December 17, 2009 in City

Snow triggers harsh memories of 2008 records

At onslaught’s anniversary, anxiety sets in for some
By The Spokesman-Review
Video: Stevens Street Hill a Slip’N Slide
Video: Digging Out
File photo

Pedestrians make their way west on Sprague Avenue from Ivory Street during a snowstorm on Dec. 17, 2008.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

A year ago today: Dec. 17, 2008: The snow begins to fall lightly in the morning and in earnest by late afternoon. Commuters get stuck on streets leading to the South Hill. Police eventually declare that, except for major arterials, “motorists should consider ALL streets in Spokane closed.” By the next day, the Inland Northwest will be covered in nearly 2 feet of snow; it’s the most snow received in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene in a 24-hour period since record-keeping began. National Weather Service forecaster John Livingston says the snowstorm is the result of “the alignment of everything.”

Precipitation sets record

The combination of snow and rain Tuesday set a daily precipitation record in Spokane, the National Weather Service said Wednesday.

Spokane International Airport measured 0.61 inches of rain and melted snow. That broke the previous record of 0.55 inches set in 1906.

The succession of two storms, the first of which began late on Monday, broke a dry spell dating back to Nov. 27.

Today, there’s a 20 percent chance of rain in the morning before the precipitation gives way to a drier, overcast afternoon. Temperatures should reach 37 degrees in Spokane, according to the weather service.

Weather records have been kept in Spokane since 1881.

Mike Prager

One year ago today, the storm began. The Inland Northwest was pummeled with record-breaking snows that disrupted routines for nearly two weeks.

Gene Yoakum said he remembers the storm well. He lives on Spokane’s North Side and uses a wheelchair to get around. Last year, he was trapped at home for three days and after that, his mobility was limited because people failed to shovel their driveways and sidewalks.

Tuesday, when snow fell again in Spokane, Yoakum had trouble leaving his neighborhood to go downtown, then struggled to negotiate icy sidewalks and curb cuts.

“It felt like déjà vu,” he said. “I felt anger. I felt ignored. I still am worried about being trapped again this winter.”

Anniversaries, whether of bad weather or the death of a loved one, can trigger anxiety or, in the most severe cases, post-traumatic stress disorder, symptoms of which include agitation, sleeplessness, anger, fatigue, lack of concentration, and depression, according to mental health experts.

Mental health experts say symptoms often worsen when the anniversary of the traumatic event hits and stirs up intense memories and emotions.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has studied anniversary trauma extensively. On its Web site, the agency details numerous studies on the phenomenon.

For Inland Northwest residents, the anniversary of the beginning of last year’s winter storm may bring with it at least one silver lining: Remembering anniversaries can be a powerful and positive reminder of the resilience that people possessed during that difficult time.

Beginning today, The Spokesman-Review will run a daily recap of events from each day of Winter Storm 2008. It’s a reminder of the intense experience – and the amazing resilience – shared by Inland Northwest residents.

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