January 8, 2009 in Idaho Voices

Rathdrum, Spirit Lake plowing snow nonstop

Mary Jane Honegger Staff writer
 

What’s new? Not much – it’s all about snow.

Snow is the only news of the day, and today’s snowy forecast calls for local cities to keep crews working overtime plowing and carting away snow; for home owners to continue tiring themselves out shoveling snow off roofs, decks and sidewalks; for schools and businesses to close their doors for safety during rooftop snow removal; and for driving conditions to change hourly – mostly from bad to worse.

Safety is the big issue for schools this week. Most, if not all, Spokane County schools closed the first of this week for the removal of roof snow as the buildings slowly reached their allowable limits.

Lakeland Schools are continuously monitored and were fine through Monday, said Brad Murray, Lakeland School District assistant superintendent. But additional snow accumulation was significant enough – along with the projected forecast of a warming trend with a rain and snow mix that would add additional weight – to call off school for Tuesday.

“At no time were the schools unsafe,” said Murray who serves as one of a three-man team that assesses the snow factors each day. “Our transportation and maintenance directors and I are checking conditions each day by 4 a.m. “We check: are the roads OK; are the parking lots accessible; what’s the highway department saying; and what’s the weather forecast.”

That information is then added to updated snow-load reports, and a determination of whether or not to open the schools is made. With schools closed on Tuesday, snow-removal crews began the huge job of removing snow from Lakeland’s schools in Rathdrum, Spirit Lake and Athol.

“The big story has been almost nonstop snowplowing by our guys,” said Rathdrum City Manager Brett Boyer. “They plowed Christmas eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and every day in between.” Crews have done a good job of keeping roads open, but the roads are becoming narrower with new accumulation of snowfall,” he said.

A break from the snow would give crews a chance to remove some of the snow from the streets and intersections, and widen the roads, “but with a forecast for a warming trend and rain showers, flooding problems are now a major concern,” Boyer said.

Area officials fear that because the ground is frozen, little of the rain or melting snow will be absorbed into the ground, causing flooding problems. Heavy, rain-soaked snow on rooftops could cause additional buildings to collapse. Boyer said city maintenance workers have cleared off the rooftops of all city-owned buildings and will be clearing off some drains, so excess water will flow into drywells.

In Spirit Lake, snow concerns are much the same. A few buildings have fallen, including a barn just north of town and a shop near the downtown area; roads are getting narrower; and crews have been plowing pretty much nonstop. The city’s self-described water operator-plow guy, Tim Wilkerson, said, “We’re keeping up with it. We’re digging fire hydrants out and keeping the roads open.” Wilkerson also said his three-man crew was working a lot of overtime and getting the job done. Like Rathdrum, Spirit Lake officials are worried about flooding problems, if the expected warm weather and rain hit.

All in all, the towns on the Rathdrum Prairie are dealing with the snow just as well, and sometimes better, than the bigger cities around them. Residential roads seem to be in a lot better condition then those in surrounding communities, where many have yet to even see a snowplow. City and school buildings have been shoveled off and a supply of sandbags has been stockpiled. Hopefully there will be news about something other than snow next week – and let’s hope it’s not about flooding.

Both Rathdrum and Spirit Lake offer help with snow removal for residents with disabilities. Call to be put on lists if you have proof of disability. Although neither community can offer regular shoveling aid, both cities help in berm removal at the end of each day or when time permits.

Contact correspondent Mary Jane Honegger by e-mail at Honegger2@verizon.net.

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