Local news

Icy commute turns chaotic

Freezing rain during the morning commute Friday set the stage for nearly 150 traffic accidents in the Spokane region, authorities said.

The icy conditions began shortly before 8 a.m. as a storm system arrived from the southwest.

It caught many westbound drivers by surprise as they encountered quickly changing conditions, initially in the downtown area and on Sunset Hill.

By 8:30 a.m., the freezing rain had moved into Spokane Valley, triggering more accidents there. Pavement on Interstate 90 and elsewhere suddenly turned into a sheet of ice.

For more than 90 minutes, I-90 became littered with damaged and disabled vehicles, and traffic was blocked and brought to a standstill along stretches of the freeway.

The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office issued an alert asking drivers to remain off the roads until the ice started melting.

The temperature at Spokane International Airport was 26 at 7 a.m. and just a degree warmer at Felts Field near Millwood and in Coeur d’Alene. Temperatures rose to 36 by midafternoon.

The Washington State Patrol said it had been 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 ice was widespread. South Hill side streets were particularly treacherous.

Improving weather is expected over the weekend, with mostly sunny skies today while Sunday should be partly sunny. Coeur d’Alene has a slight chance of snow tonight and Sunday. Highs in both cities will be in the middle 30s and lows near 30.

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