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Snowfall stops with 6 inches or more on ground

UPDATED: Mon., Jan. 7, 2013, 12:26 p.m.

Sharman Watson shovels out her walkway on West 21st Avenue after a winter storm dropped 4-5 inches of snow across the region, Monday, Jan. 7, 2013.  (Colin Mulvany)
Sharman Watson shovels out her walkway on West 21st Avenue after a winter storm dropped 4-5 inches of snow across the region, Monday, Jan. 7, 2013. (Colin Mulvany)

A winter storm warning has been dropped after 6 inches or more of snow blanketed the region, triggering numerous collisions and setting into motion a major snow removal effort.

Spokane, Airway Heights and Coeur d’Alene all received between 4 and 7 inches of snow. Sandpoint and Priest River had received accumulations of 2 to 3 inches earlier this morning.

Spokane International Airport was reporting drizzle and a temperature of 33 at noon, but only fog and a temperature of 35 at 2 p.m. Wind gusts to 36 mph at the airport late this afternoon dropped the wind chill feeling on the skin to 23 degrees.

It was foggy and 34 degrees in Deer Park, and 37 and cloudy at Felts Field near Spokane Valley, both at 2 p.m.

”We’ll be seeing some slushy conditions by afternoon,” meteorologist Robin Fox of the National Weather Service said this morning.

The snowfall began about 10 p.m. Sunday in Spokane and continued for more than 12 hours. The airport officially had 6 inches as of 10 a.m.

A new storm headed for the region on Tuesday morning could bring an inch or more of fresh snow before the precipitation turns to rain by late morning, forecasters said.

Cold weather returns gradually on Thursday, but Friday through the weekend are expected to see highs in the low 20s. There is also an outside chance of another snow storm over the weekend, forecasters said.

Monday’s heavy snow has led to difficult driving conditions, and numerous accidents were reported across the region. Even well traveled roads had compact snow and ice at mid-morning.

Slide off accidents were occurring at a steady pace through the morning and kept law enforcement officers busy responding to accidents, mostly on hills. With rear-drive patrol cars, Officer Jason Hartman says officers are putting their chains on for a better handling on the roadway.

The department counted 88 non-injury collisions 33 injury accidents between 4 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. in Spokane County, said Office Teresa Fuller. Another 40 vehicles were stuck or blocking traffic.

Drivers are now being advised to stay home if they don’t have to go anywhere. Minor accidents are no longer being responded to if there are no injuries or major damage.

“If you get in a fender-bender, you’re just going to have to exchange information and move on,” Fuller said. “You’re not going to get any response any time soon.”

A semi truck reportedly slid out on the Argonne Road hill near Columbia Drive about 10 a.m. Traffic was being held up while the accident was cleared.

In Idaho, accidents on Fourth of July Pass on Interstate 90 had restricted traffic to a single lane about noon. Transportation officials reported multiple slideoffs there.

Al Gilson, spokesman for the Washington State Department of Transportation, said I-90 from Spokane to the Idaho state line was wet with slush in places at noon.

Other highways in Eastern Washington had compacted snow and ice. Snow drifts were reported along U.S. Highway 195 and state Highway 26 in the Palouse region, Gilson said.

On Snoqualmie Pass, eastbound traffic on I-90 was stopped early this afternoon for avalanche control, but was allowed to proceed later in the afternoon, and the pass pavement was bare and raining with standing water in places.

Earlier in the day, Snoqualmie Pass had heavy snow and poor visibility. Also, I-90 through the Columbia Basin was slowed by thick fog. Numerous slideoffs occurred, according to one driver.

Full-scale plowing operations were launched by local government agencies. Residential streets are going to be plowed in Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls, Spokane, Spokane Valley and unincorporated Spokane County.

There’s a slight chance of rain tonight before 10 p.m. and a chance of snow after 4 a.m. Tuesday as the snow level falls from 2,800 feet to 2,000 feet.

Rain is expected after 10 a.m. on Tuesday and possibly Wednesday morning, too, but accumulations are not expected to be great. There is a chance of snow after dark on Wednesday, but little accumulation expected.

To the north, the storm on Tuesday and Wednesday chould bring heavy snow to the mountains of Northeast Washington and far North Idaho.

A new winter storm watch was issued for mountains north of Deer Park and Athol with accumulations of 5 to 15 inches to mountain locations, but only 1 to 3 inches to valley areas, forecasters said.

A cold front on Wednesday evening could bring drier conditions. Temperatures will drop back to the low 30s on Thursday and then to the low 20s for highs on Friday through Sunday. Lows will be in the teens. The chance of snow will be in the 20 to 30 percent range through the weekend, although forecast models are pointing at the chance of a snow storm over the weekend.

Any wet snow and slush from today’s storm is likely to turn into ice when the freeze arrives later this week, which will make for difficult walking and driving conditions in places that are not cleared.

The National Weather Service reported 5 to 6 inches of snow in a series of reports from community weather observers, most of whom took measurements between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m.

Observers in Airway Heights at 10 a.m. had nearly 7 inches of snow.

In Kootenai County, observers reported 3 to 4 inches by 7 to 8 a.m.

Air traffic was mainly on time at Spokane International Airport.

Spokane Transit Authority was warning that riders may face delays. However, major routes are running on 15-minute intervals.

Bus No. 45 Regal Street is running on its published snow route as is Bus No. 33 in the Shadle Park area. Also, the Southside Medical Shuttle, Bus No. 2, was also on a snow route.

Tags: snow, weather