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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Light snowfall slickens streets and ices the Manito Park light show Thursday

An icy Grand Boulevard created conditions for this multicar pileup that included an STA bus that slid into a power pole Thursday in the southbound lanes below 12th Avenue.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Light snowfall wreaked havoc Thursday on Spokane streets, which one police sergeant described as an “ice skating rink.”

Spokane police Sgt. Ben Maplethorpe said countless streets were closed as of 8 p.m. and there had been more than 100 crashes since early Thursday afternoon because of the slick conditions.

“Everyone needs to stay home,” he said.

Maplethorpe said police were stretched so thin Thursday night that he was driving the street barricades truck.

Certain traffic signals changed to flashing lights to prevent drivers from stopping and starting, and even the final night of Manito Park’s holiday lights drive-thru event was canceled.

But Jennifer Simmons, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Spokane, called for a break in the snow action Friday before the area could receive 3 to 5 inches this weekend.

The new snow will follow a frigid Friday morning. Simmons said a low of 13 was forecast for early Friday, which would be the lowest temperature of the season in Spokane. Single-digit temperatures were expected Friday morning north of Spokane in places like Republic and Colville.

Temperatures will rise into the high 30s and lows will be in the low 30s Saturday and Sunday in Spokane, according to the National Weather Service.

Simmons said 1 to 2 inches of snow fell beginning Wednesday night in Spokane until it stopped late Thursday afternoon. She said the precipitation came from the southwest Wednesday night, and then another system swept through the area from the north, bringing snow Thursday.

“It’s kind of, I think, the one-two punch that may have thrown people off,” Simmons said.

City street crews started preparing the streets early Thursday morning and worked throughout the day, said Kirstin Davis, communications manager for Spokane Public Works Department. She said crews released 26,714 gallons of de-icer and 34 tons of sand and salt from Thursday morning to the evening.

Spokane Public Works Director Marlene Feist said crews were mostly sanding and de-icing Thursday evening and plowing where appropriate.

While crews did prepare, even city plow drivers and de-icers got stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic during the evening commute, Davis said.

“I know it’s frustrating for people, but we are out there doing everything we can and are adjusting to the conditions as the weather does what it does,” she said.

Davis said crews planned to work until 4 a.m. Friday when reinforcements were to start maintaining the streets for morning commuters.

“We work 20 hours a day in the winter, and we expand to 24 when needed, so that’s one of those times,” Feist said of Thursday night and Friday morning.