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Spokane County rural roads reopening

Spokane County has reopened nearly 20 rural roads that were closed Friday because of deep snowdrifts that made driving hazardous or impossible.

Many arterials and emergency routes in the southern and western parts of the county were cleared to at least one lane Saturday. But hundreds of miles of secondary roads remained impassable, county officials said.

Some routes are buried under drifts that grew to 12 feet deep in windy weather Friday, the Spokane Department of Emergency Management said. All traffic except emergency and maintenance vehicles is prohibited on those secondary roads.

The county declared a state of emergency Friday and banned civilian travel on roads south of Freeman, Spangle and Cheney, and west of Cheney, Medical Lake and Airway Heights.

County officials said conditions had improved Saturday, but much work remained. The county has 35 graders, 25 plows, 10 bulldozers from private contractors and three industrial snowblowers working to clear roads.

All highways and state routes in the affected areas remain open, the Washington State Department of Transportation said.

Crews on Saturday also made progress clearing debris, snow and standing water from Snoqualmie Pass, with hopes of reopening it to traffic overnight.

Reopening Snoqualmie Pass on Interstate 90 would be a boost for travelers who have been unable to cross the mountains since Washington’s three large passes closed simultaneously early Friday afternoon. About 72 miles of I-90 have been closed.

Since Feb. 1, 86.5 inches of snow have fallen on Snoqualmie Pass, bringing the total this winter to 416 inches. The record for winter snowfall is 696 inches in 1945-‘50.

“And we still have three months left, because we sometimes get snow still in May,” said Meagan McFadden, spokeswoman for Department of Transportation.

“As more snow falls, we get a little closer to those record years.”

Highway 2 over Stevens Pass was closed between Leavenworth and Deception Creek. Highway 12 over White Pass was closed between Coal Creek Drive to near Wildcat Road.

“It’s a little too dangerous for their crews to be out at night, so once it gets dark, they’re going to stop working and re-evaluate the situation in the morning,” McFadden said.

On the Idaho-Montana line, U.S. Highway 12 remains closed on the west side of Lolo Pass. Avalanches still have not been cleared from last week. The closure is from Selway River Road to Lolo Pass.

People who live or work in parts of Spokane County served by roads that remain closed are being asked to stay off those roads and monitor news sources for updates, the county said.

Members of the Spokane Winter Knights Snowmobile Club have volunteered to help reach stranded residents.

Staged in Cheney and Rockford, they are ready to help transport people if first-response vehicles cannot reach people needing medical attention and evacuation.

Residents who need emergency services should continue to call 911 for fire or law enforcement assistance.

Motorists who violate the county’s emergency ordinance place themselves at risk of becoming stranded miles from help and may find that emergency service agencies are either unaware of their predicament or unable to respond, officials said.

The weather forecast for the Inland Northwest calls for a 50 percent chance of rain today, and possibly rain mixing with snow tonight.