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Not out of the woods yet

Downtown loses power; travel remains perilous

While much of the region settled in for a White Christmas, crews scrambled to restore power to a large section of downtown Wednesday night.

A fire in an underground transformer shut down power to about eight blocks, including the Davenport Hotel and The Spokesman-Review building and press facility. Because of the outage, some features were not published in today’s paper.

Eight Spokane Fire Department trucks responded to the fire in a vault on Sprague Avenue just west of Monroe Street, which was reported about 5:50 p.m.

Fire crews checked surrounding buildings served by the transformer to see if the fire spread while Avista electricity crews were en route, said Deputy Battalion Chief Dave Leavenworth.

Most of the bars and restaurants in the affected area were already closed for Christmas Eve. Guests at the Davenport Hotel were moved across the street to the Davenport Tower, which was not affected by the outage, said general manager Lynnelle Caudill.

Throughout the region, travel will remain hazardous today.

Three inches of snow fell at the National Weather Service office in Spokane from 4 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday, with another 6 inches predicted overnight. Today’s snowfall will be about 2 inches.

“That’ll be a hit-and-miss type inch or 2. We’re not going to get anything major,” said Matt Fugazzi, a meteorologist in Spokane.

But coupled with Wednesday’s snowfall, “It’s not going to be a very pleasant travel situation, that’s for sure,” Fugazzi said. “Don’t be in a rush to get anyplace.”

The snowfall will die down this afternoon, with the next storm expected Friday evening.

“That could be a significant snow producer,” Fugazzi said, with 7 inches possible in Spokane and 10 in Coeur d’Alene. High temperatures are expected to be in the 20s, with lows in the teens.

After last week’s snowfall halted most buses in the city, Spokane Transit Authority is back running at full force in most places, though delays are common.

The buses in Spokane were held up Wednesday more by traffic than weather, said Molly Myers, spokeswoman for STA. Buses have been running on all routes except in Browne’s Addition.

Buses are scheduled to run normal holiday shifts today from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The city has caught up from the mass accumulation of snow and is keeping the roads clear, she said. At one point last week, only four of STA’s 40 routes were operating.

Joel Pence, who rides the bus regularly, said he believes STA is doing the best it can. The hardest part is wading through the snow to get to the bus, he said.

“I’ve been able to get almost anywhere on the bus,” Pence said.

Chris Shartle, another rider, said that he would rather take a bus than drive in the snow.

“I had to miss a day of work because the buses didn’t run,” Shartle said.

Paratransit service is not running normal routes and is making emergency trips only, Myers said.

“We are taking it one day at a time and will see how it goes,” Myers said.

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