It’s a tough go for drivers in the Inland Northwest on Thursday, as a major storm dumped several inches of fresh snow overnight. The snow is expected to continue throughout the morning commute.
Snowplow crews have been out working since last night but with the snow falling so quickly it can be difficult to keep up. Drivers should expect snow-covered roads, even on the highways.
One of the more challenging spots is westbound I-90 up Sunset Hill. The Washington State Department of Transportation said traffic is moving slowly with several disabled vehicles on the shoulder and also in the right lane.
The National Weather Service reported blowing and drifting snow on the Palouse, including Pullman.
Drivers are reminded to give snowplows space while they work. The Idaho Department of Transportation said five of its plows have been hit so far this winter.
Several school districts have also made the decision to cancel classes or delay the start of the school day. Schools that are closed include Central Valley, West Valley, Mead, and Moses Lake.
Spokane Public Schools announced a two-hour delay to allow crews to plow major arterials & streets in & around schools.
Start times for Spokane Schools:
- The Express childcare program
- High schools
- The Community School
- IST at North Central High School
- Odyssey Program
- Elementary schools
- Pratt Academy
- Middle schools
- Pre-school programs
- Morning session at the NEWTech Skill Center for SPS students
- Zero-hour classes at high schools
- Programs usually held prior to the start of school
Latah County also announced that all county buildings are closed on Thursday.
Avista reported some scattered outages, mostly south of Sandpoint. Bonner County is reporting 341 outages, more than 17% of the customers they serve.
Mt. Spokane announced a power outage at the mountain Thursday morning. In a Facebook post, the park said, "We are working quickly with service providers to determine issue and projected timeline. We will not be able to open for operations until issue is resolved."
Winter storm warnings are in effect for Central Washington, Spokane, Coeur D’Alene and areas eastward. The watch will remain in effect until Thursday afternoon.
Snowfall totals will generally be between four and eight inches across the area, including in Spokane. Northern Washington and far North Idaho could push six to ten inches of snow, with the Silver Valley potentially gaining upwards of 12-14 inches at the top end of forecast snow totals.
Areas south of Interstate 90 may see the snow switch to a rain and snow mix by Thursday afternoon as the warm front advances into the region. The Tri-Cities are only expected to gain one to two inches of snow before a switchover to rainfall. In northern Washington and the higher elevations of the mountains, however, it's an all-snow storm.
One to two feet of snow is likely across our area mountains with two to three feet for the Cascades. This comes after Snoqualmie Pass reported that they have seen the most snowfall to date this season, with 236 inches (19 feet 8 inches) of snow.
Both Snoqualmie Pass and Stevens Pass were closed early Thursday morning and will stay that way until the weekend. Even once the passes reopen, the Washington State Department of Transportation is warning drivers to be prepared for really challenging conditions in the passes all week.
Be sure to check travel conditions before leaving if you must drive and always have an emergency kit in your car. An emergency kit should have things like blankets, snacks, water, first aid, medication, a phone charger, and a flashlight.
Drivers on Snoqualmie Pass can sign up to receive text alerts for pass delays of 30 minutes or longer.
Spokane International Airport
More than a dozen flights at Spokane International Airport have been cancelled or delayed on Thursday. Airlines affected include Alaska Airlines, Delta, Southwest, United Airlines, and American Airline.
According to a tweet from Spokane International Airport, the storm is expected to impact flight operations over the next couple of days.
They advised travelers to check departing flights for delays before leaving, allow extra time to drive to the airport due to road conditions and to download the airline's app to be notified about delays and updates regarding departing flights.
All flight statuses can also be found at the Spokane airport's webpage.