January 21, 2011 in City, Idaho

Multiple I-90 crashes triggered by coating of ice

Sheriff’s office urges drivers to stay off roads for now
 
Colin Mulvany photo

The Washington State Patrol helps clear numerous accidents on Interstate 90 near the Hamilton Street exit on Friday morning, Jan. 21, 2011. Freezing rain made for a slippery commute for both pedestrians and vehicles.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

Freezing rain set off multiple accidents on Interstate 90 in the downtown area, Spokane Valley, on Sunset Hill and near the Hamilton Street exit during this morning’s commute.

The icy conditions began shortly before 8 a.m., catching many drivers by surprise, and then moved east into Spokane Valley by 8:30 a.m.

The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office sent out an alert at 8:30 a.m. cautioning drivers to remain off the roads for the time being.

Law enforcement officers warned that pavement on the freeway suddenly turned into a sheet of ice as a new storm system arrived over the region.

The Washington State Patrol said that it was notified of 45 accidents in a two-hour period ending at 9:45 a.m.

Spokane city and county dispatchers had reports of 99 accidents.

The icy conditions were widespread. The South Side was particularly treacherous on lesser-traveled streets.

The hazard wasn’t limited to vehicles. Pedestrians reportedly were slipping and falling on the South Side. Sidewalks in Browne’s Addition were very slippery, according to a worker there.

Initially this morning, I-90 traffic backed up near the Division and Hamilton street exits after accidents occurred near the downtown area, officers said.

The Perry Street curves between Altamont and Hamilton streets were blocked by accidents. Multiple spinouts were reported on the Sunset Hill.

After about 40 minutes, westbound commuters were clearing out from the lanes near Hamilton Street while another blocking accident was holding up westbound traffic near Park Road. That triggered another massive backup near Argonne Road, but limited the number of inbound vehicles moving through East Spokane.

In an e-mail, sheriff’s Sgt. Dave Reagan said, “Please urge anyone who does not have to drive to not do so at this time. Spokane County and areas of North Idaho are experiencing freezing rain that is turning area roadways into ice-covered obstacle courses. Accident numbers are climbing.”

Most of the accidents did not involve injuries.

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