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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Ice jams could cause area flooding

From staff reports

Meteorologists are warning of ice jams and flooding in the region.

Ice jams in Latah Creek along Highway 195 near Spokane could cause flooding overnight before the region’s rivers begin receding today as experts predict, according to the National Weather Service.

Over the last two days, Spokane lost at least half of its snow pack and the water content within it, the weather service said.

Along with Latah, ice jams in the Palouse River, the St. Joe River and the St. Maries River have been reported.

The ice creates damlike structures in the river that “can build rapidly, and they can also release as suddenly as they build,” said Royce Fontenot, a service hydrologist with the weather service.

The Palouse River at Potlatch and the Coeur d’Alene River at Cataldo were expected to crest at or above flood stage overnight.

“We’re not forecasting the St. Joe River at St. Maries to reach flood stage, but certainly if there’s a significant ice jam, that could happen,” Fontenot said.

Ice jams on the St. Maries River shut down the pump station for the tiny town of Santa Thursday morning, prompting the Santa & Fernwood Water and Sewer District to ask more than 250 households to limit what they put into the sewer system.

Stormwater overwhelmed the sewer system, sending sewage, composed mostly of stormwater, into the river about 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, according to a news release. The drinking water systems of both towns have not been affected.

Ice and flooding prompted Benewah County to declare a state of emergency, and the weather service has issued flood warnings for small streams in Whitman, southern Spokane, Kootenai and Benewah counties until 3 p.m. today. Highway 27 from Tekoa to Oakesdale in northeastern Whitman County closed because of water over the roadway Thursday afternoon.

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