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Friday, April 3, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane County asks for patience after man challenges snowplow driver to fisticuffs

UPDATED: Fri., Jan. 17, 2020

Spokane County sheriff’s deputies respond to a call in which an angry resident brandished a gun at a passing snowplow driver on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019. A county spokeswoman says another man stood in front of a snow grader on Friday, goading the driver to step out and threatening to kick his rear end. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Spokane County sheriff’s deputies respond to a call in which an angry resident brandished a gun at a passing snowplow driver on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019. A county spokeswoman says another man stood in front of a snow grader on Friday, goading the driver to step out and threatening to kick his rear end. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane County’s public works department has a humble request: Please be patient, and don’t pick fights with snowplow drivers.

Department spokeswoman Martha Lou Wheatley-Billeter sent out the call on Friday after a man in the northern part of the county reportedly stood in front of a snow grader, goading the driver to step out and threatening to kick his rear end.

The driver simply went around the angry resident, and law enforcement didn’t get involved, Wheatley-Billeter said. But the incident exemplified how frustrations over snowy streets tend to boil over this time of year.

“We’ve had a few anecdotal reports of angry citizens attempting to confront our employees,” Wheatley-Billeter said, noting that crews have been clearing snow around-the-clock in 12-hour shifts.

“The snow started falling last Friday, and it’s been a long week for everybody,” she said.

The streets up north were mostly clear Friday when the man confronted the plow operator, who was in the process of pushing back snow berms ahead of more snowfall expected on Saturday, Wheatley-Billeter said. The berms are a nuisance when they block residents’ driveways.

Some residents have thrown shovels at passing snowplows, while others have taken more extreme measures.

Last February in the Camelot neighborhood north of Spokane, a man upset about his blocked driveway climbed onto a grader, screamed obscenities and attempted to rip open the door of the vehicle. The driver noticed the man had a gun, but authorities didn’t press charges because he didn’t pull the weapon from its holster.

Another driver last winter reported an angry resident brandished a gun and challenged him to get out of his vehicle.

After testing two snow gates last winter, the county recently added six new gates to its fleet of snow-clearing vehicles. The gates are attached to the end of plow blades and prevent snow from flowing toward the curb. Drivers can raise and lower the gates to avoid creating berms in front of driveways.

County crews were busy Friday as snow drifted onto arterials and emergency routes, delaying plans to clear residential streets south of the city, Wheatley-Billeter said.

“We’re doing the best we can,” she said. “We have the largest county road system in the state. It’s almost 5,000 lane miles.”

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