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

Winter storms present challenges, learning experiences

Al Lacombe Correspondent

Caller ID indicated my long-time Montana buddy, Dick, was on the line. He was obviously a man on a mission. His first words were: “Are you hurting? We heard you guys got walloped by a heck of a snowstorm last night!”

I responded: “Naw, the lay down wasn’t much more than a skift!”

Knowing his buddy, Dick asked: “Exactly, how much more than a skift would that be?!”

I replied: “About 5 feet!” then carried on with the declaration that all the snow had caused me to think about going back to school!

Puzzled Dick asked/stated: “Isn’t a couple/three college degrees enough schooling for a 72-year-old duffer?”

Not giving an inch, I told him that: “I’m going to do it for my great-grandchildren.”

Dismayed, he exclaimed: “What???”

My answer was: “It’s all about creating a good story line, buddy! Imagine my kids being able to tell their grandchildren that: “Great- grandpa so loved education that he had to snowblow his way both to and from school, during the winter of ’08!”

After a second’s thought Dick stated: “Which by the way proves, once again, that: You can get the boy out of Montana, but you can’t get the B.S. out of the boy!”

In truth, I’ve found our winter’s snowfall a challenge. But, I’ve also found it to be a gift, too. You ask: “How can that be?”

Well, I’ve learned that my neighbors are a bunch of team players. Together we’ve met the Snow Monster head on! We’ve kept our driveways, including those of our aged and infirm neighbors, clean.

We’ve gathered around those confounded snow/ice berms, and moved them. And we’ve laughed, shook each others’ hands, hugged and had a heck of a good time along the way. In my view, this crisis has caused us to, once again, find one another as we’ve worked to “lick this demon!”

Local media has consistently reported that snow removal projects in other neighborhoods have not gone as well. Admittedly, my neighbors and I haven’t had to face the challenges which confront the people who live along the city’s major thoroughfares. We don’t get the refuse from two lanes of pavement dumped in our driveways, nor do we have to deal with removing that gunk from a sidewalk which stretches the length of our lot. Consequently, we’re not affected when someone says: “You’re going to be fined if you don’t keep your sidewalk clear!”

Curiosity caused me to hop into our Explorer and to take a bit of a ride during the afternoon of Jan. 5. I wanted to see how the “big boys in our block” were handling the tons of snow piled on the sidewalks in front of their businesses.

My survey covered Sprague between Helena and Sullivan Road as well as University, McDonald and Bowdish from Sprague to 32nd Avenue. I found sidewalks in front of our city hall, the post office, our police station, and most of the big block merchandizing areas to be totally clogged.

Further, none of the sidewalks surrounding the various school properties were clear. The folks I really felt sorry for were those trying to catch a bus. Most were precariously perched on the top of 6-foot berms of ice as they waited for the bus. Those whose bus was nearby were descending to street level. Few seemed to be enjoying the “free shower” they were receiving from passing motorists.

Obviously many people throughout the region are fried, both mentally and physically, by this year’s snowfall. Some have lashed out in mean spirited ways; taking potshots or physically threatening the men and women operating various kinds of snow removal equipment. In my view, taking ones frustration out on the person operating a plow is another example of setting out to “kill the messenger.”

Local and regional planning commissions, in conjunction with their city and county officials, designed and ratified the construction of the various mazes we call neighborhoods. They’re the ones who need to figure out how they’re going to handle Mother Nature’s future snow fits. And, they need to start that process, now!

Reach Al Lacombe by e-mail at
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