March is a month of confusion.
Is it time to take off the studded tires, preserving them and area roads, or do you hold out until the last possible legal moment in case that late March snowstorm hits?
Washington drivers can legally use studs until April 1; Idaho drivers, until May 1.
Local tire shops report they begin seeing tire swappers in late February. But according to the National Weather Service, while March isn’t the snowiest of months, late March storms aren’t all that unusual here.
Are you a gambler?
“We typically average one day (in March) with an inch or more of snowfall,” National Weather Service meteorologist Todd Lericos said of Spokane and Coeur d’Alene. “We very rarely have a lot on the ground. The sun angle is higher, so even if we have snow on the grass, it often melts off the roadway.”
The 30-year average for March snowfall in Spokane is 2.7 inches, he said.
But then there are years like 2002, when a March 20 storm dumped 3 inches on Coeur d’Alene and 4.2 inches on Spokane.
“At any given point in March, you could get one of these storms,” Lericos said.
OK. So we’re back where we started. Take off? Keep on?
“I have five cars in line right now to get their snow tires off,” said Rick Clark on Thursday.
Clark, assistant manager of the Hayden Lake Les Schwab, said many customers ask him to predict the weather to help them make up their minds. He politely declines.
He said he finds that many Idahoans follow the Washington deadline because of all the trips they make across the state line.
And while the last weekend in March can be the busiest stud removal day, most stores see a steady stream of customers all month, said Mark Webb, owner of the Perfection Tire store in the Spokane Valley.
It all comes down to a judgment call, he said. Those sticking close to home can probably take them off and sleep well, but those heading over the passes will want to wait until the end of March.
After witnessing two head-on crashes and seeing dozens of near-misses, Cindy Sinn says it’s time to do something about wrong-way drivers leaving the Tapio Center in East Central Spokane just north of the freeway.
When the city of Spokane last fall switched Thor from a two-way street to a one-way street headed south, many drivers failed to take notice.
“They just assume it’s still two-way,” said Sinn, who sees at least a dozen wrong-way drivers heading north on Thor each day.
Sinn blames signage.
Only a small “One way” sign across the street from the center’s driveway alerts drivers. And when semis barrel down the street, they block the sign.
To make matters worse, the driveway curves to the right, leading those exiting the Tapio Center to believe they can turn right when they can only turn left, Sinn said.
She’d like to see more signs in the parking lot and exiting it, such as a “left turn only” sign.
Tapio Center owner Glen Cloninger said he’s been trying to get the city to do something about the problem but is only getting delays.
City officials did not respond to calls for comment.
Hybrid tax credits
If you’re planning on claiming one of the new Internal Revenue Service tax credits for buying a hybrid vehicle, act fast.
The credits – as much as $3,400 on the most fuel-efficient vehicles – apply in full only to vehicles purchased within a calendar quarter of when the manufacturer reaches 60,000 in sales of hybrids.
For popular hybrids like the Toyota Prius, that could be early this year.
Say a manufacturer sells its 60,000th hybrid in March. That means the full credit will apply only to purchases made by the end of June.
After that one-quarter mark, the credit gets smaller with time before entirely disappearing.
That hand-held cell phone may be legal on U.S. Highway 2, but you’d better stow it once you enter Fairchild Air Force Base.
Fairchild and all other military bases are prohibiting their use starting today.
Hands-free earpieces are still allowed.
Pines Road will be restricted to one lane in each direction Tuesday and Wednesday just south of Trent. Westbound Trent traffic will be unable to turn onto Pines.
The intersections of Riverside and Howard and Division and Grey Court (near Lyons) could get backed up a bit Tuesday as crews check gas lines there. Flaggers will direct traffic.
Tree removal on 29th Avenue across from Applebee’s may cause some road obstructions this week.
Power line work on Crestline between Francis and Lincoln could cause lane restrictions.