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Cold front leaves roads dangerously icy

Sun., Dec. 14, 2008

Road crews south and west of Spokane struggled Saturday to keep pavement clear as wind and snow caused serious crashes and closed highways.

Spokane didn’t get the dumping of snow that had been predicted, but many areas north and south experienced five inches or more.

Meanwhile, frigid temperatures moved in, and the National Weather Service on Saturday issued a wind chill warning effective until 4 p.m. Monday. Wind chills in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene are expected to reach between minus 5 and minus 20.

On Saturday afternoon, the Washington State Patrol closed state Highway 27 in southern Spokane County and northern Whitman County because of severe snow drifting. The same problem forced the closure of state Highway 21 in Lincoln County between Odessa and Wilbur. Both routes remained closed into the evening.

South of Colfax on U.S. Highway 195, a Pasco woman was killed Saturday morning when the car she was in lost control on the icy roadway, the Washington State Patrol reported.

Janice Carol Tillman, 48, died at the scene. She was a passenger in a Nissan Pathfinder driven by Andrew Tillman, 53, WSP said. Tillman’s southbound vehicle spun into the northbound lane where it struck a Dodge Ram driven by Albion resident Jessie McCleary, 29. McCleary declined treatment at the scene.

WSP said the cause of the crash was driving too fast for conditions.

A man was seriously injured about 1:30 p.m. Saturday on state Highway 27 near Adams Road between Fairfield and Latah when he was hit by what was described as a small white pickup with a canopy. Vicente Ponce Rodriguez, 51, of Tekoa, had gotten out of his truck after a three-car crash when he was struck.

The white pickup did not stop after striking Rodriguez. The Washington State Patrol requested that anyone with information about the pickup should call Trooper Jim Hill at (509) 227-6650. A WSP news release said the driver may not have realized that he or she hit someone, given the whiteout conditions at the scene. Rodriguez’s condition was unclear Saturday night. WSP reported that Rodriguez was transported to Deaconess Medical Center, but a nurse there said he was not listed as a patient at the hospital.

With single-digit tempertaures forecast, the city of Spokane activated its warming center program.

Two shelters opened Saturday, offering warm respite from the chill. The House of Charity, 32 W. Pacific, was opened to single men. Families with children or couples without children were welcomed at the Salvation Army, 204 E. Indiana. The warming centers were open until 7 a.m. today.

These sites, which are not intended to provide lodging, are opened when temperatures are forecast to dip below 15 degrees and area homeless shelters have been at capacity the previous 24 hours. Given the forecast for tonight, it’s likely the centers will open again.

The National Weather Service is predicting a high temperature of 7 degrees in downtown Spokane today. The low Monday night is predicted to reach minus 6. Tuesday morning is expected to be even colder.

Although Spokane and Spokane Valley didn’t get much snow Friday and Saturday, many surrounding areas awoke to a more substantial blanket. Hauser Lake, Colfax, Pullman and Deer Park saw snowfalls closer to 5 or 6 inches, and a foot or more fell in Metaline Falls, Sandpoint and Naples, said National Weather Service meteorologist Bob Tobin.

“The only place that didn’t get a lot of snow was the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene corridor,” Tobin said. “It just kind of skipped past.”

Spokane Street Director Mark Serbousek said most places in the city got less than two inches. Plows didn’t prove useful with so little snow, but crews were applying de-icer.

Many streets remain slick, and Serbousek cautioned that anyone driving the speed limit likely is driving too fast. As the temperatures dip below 15, the city’s de-icer – magnesium chloride – stops working.

Meanwhile, the winter conditions brought some good news, too.

Today, two more Inland Northwest ski parks will open: Silver Mountain Resort and 49 Degrees North. Lookout Pass Ski Area and Schweitzer Mountain Resort opened earlier in the weekend. Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park has yet to announce an opening date.


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