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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Cold snap on its way

From staff and wire reports

As the Inland Northwest was digging out from four days of snowfall on Sunday, forecasters warned that an arctic front is expected to bring the region its lowest temperatures so far this season starting Wednesday.

Severe winter weather was also reported over California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah and the Ohio Valley.

In Spokane, forecasters said diminishing snowfall would give way to an arctic front Tuesday night and Wednesday. Lows are forecast to drop to minus 2 degrees to minus 4 in the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene areas overnight Wednesday and Thursday with even lower temperatures to the north.

“I would say there is a good possibility we’ll fall below zero,” said Jon Fox, forecaster for the National Weather Service in Spokane. The Palouse and lower Columbia Basin were expected to stay above zero at night.

The last subzero cold to grip the region came in 2004 when the mercury dropped to minus 22 on Jan. 5.

On Sunday, Spokane International Airport reported a snowpack of 7 inches after four days of winter storms had dropped a cumulative total of 10.6 inches of new snow, including 1.4 inches on Sunday morning. Light snowfall was forecast for Tuesday in advance of the arctic front, but no significant accumulations are expected, Fox said.

Inland Northwest snow advisories and warnings were lifted on Sunday.

So far this season, the airport has reported 18.6 inches of snow, compared with an average of 24.8 through Jan. 8.

In Spokane and elsewhere, street crews were working long shifts trying to clear roadways. Snow had been plowed temporarily into the centers of streets in downtown Spokane. Plow drivers were expected to turn their attention to residential streets today, and with any luck, will have them plowed by Wednesday or Thursday, said Carl Slater of the street maintenance department in Spokane.

“We’ll get it done,” he said.

Law officers were again called to numerous accidents in the region. Washington State Patrol troopers arrested a driver on suspicion of drunken driving following a Sunday afternoon accident on Interstate 90 near Altamont Street. Six vehicles were involved in the collision that caused some minor injuries to people in the vehicles and slowed traffic in the westbound lanes, a dispatcher said.

Troopers were called to about two dozen accidents in the Spokane area from midnight Sunday through early evening. Only a few accidents were reported in North Idaho, authorities there said. Accident reports were not available from Spokane city and county officers.

Rain brought flooding to Southern California, while snowstorms smothered the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

The Sierras have been hit with a dumping like they haven’t seen in generations. Deep drifts stranded an Amtrak train, knocked out service at the Reno airport and shut down major mountain highways.

The string of precipitation-laden storms has dropped up to 19 feet of snow at elevations above 7,000 feet since Dec. 28 and 61/2 feet at lower elevations in the Reno, Nev., area. Meteorologists said it was the most snow the Reno-Lake Tahoe area has seen since 1916, according to an Associated Press report on Sunday.

Storms also have caused flooding in Southern California and Arizona, deadly avalanches in Utah and ice damage and flooding in the Ohio Valley.

The weather was blamed for at least seven weekend deaths in Southern California, including a homeless man killed Sunday by a landslide. Along the storms’ eastward track, avalanches killed two people Saturday in Utah, authorities said.

A lull in the storm allowed the reopening Sunday of Interstate 80 over Donner Summit and U.S. 50 over Echo Summit after the highways were closed off and on for more than a day. The highways connect Sacramento, Calif., to Reno.

“The snowbanks along Interstate 80 are about 8 to 10 feet high. It’s like you’re going through a maze,” said Jane Dulaney, spokeswoman for the Rainbow Lodge west of Donner Summit.

About 25 motorists were rescued by National Guard members in Humvees after they became stranded overnight on U.S. Highway 395 about 20 miles south of Reno, Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Jeff Bowers said. Motorists had to wait up to six hours until rescuers could reach them after daylight Sunday.

“That would have been as scary as it gets to be out there alone in those conditions,” Bowers said.

More than 220 Amtrak passengers were back in Sacramento on Sunday after spending the night stuck in their train in deep snow west of Donner Summit, spokesman Marc Magliari said.

Reno-Tahoe International Airport was closed for 12 hours overnight for the second time in a week, and only the third time in 40 years, because plows could not keep up with the heavy snowfall, spokeswoman Trish Tucker said.

When the latest storm hit, the Reno region had still been digging out from a Dec. 30 storm that dumped as much as 4 feet of snow on the city.

“You’d have to go back to 1916 to top this sequence of storms,” National Weather Service forecaster Tom Cylke said Sunday of the snow accumulation in Reno.

Flash flood warnings were posted throughout Southern California. Residents of a mobile home park in Santa Clarita, northwest of Los Angeles, were evacuated Sunday after 5 feet of water spilled in from a creek.

“An eight-foot masonry wall that was protecting the structures gave way and water is rushing into all the houses,” said Inspector John Mancha. Authorities weren’t immediately sure how many people were evacuated.

Elsewhere, flooding along the Ohio River had chased hundreds of Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky residents from their homes. Meteorologists predicted the river would reach its highest level in eight years at Louisville, Ky., this week at about 5 feet above flood stage. Cincinnati was already more than 2 feet above its 52-foot flood stage Sunday, with forecasters expecting a crest at 57.5 feet.

Indiana officials said some of the worst flooding since 1937 had isolated pockets across the southern part of the state, forcing hundreds of people from their homes.

The storm that fed the flooding also knocked out power last week in parts of western and northern Ohio. Utilities said Sunday that about 66,000 customers remained without electricity, down from a peak of 250,000. More than 37,000 customers were still blacked out Sunday in Pennsylvania, and 56,500 were without power in Indiana.

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