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Slippery roads lead to rash of Inland NW crashes

UPDATED: Wed., Jan. 23, 2013, 5:43 p.m.

Late afternoon snow and sleet set the stage for a string of traffic collisions as drivers tried to make their way home tonight.

Forecasters said that the mix of precipitation, including freezing rain, would continue until 7 p.m.

Fire crews were called to U.S. Highway 2 and Spotted Road to extricate at least one occupant from a smashed-up vehicle.

Another accident on Interstate 90 involved a driver going off the freeway and crashing into the median.

Westbound I-90 also saw a spinout accident on Sunset Hill.

Emergency dispatches to accidents were occurring at a steady pace. Some of the crashes reportedly involved injuries. Details were not immediately available.

Traffic cameras around the region showed that most motorists were negotiating the changing conditions without problems. Heavy traffic was seen on I-90 in Spokane at rush hour, and drivers were forced to slow down.

City officials in Spokane and Spokane Valley said they would have crews deicing streets as needed tonight.

National Weather Service forecasters said the sleet, freezing rain and snow were expected to change over to all snow in the Spokane area later this evening.

Initially, today’s precipitation had to fall through a fairly thick layer of air that was above freezing in the middle altitudes. But the advance of this evening’s storm was expected to push that milder air out of the region, changing precipitation to snow. Evaporation was also expected to cool the air mass overhead.

The weather service has been cautioning drivers for the past day or more to be aware of slippery driving conditions through Thursday morning. A low of 24 is expected in Spokane tonight.

Thursday’s high should reach 34 in Spokane.

Mixed precipitation of rain and snow is likely Thursday night and Friday with a chance of all rain on Friday night. Snow levels Friday may go up to 3,100 feet in elevation.

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