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Officials urge commuters to stay home

Fri., Dec. 19, 2008, 7:19 a.m.

While conditions have improved somewhat this morning, officials continue to urge Spokane-area residents to stay home rather than chance the still-unplowed side streets.

That won’t be a problem for most students, as most major school districts remain closed today. For an updated list, click here.

The Idaho State Police had nothing to report this morning, but the Washington State Patrol has been busy with several slide-offs on Interstate 90 and jack-knifed semis in other locations, Trooper Mark Baker said.

“It’s better out there, but semis are still having some issues,” he said. “And motorists are picking up speed on the Interstate, which is leading to more slide-offs.”

Baker said he counted five such accidents between the Broadway and Freya exits this morning.

The Spokane Police Department issued a plea this morning for residents to stay home if possible, Officer Teresa Fuller said.

“The side streets are still impassible, although the street department has cleared most arterials,” Fuller said in a press release.

Baker said local law enforcement is suggesting that all drivers with two-wheel drive use chains, although that is not a requirement.

“If you don’t, you’ll just end up getting stuck on the side streets,” he said.

While many of the city’s arterials are clear, many of those streets that had been four lanes are now restricted to two, Fuller said.

“Please use caution if passing other motorists and watch for pedestrians who are using the roads to walk because the sidewalks are impassible,” she said.

Because of the volume of collision calls, Fuller suggests that anyone involved in a noninjury crash to get off to the side of the road and exchange information with the other driver. Officers will not be able to respond to those crashes, she said.

As for the plowing progress, the city has hired 11 private road graders in addition to the city’s 10 graders to start plowing residential streets. Work is also proceeding downtown, city spokeswoman Marlene Feist said in a press release.

However, that work has left large berms in the middle of many downtown streets. Motorists are advised not to attempt to cross the berms as they may get high centered and stuck, she said.

Bus service is limited today, as well. Spokane Transit is running just a handful of routes, and officials warn all buses are running behind schedule because of road conditions.

Meanwhile, the city is suspending garbage pickup and curbside recycling for business and residential customers again today.

Thursday and Friday customers can put out twice their normal amount next week.

However, because of Christmas falling on Thursday, they should put out their garbage on Friday. In addition, Friday customers should put their garbage out for a Saturday pick up, she said.

“We know this record snowfall is causing hardships for many people, and we want to thank our citizens for their patience and assistance,” Mayor Mary Verner said in a prepared statement. “We’ve deployed all of our snow removal equipment and are calling in more from the private sector to efficiently and effectively open our streets.”

Crews continue to plow 24 hours a day. To get updated information on the progress and schedule, go to

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