West digs out as snow heads east
Midwest weather leaves thousands powerless; Northeast braces for storms
The Associated Press, Dec. 19, 2008
SPOKANE, Wash. - Road crews worked around the clock to remove 2 feet of snow from Spokane streets early Friday as the winter storm that set records in the West moved through the Great Lakes region and bore down on the Northeast.
The storm left thick ice in central Illinois, where up to 14 inches of the snow was expected by morning and 38,000 customers were without power. Heavy snow started falling before daybreak in Michigan and was forecast to start in the Northeast by midmorning, with up to a foot expected by the evening commute.
Spokane city officials declared a "Condition Red" snow emergency, meaning crews were working 24 hours a day to complete a full city plow, with private contractors brought on to help.
"This is our priority," Mayor Mary Verner said. "We will get the community moving."
The 19.4 inches of snow that had fallen at Spokane International Airport Thursday morning was the most in a 24-hour period since record keeping began in 1881. Another 4 inches had fallen by Thursday afternoon.
'You get pretty sick of it'
Gonzaga basketball coach Mark Few had to battle to get to the arena in time for Thursday night's matchup against Texas Southern. "I shoveled for six hours today, until an hour before game time," Few
Ron Johnson of Spokane was tired of the snow. "After spending the whole day trying to move it, you get pretty sick of it," he said.
Records were similarly smashed in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, with 25 inches of snow. The past record was 16 inches in 1955.
"It has eclipsed any previous records by a significant amount," said John Livingston, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in eastern Washington.
Police asked drivers to stay home, help neighbors shovel out driveways and check on elderly residents.
We're just inundated with accidents, stranded motorists," said Coeur d'Alene police Sgt. Christie Wood. "People are just leaving their cars where they're stuck and walking away. The tow trucks just can't possibly keep up."
Thousands powerless in Indiana
Ice and freezing rain had knocked out power to about 64,000 homes and businesses in northern Indiana, where some roads resembled ice rinks. Side streets in Fort Wayne "look like a Zamboni machine went over them," Indiana State Police Trooper Doug Kelly said early Friday.
The storm had the potential to complicate efforts to restore power to New England homes and businesses still without power one week after an ice storm that toppled trees and utility lines. Officials said about 10,000 customers in Massachusetts were still waiting for power to be restored, down from a peak of 350,000 in the immediate aftermath of the storm. A dozen emergency shelters remained in operation around the state.
Schools were closed from Ohio and Michigan to New Jersey, New York and New England.
Massachusetts officials were hoping to avoid any repeat of the fiasco that occurred on Dec. 13, 2007, when a similar storm hit in the afternoon, causing paralyzing traffic jams and leaving some children trapped in school buses for up to eight hours.
"I would be very surprised and disappointed if we see something similar," Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency spokesman Peter Judge said Friday.
In the mountains of Southern California, thousands of motorists began moving Thursday after being stranded overnight as snow and ice made several major arteries impassible. A segment of Interstate 5, the main link between Los Angeles and the Central Valley and Northern California, was closed for nearly 24 hours by treacherous conditions in Tejon Pass. Two portions of Interstate 15 were also closed including a 50-mile stretch in the Mojave Desert that is on the main route between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
In Vegas, the storm left heavy wet accumulations of snow along the famed Strip.
Thursday was the first snow day for Clark County schools since 1979, district spokesman Michael Rodriguez said.
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