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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Multiple crashes slow morning commute; wind gusts up to 50 mph expected this afternoon

First Avenue near Cedar Street in Spokane was covered by snow early Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2016. (Jonathan Brunt / The Spokesman-Review)
First Avenue near Cedar Street in Spokane was covered by snow early Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2016. (Jonathan Brunt / The Spokesman-Review)
From staff reports

A semitruck jackknifed on Interstate 90 near the Maple Street exit about 2:30 a.m. Tuesday, one of the more dramatic events triggered by a snow and ice storm overnight.

No one was injured, but lanes were closed until about 9 a.m. because of difficulty getting the wreckage cleared.

The closure resulted in long backups for drivers trying to get to work in the downtown area.

Once the lanes opened, traffic returned to normal.

The Washington State Patrol urged extreme caution for the Tuesday morning commute, and officials said black ice conditions could develop Tuesday night.

There were multiple crashes near the I-90 Pines exit in Spokane Valley, WSP said. One crash involved a WSP trooper whose car was struck while responding to a crash. No injuries were reported.

WSP closed U.S. Highway 195 from Pullman to the Idaho state line because of numerous crashes on a road surface covered with ice from freezing rain about 6 a.m., troopers said.

A few vehicles were abandoned along the roadway, but travel lanes were clear as of 8 a.m.

The National Weather Service office west of Spokane near Airway Heights received 2 inches of snow by Tuesday morning, but many areas to the south and north of Spokane were hit harder, said meteorologist Matt Fugazzi. The weather service received reports of 6 inches of snow at Newport in Pend Oreille County.

Freezing rain created treacherous conditions in Moses Lake and Yakima, Fugazzi said.

Moses Lake and Othello each received about a tenth inch of freezing rain, according to the National Weather Services.

The wind advisory for much of Eastern Washington was set to expire at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Gusts generally remained under the forecasted possibility of 50 mph.

By 11 a.m., southwest winds were gusting to 41 mph at Spokane International Airport.

Sandpoint and the Lewiston area were seeing gusts near 45 mph.

The winds were the main weather threat by mid-morning Tuesday after a frontal system moved eastward.

Mt. Spokane ski area closed its No. 1 chairlift for a second day in a row due to winds.

Mountain areas saw healthy accumulations. Lookout Pass reported 18 inches of fresh snow. Mount Spokane had 10 inches.

Heavy snow on old snowpack led to an avalanche warning for the North Idaho mountains through 6 a.m. Wednesday.

Avalanche warnings do not apply to developed ski areas which control snow slide risks.

Forecasters said runoff from melting snow and ice could result in minor flooding and small ponds of water.

Spokane city crews were beefed up Tuesday morning with extra trucks to get rid of the snow, slush and ice.

Snow removal was in progress across the region with above-freezing temperatures helping get the job done.

Post Falls crews reported they completed plowing by early afternoon, but warned that black ice could form overnight.

Schools

Many districts on the Palouse and other rural areas are closed or delayed as a result of the snow, KHQ reports.

Districts that closed include Colfax, Freeman, Garfield-Palouse and Moses Lake.

Classes have been delayed by two hours for the Liberty, Nine Mile Falls, Creston, Oakesdale, Omak, Pullman, Wilbur, St. John-Endicott, Warden and Washtucna school districts.

The Mead School District’s buses are using snow routes this morning, but classes will start on time.

Power outages

Kootenai Electric Cooperative reported a large power outage affecting about 1,100 customers north of Coeur d’Alene, but power was restored by late morning.

Later, an outage south of Coeur d’Alene affected 150 customers.

Inland Power & Light Co. reported about 40 outages in Spokane, Lincoln and Whitman counties Tuesday morning.

Avista Utilities reported about 175 customers had lost power this morning.

By afternoon, another Avista outage affected about 400 customers in the Wallace area.

By air

A few departing flights from Spokane International Airport have been delayed, but most remain scheduled on time.

By bus

Spokane Transit Authority reported that all of its buses were operating normally Tuesday.

Mountain passes

The westbound lanes of I-90 east of Snoqualmie Pass were closed this morning due to a jackknifed truck.

The pass was bare and wet with a temperature of 33 degrees.

I-90 at Lookout Pass was slushy Tuesday morning while Fourth of July Pass was snowy.

Forecast

A high temperature in the upper 30s in Spokane combined with wind helped to clear snow from roads, and reduced the overall snowpack.

Winds were expected to ease off tonight with a low of 27. Conditions could be icy Wednesday morning as a result. Sidewalks, side streets and driveways may be treacherous.

Calmer weather is expected Wednesday under mostly sunny skies and a high of 33.

The next chance of snow arrives on Thursday afternoon and Thursday night, but accumulations should be light.

The chance of snow continues through Saturday night, but eases off on Christmas Day.

Highs should be in the low to middle 30s with lows in the upper teens to 20s through the weekend. Christmas may see a high of about 29 and a small chance of snow with a low of 16 after dark.

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