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

Plowing downtown Spokane is complicated, city officials say, they will get to unplowed downtown roads when they can.

Pedestrians and motor vehicles use snowy Sprague Avenue on Thursday in downtown Spokane.  (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

After nearly 6 inches of snow fell in Spokane Wednesday, the city has launched a full-city plow, with teams working around the clock until the entire city is cleared.

But Spokane’s downtown remained untouched Thursday, according to the city’s online plow tracker, with Spokane drivers facing a sizable layer of brownish snow mush on downtown streets.

City spokesperson Kirstin Davis said the snowstorm’s duration prevented road crews from clearing the area Wednesday night.

“We were hoping to get to it last night, but the amount of snow that we had, and how long it kept coming down, we just still needed to work on those priority arterials and couldn’t get to it last night,” she said in a Thursday interview.

Davis said decisions about whether to plow the city center are often affected by the weather.

“It’s really based on what the conditions are and what the forecast is,” she said. “Every weather event is a case-by-case plan … It’s just kind of creating a new recipe each time it happens.”

Depending on weather conditions, city officials may use deicer or sand to combat slick roads in the coming days.

By Wednesday morning, clearing the city core was no longer an option because of traffic, Davis said. Instead, officials planned to clear downtown roads Thursday night.

“There’s just different activity in the downtown core, so we do that clearing, typically, overnight so that we can have as much space and have as little obstacles as possible when we’re clearing that snow,” Davis said.

When downtown roads do get plowed, snow will be pushed into the middle of roads instead of to the curb.

“That way, we’re pulling it from the curb and those metered spaces on street parking spaces are available to park at for people to frequent different businesses, take care of their meetings and do their normal downtown activities,” Davis said.

Davis said those midroad snow berms can be an obstacle for drivers depending on their volume and the amount of time it takes for them to dissipate. “I don’t think we’re in that situation with this snowfall,” she said, pointing to warming temperatures in the forecast.

A city notice told residents to “expect downtown plowing disruptions through Jan. 21.”

On-street parking downtown will be prohibited from midnight to 6 a.m. each day until plowing is complete. Vehicles parked on the street during that time are at risk of being towed, the notice said. The restrictions affect streets from Division to Maple east-to-west and from the Spokane River to Interstate 90 north-to-south.

More snow, 2 to 3 inches, was forecast to fall Thursday night and transition into freezing rain Friday morning, said Krista Carrothers, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. By Sunday, temperatures were expected to warm up enough for rain, she said.

Roberta Simonson's reporting is part of the Teen Journalism Institute, funded by Bank of America with support from the Innovia Foundation.