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Snow upsets auto, air traffic

Sun., Jan. 27, 2008

The snowstorm blanketing the Inland Northwest, sending motorists slipping out of control Saturday and disrupting arrivals into Spokane International Airport, is expected to linger over much of the region today.

“We could get another 2 to 4 inches, for 5 to 10 total,” said Bob Tobin, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Spokane.

The heavy snowfall was the result of two storms, one from the northwest and the other moving up from the south, converging over the Inland Northwest at the same time Saturday afternoon, Tobin said. Both hovered over the Spokane area for hours.

And more is on the way.

“We have a series of snowstorms coming through,” Tobin said, adding that the region should see lingering effects of the weekend storm on Monday, with new storms moving through Tuesday, Thursday and over next weekend.

Saturday’s storm left police, paramedics and others scrambling as motorists slipped out of control on roads and highways across Spokane and Kootenai counties.

Interstate 90 was partially blocked Saturday in several locations between Spokane and Liberty Lake because of numerous auto accidents, according to the Washington State Patrol.

WSP received reports of 84 collisions in Spokane County starting at noon Saturday. Most were slide-offs with no serious injuries, troopers reported. The Spokane Police Department said there were 26 collisions with varying degrees of injury.

Spokane Fire dispatch had a steady afternoon, responding to 25 car accidents with no major injuries.

Fewer traffic problems were reported in Idaho. Kootenai County had five reports of auto accidents Saturday evening, while the Idaho State Police reported no serious accidents.

The storm proved a setback for comedy fans.

“Tonight Show” host Jay Leno canceled his Saturday night show at Northern Quest Casino after the pilots of his chartered jet grew concerned about the Spokane area’s worsening weather.

“He feels awful about it,” Frank Kepler, a box office representative at the casino, said of Leno’s decision.

Kepler said Leno was supposed to fly to Spokane International Airport in a private jet from Burbank, Calif.

The flight crew considered trying to get into an airfield in Idaho but feared conditions would be just as bad there, Kepler said.

The show will be rescheduled.

The storm also disrupted commercial traffic at Spokane International.

Some arrivals, as well as departures, were delayed because of weather conditions, but the airport remained open.


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