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Storm continues to play with power lines

4.400 Avista customers without power

Roughly 6,600 Avista customers in Eastern Washington and North Idaho are a without power as lines snap under the weight of fallen trees. The outages are centered in Grangeville, at 1,074 homes, and the West Plains at 1,928 homes. The rest are scattered from Davenport to Kellogg and Sandpoint to Deary.

At 5 p.m. Avista Utilities had 1,600 customers without power, down from nearly 6,200 customers without power late this morning, as a difficult combination of heavy snow and wind were bringing down tree limbs and power lines.

The Washington State Patrol meanwhile reopened all roads in the vicinity of Interstate 90 and Harvard road. A crash caused the closure of the wesbound freeway lanes closure at the height of this evening’s commute.

Washington and Idaho highways were closed south of Spokane, and Interstate 90 was snarled by at least two accidents at this time and by slow moving traffic elsewhere.

I90, which has been slowed, closed or otherwise unpleasant for much of the early evening, is finally flowing more freely as the rush of the commute has waned.

Argonne Road at Wellesley continues to thwart drivers; there have been several reports of cars and semi-trailers sliding down the steep hill there.

The Washington State Patrol has reopened Highway 27 from Garfield to Palouse, after closing it due to collisions and blowing snow.

U.S. Highway 195 from Pullman to the Idaho state line was reopened late Wednesday, after being closed due to blowing and drifting snow.

The same problem prompted closure of U.S. Highway 95 north of Lewiston for 33 miles from the Lewiston Port of Entry to before Palouse River Drive on the south side of Moscow.

State Highway 23 has been reopened from U.S. 195 northwestward to the Lincoln County line after being closed because of drifting snow.

Inland Power and Light Co. reported that power was lost in Mount Spokane’s ski area about 11:30 a.m. today. Each lift has a backup generator allowing skiers to make it back down the mountain, said Jennifer Lutz, Inland spokeswoman.

Thousands of Inland Northwest residents lost power today. At one point, 3,000 West Plains customers were without power and 3,500 South Hill customers were without power late into the afternoon. Most South Hill customers’ power was back on by 5 p.m., an Avista spokeswoman said, and the remaining outages are smaller and scattered.

Also without power are areas of the Palouse where a blizzard warning is in effect.

“I’m freezing,” said one caller to The Spokesman-Review, who reported that her power went out about 11 a.m. and that her house temperature had dropped to 60 degrees by 3:30 p.m.

Avista reported that it expected power to be restored in her neighborhood by early this evening.

Air temperatures began falling with 27 degrees reported at Spokane International Airport and Coeur d’Alene at 3 p.m. and 26 at the airport at 4 p.m.

Up to seven inches is on the ground north of Airway Heights. Five to six inches has fallen in other locations.

Roads are likely to get very icy later today as temperatures continue to drop from the approach of arctic air. Lows by dawn in Spokane should reach the teens and then go several degrees below zero by Friday morning in both cities.

Winds gusted to 26 mph in Spokane, and gusts to 36 were reported in Pullman.

“We’ve got trees touching lines that shorts things out,” said Dan Kolbet, a spokesman for Avista.