The first significant snow of the season created treacherous morning and evening commutes Tuesday, as hundreds of motorists slid into ditches, barriers and each other.
No serious injuries had been reported late Tuesday.
Inland Northwest drivers can expect more slick roads. The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch for Thursday.
“It could be a very similar situation,” said Charles Ross, a weather service hydrologist. “Somebody is going to get a good snow Thursday.”
As on Tuesday, the next storm could bring 2 to 4 inches, maybe more, to Spokane and Coeur d’Alene starting in the afternoon or evening, Ross said.
The Spokane area received a combined 3 to 6 inches during separate storms that blew through Tuesday morning and evening, Ross said. Coeur d’Alene’s totals reached 6 to 10 inches.
Drivers on Spokane’s South Hill, like Sarah Berlandi, found especially slick conditions Tuesday night. After drivers struggled to gain traction up Stevens and Bernard streets, the roads were barricaded until they could be sanded.
“It was pretty scary,” said Berlandi describing her drive on Bernard Street. “I slid all the way around and was sliding down the hill sideways.”
The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office responded to more than 200 snow-related crashes and slide-offs on Tuesday, Cpl. Dave Reagan, office spokesman, said in a press release. Several roads were closed at various times until trucks could spread sand.
The Washington State Patrol went to 111 crashes in Spokane and Pend Oreille counties; 24 in Adams, Lincoln and Whitman counties; and eight in Stevens and Ferry counties, WSP dispatch reported. WSP was advising motorists to stay off Whitman County roads Tuesday night because of wind gusts reaching 40 mph.
On state Highway 27 south of Spokane Valley, drivers slowed to no more than 25 mph amid poor visibility. Several cars slid into the ditch.
Roads in North Idaho became so slick that the Idaho State Police issued a warning for drivers to stay home. U.S. Highway 95 was closed in places.
By 10 p.m. ISP officers had responded to 14 collisions with more than $750 in damage, several more than usual, a dispatcher reported.
Of course, Tuesday’s snow brought cheer to winter sports enthusiasts. Sledders made their first runs in Pioneer Park in Spokane and Schweitzer Mountain Resort announced it will open to skiers on Friday.
Rouse’s Towing and Recovery in Spokane responded to 30 or 40 calls Tuesday evening, a dispatcher said.
“The first real snow is always terrible,” said Julie Andrews. “Normally we run half crews at night. Once winter hits we start running a full crew.”
Officials warn that roads likely will remain slick this morning. Reagan gave the following advice: slow down, leave a larger distance between cars and focus.
“You get some people who don’t realize how long it takes to stop,” Spokane police spokesman Dick Cottam said.