A brief but intense snowstorm swept across the Spokane region Friday, causing slick roads that led to scores of accidents.
But does the snow signal a wintry change in what has been a dry December?
“La Nina years tend to be colder and wetter, but that component usually doesn’t pick up until late December,” said Joey Clevenger, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Spokane. A high-pressure system hanging over the region had been holding back the moisture for the past several weeks, he said. With it dispelled, the aggressive winter weather forecast earlier this year is set to sweep in.
Snowfall was greatest in north Spokane areas, such as Mead, reaching 4.8 inches in places by 4 p.m., the weather service reported. Parts of the South Hill measured 3.5 inches by that time, while 3 inches fell in Spokane Valley. Spokane International Airport’s 10 p.m. observation reported 7 inches of snow depth on the ground, the weather service said.
Below-normal temperatures and higher-than-average precipitation is expected over the next three months, meaning the present snow-covered state of the city is just a taste of what’s to come.
In the more immediate future, more snow is expected Sunday and possibly Monday, Clevenger said. After that, temperatures are forecast to increase into the low 40s, turning flakes into drops and potentially wiping out the weekend’s accumulation of snow.
That’s bound to be welcome news for drivers, who struggled Friday along streets and highways paved with slush and ice.
“Conditions are poor. We are responding to numerous crashes,” said Trooper Jeff Sevigney with the Washington State Patrol. “So far, there’s no serious injuries. People, please slow down.”
The WSP received reports of 165 crashes in seven Eastern Washington counties between 10:30 p.m. and 6 p.m., according to Sevigney.
In one dramatic scene, a car slid off the road and crashed through the front doors of the Spokane Water Department building on North Foothills Drive. No injuries were reported.
Traffic cameras along Interstate 90 showed moderate slowdowns in the Spokane area as snow blanketed the freeway.
Spokane Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said first responders were handling 17 crashes around noon Friday, mostly minor slide-offs. No serious injuries were reported.
“It’s extremely busy,” Schaeffer said.
Spokane County sheriff’s Deputy Mark Gregory said 125 crashes were reported in Spokane Valley and unincorporated parts of Spokane County between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m.
It was even worse inside the city limits.
According to Ron VanTassel of the Spokane Police Department, there were 128 crashes in Spokane as of 7 p.m., 23 of which were hit-and-run crashes.
City of Spokane plows, sanders and deicers were focused on hills as the snow accumulated.
On Friday afternoon, the city announced its first all-city plow of the year, part of a snow plan rolled out after last year’s snowy winter. Extra crews were scheduled to hit the roads overnight, said Marlene Feist, strategic development director for the city’s Public Works division.
Drivers are asked to park on the odd side of the street throughout the city to assist plows, including in the historic Browne’s Addition neighborhood, which will be scooped on the same schedule as the rest of the city. An all-city plow is expected to take three days to complete.
Crews were monitoring snowfall downtown to determine if parking restrictions will become necessary over the weekend, Feist said.
Less than 1 inch of snow was expected overnight Friday in Spokane, the weather service said.
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