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Region in brief: January snowfall lowest since 1994

January 2010 in Spokane ended with the lowest snowfall amount for the first month of the year since 1994 and the fourth lowest on record, a complete turnaround from the last two winters.

Only 1.4 inches of snow fell last month at Spokane International Airport. The record for lowest snowfall for January came in 1900 when a trace fell. The city had 0.9 inches of snow in January 1994.

This compares with the 40 inches of snow that fell in January 2008, and the 80.7 inches of snow that fell during the 2008 snow season by Feb. 2.

January also was the eighth warmest on record at 7.8 degrees above normal. Spokane had an even warmer January in 2006 at 8.2 degrees above normal.

A succession of mild storms driven by an El Niño warming of the tropical Pacific is responsible for the mild weather, which is expected to continue into next week, forecasters said.

Police arrest stabbing suspect

An argument between two men drinking at a North Side apartment early Tuesday ended with one stabbing the other, Spokane police said.

Matthew J. Blizzard, 32, is accused of stabbing Paul J. Erickson with a pocket knife inside Erickson’s apartment at 6616 N. Addison St. about 4:10 a.m.

The men had met earlier that day and were drinking with a woman at Erickson’s apartment when Blizzard “became belligerent,” according to court documents.

Blizzard plans to argue self-defense and is hoping to get treatment for his alcoholism, Spokane County public defender Victoria Johnston said at his first court appearance Tuesday in Superior Court. Judge Maryann Moreno set Blizzard’s bond at $2,500 on one count of second-degree assault.

Erickson was taken to a local hospital and was reported as stable with non-life-threatening injuries, police said.

Groups criticize police oversight

A coalition of groups fighting for stronger police oversight said Tuesday that a new police contract shouldn’t stop the city from giving the new police ombudsman more authority.

Last fall, the Spokane City Council asked Mayor Mary Verner to negotiate with the Spokane Police Guild to give Police Ombudsman Tim Burns independent investigative power. But the city agreed to a two-year police contract with no such expansion.

Under the city’s police oversight rules, Burns takes complaints about the police and forwards them to the department’s internal affairs office. Burns monitors the police investigation and can participate in detective interviews, but he lacks the authority to conduct his own inquiries.

The Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane and other groups are asking city leaders to pass a law giving the ombudsman investigatory power. Officials with the Center for Justice argue that that power does not have to be negotiated with police unions.

“The failure to accomplish independent oversight has resulted in growing frustration, cynicism, fear and lack of respect and trust for our police department and lack of faith in our city leaders,” PJALS director Liz Moore said at a news conference Tuesday.

U.S. 395 crash leads to DUI arrest

A Spokane woman was charged with driving under the influence Tuesday morning in an accident that blocked U.S. Highway 395 three miles north of Addy.

The highway was closed for about an hour after the 7:40 a.m. accident.

Carla M. McKinney, 41, was northbound in a 1992 Pontiac when she stopped on the highway at McLean Road and was struck in the rear by a 1994 Freightliner tractor-trailer driven by Jasen Jay Blenz, 40, of Post Falls, according to the Washington State Patrol.

McKinney was taken to Providence Mt. Carmel Hospital in Colville with an injury. By Tuesday evening, she had been discharged, a nursing supervisor said.

Troopers said McKinney was charged with driving under the influence, and that impaired driving caused the accident.

Shopper learns he won $250,000

He served in – and survived – World War II and Korea. His marriage to wife, Kay, is 67 years strong. Now something as simple as a trip to the store to buy tape has changed his life in a very big way.

Bert Gerken, of Spokane, walked into the Indian Trail Road Albertsons on Sunday to buy a roll of tape. Once there, he checked the Mega Millions ticket he had in his pocket. He checked it three times before believing what he was seeing, that he’d won $250,000.

According to a news release, the Gerkens hadn’t decided what they’re going to do with the money, but did say they were going to lunch after claiming their prize on Tuesday.