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Storm could dump foot of snow on region

FRIDAY, DEC. 3, 2004

Kyle Baragas hasn’t seen snow in Texas since moving there from Redmond, Wash. six years ago.

This weekend, however, he could be in the midst of one of the largest snow dumpings to hit Spokane in the past decade, as drum major for the Sam Houston State marching band, which is coming to town for a football playoff game Saturday in Cheney.

“The general buzz about the marching band is excitement about getting to play in the cold and snow,” Baragas said. “We’re really looking forward to the change in climate.”

Change you want. Change you get.

The National Weather Service issued a Winter Storm Watch on Thursday in preparation for a storm that could dump six to 12 inches of snow on Spokane, Coeur d’Alene and the surrounding area.

Precipitation may start as rain around 6 p.m. today, but likely will soon turn to snow and continue falling until about 10 p.m. Saturday, said John Werner, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

“We’ve been tracking the weather just so we’re prepared for these kinds of conditions,” said Baragas, who lives where it is forecasted to reach 60 degrees this weekend. “Every time we check them, it looks like it’s going to be colder and colder.”

While the Inland Northwest might be more acclimatized to snow than eastern Texas, a dumping of a half foot is somewhat unusual in Spokane.

The last time the Spokane International Airport received six inches of snow during one storm was Nov. 20, 2003. That brought 8.2 inches. Previous to that, however, the airport hadn’t gotten six inches during a single storm since Dec. 29, 1996.

Spokane hasn’t seen a foot of snow in one day since Jan. 21, 1954.

“We don’t normally get the big one,” Werner said.

Greg Hinze, Sam Houston State’s assistant athletic director chartered two planes for the football players, band members and university officials planning to attend Saturday’s game between his school and Eastern Washington University. The team plans to leave immediately after the game.

“Right now, I don’t see a problem getting in,” Hinze said. “We could have a problem getting out.”

Spokane street crews were preparing for the snowfall on Thursday.

“We have 26 trucks with plows and various equipment ready to roll,” said Shane Thornton, Spokane street supervisor.

He said some hills will be sprayed with a de-icing chemical before the snow starts to fall.

“We want to have a coat to keep the ice from grabbing hold,” Thornton said. “It also gives us a little lead time.”

Road crews generally do not work from 2:30 a.m. to 5:30 a.m. However, there will be no downtime if the snow is falling heavily and the roads are slick, Thornton said.

Earlier this week, less than two inches of snow caused havoc on some South Hill streets. The bulk of that storm started when street crews weren’t on duty.

Although city plow crews have a heads-up for this weekend’s storm, Thornton warned drivers to remain cautious.

“People need to remember it’s winter and to drive carefully,” Thornton said. “We cannot afford to have instant access to all streets and keep everything perfect at all times.”

Meanwhile, ski hills were hoping tonight’s storm could produce enough snow to allow them to open.

Silver Mountain and Lookout Pass ski areas in Idaho will be open today and through the weekend. Schweitzer Mountain Resort, 49 Degrees North Mountain Resort and Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park haven’t announced opening ski dates yet.

“We can’t rely on Mother Nature,” said Brad McQuarrie, Mt. Spokane’s general manager. “But we’re definitely gearing up with that (the storm) in mind.”


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