More snow for Washington

Published 8:56 pm Tuesday, December 30, 2008

SPOKANE, Wash. – Spokane residents were trying to dig out Tuesday after a record-breaking month of snow collapsed roofs and clogged streets. Bismarck, N.D., also set a snowfall record.

The center of a snow-laden supermarket roof in north Spokane collapsed Monday evening, prompting the evacuation of that store and adjacent businesses. A fire official said only one minor injury was reported.

Two more collapses were reported Tuesday morning, at a church gymnasium and a hardware store. No one was injured.

The collapses came as Spokane set a monthly record for snowfall, at 59.7 inches, after 8.3 inches were recorded in the 24-hour period ending at 4 p.m. Monday, said National Weather Service meteorologist Ellie Kelch. That’s more snow than the area receives in a typical winter.

The weather service said two more storms were headed to Washington state this week with more gusty winds, significant rain and heavy snow in places, including Spokane.

The city’s previous record of 56.9 inches was set in January 1950. Snowfall records in the area have been kept since 1893, Kelch said.

In Bismarck, the National Wea+ther Service said an overnight storm brought more than 4 inches, bringing the city’s December snow total to 33.3 inches. That tops the record of 31.1 inches set in March 1975.

Juanita Grosz said she didn’t bother to measure the depth of snow at her home in Garrison, northwest of Bismarck.

“It doesn’t matter — I just know that it’s a lot,” Grosz said Tuesday. “Everything is solid white; there isn’t a track anywhere.” But she noted that cell phones, snowmobiles and four-wheel-drive vehicles means “we’re not as immobilized as we were years ago.”

Parts of Minnesota received 14 inches of new snow by evening, and Tuesday marked the 16th day in December in which measurable snow has fallen at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

In Michigan, meanwhile, flood warnings remained in effect Tuesday for areas along most of the Lower Peninsula’s major rivers and streams as crews worked to restore electrical service to thousands left without power since the weekend.

About 11,000 of 183,000 CMS Energy Corp. customers who lost electrical service during Sunday’s storms remained without service Tuesday afternoon. About 25,000 of 230,000 DTE Energy Co. customers were also without power.

Both utilities brought in workers from Indiana, Ohio and other states to help restore electricity. The power companies said they expected service to be fully restored by Wednesday.

In Spokane, roads were so clogged that police asked tractor-trailer rig drivers to use chains, after several big trucks became stuck in giant snowbanks. Black ice was also causing numerous accidents on Interstate 90, officials said.

All 90 of Spokane’s plows, sanders and deicers were working to clear arterial streets, leaving residential streets that were still clogged with snow, officials said. Private contractors have also been hired.

The Washington State Patrol responded to about 50 collisions Monday, Trooper Joe Leibrecht said, but no serious injuries were reported.

Natural gas leaks occurred where snow or ice fell and sheared off gas meters. Southwest Airlines canceled some flights at the Spokane airport, and other airlines reported delays.

Elsewhere, an avalanche Monday claimed the life of a 15-year-old boy who was snowmobiling in Summit County, Utah, east of Salt Lake City. Avalanches over the weekend killed a man in north-central Washington State and at least seven snowmobilers in British Columbia’s Elk Valley in western Canada. An eighth snowmobiler in Canada was missing and believed dead.