January 8, 2009 in Washington Voices

West Plains cities in emergency mode

Cheney, Airway Heights trying to dig out
Jeslyn Lemke Correspondent

The cities of Cheney and Airway Heights were still in a state of emergency this week as yet another storm coated the region Sunday night.

Cheney called out the National Guard Friday and Saturday to give snow crews a break. The fleet had been working 24 hours a day in shifts since the first storm hit Dec. 17.

“I have a top-notch crew here. They are great guys – they keep us going,” said public works director Todd Ableman of Cheney’s snowplow crew.

Roads in Cheney continued to narrow after Sunday’s storm, with extremely slippery conditions on unplowed side streets. Snow crews also were working to uncover heavy roofs. The Cheney School District shut down Monday and Tuesday. Eastern Washington University reopened Tuesday but urged students to avoid driving to school. Parking around the university has become extremely limited.

The Spokane Transit Authority has started a shuttle that drives a loop around Cheney, hoping to help students make it to class without having to drive their cars.

Keep children off the snow berms along streets, city officials cautioned, because snowplows cannot see them as they pass. Pedestrians are being told to walk facing traffic if the sidewalk is impassable.

Cheney officials said they will issue tickets for cars parking along streets impeding snowplows.

Airway Heights declared a state of emergency Dec. 30 so the city could hire a private contractor to begin hauling snow. The city’s main problem is not so much keeping the roads clear as getting the snow out.

Crews have been pulling long hours, too.

“They’ve done a fine job,” Airway Heights Mayor Matthew Pederson said. “The entire crew has worked countless hours to do this.” Highway 2 through Airway Heights was well plowed by Monday night, including the center lane.

In Cheney, some snow banks now reach higher than the buildings around them, with some particularly huge mountains of snow in parking lots. Some parked cars were entirely covered in snow banks, with the word “tow” spray-painted on the encasing snow.

Contact correspondent Jeslyn Lemke by e-mail at jlemke12@yahoo.com.

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