December 16, 2009 in City

Snowy roads vex drivers

Eastbound Interstate 90 shut down after fatal pileup near Post Falls
By The Spokesman-Review
 

Slushy snow and rain turned to ice Tuesday night, contributing to dozens of collisions across the region.

But it wasn’t known if weather was a factor in a four-car crash on Interstate 90 that killed a teenage passenger and injured several others. The eastbound lanes of the freeway near Post Falls were closed for several hours while the Idaho State Police investigated the crash, KHQ.com reported.

Forecasters said the icy conditions should ease this morning as Tuesday’s snow and freezing rain becomes all rain today in the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene areas.

High temperatures should reach from 34to the lower 40s today and continue in the upper 30s through the end of the week.

Temperatures closer to freezing and a mix of wintry precipitation could fall in areas to the north, including Sandpoint and Colville.

Dozens of accidents – mostly minor – were reported across the Inland Northwest, officials said.

Late in the afternoon, the state Department of Transportation closed Interstate 90 eastbound near Snoqualmie Pass briefly because of a high number of collisions there.

Spokane Valley got a chance to test its new snowplowing system with five plow trucks and three graders. The city took over snow removal this season after the Spokane County road department stopped providing the service.

Arterials and hillside streets were mostly cleared by mid-afternoon, said Carolbelle Branch, Spokane Valley spokeswoman.

In Spokane, city plows had trouble getting city arterials cleared in the morning but had made good progress by early afternoon.

The 3 to 4 inches of snow that fell across Spokane was not enough to trigger a new set of protocols for snow emergencies, city spokeswoman Marlene Feist said.

One trouble spot was downtown, where crews used deicer to knock down the snow and had hoped to avoid plowing. As drizzle and freezing rain fell through the day, the packed snow formed ice, Feist said, so crews returned with deicer to get the snow to melt.

Temperatures in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene hovered at or just above freezing by midafternoon.

Feist said city crews try to avoid daytime plowing downtown because of the congestion from vehicles and pedestrians.

As snow stopped falling Tuesday morning, Spokane International Airport reported 3.3 inches and the National Weather Service office northwest of Airway Heights had 3.7 inches.

Reports of 5 inches of snow came from Green- acres and Athol and 4 inches in the Garland Ave- nue district of Spokane.

Today’s forecasts call for a 60 percent chance of light rain and a high in the mid- to upper 30s in Spokane and a 70 percent chance of rain and a high of 42 in Coeur d’Alene.

The chance of rain diminishes on Thursday through Monday.

In the counties to the north, snow levels should rise to 3,000 feet in elevation or higher today and drop to about 2,600 feet tonight.


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