued for the South Fork of the Palouse River and Hangman Creek, which flows through southwest Spokane from the Tensed, Idaho, area.

Hangman Creek at Spokane was flowing at 3.4 feet, with the flood stage set at 11 feet.

Also Tuesday, Spokane County roads crews finished digging out most residential areas, county engineer Bill Johns said.

Crews worked through the weekend, and “we even brought in some contract help,” said Johns, whose department is $1.2 million over budget, due largely to the expense of clearing snow.

“What we’ve done is borrow from ‘97, and we’ll have to make that up in ‘97” by delaying some street repairs, Johns said.

County commissioners have been flooded with calls since the storms started.

Some people complained plows are slow getting to their streets. Others complained plows left deep snow berms in their driveways.

County plows are not equipped with “gates,” mechanical devices that can be lowered to prevent snow from piling up at driveways.

“The gates would clip off mail boxes and we’d go twice as slow,” Johns said.

Larry Neil, operations engineer for the city of Spokane, said crews expected to finish plowing most residential areas east of Division Street by Tuesday night.

The plow drivers are working their way west, and should have the entire city done within two days, he said, adding that the warm weather is making the job easier.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Photos (1 color) Graphic: A wet and snowy month

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Adam Lynn and Mike Prager Staff writers Staff writer Dan Hansen contributed to this report.

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