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Before next storm, a brief, frigid calm

WEDNESDAY, NOV. 24, 2010

Tristan Long, front, and Hayden Symbol with the city of Spokane Water Department remove snow from the Monroe Street Bridge on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010, in Spokane. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Tristan Long, front, and Hayden Symbol with the city of Spokane Water Department remove snow from the Monroe Street Bridge on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010, in Spokane. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

More snow forecast to follow subzero temperatures

Winter is not about to ease its hold on the Inland Northwest this week, although the region is getting enough of a break today for travelers to reach Thanksgiving destinations.

But more snow is expected Thursday night and Friday.

This morning’s arctic cold was expected to bring a near record of minus 8 at Spokane International Airport. The record for today is minus 9 in 1985.

Highs today may only reach 10 degrees in downtown Spokane and Coeur d’Alene with lows tonight in single digits in both cities.

Partly sunny skies today will give residents and street workers a chance to clear roads, sidewalks and driveways.

More than 8 inches of snow fell at Spokane International Airport in the three-day storm. Similar amounts were reported around the region.

Two to 3 inches of new snow are forecast on Thursday night and Friday with another 3 to 4 inches on Friday night and Saturday, said Na? tional Weather Service forecaster Mike Fries.

Whiteout conditions prevailed across a broad swath of the Inland Northwest early Tuesday as the arctic blast and falling snow made life miserable for anyone venturing out.

Blowing snow forced closure of several highways and roads with winds gusting as high as 47 mph in Sandpoint and 37 mph in the Ephrata, Wash., area.

Numerous school districts in the region shuttered their doors as wind chills hit dangerous levels. Coeur d’Alene, St. Maries and Kellogg schools have canceled classes for today.

A blizzard warning that began on Monday afternoon was lifted mid-morning Tuesday. The feel of the cold and wind on the skin in Spokane was minus 9 at 7 a.m. Tuesday.

Traffic was moving on Interstate 90, and its three major mountain passes were open on Tuesday, although authorities said 13 vehicles had gone off I-90 about 40 miles southwest of Spokane around 2 p.m.

Tuesday night, the Washington State Patrol reported seeing 237 accidents since Sunday morning in the Spokane area. Idaho State Police had about 70 accidents reported between Monday and Tuesday night.

U.S. Highway 195 from Colfax to the Idaho state line was reopened to traffic Tuesday after closing from drifting snow.

Spokane Transit Authority had switched to a winter contingency route for the No. 45 Southeast Boulevard bus. Otherwise, buses were running on time.

“Things are going real smoothly,” said Molly Myers, spokeswoman for STA.

Winter updates by STA are posted on the agency website, www.spokanetransit .com, at 6 a.m., 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. daily.

A number of incoming and departing flights were delayed Tuesday at Spokane International Airport, all of them the result of backups at other airports.

“Operationally, we’re normal,” said Todd Woodard, spokesman for the Spokane airport, on the eve of one of the nation’s busiest travel days.

Warming centers were expected to continue serving as homeless shelters during the frigid weather.

Winds in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene were gusting to 21 mph, with one reading in Coeur d’Alene showing a gust at 29 mph on Tuesday.

In many locations, the blizzard began around nightfall on Monday as a low pressure area migrated along the Oregon border, drawing dense arctic air southward.

Temperatures should moderate through the weekend when highs go to the upper 20s to lower 30s and lows in the upper teens to lower 20s.

“We will moderate back toward freezing for the weekend,” Fries said.

Weekend snow should wind down on Saturday night and Sunday.

The city of Spokane reported Tuesday that it had deployed 20 plow trucks and had completed an initial sweep of the city’s arterials and bus routes but would return for a second pass.

The city declared a stage-1 emergency, which requires vehicle owners not to park on arterials and bus routes during plowing operations. The idea is to get a full-width plowing to prevent snow obstructions.

Spokane Valley had eight trucks working since Monday to clear primary arterials first and then move to secondary arterials. Updates are online at ?spokanevalley.org.

Some of the strongest winds were reported in Grant and Lincoln counties, where a number of roads and highways were closed. Seven inches of heavy snow were reported in Warden in Grant County.

Elsewhere, 12 inches of snow was reported near Moscow; 9 inches fell at Usk in Pend Oreille County, 8.5 inches in St. Maries in Benewah County; and 8.5 inches near Clark Fork in Bonner County.

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