Just ask Maureen Henderson about the icy Thursday morning commute.
Henderson was on her way to work at Eastern Washington University when her Toyota became stuck in snowy slush at Howard Street and Sixth Avenue on the lower South Hill. Two nearby city garbage collectors ran to help, then leaped out of the way when their giant garbage truck’s tire chain broke and its parking brake malfunctioned, sending it careening down the hill and smashing into several parked cars – and Henderson’s. No injuries were reported.
“Last year it was a school bus that knocked out a couple cars” here, said Henderson, who despite the disastrous results Thursday was appreciative of the city workers’ willingness to try to help her. “If the city – if they would come and gravel this, it wouldn’t happen.”
Motorists across the Inland Northwest struggled as well, with authorities reporting dozens of mostly minor collisions and slide-offs throughout the region.
Some of the heaviest snow of the season fell Wednesday night and early Thursday in areas north of Spokane and Coeur d’Alene.
A foot of new snow was reported in Deer Park, Clayton, Newport, Priest River, Blanchard, Elk and elsewhere. Higher mountain peaks of the region saw nearly 2 feet of snow from Wednesday into Thursday.
On Interstate 90 near Kellogg, a westbound semitruck went over onto its side and was blocking two lanes of traffic, forcing a detour at the Big Creek exit.
Traffic early Thursday was moving on compact snow and ice across Snoqualmie and Stevens passes. The Washington State Transportation Department closed both passes briefly Thursday morning for avalanche control.
In Spokane, just 2 to 3 inches fell by Thursday morning, and most of that was cleared from roads by late morning. Temperatures climbed into the lower 40s, helping keep roads in good shape through the day.
Now, forecasters say any new snowfall the next few days should be relatively light in the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene areas and along Interstate 90 to the west.
Small amounts of snow are possible tonight and Saturday, but the precipitation may fall as rain, with highs near 40 today and 39 on Saturday in Spokane.
Snow levels are going from 2,300 feet in elevation today to about 2,900 feet by Saturday.
The best chances of snow accumulation are in the northern portions of the region stretching from the North Cascades to the mountains and valleys north of Spokane and Coeur d’Alene.
Two to 3 inches of new snow are possible in valleys around the mountains during each of a series of storm impulses tonight, Saturday and Sunday, according to the National Weather Service.
Snow chances diminish on Monday and early Tuesday, allowing for easier travel on the region’s highways.
But another storm may arrive by Christmas night, forecasters said. Travel across the Cascades may be affected by the storm on Tuesday.
After that, travel conditions should improve again during the rest of the week, although there is a chance of some snow each day.