A record snowfall

Ray Stout of Stout Flying Service brooms snow off an Ameriflight Metro cargo aircraft from Seattle before refueling and de-icing it. The airplane, which was loaded with packages, was diverted Wednesday morning from Pullman because of heavy winter conditions and was unloaded at the Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport instead. More snow is expected today throughout the region, though it may let up by the weekend. 

It would almost be easier to point out which roads, schools and city services were clear and open Wednesday, rather than list closures after the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley was stacked once again with snow.

By noon Wednesday, Lewiston officials had shut down Vineyard Avenue, Nez Perce Drive Extension, the Fifth Street hill, 10th Street from Seventh Avenue to Miller Street, and 11th Avenue from Snake River Avenue to Prospect Avenue. With 3 inches of new snow, which relented around noon, Clarkston schools released early and Lewiston schools closed soon after.

The National Weather Service reported Lewiston saw a record amount of snow for February at 29.5 inches, beating the record of 27.2 inches from 1916.

The record-breaking snowfall throughout February continuously caused delays and led to some school closures for area districts. The Clarkston School District has scheduled a half-day for April 26, to make up for its only snow day of the year. The district doesn’t build in any flexibility into its calendar for snow-related events because it typically isn’t necessary.

“We’ve only had two (snow days) in the history of Clarkston School District, so it’s not a normal thing,” Superintendent Tim Winter said.

In Lapwai, the large span of land the district encompasses creates unusual challenges when it comes to weather.

“We have to make decisions earlier than most school districts,” Lapwai Superintendent David Aiken said. “We are the second-largest district in the state of Idaho, geographically, which makes for some unique challenges for our district as far as making (weather) determinations.”

Aiken said he doesn’t believe the district will have to schedule any make-up days, despite having multiple snow days this year.

“We have more instructional days on the calendar than most school districts in the region,” he said, adding that if anyone does have to make up time missed because of weather, it would likely be the senior class because they are released earlier than the rest of the grade levels.

As for Lewiston, Superintendent Bob Donaldson said the district so far doesn’t need to schedule any make-up days, but that may be a possibility if the weather continues to impede school functions. The district has an allowance of 11 hours when it comes to school cancellations or delays.

“Right now, it’s not a concern that I have,” Donaldson said shortly after the district announced it would release children earlier than normal Wednesday. “My biggest concern is just the safety of our kids and the staff. We want to get them home safely.”

Elsewhere, the Palouse was trapped in more powder and drifting snow, prompting the Whitman County Sheriff’s Office to caution drivers to avoid travel as county and state roadways became nearly impassable. State Routes 21, 27 and 261 were all closed in both directions because of drifting snow. The National Weather Service predicted 2 to 4 inches of accumulation on the Palouse with back-to-back storms Wednesday and today.

Public entities trying to keep the roads clear will keep up the Sisyphean task, as more snow is predicted in the Palouse region to come next week around Wednesday and Thursday. The valley could be spared from more snow after Friday, but with temperatures estimated to hit the teens into the weekend, significant melting is unlikely.

Lewiston Streets Maintenance Manager Keith Bingman said the street budget is $75,000 for de-icer and plowing, and so far the city has spent $50,000 in snow removal. Bingman said as long as this marks the last storm of the season, the city should be fine and not run over budget for snow removal.

“I would vote for it being done after this,” Bingman said.

He and others with the city encouraged motorists to travel slow or stay home.

What is a bane for motorists and first responders is a boon to wreckers and other businesses. North 40 staff reported selling lots of shovels and ice remover heading out the door. Representatives at Luper Automotive, on the other hand, said there hasn’t been a significant increase in repairs. Shad Blewett said he had two vehicles come into the shop Wednesday as a result of slide offs.

“We’ve had a couple oil changes cancel due to the weather, but we still get the breakdowns or somebody needs a battery; people still need to drive,” Blewett said.

This month was a record-breaker for February in both precipitation and number of days with measurable snow. Wednesday was the 16th snow day of the month, beating the previous February record of 11 days, according to the National Weather Service.

Reporter Justyna Tomtas contributed to this story.

Holm may be contacted at tholm@lmtribune.com or at (208) 848-2275. Follow him on Twitter @TomHolm4.

Recommended for you