Snow Day

SPOKANE – As dawn broke across the region Monday morning the Inland Northwest was virtually shut down with most school districts closed and many organizations running late or with essential personnel only.

For the first time since Ice Storm in 1996 nearly every school district, college and university in the region is shut down and those that are remaining open are running late or in a limited capacity.

“It’s pretty rare that we do this, very rare actually,” Spokane Public Schools spokesman Terren Roloff said about the closures. “But really, when it comes down to safety that’s the critical question and in this case we decided we needed to close because some of our streets and some of our sidewalks aren’t safe.”

The city of Spokane has shut down, with only essential and emergency personnel working Monday, which includes road crews, who were busy plowing arterials overnight. To help coordinate relief efforts around the Inland Northwest, Spokane County opened an Emergency Operations Center Sunday afternoon to deal with the snow emergency.

One of their first tasks was to prioritize which arterials and secondary arterials needed to be plowed.

“It’s not an emergency,” Spokane Mayor Mary Verner said. “It’s just a major snowstorm of a kind that we have not seen in many years.”

Spokane road crews are operating under ‘Condition Red’ which means they will be plowing all arterials and side streets 24-hours-a-day until all roads in the city are cleared. Between city and county road crews there are 115 pieces of equipment clearing the arterials and residential streets.

Despite the work of area road crews there have been numerous slide offs and accidents reported during the morning commute. The heavy accumulation of snow has also caused some trees to fall, such as one tree on 39th Avenue on the South Hill which fell Sunday. Armed with chainsaws crews are working to remove the tree from the road.

Out at Spokane International Airport, the day after a Southwest Airlines 737 jetliner skidded off a taxiway
, there are more than a dozen departures and arrivals delayed, in some cases up to an hour.

In North Idaho the snow accumulation has caused at least two structure collapses
. In Priest River, the Brass Alley ice cream store and gift shop had its roof collapse overnight. Over in Rathdrum there has been a roof collapse in the Lakeland Shopping Center near the intersection of Highway 41 and 53.

Some area services have been hit hard by the weekend storm while others are operating business as usual. The City of Spokane shut down everything but essential operations for Monday, which included the cancellation of Monday evening’s city council meeting.

Pam Almeida with Spokane Valley Meals on Wheels said early Monday morning that organization was in need of volunteers with 4-wheel drive vehicles to help deliver meals to many area senior and invalids.

“We have a lot of older drivers who are not going to be able to make it, to get to our meal recipients,” she said.

In addition to the hot meal Meals on Wheels provides, the daily stop at each of the residences also serves as a welfare check to make sure the seniors are doing OK. After the plea was made early in the day nine people volunteered to help pitch in to deliver meals.

While Meals on Wheels is busy delivering meals Monday, officials at Waste Management said their crews will be operating on normal schedules picking up garbage around the area. Steve Wolf at Waste Management said they are planning to have crews on the streets working their normal routes.

In North Idaho, the North Idaho Community Express (NICE) cancelled all paratransit service for Bonner and Shoshone Counties and their inter-city routes and are operating emergency services only in Kootenai County.

Meanwhile, crews from several area power companies are working to restore electricity to customers
. Both Avista and Inland Power and Light have customers without power. As of early Monday morning Avista had about 1,000 customers without power while Inland Power and Light had about 4,000 in the dark.

The community is being asked by local authorities to report downed power lines and outages. Avista’s phone number is 1-800-227-9187 while Inland Power’s number is 1-877-6-OUTAGE.